iPhone 6s and 6s Plus Camera Review

3D Touch is the marquee feature of the new iPhones and it’s a compelling reason to upgrade. But for the photophiles out there, the new cameras are just as good of a reason to pick up an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus. They are by far the best cameras Apple has ever put in an iPhone or any of their products for that matter.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.08.05 AMFor those of you who use your iPhone as your primary camera, let’s find out if the new shooters on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are worth the upgrade.

So what’s better?

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Ultimately, Apple bumped the new iPhones up to 12-megapixels from the previous 8-megapixels which enables some capabilities last year’s iPhones were lacking. But if you know a decent amount about photography you know that megapixels aren’t everything. The iPhone has maintained its place as the best camera in a smartphone for years with only an 8-megapixel shooter. That’s because Apple does everything else right. The image quality and color reproduction of iPhone cameras are always among the best. Even though some smartphones are pushing over 40-megapixels these days, photos taken on the new iPhones still look better.

One of the greatest features of the 12-megapixel sensor is 4K video recording capability, which is covered below. For photos, Apple says that new 12-megapixel sensor enables the camera to capture finer details, maintain image quality when zoomed in and provide more accurate exposure, especially in low light conditions. During the keynote Apple showed off the picture below as an example of how the new cameras nail the exposure and maintain excellent quality in this low light situation.

Selfie Camera

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Apple has also massively improved the FaceTime cameras in both phones. The front facing cameras make a drastic jump up to 5-megapixels from the previous 1.2-megapixels and suggests that Apple has finally recognized the cultural phenomenon of selfies, which for those of you who missed it was crowned the word of the year by the Oxford Dictionary in 2013.

Apple also introduced a feature called Retina Flash that causes the screen to light up extra bright for a split second to help capture low light selfies.

Live Photos

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Another new addition is the somewhat magical feature Apple dubbed Live Photos. You can’t help but think of Harry Potter when seeing live photos in action. When enabled, the camera will capture footage a second before and after the photo and then playback the footage when you force touch the photo. It is sort of a gimmick but it is a perfect feature for 3D Touch, which may be why Apple included it.

At the Apple event Phil Schiller made it clear that Live Photos were not videos. The footage basically plays back as a GIF. The feature does have some pretty cool practical applications. Apple showed off how a Live Photo of a child playing peek-a-boo could be set as a lock screen. When the lock screen was force touched the child began moving.

Currently, live photos are only supported by a handful of apps, but as the technology develops it could become a really useful feature.

4K Video Recording

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One of the new capabilities of the 12-megapixel sensor is shooting 4K video. Many complained last year when Apple stuck with an 8-megapixel shooter because it was not capable of shooting 4K. That has changed with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and videos have never looked more stunning.

The new cameras are able to shoot 4K video at 3,840 x 2,160 resolution at 30 frames per second. The only frustrating thing is that neither the displays on the new phones nor the new Apple TV support 4K video.

Optical Image Stabilization

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As was the case with last year’s models, only the iPhone 6s Plus will have optical image stabilization, which will come in handy when filming 4K video. Optical image stabilization really comes into play when shooting video and taking low light photos, so if you’re planning on regularly using your iPhone in either one of these cases I would recommend the iPhone 6s Plus.

Final Word

If the first requirement of your smartphone is that it has an awesome camera, the new iPhones won’t steer you wrong. Even if you have an iPhone 6 model from last year, an upgrade may be worthwhile just for the new camera.

Both cameras retain slow-motion video recording at 1080p at 120 frames per second, a f2.2 aperture and time lapse recording. For a full list of the camera specs check out Apple’s iPhone page.

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