iPhone 6 Camera Review

It is pretty hard to be on the planet Earth any longer and not hear some of the hype when new iPhone models ship.  I am no different, I have been an iPhone user since the first model, and even though I don’t get every model, I am typically on an every other model rotation, I am always excited when I get a new one to play with.  This year was no exception as I pre-ordered a shiny new iPhone 6 to replace my aging iPhone 5.

The big brown truck delivered my shiny new iPhone 6 on the morning of the 19th and being a photographer the first thing I wanted to do was put the camera through its paces.  I shot a lot with the new iPhone this weekend and thought I would take a few minutes to post a very informal and un-scientific review of the camera.

On Friday night the wife and I went out to dinner.  We picked a table on a patio just as the sun had set.  This worked out very well as I wanted to see how the iPhone 6 would do in somewhat low light.


This image was made at our table and as you can see there is a good amount of noise in the image, however, it is a lot less than there would have been with any previous model of iPhone I have had.  I never expected this to rival my Nikon D610, but it doesn’t need to, it is a cell phone camera and for a cell phone camera I think it did a pretty good job in these conditions.

Ok, it does a decent job in low light, what about in a situation where frankly my iPhone 5 was terrible, in bright light when you are shooting into the sun?  With my old iPhone 5 a situation like this would have created a ton of purple fringing through most of the image, I was curious to see what would happen with the iPhone 6 so I took it to the Washington State Capital building on a sunny afternoon and made this image.


The first thing I noticed, and was very happy with, was that there wasn’t the purple fringing that I have come to expect when shooting in conditions like this with my old iPhone 5.  The second thing I noticed was that the iPhone 6 did a surprisingly good job at capturing a lot of the dynamic range of this image, the relatively dark section of the capital building and the much brighter sky behind.  The third thing I noticed is the lens flare that manifests itself as straight lines coming from the sun and the curved rings near the bottom edge of the image.  My initial guess is that this happened because the lens protrudes just a tiny bit from the back of the camera and there is more places for the light to bounce around in there.  In any case, I don’t really care to much about that, as I said above, it is a cell phone camera and not an expensive lens on an expensive DSLR.  Add that to the fact that it did a MUCH better job in these conditions then my iPhone 5 did and I am quite pleased.

Ok, I have been very positive about the cameras performance so far, but is there anything that I feel it did worse than the iPhone 5?  The answer is yes.  Take a look at the following panorama that I shot of downtown Olympia.


I hope it shows up in the smaller version here in the blog post, but there is some significant banding in the sky that shows up as vertical dark lines.  I have shot a lot of panos with my old iPhone 5 and I have never experienced this before.  I have no idea what caused this, but I plan on shooting with it more and see if I can determine which conditions lead to this.  In any case, it is a bit of a concern to me.

One of the new features in iOS8 that excited me was having built in time lapse capture in the camera app.  I have done quite a few time lapse videos with my iPhones in the past but have always had to use an app of some kind, Apple now gives us the capability build right into the iOS but is it any good?

I made this short time lapse of some moving clouds in my front yard.  All in all I thought that the iPhone 6 did a really good job with sequence, but I wish that Apple would have given me at least a little control over how the final video came out.  I don’t seem to have any control over things like interval or playback speed.  While the time lapse function works, and probably works perfectly well for most users, I will be sticking with some of the 3rd party apps such as HyperLapse or OSnap.

So, after all of this what do I think about the camera in the iPhone 6?  I like it.  Would I spend a lot of money to upgrade from an iPhone 5 for it, probably not, but if you are ready for an upgrade anyway, I don’t think you will be disappointed as long as to remember that it is a cell phone camera and not a replacement for a DSLR or even a high end point and shoot.  If you use this camera within its capabilities, and you are already a creative photographer, you will make some great images with it.

I am going to finish out this review post with one more image that I made with the new iPhone 6 from inside the Washington State Capital building in Olympia.  I tweaked it a little with Snapseed and I am quite pleased with it.  I am also going to plug my friend Justin Balog’s book Big World Little Lens as the goto guide to getting the most out of your iPhone camera.


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