Shot with the iPhone 7 Plus. (All images: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo) The camera on the iPhone has developed such a reputation for excellence that it’s one of the device’s central selling points. It’s worth upgrading to a new phone just to get the latest and greatest camera. After a week of rigorous shooting, one thing is totally clear: the iPhone 7 has a damn fine phone camera that’s the best you can buy right now.
Figuring that out required pitting it against the Samsung S7/S7 Edge, our current top choice for the perfect blend of camera and phone, and the iPhone 6s, which takes fine photos as well. We looked at how well each performed in low light, how much detail each could deliver, and what kind of color they could capture. We also checked out that fancy zoom lens on the iPhone 7 Plus.
How good are the new RAW photos?
The iPhone 7 is the first Apple handset to have RAW shooting powers. This format has a larger file size than your average JPEG because it stores a lot more data—specifically unprocessed/lightly processed light data—which means it’s easier to fix a bad photo after the fact. And when you convert a RAW file into a smaller JPEG (after processing it in Photoshop) it is still often of higher quality than the JPEG quickly produced on the fly by a phone. Observe:
Zoom in. Note how much brighter the cat’s eyes are and how much more details in the fur you can see. Also look to the bottom right side. What is clearly fabric in the RAW is just a pixellated mess in the JPEG. Is it really a professional-grade camera?
If you’re a photographer who for some reason hopes that shooting RAW would finally let an iPhone compete with a DSLR or high-quality mirrorless camera, then apologies, that is not the case. It’s clear in this quick head-to-head comparison between the iPhone 7 and the $700 Olympus OM-D E-M10 II with a 12-40mm zoom lens that smartphones can’t really keep up. Shooting the same subject with the same lighting, and both devices set on the same table, the images came out substantially different. Try as I might I could not replicate the Olympus image with the iPhone.