This is a tricky balance to get right. If a camera is too restrained in how it processes images, they’ll look flat and lifeless, but boost them too much and they’ll start to look silly and amateurish. Happily, Apple’s gentle tweaks here do seem to have struck the right balance: The images above show the extra punch the 6s’s photos have, but the subtlety of the tones in this Hydrangea’s petals are even more deftly rendered by the 6s compared to the 6.
Thanks to these tweaks, the iPhone 6s demonstrates noticeably better dynamic range in its shots compared to the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 is still a superb smartphone camera (and overall “a very good camera” if you remove the “smartphone” caveat), but look closely at this shot—which is a very tricky one to get right, with its brightness, shadows and fine detail—and you’ll see that the 6s fares better:
Look closely at the point where the individual leaves join at the stem—see how the 6s manages to hold onto detail and subtlety in the bright areas of the leaf that the 6 is beginning to give up on? Some might prefer the 6’s shot overall, but the 6s has captured more detail and nuance, and so you have the option of retaining it or blowing out the highlights a bit for a more in-your-face shot.
The back-facing camera’s performance in low light is slightly improved in the 6s over the 6, but there’s not much in it, and that’s entirely consistent with what’s happened to the sensor—that is, it had its resolution bumped, but intelligently and cleverly. Witness this shot at dusk, where I’ve deliberately had the iPhone boost the exposure above what it wanted to produce by tapping on the building on the left:
Look at how smudgy the detail is in the reflection under the lawn at the left in the shot from the iPhone 6 compared to the 6s, and note how generally better processed the 6s’s shot is overall—richer, less washed out.
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