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Camera shootout: How the iPhone 6s compares to the iPhone 6

Christopher Phin | Sept. 30, 2015
With a 12 megapixel back-facing camera, 4K video capabilities, and Live Photos, the iPhone 6s's camera is a significant leap forward from the iPhone 6.

Here, for comparison, is what both phones originally metered the scene as—the differences are minor between the two models, but they’re there. Look at the water at the far left of the frame to see how the 6s is picking up more detail:

iphone 6 sample shot 06
Credit: Christopher Phin

iphone 6s sample shot 06
Credit: Christopher Phin

Still, though, low light performance remains a good way behind a dedicated semi-serious digital camera, something with even an APS-C-sized sensor, never mind full-frame. Held one-handed, the iPhone 6s fares no better at getting this shot inside a dim church—note the camera shake.

iphone 6s sample shot 07
Credit: Christopher Phin

You can do better with a firmer grip, and it’s likely the 6s Plus, with its optical image stabilization, would banish this slight motion blur, but it’s still worth remembering that good though the 6s’s camera is, it’s not especially hard to bump into its limitations.

One quick aside: HDR mode does a great job at adding apparent definition in some tough lighting conditions. Here’s the 6s dealing with one such composition normally, without HDR:

iphone 6s sample shot 08
Credit: Christopher Phin

And here, with. See how the stonework in the middle of the frame doesn’t just add darkness, it seems to get sharper, too: 

iphone 6s sample shot 09
Credit: Christopher Phin

For comparison, here’s the 6’s HDR shot. Again, pretty good, but see how much detail is lost in shadows towards the left of the frame: 

iphone 6 sample shot 07
Credit: Christopher Phin

The front-facing selfie cam

This dark church interior gives us a chance to switch our focus to the front-facing camera—the camera which has had a far bigger upgrade. Apple calls it the FaceTime HD camera, but to everyone else it’s the selfie camera, and it’s a testament to how popular the form has become that so much attention has been lavished here.

First, the resolution has been more than quadrupled, from 1.2 to 5 megapixels. But—sing it with us—that’s not really that big a deal in itself. More important is that the front-facing camera is no longer an impoverished relation of the back-facing camera, neutered of all the fancy features. Live Photos works on both, and you can now take HDR shots on the front camera as well. 

Plus, there’s even a flash, of sorts: The screen flashes—three times brighter than its usual max setting—when you hit the shutter, to help illuminate your grinning visage. Just as how the two-tone flash on the back-facing camera measures the ambient light quality to flash in a sympathetic color, so too does the screen adjust its hue. Let’s see how it all works. 

 

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