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Camera test: The iPhone 6 still won't beat a DSLR -- but it's close

Serenity Caldwell | Sept. 23, 2014
While I don't have any formal photography training, to say that I enjoy taking pictures is an understatement. I've been obsessed with digital photography and filmmaking ever since I picked up my first Olympus 2-megapixel camera, and that love has carried me through years of point-and-shoots, DSLRs, and phones.

While I don't have any formal photography training, to say that I enjoy taking pictures is an understatement. I've been obsessed with digital photography and filmmaking ever since I picked up my first Olympus 2-megapixel camera, and that love has carried me through years of point-and-shoots, DSLRs, and phones.

Now, I think the world of my Canon Rebel and its 40mm pancake lens. I've gotten some incredible pictures from that camera. But the more I carry around my iPhone 6, the more I'm convinced that its days of hanging out in my bag are almost over. Because the iPhone 6 is a mighty fine camera, indeed.

I took my 64GB iPhone out and about on Friday to stress-test some of its new camera features and see if I could get some similar results to Apple's promo photography. Here are some initial reactions.

The fancy new stuff

Apple loves to brag about the innovations it's brought to CMOS sensor technology, and this year's event was no different. The big buzzwords of the week have been image stabilization and Focus Pixels: One automatically snaps multiple photographs and merges them to create the clearest picture available; the other dynamically focuses during video shoots to keep whatever you're framing in focus at all times.

Let's get this out of the way: Both these technologies are ridiculously cool in practice. I say "ridiculously cool" in part because they occur so seamlessly that the average person isn't going to know why their pictures and video suddenly look better on the iPhone 6 — they just know that their pictures and video do. But also, as a tech lover, the amount of processing and photomagic going on behind the scenes is incredible.

Now, I opted for the "baby" iPhone of the new line, the 6, which means I didn't get to play with the 6 Plus's optical image stabilization. But the 6's digital stabilization efforts are nothing to sneeze at.

If you've shot with an iPhone before, you know how much of a drag it can be to capture moving subjects: I've failed to capture many a perfect animals-or-children moment because they moved too fast and my iPhone snapped too slowly. The iPhone 6 doesn't fix this problem entirely, but it certainly makes it a whole lot less prevalent — especially in good lighting conditions.

To begin my iPhone photography tests, I targeted the most fickle of subjects — my friend Emily's cat, Fox. Her cat is a sweetheart, but man oh man does he like to move around. What better way to test the new camera's image stabilization than trying to move around after him and snap photos?

 

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