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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.

Surprising no one, front-facing burst mode is hilariously fun. Secretly, I hope this means the return of the Photo Booth app down the line — as a Camera Extension if nothing else — as the only thing missing from my goofy shoot with Fox was a fake green-screen background of scuba divers.

Rolling into motion

There's no question in my mind that the iPhone 6's camera is a better still camera than its predecessors, but those advancements pale in comparison to its video improvements. If all Apple had added this go-around was cinematic video stabilization — software corrections not unlike Instagram's Hyperlapse — that would alone be a huge gain. But pair that with 60fps 1080p video, up to 240fps slow-motion, Timelapse mode, and Focus Pixels, and you've got yourself a heck of a mobile video camera. (And that's not even taking into account Apple's software improvements for video in the form of iMovie for iOS.)

I'm mostly going to let the demo video I took (starring Hayley Contagious of the Boston Derby Dames) speak for itself. We shot, cut, and posted this in under two hours, using only an iPhone 6 — no tripod, no Steadicam, no accessories. In fact, every shot you see in that video was with me running around in boots following Hayley's motion — I wasn't even on skates to try and stabilize the camera.

Instead, I'm going to make a list of what you no longer have to worry about when you're shooting with the iPhone 6:

  • Whether your image is in focus.
  • Whether there's enough light for your regular or slow-motion shot.
  • Whether you need some sort of mobile tripod to stabilize your shot.
  • Whether you need to bring along a laptop to view and edit your footage afterward.

Obviously, there are things that can make an already good shoot even better, good lighting being one of the big ones. But you don't desperately need pro-level knowledge or fancy equipment to shoot really good-looking video, and that's incredibly exciting to me on both a user-friendly and professional level. Personally, I can't wait to see what independent filmmakers create with the iPhone 6 in the next year.

I could (and probably will) write a whole other article about iMovie for iOS's new speed controls, but briefly: You can now add multiple speed modulations to a single clip without having to split that clip, and that editing process is delightful and super-simple to execute. If nothing else, it just got that much easier to post slow-motion videos to Instagram.

Right into focus (pixels)

As I said above, I don't expect many iPhone 6 or 6 Plus users to openly marvel over Focus Pixels, Apple's technology for keeping your video subjects continually in focus. The focus shifts during a video are subtle, smooth, and keep your eyes from wandering or being pulled out of the image. They're not the kind of thing you'd exclaim and point out if you don't regularly shoot video.

 

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