As of right now, the best camera phone on the market is the iPhone 8 Plus. This is likely to change when the iPhone X arrives in November. There are tons of reviews out there. Some detail the hardware and software implications with the new phone. One photographer even took more than 2000 pictures over the course of a weekend, just to access its performance capabilities. Turns out he was more than impressed with those results. But there is one review and one reviewer who stands out – Austin Mann.
Mann notes that while the iPhone 8 Plus looks mostly like the previous iterations of the phone, there are some new features in the 8 Plus that really impact creative pros across the board. Most notably, according to Mann is the Portrait Lighting feature. What is Portrait Lighting exactly? Portrait mode creates a depth map that separates your subject from the background. Machine learning identifies facial features on your subject and changes the lighting to add a soft glow, dramatic shadows or a black background. All of this is done instantaneously. And these aren’t filters. This is a real-time analysis of the light on your subject’s face. Apple has given us a demonstration of this, as seen below:
Another cool feature on the iPhone 8 Plus, according to Mann is Slow Sync. Traditional photographers will be familiar with this already, but for everyone else, Slow Sync is keeping the shutter open a bit longer to allow more natural light in when shooting with a flash. As a result, the image isn’t only lit by the light provided by the flash, but instead is balanced with the ambient light of the environment which creates a more balanced, natural shot.
According to Mann, who took the above photos, this is a fantastic advantage that will quietly impact the quality of the images that are shot indoors. For example – images that are shot at night, or during a party. People will look better and images will be richer in colour and ambiance.
Mann points out two things, that he calls “hiccups”. The first is: screen brightness auto-dimming.
While shooting outdoors, no less than five times my screen brightness dropped down significantly to the point where it was difficult to see what I was shooting and review images. I had to seek shade and was sometimes shooting essentially blind. I checked my display settings to ensure I was in manual, full brightness, and I turned off True Tone in case it was something related to that, but it wasn’t. Note: I’ve been told there’s an option nestled away in settings that could solve this. I went to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations and turned off Auto-Brightness. I haven’t tested this yet, but next time it happens to me, I’ll update here.
The second hiccup that he identifies is: images appear soft on screen.
When comparing images side-by-side on screen, I started to realize the 8 Plus images appeared softer with less edge detail than the iPhone 7 Plus. This was pretty weird to me, so I assumed it was user error. I went into full test mode and started isolating all the variables. I used a tripod, turned off haptic feedback on the shutter release, and enabled the 3-second timer to eliminate any camera shake. I shot in super bright light and more, but still, images appear softer.
After I got the images onto my Mac, I could see the files were actually as sharp or sharper than the 7 Plus. I’m still not sure what was causing this display issue, but if you encounter it, you’re not alone.
Lastly, he notes the following about the iPhone 8 Plus:
- Fast charging means less time waiting.
- Half size files = double the media storage on your iPhone and in iCloud
- Lock camera mode. There is now the option to lock the camera into a shooting mode so that if you close the camera app, and then return to it later, the previous mode will be maintained.
- iOS 11 has dedicated camera settings.
Note – all of the photos in this post, were taken by Austin Mann using an iPhone 8 Plus camera.