For many this question was answered a long time ago when a previous iPhone (or even…Android phone) replaced their point and shoot camera. Yet, sales of more expensive cameras (DSLRs and Mirrorless systems) actually rose and then held stead for a long period of time after the release of the iPhone and similar smartphones. It was only as recent as 2014 when figures really started to drop, perhaps indicating that the greater availability of photography (thanks to the iPhone) had helped more people to take up the hobby and move on to DSLRs and other more premium cameras (that certainly happened to me). Well, in recent years that trend has certainly declined with more pros claiming that the iPhone is the only camera they need and “The best camera is the camera you have with you.” Those claims are sure to be helped by today’s iPhone 7 announcement.
Why the iPhone 7 (Plus) is huge for photography
Let’s cut to the chase, we are really talking about the iPhone 7 plus and not the 7. All the really exciting features are present here. That’s not to belittle the new improvements to the 7, the faster lens (f1.8), Optical image stabilization in the smaller size, improved flash and not to mention the new processor and sensor which is where a lot of the power of iPhone photography comes from all matter a lot (that sensor is probably going to be the most significant of all). The truth is that these are small steps. The really interesting changes all come in the Plus.
The plus adds a second, longer lens (at around 50mm) with digital bokeh in the new portrait mode. The tele lens is really going to help with taking better, less distorted portraits (a longer focal length helps to flatter someone’s appearance) as well as zoom in on the action. The artificial depth of field will help to draw greater attention to the person being photographed and replicate what previously you’d need a lot of expensive camera gear to create.
As someone who likes photography, I’ll be honest and say that shallow depth of field is overrated (and the image that Apple used to show off this new feature didn’t have the best “quality” bokeh I’ve ever seen). It can be a sign of a lazy photo. At the same time, for some reason I do really love blurry buttery backgrounds in photos caused by using a standalone camera. Previously I’d have to take extra gear with me, now I will be able to pull my phone out of my pocket and shoot away.
More genres of photography open up
One of the biggest changes about this feature is it appeals to a type of photography that was previously neglected on the iPhone. Portraits. That’s not to say you couldn’t take a good portrait on the iPhone, there are great examples out there, but often you had to use an attachable lens and make the most of your surroundings. This new dual lens system looks to be a significant step forward. Personally, the idea of using an attachable lens on top of the 56mm tele lens for a 112mm lens sounds amazing to me and I can’t wait to see what companies like Moment come out with.
The iPhone 7 Plus may well replace my camera
I have two wonderful cameras, a Fuji x100t that I use to shoot street photography with and an Olympus OM-D EM-1 that I use for more portraits and other styles. I still take photos with my iPhone 5s though as it is always with me and can be quickly taken out at situations where I couldn’t get my other camera out in time.
I have held off using a mobile phone for street photography before because
- Battery life is an issue
- The focal length isn’t my favourite
- I don’t like not having a viewfinder
- It’s not great in low light
- having a dedicated button is useful
- It wasn’t great for portraits on the street
However, the benefits of being more discrete, always having it on me, instantly sharable images, and potentially a more adaptable camera all in my pocket make it look like a great alternative. When you throw in some of the amazing accessories that can help extend the power of the iPhone. The iPhone 7 may well be a suitable replacement camera for anyone.
Could it replace a professional photographers camera?
It really depends on what the photographer genre was and what they specifically needed. Street photography has been open ground for the iPhone for a long time as it favours small cameras and image quality isn’t the top priority. Similarly travel photography can benefit from having a small camera on the go as you’ll get places others wouldn’t. However, portraits, fashion and large scale images are areas the iPhone hasn’t gone into. While these changes make great strides towards some of these areas, it still won’t be able to fill the needs of some photographers work. The fashion photographer who needs to send at least a 20 megapixel image of a model will have to wait…but this list is getting smaller and smaller.
The iPhone hasn’t killed the camera market completely…but it’s getting closer.