With new cameras, Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are a boon for mobile photographers
With the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple added numerous features designed to make life better for users. Photographers are no exception, getting goodies like phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization — Â AppleInsider took a look at all of the imaging upgrades coming to the next-generation handsets.
The iPhone has largely derailed the once-booming point-and-shoot camera industry — Â as the old saying goes, "the best camera is the one you have with you," and that has proven to most often be an iPhone. The iPhone 5, 5s, 4S, and 4 hold four of the top five spots for the most popular cameras on photo sharing site Flickr.
Both iPhone 6 models feature new Focus Pixels, which is Apple's way of saying that they've added paired focus detection points to enable phase detection autofocus. This technique has been used in digital SLR cameras for years, and — broadly speaking — works by comparing the images received by each detection point in the pair.
If the images on each detection point are the same, the sensor knows that it's focused properly. If the images differ — Â because light reaches the detection points at different angles — Â the image processor can calculate the difference and adjust the lens to compensate, enabling autofocus that Apple says is twice as fast as the iPhone 5s.
With the new A8 chip inside the iPhone 6 series comes an updated image processor. Apple has added dedicated hardware inside the processor for face detection, making it faster, and enhancing blink and smile detection to help the iPhone automatically choose burst photos where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling with their eyes open.
Image stabilization is the only area where the cameras in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus differ. The iPhone 6 offers software-assisted stabilization, which takes four photos at once — Â each with a short exposure time -Â and combines them into a single image to alleviate noise and motion.
The iPhone 6 Plus, however, adds optical image stabilization. It uses motion data from the handset's gyroscope and M8 motion coprocessor to compensate for hand shake by adjusting the physical position of the lens, and then applies the same software-assisted stabilization as the iPhone 6. This helps most in low-light situations, allowing longer exposures without excessive blur or noise.
The new sensor in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has also enhanced the popular Panorama feature introduced in iOS 6. In addition to higher-resolution panoramas — up to 43 megapixels — and dynamic auto exposure, Apple says the new gyroscope in the iPhone 6 series makes for more seamless image stitching.
Apple is particularly proud of the iPhone 6 series's video-shooting bona fides. The marketing site boasts that the "camera that changed photos now does the same for video," and Apple executives were no less boastful during the handset's on-stage introduction.
60 FPS 1080p HD
High-definition 1080p video recording came to the iPhone 5s, but the handset was only capable of recording at 30 frames per second. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus bump that to 60 frames per second, though users can still choose to record at 30 frames per second if they prefer that speed.
240 FPS Slo-mo
Like high-definition video recording, slow-motion capture appeared alongside the iPhone 5s. Apple has doubled the 5s's 120 frames per second slo-mo capability to 240 frames per second in the iPhone 6 series.
Apple's new Focus Pixels are also used for video autofocus, and allow the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to continuously adjust the autofocus when capturing video. Imagine pointing the iPhone at a distant skyline, and then walking in front of the camera — when enabled, it would automatically adjust the video's focus to the nearer subject, and return to the skyline once they walk out of frame.
Cinematic Video Stabilization
The iPhone 6 series's new Cinematic Video Stabilization is essentially automatic still image stabilization applied to video capture. It's not yet clear whether the iPhone 6 Plus's optical image stabilization system will be used to augment the software stabilization algorithms, and likely will not be until tests are performed following the handsets' release.
The new Time-lapse feature in iOS 8 allows users to record time-lapse videos with a single tap. Photo intervals will be dynamically selected by the device, and Apple says that it will record for as long as the handset's battery will last.
It's not exclusive to the iPhone 6 series, however — Â it will also available on the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s after they've been upgraded to the new operating system.
The front-facing FaceTime camera got a boost to high-definition with the iPhone 5, and now gains many of the advancements that have hit the rear-facing cameras in the interim. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will ship with a FaceTime HD camera that sports an f/2.2 aperture, as well as a sensor that Apple says will capture 81 percent more light.
Additionally, it can take advantage of the A8's new image processor for face detection and HDR video. Apple has also brought burst mode — up to 10 photos per second — Â and timer mode to the "selfie cam."