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iPhone 7 Plus vs. iPhone 7 camera: Dual lenses provide major upgrade potential

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Apple's choice of an all-new dual-sensor camera module on the iPhone 7 Plus steals the show, making it a compelling upsell from the 12-megapixel single lens on the iPhone 7. If you're still torn deciding between which model is for you, here's a comparison of what the iPhone 7 Plus camera offers over the iPhone 7.

Apple has made a solid foundation for iPhone photography in the camera shared between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. A new six-element lens has been implemented, and is coupled with a high-speed 12-megapixel sensor that Apple claims is 60 percent faster and 30 percent more energy efficient than previous iPhone cameras.

The entire iPhone 7 family features optical image stabilization with a larger f/1.8 aperture lens that lets in 50 percent more light.

Both models feature the True Tone flash. The new flash features four LEDs that put out 50 percent more light, and include a "flicker sensor" to detect the cycling of artificial lighting allowing for automatic compensation for in photos and videos.

Photo: ESPN

Also on both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, is the new Apple-designed image signal processor. The new chipset is not well detailed yet, but Apple notes that it is used to detect faces and bodies, set exposure, set white balance, capture wide color, and reduce noise.

Other features on both models include auto optical image stabilization, Wide Color capture, and panorama features.

That's where the commonality between the two models end.

Dual-lens on the iPhone 7 Plus

New with the iPhone 7 Plus is the addition of a telephoto lens, and dedicated sensor. The telephoto lens adds an optical zoom of 2x, bringing the effective zoom to 10x. The aperture on the telephoto is smaller than the wide-angle lens, at /2.8.

Based on data culled from iPhone 7 Plus photographs that Apple highlighted from recent sporting events, the main sensor is the same 1/3-inch size of the iPhone 6s. The telephoto lens is slightly smaller at 1/3.6-inch.

Beyond just the optical zoom on the telephoto, two lenses and sensors on the iPhone can be used for range-finding in a single picture, allowing for the camera to produce a selectively out-of-focus portrait.

The technique, called bokeh, has had digital implementations for some time. However, Apple's dual-camera setup on the iPhone 7 Plus makes a depth map of the subject and background during the picture-taking process, rather than deducing subject and background after-the-fact, and selectively applies blur to portions of the image that are not the photo's subject.

While a big improvement for photographers is coming in iOS 10 in RAW support, the OS will not bring bokeh to the new camera at launch. An update with the feature is expected before the end of 2016.

In the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s family, the difference in models was primarily in phone screen size, with the addition of optical image stabilization in the Plus models. The inclusion of the telephoto in the iPhone 7 Plus changes the game, and may lead to people that prefer the smaller model, shifting to the larger for the superior camera alone.