For the iPhone 6s launch event this year, Apple gave it a title ‘The only thing that’s changed is everything‘. Pretty big word I’d say. But let’s see whether the claim had merit for us mobile photographers at least.

I’ve written some some of the predictions that we could gather before the Apple event last week, and it was no surprise that most of these predictions turned out to be true.

12 Mpx rear camera

Yes you can say … finally! While other competitors had released camera phone with even more megapixels a long time ago, Apple has just managed to play catch-up with the rest of them. But like almost everything that Apple does, this was for a very good reason.

Apple didn’t think that more pixels means better image, and it’s true.

Photos taken with previous iPhones can hold their own fort in term of image quality compared to other images created with smartphones that have more megapixels.

Experts say that the iPhones take pictures that show colours that true to the original (compared to other smartphones).

The science on this is, since you have to pack in a lot more pixels in that same tiny smartphone image sensor, you need to make the pixels smaller (1.22 micron to be exact) and closer together. This close proximity of photoreceptors could result in colours ‘leaking‘ between them (also called Optical Crosstalk), which in turn can reduce the quality of the image and introduce more noise to the picture. Quality is a major issue for Apple, one that they never wants to compromise, which was why they had not made a move to upgrade the iPhone sensor … until now.

So I think it’s a fair assumption that Apple must had had found a solution to this problem. And indeed they had! What they’ve done is basically moving down the colour filters closer to the photoreceptors, which reduces that colour leak. And then fill in the space between the photoreceptors using a process called the Deep Trench Isolation, which ultimately help to maintain an accurate and more precise colour.

Enough with the technical details. The point is with the quality problem solved, we are left with an excellent camera phone that can take detailed, colour accurate, high dynamic range photos AND videos (more on this later).

Also bigger resolution means you can print your photo bigger than before, apparently up to 20×30 inches without discernable loss of quality. For mobile photographers, especially the ones who like to edit photo exclusively in their mobile, this will also be a big improvement, since we could still maintain a good quality image even after we crop it to death.

Another side effect for having more pixels is that the sensor pixels are smaller, 1.22 micron compared to 1.5 micron that iPhone 6 has. This in turn will help the camera to be more sensitive in a low light condition.

Combined this with the Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) found only in the plus model (if you are serious about mobile photography the plus is the best choice), not only that you can take brighter picture in less than ideal lightning condition but also it would be sharper.

Check out this article where it compares photos taken with iPhone camera from the 4s up to 6s.

You can also now take Panorama photo up to 63Mpx compared to 43Mpx with the previous model.

In my opinion, this is the biggest improvement you get from getting the new iPhone 6s.

Check out more samples of photos taken with iPhone 6s in this Apple photo gallery.


Quad HD Video – A.K.A 4K Video

Yes, you read that correctly. Quad HD – as in 4 times 1920 x 1080p – hence 4K video! Imagine a video that has resolution 4 times your regular digital TV! And this is only possible because Apple upgraded the iPhone’s camera sensor to 12Mpx. The additional 6 million pixels to a normal HD video truly is remarkable to watch. You can catch more details in your video.

Apple has also released a new version of its iMovie app that can ‘cope’ with not just one, but two 4K videos at once. A feat that even many desktop machine can’t even barely match. That how powerful the iPhone 6s is.

Download this 4K Video taken with iPhone 6s and try to play in your device.

Apart from this you also now take 720p video at 30fps and 720p Slo-mo video at 240fps.

The iPhone 6s plus OIS will also work for video (previously only for photos), which means less jerky video recording.

One downside with 4K video recording is that it takes so much storage space that if you are going to do it regularly then getting a 128Gb model is a must.


5 Mpx Front Camera with Retina Flash

With the iPhone 6s Apple has truly embraced the Selfie crowds. It upgraded the puny 1.2Mpx Facetime HD camera to a whooping 5MPx. This is really a great addition to the phone as I had been really frustrated with my low-res iPhone 6 front camera.

This upgrade would allow you to take really professional looking and creative front facing shots. Like for example if you combine this with the new Olloclip Lens.

In addition to the Mpx bump, Apple also enable the iPhone screen to work as a front facing flash, they call it the Retina Flash! A front facing flash was on the list of the prediction, but we thought that it would be a proper LED flash like we have for the rear camera. Instead what Apple did was to utilise its retina display to work as an illumination (the screen will turn very bright) for your selfies.


Live Photos A.K.A ‘Harry Potter’ mode!

This is something new for the iPhone, in fact it’s a new thing for mobile photography. The closest example I could think of is the ‘moving photos‘ featured in Harry Potter stories.

With the iPhone 6s, if Live Photos feature is turned on, as soon as you open the Camera app it will start recording videos in 3-second chunks. When you finally decided to press the shutter it will save the the still photo as well as the 3-second ‘moving images’ (1.5 second before and after the exposure). This moving photo is called Live Photos.

Unfortunately at the moment you can only view them in iPhone 6s devices. So obviously you can’t share it to your friend or family who hasn’t got one. Although they said that Facebook will support Live Photos, so that’s probably your way out.

Is it a gimmick? Well maybe, and I’ve heard that having Live Photos on could reduce the speed of the camera. I suggest you use it sparingly.

Check out the following video that show how the Live Photos feature works (courtesy of our friend at MacRumors)

3D Touch

3D touch is also a new iPhone feature that Apple has been developed recently. Think about it as similar to the ubiquitous ‘right click’ in desktop OS (PC or Mac). It gives the app developers ability to provide more choices just by pressing ‘harder’ on an app icon without actually open the app.

For example on the camera app if you press harder (called ‘peek‘) you will get a ‘contextual menu’ pop up with a list of item to choose from.

You can choose to Take Selfie, Record Video, Record Slo-Mo or Take Photo. In previous iPhone model you would have to open the camera app and slide your finger left or right to choose these options.

Other apps like Instagram also provides these pop-up menu. You can choose to either send Direct message, Search on something, View Activities or do a New Post.

Is it again a gimmick? It turns out that many users say that as soon as they are used to this new way of interaction they don’t want to go back again to the old way of doing things.

The 3D Touch feature has indeed been proven to be a big time-saver, and it is one thing that I wish I had it now on my iPhone 6!

Check out the following video, courtesy of our friend at 9to5mac, that shows how the 3D Touch works.


Final thoughts

I’ve given this a lot of thoughts, especially about what Apple had claimed that ‘everything is changed‘. In some ways I guess this is true. The iPhone 6s is the first iPhone model in a long time to get the camera sensor upgrade. This upgrade effects both photo taking (front and rear) as well as video recording.


Apple has also invented some new things like the Live Photos which could be considered a novelty.

The 3D Touch though is a genuinely useful new feature, and I suspect we only scratch the surface.

I myself won’t upgrade as I’ve already got a 6s plus, but if you had missed the last round of upgrade, I recommend you to get this one. Your mobile photography would surely improve greatly.

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