iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode: Is It Any Good? Um...Yeah. It is.


Recently Apple finally released the long awaited iOS 10.1 for the iPhone to the public, which gave the iPhone 7 Plus the option to shoot in "Portrait Mode," which Apple previewed at the latest keynote.


The idea is that the phone automatically jumps to the "telephoto" camera, then by using both cameras and some fancy-schmancy algorithms, it places a blur behind your subject emulating a shallow depth-of-field "bokeh effect" once only available to DSLRs and large sensor cameras. 

The Bad

I want to start with the bad because it's really easy to nitpick this feature for not being perfect. First of all, when a person isn't the subject of the photo, it does a pretty terrible job at deciphering hard edges, particularly with glass as you can see in this photo:

This is frustrating to say the least because as far as I can tell, the algorithm only works on things that can gradually shift into a blur...meaning hard edges are tough to apply this effect on. 

This photo would have been great if the effect wouldn't have blurred out the stem of the leaf:


Another downside is that the feature seems to be really moody on how far or how close you need to be to your subject before it kicks in. I wrestled with this issue constantly during my shoot because the camera would sometimes automatically overexpose skin tones, so I would manually bring down the exposure and the "Depth Effect" would disappear and I would get one of these messages:


There were many times where I audibly yelled, "MAKE UP YOUR MIND" during this indecisive episode, but I managed to hold it together enough to get it to finally work properly.

The good news in the midst of all this complaining is that all of these shortcomings are 100% software based, and this is a feature that just released for the first time. I have plenty of faith that Apple will continue to make this feature better and better with each update.

The Good

Ok...now that we have all the bad stuff out of the way, it's now time to talk about how good this feature is. While it doesn't do that well with objects with sharp edges, the opposite is true when people are the subject. The results are absolutely stunning.

I wanted to test this feature out for real, so I called my friend Rachel from AMAX Talent (@amaxagency) and tried a little fashion/lifestyle shoot. I wanted to see if you can get professional results in the right conditions while using a cell phone camera. And boy did we.

To say that the results blew me away is an understatement. 

Now...will it replace my Canon 5D Mark iii? No. Not in the slightest. But what I can say is that the phone in my pocket is becoming increasingly more capable to capture stunning images. As the old saying goes, "The best camera is the one you have with you." 

Well, the "one I have with me" just got a major upgrade.


(All images taken with the iPhone 7 Plus and edited in Snapseed)