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News & Insight

The New iPhone 6 Camera Is Nice, But I Want More…

By Chris Nachtwey on September 10th 2014

On Tuesday, Apple announced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6Plus, and Apple “fan boys”(I’m one of them) jumped for joy worldwide. Apple is one the very few companies that can drag their feet developing technology (to get it just right) and not lose its fan base, even if it takes years to do what other companies have already been doing (larger screens come to mind). Apple products are sexy, there is no doubt about that. Every time Apple releases a new product or upgrade, I’m always drooling as I stare at my computer screen calculating my expenses to see if I can afford their newest offering and honestly, the iPhone 6 is no different.

Apple-iphone6

I’ve already admitted that I’m a “fan boy,” my business and personal life rely on Apple products. The iPhone, iPod, iMac, and iPad help me run my business and keep in touch with my friends and family, but as a photographer, I’m left wanting more from Apple. Actually, I’m always left wanting more; see while I love my DSLR, sometimes I just don’t want to lug it around. Not only is it heavy, but I use my gear to make a living and honestly, when I’m on vacation or walking around town, the last thing I want to do is be reminded of work (I love my job to pieces, but we all need a break).

I just want the camera in my phone to kick ass and take names, and every year I hope it’s Apple (one of the most innovative companies in the world) who can give me that, and again I’m left wanting more. Sure, for the average person the camera in the new iPhone 6 (Plus) is perfect for snapping photos of your kids at the playground, selfies will look beautiful, and the creative in all of us can show the world our visions thanks to the iPhone camera. But, for me, a professional photographer who loves to create the best images possible, I love the iPhone 6 camera and don’t love it at the same time.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 1.31.12 PM

What I Love About the iPhone 6 Camera

Focus Pixels

The new Apple designed image signal processor enables Focus Pixels, allowing for better and faster autofocus when you are previewing an image. This feature sounds great for allowing you to catch focus quickly and hopefully, will provide less out of focus images, (a problem I have run into many times with my outdated iPhone 4).

Improved Face Detection

The iPhone 6 can now detect faces for group shots both near and far in the frame, allowing for everyone in your group selfie to be in focus!

Optical Images Stabilization

With the help of the new A8 chip, gyroscope and M8 motion coprocessor, the iPhone 6 can reduce camera shake. This is great for dark situations or if you just have shaky hands. This is something I was always wanted in the iPhone!

Timelapse Capability

I’m not going to lie; I’ve always wanted the ability to make timelapse videos with my phone. I just think timelapse videos are cool! Honestly, it seems like a fluff feature to sell to average consumers, but I still think it’s really cool to have the feature in a phone.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 1.30.58 PM

[REWIND: ‘HYPERLAPSE’ APP FROM INSTAGRAM – TURNS YOUR VIDEO INTO A SMOOTH TIMELAPSE IN TWO TAPS]

What The iPhone 6 Camera Is Missing For Me

The Control of Settings

I know with the iPhone 6 you can use exposure control to adjust your scene by 4 stops either way, that’s pretty impressive, but still I want more! I want to be able to control my ISO, aperture, and if possible, my shutter. It drives me nuts that when using my iPhone 4 and (soon to be iPhone 6Plus), I have little control over my settings. I just have to hope that Apple has packed enough technology into the iPhone to allow for essentially a point and shoot to make a good image. As a professional photographer, that’s an uneasy feeling even if I’m just shooting for fun.

You also can’t tell me none working pros would not like the same. Photography is so popular right now. Many people own DSRL’s and mirrorless cameras and know how to use them, so I guarantee everyone would like to control their settings to some degree. I know it’s probably not realistic to ask for complete control, but maybe just the aperture to control my depth of field, pretty please?

RAW and JPEG

I want the ability to shoot in RAW. I’m a working pro and everyday the images I create are shot in RAW, not JPEG. Sure JPEGs get the job done for the average person, but Apple, honestly you’re supposed to lead the pack, innovate, excite, and push the envelope. For crying out loud, the basic kit DSLR I can buy at Costco for $600 shoots RAW, why can’t my phone do the same yet?

I want both RAW and JPEG. I want RAW for when I see a scene that calls for a lot of dynamic range that I’m going to edit later in Lightroom and JPEG for when I want to take a quick snapshot and post it on Instagram.

I also don’t want to hear that the average person would not enjoy having the option to create images in RAW. RAW capabilities in the iPhone would allow everyone the power to create beautiful images with lots of dynamic range. Apple could use RAW as a way to create the most powerful editing software in the world on a smartphone.

Could you image how awesome it would be if the images you take on your iPhone were shot in RAW, then easily edited in some new software Apple could develop and ultimately saved as a JPEG? Selfies would look amazing, washed out blue skies would actually be blue, and everyone’s Instagram feed would look beautiful (minus all the selfies and food pics, of course). Just imagine the possibilities!

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 1.30.27 PM

Conclusion

The new iPhone 6 camera has me excited, but still feeling empty. I love the new features, but I’m still saddened by Apple for not really pushing the envelope. I know I’m asking for features the average person does not need, but Apple can sell any feature new or old with their great marketing. I honestly believe if they added advance professional features to the iPhone 6, the average consumer would eat it up.

Truth be known, I will still buy the iPhone 6Plus, but not for the camera, I will be buying it because I’m due for an upgrade from my iPhone 4. I guess, in the end, as a photographer, I need to be reminded that the iPhone is just that, a phone with a pretty awesome camera that appeals to the masses, but not to the professional photographer who always wants the ability to have full control of their camera.

What features would’ve you like to see in the iPhone 6 camera?

[Images via Screencaps on Apple.com]

Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. nova prime

    Just want to say that you can get all the controls you want just by downloading a different/advanced camera app. I shoot RAW as well and that would be nice on the phone.. but honestly.. i dont care. Just wanted to say that your 2 negatives are pretty easily overcome.

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  2. Cristiano Nantes

    Looks like other camera phones have better specs, but Apple always does it better at the user experience with their apps.

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  3. Suzanne Offner

    You can’t get a pure RAW file, but several apps offer uncompressed TIFFs. 645Pro and PureShot offer what they call dRAW. Mattebox 2 also saves to an uncompressed TIFF.

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  4. Ralph Hightower

    When is a cell phone camera going to have interchangeable lenses?

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  5. Michael Shea

    I’ve got my eye on the soon to be released Sony Xperia Z3!

    Camera Specs:
    Dedicated Shutter Button!!!
    1/2.3″ Exmor RS Sensor
    20.7MP
    25mm wide angle lens
    ISO 12800
    Full Manual Mode with control over white balance, iso and exposure to name a few.
    4K Video!!!
    Waterproof and dust tight (IP65 and IP68)

    While not perfect, this shooter will do me just fine.
    The best camera is the one you have at the moment.
    It will be coming out in the Fall sometime to T-mobile for sure and probably other carriers 2 weeks later.

    Will the Sony Z3 get the media hype and buzz as the iPhone 6… No. Is it a better phone? Maybe.

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    • Phil Bautista

      Sony is a huge corporation that enjoys success in several areas but their mobile phone division isn’t one of them. In fact, it’s bleeding money for them. I’m not saying sales is a determining factor of which is a better phone but, sometimes, hardware specs aren’t either.

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  6. Steve Vlahos

    Apple is about simplicity. They make devices that enrich people’s lives. To include a RAW option would defeat that. 99% of the users who use an iPhone I’m willing to bet don’t even know what RAW is let alone want to take a picture then export it to Lightroom and edit it. For the photographer, I agree it would be awesome to have the ability but for the masses its overkill. If the consumer demanded it then yes Apple would include it like they did with the bigger screen but look at how long it took them to do that. They like to get it just right and I don’t blame them for that. In the end it gives us consumers a product we can enjoy and appreciate vs just “a phone” that is avg. Those are my 2 cents. :o)

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    • Peter McWade

      A simple click and you have RAW or Not. The masses don’t care but can still be an option. Lots of great stuff being done with just the iPhone alone. Yes, RAW please.

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  7. Phil Bautista

    But…but…shouldn’t there be an app for that?

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  8. Scott Walter

    Ummm iOS 8 will allow developers of camera apps to exposure manual camera controls http://www.anandtech.com/show/8131/manual-camera-controls-in-ios-8

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    • Doc Pixel

      In addition to that, the redesigned Photos app that replaces Aperture won’t be available until early 2015. At which time I expect Apple to turn on the RAW switch for those that want to. Currently, Apple doesn’t have a cross platform RAW processor.

      As someone else mentioned above; their are and will be many apps AND extensions to built-in apps like the Apple camera app itself, that will allow much more control, filters, and many more things once iOS8 is available.

      Author’s rant was too soon to take seriously or determine a purchase now for functionality that’s coming later.

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  9. Donatas Rimkus

    It’s imbossible to changer aperture, because it’s fixed F2.2 :) You could tweak, o download new camera app, with ability to change shutter speed and iso

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  10. Jeff Nasci

    I think the main detractor from any manufacturer allowing RAW (regardless of software intergration/implementation) is the simple fact that people store thousands of photos on their devices. 16 GB of storage in an entry level phone is not adequate for an 8-10-whatever megapixel sensor. I’ve seen my 32 GB cards get crushed by 5D and 60D files. They hold enough for a job, but not anywhere near enough for a 2 year long lifespan. I do wish that I had the option of RAW when I want it, and jpeg when I don’t, I just don’t see the practicality.

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    • John Cavan

      While I generally don’t see a large reason for RAW (sigh, the inevitable capitalization of a non-acronym) on a phone camera, compression can help reduce the footprint a bit and 128gb phones will have a bit more runway there. If you know enough to shoot RAW, then I suspect you know enough to not leave them on the device.

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  11. Peter McWade

    Raw because I can integrate it with my photos I do with my A7R. Many times I,m not carrying my A7R but can utilize my iPhone when needed. Its great for many things. I bet many don’t use the RAW function on mirrorless cameras either. Its not about how many but just to have the ability to utilize raw. Is it a deal breaker? No.

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  12. Mike Roux

    Really RAW? Buy a f***ing mirrorless, it’s a phone for crying out loud. How many people do you think will use RAW? 1% maybe? No that’s gracious probably 0.1%, I’m sure it’s a feature Apple will add. The whole point of the iPhone is so that your grandmother can take great photos with a single tap, if it was a pro camera all the photographers would be out of a job be happy it’s a phone.

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  13. Terry Mensonides

    Aperture on pretty much all cell phones is fixed. The camera isn’t automatically adjusting it, it literally just isn’t adjustable.

    Pretty sure VSCOCAM shoots in RAW all though you can’t access the files outside of their app (that I know of). That said, they have a ton more latitude then the camera JPEG. I think a few other apps allow raw capture…

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  14. Peter McWade

    Im mostly looking for the other features but would like a few features like raw for the camera. Its time to upgrade my 4s. May still have to wait for a 7 or 8s before I actually upgrade.

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  15. Chuck Eggen

    I could care less about the camera in-phone. Guess that’s why I still have a 4s. All I do is check email and make phone calls.

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  16. Peter McWade

    The dilemma, Do I go out and plunk down just under $1k for the new phone or buy my next great lens for my A7R. Ouch, I want both but can only have one.

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    • Mark Iuzzolino

      I don’t know what phone you’re looking at. $1k? I’m seeing $499 for the 6plus and 128gb storage.

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    • Doc Pixel

      In reply to Mark Iuzzolino below:
      Outside of the US very many people purchase their smart phones without a contract. FYI – Here in Germany the iPhone 6+/128gb is €999.-

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  17. Matthew Saville

    Yeah while I’m not well-educated on the world of cell phone camera competition, I will say that it’s high time everyone offered RAW capture. But I think the RAW image data might look too disgusting, lol. Who knows…

    =Matt=

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