Key iPhone 6 camera features: 1. Faster processing, more storage and all-new Retina display
Obviously bigger is better, whether you’re talking displays or legroom on a plane. The larger format and thinness (stack two CF cards and you’re pretty much there) of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus screens may be the headline-grabbing feature, but touches such as the wider viewing angle, increased brightness and improved contrast of the all-new Retina HD displays is likely to make more of a difference to photographers.
The iPhone 6 Plus runs at 1920 x 1080 Full HD screen resolution, while its baby brother offers a resolution of 1334 x 750.
Both the iPhone 6 and the larger iPhone 6 Plus use the same 64-bit A8 chip, which comes with a video encoder and image processor built in. As well as enabling camera and video features such as Focus Pixels and continuous AF, the A8 chip also offers improved efficiency so you can shoot for longer.
With the creative video options, high-res panoramas and longer battery life, iPhone 6 photographers are going to need plenty of storage space. There’s no 32GB option this time around, with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus available in both 16GB and 64GB variants, along with a new 128GB option. The iPhone 6 Plus demands an $100 premium over the iPhone 6.
Key iPhone 6 camera features: 2. Autofocus with Focus Pixels
This is Apple’s way of saying that the iPhone 6’s sensor comes with phase detection autofocus built in. As you know, phase detection AF is more responsive than contrast detection AF.
It uses two images seen from slightly different positions to drive the focusing mechanism, with the goal being to make those two images line up.
Contrast detection is slower because it measures the focus directly from the sensor, with the goal being to find the point of maximum contrast – but it has to focus back and forth to find this point.
The end result is that the iPhone 6 reportedly autofocuses twice as fast as the iPhone 5.
Another welcome feature is that the iPhone 6’s Focus Pixels enable continuous AF when shooting video, something which D-SLR manufacturers have only recently begun to roll out across their camera ranges.
Key iPhone 6 camera features: 3. iPhone 6 Plus: Optical image stabilization
The iPhone 6 Plus camera introduces vibration-reducing optical image stabilization to the iPhone range. This uses the gyroscope to detect any movement of your hand while you’re holding the phone to take a picture or shoot a video, with the A8 chip and M8 motion coprocessor adjusting the position of the lens unit to compensate for this motion.
Optical image stabilization has the potential to offer an improved low light performance, and is particularly effective when shooting video, reducing the chance of motion sickness-inducing juddery footage.
Only the iPhone 6 Plus comes with optical image stabilization – it gives Apple another way to differentiate the more expensive 5.5” iPhone 6 from the 4.7” version, after all – and photographers using the regular iPhone 6 will have to make do with Auto image stabilization, a digital solution as seen in the iPhone 5s.
This takes a rapid sequence of four short exposures and then combines the sharpest parts of each to create a final composite image.
Key iPhone 6 camera features: 4. New frame rates for iPhone 6 video
Video recording is where the most significant gains have been made with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus’s iSight camera. Now, in addition to shooting 1080p at 30fps, you can record Full HD at 60fps.
Capturing more frames per second offers the potential for sharper, smoother videos, albeit ones that are likely to suck up more storage space.
If you’re committed enough to use video editing software to cut together your iPhone movies, then importing 60fps into a project that’s running at 30fps will cause the 60fps to run at half-speed. In other words, you end up with smooth slow-motion footage.
Of course, you can always record slow-mo video clips in-camera (in-phone?). The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus go one step better than the iPhone 5s’s 720p at 120fps, allowing you to record HD footage at 240fps.
Key iPhone 6 camera features: 5. IOS 8: time-lapse video, exposure control and more
IOS 8 enables a number of new features in both the Camera and Photos apps of the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, as well as the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c.
Top of the list is time-lapse videos. Creating a time-lapse movie is an automated process: tap the Record button and the iPhone camera will grab frames at ‘dynamically selected’ intervals.
There’s no time limit for time-lapses, so they can be as short or as long as you wish, and to achieve the smoothest results you’ll want to keep the phone as steady as possible while the frames are being recorded.
Key iPhone 6 camera features: 6. Exposure control and editing
Another new camera feature debuting with iOS 8 on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is exposure control. Yes, /finally/ you can adjust the exposure before you shoot a photo or video footage with an iPhone rather than making it brighter or darker after the event. You can adjust the exposure by up to 4 stops in either direction by simply sliding your finger on the preview image.
Apple’s Photos app gets some iOS 8 love too, with improved editing tools. Horizons can be automatically straightened and the exposure, brightness, contrast, shadows and highlights can all be fine-tuned independently.
Apple is also opening this editing framework to developers through its PhotoKit, enabling filters and editing tools from third-party apps to be used within the Photos app.
Key iPhone 6 camera features: 7. High-res panoramas
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus improve on the iPhone 5’s panorama mode by offering high-resolution photos up to 43MP (the iPhone 5 panoramas max out at 28MP).
Although the iPhone’s ‘sweep’-style panorama mode requires a steady hand, the automatically stitched images coughed up by the iPhone 5 are generally of excellent quality. Having higher resolution files means you can make larger prints, but they will take up more room on your phone.
Key iPhone 6 camera features: 8. Improved face detection
Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus camera offer improved face detection over the iPhone 5’s ‘bog standard’ face detection. If you were anticipating slower, less accurate face detection in the iPhone 6, you’re going to be sorely disappointed…
Apple says that the iSight camera is better at picking out faces that are farther away or in a crowd, as well as selecting faces in burst mode. Blink and smile detection are also said to be enhanced.
All well and good if you’re a regular at one of the rooftop parties packed with good-looking people that Apple typically throws up in its iPhone promo videos. But if you’re anything like us then you’re unlikely to take much advantage of face/blink/smile detection outside of wobbly selfies down the pub. Which, come to think of it, the iPhone 6 Plus’s image stabilization will come in handy for, too.
Some iPhone 6 Accessories