The latest iOS 10.1 build has started to roll out in the wilds and iPhone 7 Plus owners will find that a new Portrait Mode is one of its standout features.
The Portrait Mode setting, which is exclusive to the iPhone 7 Plus, has been exciting for early adopters because it takes advantage of the handset's dual camera lens technology to capture a photograph that is similar to the "bokeh" effect achieved in DSLR cameras.
Those familiar with dual camera phone technology will recognize that the secondary camera adds functionality to the overall imaging setup. For the iPhone 7 Plus, the first camera is 12-megapixel wide-angle lens while the other shooter has a 12-megapixel telephoto lens. In the new Portrait Mode, the two lenses work together so that the camera can use the 2x optical zoom feature without sacrificing image quality.
The Portrait Mode blurs the background to add more drama to the photo.
This is how it works: the 12-megapixel wide-angle sensor captures the subject of the photograph while the secondary telephoto camera toils to blur the background at the same time. The output is a photograph with out-of-focus elements presented in an aesthetically pleasing composition.
This early, users can already find excellent examples of photographs taken with the iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode such as those taken by professional photographer Gary Yost. His images show what the Portrait Mode can do and it is not shabby at all. Those who have tried it, beginning with its introduction in this iOS version's beta build to the actual public release, have also been impressed. 9to5Mac's Zac Hall, for example, noted that photos do not look like they were taken from a smartphone but a dedicated camera.
This is particularly interesting because a good quality "bokeh" effect is sometimes difficult to achieve in DSLR cameras as it requires certain types of lenses. A camera can merely blur a background and achieve a passable bokeh. To some extent, the iPhone 7 Plus camera is the same. In some cases, it can be very effective in blurring a photo's background while making the subject sharply pop. But it is not consistent. There are instances when the blur effect simply does not work.
The reason for the inconsistency could be attributed to the software. Apple decided to relegate the task of blurring the background to the camera. The company calls it intelligent blurring. This is different from the approach taken by Huawei P9 Plus for its camera developed in partnership with Leica.
The software that produces similar "bokeh" effect allows for more complex but powerful operation, ceding a great deal of control to the user. For example, once a photo is captured, the user can decide which element or part receives the focus. In addition, the user will also able to adjust the depth of the blurring.
Apple is, of course, expected to refine the Portrait Mode further. Hopefully, future updates will be able to make it more effective and consistent because this functionality is really cool, allowing users to add drama to their photographs.