iPhone 7Plus – first looks

mickyates iPhoneography, Local & Bath, Photography, United Kingdom 0 Comments

I got the iPhone 7Plus a few weeks back, and I must say that, from a photographer’s perspective, I am very impressed. It’s particularly pleasing that the phone uses its two lenses to simulate a most passable bokeh.

Briefly, the iPhone 7Plus has two lenses with the equivalent on a full frame 35mm/DSLR of 28mm and 56 mm respectively. The 28mm is the same effective focal length as the current iPhone 6. On both the 7 and 7Plus, depth of field has been improved to provide a more realistic simulation of depth than the 6. However, only the 7Plus has two lenses. The 12MP sensor delivers files around 14 meg when shot as DNG raw files. The 28mm lens has an aperture of ƒ/1.8, and the 56mm an aperture of ƒ/2.8. The real focal lengths, by the way, are 3.99mm and 6.6mm respectively.

Anyway, enough of the tech. How does it shoot? The Portrait mode on the camera triggers the use of both lenses. You have to focus within about 2 1/2 metres to allow the system to work. 56mm handles the subject, and the 28mm covers the background The Portrait mode on the camera triggers using both lenses.

Here’s a street shot from yesterday. I think the camera did a neat job, even capturing some of the hair against the blurred background.


So what is actually happening? From digital trends:  The iPhone 7 Plus doesn’t produce “real” bokeh, in the traditional camera sense. Apple is actually using a combination of software, distance measurements, and depth of field data to calculate what the bokeh should look like, and then processing to create the bokeh digitally.

And it does it blindingly fast, with very little lag after taking the image. The other cool thing is that Apple is not just using a “gaussian” random blur to create that background. In fact Apple have clarified that it is instead a custom disc blur. This is a blur with a more defined, circular shape than gaussian blur. Thus the iPhone is using a mathematical “kernel” to mimic the light shapes that you find in quality lenses when their aperture is opened wide. If that is so, then in theory, in the future, Apple might be able to actually mimic the bokeh of specific lenses. iPhone Noctilux, anyone?

Here’s another test. I like the way that the software is correctly identifying almost all of the detailed the edges of the close-in object. Not quite, if you look closely at the flower stems, but good enough for many images, and better than any other camera phone.


And there is impressive lens sharpness when the image is cropped 50%.


That said, there are limits.

At first glance, this is a very good example, and especially with the “blur” gradually building as the railing disappears into the distance.


However, let’s really zoom in. You can see, between the railings, that the algorithms have missed some of the bokeh effect.

So there is a mixture of “sharp” and “blur”. Still, as this is only the very first iteration of Apple’s approach (IOS 10.1), I think we can expect some ever more accurate capabilities.


Stepping back from the “bokeh” effect, the camera of course delivers great results overall.

Hard for anyone to have an excuse now to take a really bad image!


Here’s a more detailed review, and discussion of “bokeh” from Stu Maschwitz

Hulu Wigmen

Enjoying the moment

mickyates Asia, Family, film, FilmIsNotDead, Nikon, Papua New Guinea, Photography, Travel 0 Comments

I have been gradually going through my library of 35mm slides, a collection over 20,000 strong, and going back to the 60s. Whilst a little daunting and very time consuming, I must admit to really enjoying the process. My latest series is from a Papua New Guinea visit in 1994, with Ingrid and our 6 children. Dan, our youngest, was only a year old. As Ingrid just told me – typical Mick, writing a blog post 22 years too late!

We were in the Southern Highlands, and started in Tari. We first met Pajia the Witchdoctor. Scary looking but ultimately rather a nice man it seemed. What is photographically interesting, though, is looking at these images with a 21st century eye. I used the superb Nikon F4s, with a 35-205mm Nikkor zoom, and loaded with Ektachrome 100. This camera is still one of my workhorses today.

Pajia the Witchdoctor

The strong light and heavy shadows under the trees meant that I opted to use daylight flash. Oddly, I hardly ever think of doing that today, probably because of the much higher ISOs available on digital cameras. Looking back, I find the results filmic and pleasing. It’s of course helpful to be able to use modern Lightroom processing to deal with excessive contrast from the flash.


Nearby was the home of the famous Huli Wigmen, where young men have a short profession growing their hair (apparently lying around chilling for the months they do it :-)). And there were lots of characters to be seen.

Hulu Wigmen

Another thing  to note is that, whilst I have hundreds of slides from Papua, generally speaking in those days like many people I took only one shot of each subject – and maybe a second closer or at a slightly different angle. I certainly didn’t take a “digital series”. With no chimping possible, I had no idea what result I would be getting until a couple of weeks later, returning home and having the slides processed.


Whilst digital clearly increases the chance of success, does it mean better photographs? I think the care we have to take with a “shot at a time” is a great discipline, whatever medium we employ. I was particularly delighted to re-discover this portrait of a young boy from Wabia Village.


Zooming in with the loupe shows more grain than a comparable digital file (although maybe that is my scanning technique, not sure). But I just love the overall result here, flash included.

Lum Village

In Wabia, we enjoyed a performance of the Spirit Dance. That said, catching the individuals getting ready for the dance was very instructive. The care taken with the makeup was clear, and whilst it was a dance clearly set up for visitors, there was much local pride in the event.


So, what do I conclude? I can see how my current fascination with candid portrait and documentary has been with me for a long time. Daylight flash I need to experiment with. And I can also see that more discipline in “shooting one at a time ” is something that is very valid today.

Of course, film never dies, and clearly gets great results. Both digital and film have their place, I believe.

But most of all, I am just having a blast re-working my old images.

Here’s a last shot from Lumu Village.

Lulu Village