Apple iPhone 6s review: A solid phone, even years after its release
Apple iPhone 6s review: Cameras
The other of the iPhone 6s’ major changes is less revolutionary than 3D Touch, but is no less welome. It concerns the cameras, with the main, rear-facing shooter receiving a boost in resolution to 12 megapixels from 8 megapixels, and the front camera rising from a pitiful 1.2 megapixels to a far more respectable 5 megapixels. Note that, just as with the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6s still lacks OIS (optical image stabilisation); that feature is enjoyed only by the larger iPhone 6s Plus model, making slightly more accomplished in low light.
Of these improvements, the one that will make the biggest impact with users is the upgrade to the front-facing camera, and that’s because it’s the one area Apple has neglected in recent times.
The new camera captures much more detailed shots, and has one ingenious feature that will help you capture better selfies indoors, in low light: turn on the flash capability and the iPhone 6s will employ its screen as a makeshift flash.
Apple being Apple, though, it hasn’t stopped there. Its screen-based flash is a two-stage affair, flickering on once in bright white to provide full illumination, then again in a lower intensity yellowish colour in an attempt to balance out the skin tones, a bit like the dual-tone LED flash on the rear. It works, too: although low-light selfies do still look pretty noisy, there’s a reasonable amount of detail and skin tones look realistic.
As for the rear camera, that’s pretty good, too. A rise in the number of pixels is often accompanied by increased noise and, thus, lower quality. I’ve seen no evidence of that in the photographs I’ve captured with the 6s’ camera. In both low light and daylight, it’s remarkable how reliably well the iPhone 6s’ camera performs. Almost every snap I’ve ever shot with the iPhone 6s has been well-exposed, with perfect white balance, spot on focus, and .
Having said that, in most circumstances – posting to Facebook or Twitter, even previewing the shots on the phone’s screen – you won’t notice the difference between this camera and the already excellent 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 6 – you have to download your shots to a laptop and get out your pixel peepers for that – but it’s just as reliable in producing a usable shot, slightly more so in low light.
Far more likely to make a difference to the way you take photos on your phone is the new Live Photos feature, but not necessarily in a positive way if you’ve opted for the lowest-capacity 16GB model since Live Photos occupy double the space of a standard 12-megapixel picture.
What are Live Photos? Essentially, they’re like always-on Vines that are built into the camera app, capturing 1.5 seconds of motion footage before and after you touch the shutter button. The feature is switched on by default, with a small circular icon on the screen indicating that fact, and a yellow LIVE indicator lighting up to show that video is being captured.
Taking a Live photo is a seamless process. You can carry on taking pictures in the normal manner, and the phone feels much as the iPhone 6 did before it. It’s just as responsive, just as quick as shot-to-shot, and it’s just as reliable. So much so, in fact, that most of the Live photos I captured when I first started using the phone ended with footage of the pavement, or my feet. For the best results, I slowly realised I needed to tweak my behaviour, and keep the camera pointed at its subject until the yellow indicator disappeared.
It’s a fun feature, but is it any more than that? With plenty of other, more established, ways of capturing short sequences of video, available through third-party apps like the aforementioned Vine and Snapchat, will it become part of the fabric of social media, or subside into obscurity over time? I’d suggest the latter. Even with Facebook recently adding support for the feature, with only users of the iOS Facebook app able to view Live Photos, it’s going to have limited global appeal.[gallery:12] [gallery:13] [gallery:14]
Apple iPhone 6s review: Video capture
The other big camera news for the iPhone 6s’ camera is that it can finally capture 4K video. The number of people who own devices capable of displaying such detail-packed footage is still small, but it’s good to see Apple jumping aboard the bandwagon now, before it’s left behind.
If you have such a device, there’s no denying that the video the iPhone 6s produces is much sharper than the 1080p footage captured by the iPhone 6, but more useful to more people is likely to be the iPhone 6s’ ability to retain detail under zoom. Load the video into the preloaded iMovie video editing app, which can now both process and export 4K footage, and you’ll find you can crop quite heavily into your 4K footage without reducing image quality much.
Clearly, though, Apple is being cautious here about the adoption of 4K, as the feature is turned off by default. Clearly it’s worried about customers with 16GB iPhones saturating their storage space with capacity-hungry 4K footage. This worry would appear to be justified, too. With that footage chomping its way through around 380MB per minute, it won’t take long before you’re running out of space.
It’s about time Apple stopped being so darned tight and swallowed the cost of upping the base storage from 16GB to 32GB. Even with iOS 9’s lighter storage footprint and app-thinning reducing the size of installed software, sticking with 16GB for the low-end model is beginning to look like a poor decision on Apple’s part.
Apple iPhone 6s specifications
Apple A9 with integrated M9 motion co-processor
750 x 1,334, 326ppi (Ion-strengthened glass)
12MP (phase detect autofocus)
Memory card slot (supplied)
Bluetooth 4.1 LE, A2DP
Yes (for Apple Pay only)
67 x 7.1 x 138mm