Apple iPhone 6S Camera Quality

Time marches on and digital cameras continue to improve.  Nowhere is this more the case than cell phone cameras.  For this blog post I am talking about still pictures not video.  I recently bought one of the new Apple iPhone 6S phones.  This was a big switch for me as I had carried an Android smartphone since they first made them a few years ago.  I have a number of reasons for switching, but one of the most important was that I use Apple photo software with all of my cameras and it made sense to use a smartphone that was part of the Apple ecosystem.

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This is an Apple 6s photo and is a very small jpeg.  Only 345kb

Time marches on and digital cameras continue to improve.  Nowhere is this more the case than cell phone cameras.  For this blog post I am talking about still pictures not video.  I recently bought one of the new Apple iPhone 6S phones.  This was a big switch for me as I had carried an Android smartphone since they first made them a few years ago.  I have a number of reasons for switching, but one of the most important was that I use Apple photo software with all of my cameras and it made sense to use a smartphone that was part of the Apple ecosystem.

We also have an iPad Air 2 and an iPhone 6+ in our household so the 6S is not my first go around with an Apple camera.  I will have to say though that in my opinion the 6S camera is excellent.  I have taken pictures of this Chicago Peace rose with most of my digital and film cameras and the 6S shot above has great and true to life color + excellent sharpness.  The 6S camera has nearly instant focus.  For comparison here is a picture of the same rose a few months ago taken with my Olympus OM2n, 50mm 1.8 prime lens, and Velvia 100 slide film.

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This is a very nice shot but the file is only 150kb

We also have an iPad Air 2 and an iPhone 6+ in our household so the 6S is not my first go around with an Apple camera.  I will have to say though that in my opinion the 6S camera is excellent.  I have taken pictures of this Chicago Peace rose with most of my digital and film cameras and the 6S shot above has great and true to life color + excellent sharpness.  The 6S camera has nearly instant focus.  For comparison here is a picture of the same rose a few months ago taken with my Olympus OM2n, 50mm 1.8 prime lens, and Velvia 100 slide film.

To me the bottom picture is a much nicer one because of the bokeh and the slight impressionist quality to it.  But the iPhone has great great color rendition.

Before the 6S I used an Android Motorola Droid Maxx for almost two years.  It had a Sony 10 mega pixel camera in it that I used a lot.  It took excellent pictures in daylight.  It also had very slick software for activating the camera, a double twist of the wrist and you did not have to unlock the phone.  Plus the standard Motorola camera software was approximately the same as the Apple camera software.  The Apple does better in low light than the Motorola.  And I like the very simple to use square picture setting on the Apple.  But, in my opinion, in good daylight it would be hard to tell the difference between the shots taken on these two phones.  The selfie shots on the 6S are far superior to the Motorola.

I also find the simple Apple editing software on the IOS platform to work well.  I do recommend strongly to at least size up to a full size iPad or better yet a larger computer based editing screen to adjust or delete your pictures.  The photos app on the Mac is much more complete than the version on the phone or iPad.  For me the editing features of the Mac version are very useful.  I have tried Lightroom a couple of times.  I know there are lots more editing tools on it, but find the Apple software sufficient.  I also have a copy of iPhoto and Aperture on my Mac.  So if needed I can use them for adjustments not on Apple’s newer photos app.

So now we get to the verdict on the 6S camera in my opinion.  It is slightly better than my previous phone camera based on it’s better low light capability.  I take almost no selfies so that is not much of a plus for me.  If you do then the 6S is your camera phone.  The 6S and 6+ are great for selfies.  I also like the editing features of Apple’s phone.  I also like the iCloud connection to the phone slightly better than Google’s on line system.  I greatly miss the Motorola’s phone camera’s capability to activate with a double wrist twist.  That is a much better system for taking candid shots or just taking shots quickly than Apple’s 4 step system.  With Apple you have to wake your phone, unlock, activate the camera, and take the shot.  With Motorola you double twisted your wrist and put your finger on the screen where you wanted the camera to focus.  Very quick.  But the Apple 6S takes a shot almost instantly once it sets focus.  The Motorola sometimes has delay.  For child pictures with fast moving kids the iPhone is much better.  For landscape shots either will work well.

Smartphone cameras even the one in the Apple 6S are not a replacement for a full featured camera.  They are good pocket cameras, but there are lots of things they do not do well.  A couple of examples are 1.  Bringing distant objects closer and still have a sharp image.  2.  Shots of people in groups are enhanced tremendously when people and things that are not the subject of the picture are attractively out of focus.  That is bokeh and you need to use lenses that are good at this.  Cell phone cameras are usually not.

Update August 7 2016.  Here is what cell phone cameras don’t do well.

daylilly

pink white flowers

blue flowers

The three pictures above were taken with a Nikon D5500 set to take raw pictures.  I used 55mm – 200mm zoom medium telephoto.  And the f-stop was around 4.  Plus I used a polarizing filter to cut down on the light that flowers sometimes reflect.

A few days after I took the above flower pictures I got these with the Apple

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In my opinion the above shots are great.  Very good color rendition.  Very good exposure.  I edited them only in Apple Photos.

Nikon D5500 DSLR

I have had my Nikon D5500 DSLR for about six months now.  It was an upgrade from a Nikon D3200 DSLR that I had for about 2 years.  Let me start off by saying that I have found the D5500 to be a very good camera and certainly a good value for the money.  In addition to the camera body I bought the new style kit lens that is 18-55mm.

Stock picture of Nikon D5500
Stock picture of Nikon D5500

I also have a Nikon 35mm f1.8 and a 55-200mm zoom.  The zoom has vibration reduction and the prime lens does not.  I was able to sell my two year old D3200 on line at a good price.

The D5500 is like the super deluxe version of the 3200.  The sensors of the two cameras have the same pixel count.  I have mostly taken stills with this camera but it works quite well for videos too.  The video portion of the 5500 has stereo microphones which is an advantage over the 3200.  I take more videos with my cell phone than the 5500, but find the results from the Nikon to be better.  The Nikon lenses are able to isolate the subject much better than the cell phone.  I shoot all my videos at 1080p.  I usually use the setting for about 24-30 fps.

The touch screen of the Nikon D5500 is a great feature.  It is much quicker and easier to use than the older style adjustments of the 3200.  I find the Nikon settings to be very easy to figure out.  Usually they have explanations to help you.  This camera has taken the scene settings off of the top wheels and into the touch screen menu.  There is a wide selection of scene settings and they seem to be quite effective.  ISO settings are now easy to adjust with the touch screen.  But for some reason Nikon put the control for applying auto ISO deep in the menus.  There is also a button now for control of single or multiple shots where you can get to it quickly.

Bodie CA. Two houses come together.
Bodie CA. Two houses come together.

The D5500 has very good color rendition.  I find this to be the case on either landscapes or people shots.  Many of the shots I took this summer using a scene from the menu needed little to no adjustment in post.  I did use the raw settings some of the time, but the D5500 jpeg software does a very good job.  Unless you like to twiddle with the pictures a lot I don’t think you need to stay away from just the standard jpeg settings.  The exception to this is very detailed landscape shots.  I still shot most of those in raw so all of the possible detail would be in the photos.

Bodie CA houses and blue sky.
Bodie CA houses and blue sky.

The picture above was a medium jpeg setting and this is how it came out of the camera.

Why I chose to get the D5500.  As I have mentioned in other posts I like well built cameras that take good pictures and the camera itself has good style.  I especially like the look and size of my Olympus OM2n cameras who’s size and look were based on the Leica M series.  I also have an old Voightlander Prominent from the 1950’s that is the same size as the Olympus with even nicer metal work.  The Voightlander is beautiful industrial design.  In my opinion.

Voightlander Prominent

So when I went to look at cameras I went to a camera store in San Diego that had the Nikon D5500, Nikon D750, Fuji XT1, and Olympus OMD – Em5 II.  The Olympus OMD was the best looking of the four cameras.  However, it weighed as much as the larger Nikon 5500 and would have cost me double what the I paid for the Nikon.  Keep in mind I already have two Nikon lenses.  And the kicker with the Oly is the small sensor.  It is significantly smaller than the 5500 and has less mega pixels.  And then there is no optical viewfinder.  I still like those.  The Nikon D750 is a great full frame camera that is like a big brother to the D5500.  I would rather have a full frame camera but don’t want to drag around twice the weight of the D5500.  The Fuji is a great mirrorless camera, but it costs lots of money to get the body and three lenses.  It is mirrorless, so not through the lens optical viewfinder, and it’s looks don’t do anything for me.

So I picked the Nikon D5500.  A very capable camera that feels very good in my hand.  It is however a lump of black plastic and not in any way a thing of beauty.  I am still waiting for that full frame good looking digital camera that is a similar size and appearance to the Leica M or Oly OM2n.  That I can afford to buy.