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iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cameras feature new sensor, faster autofocus

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Apple upgrades iSight with optical image stabilization, phase-detect autofocus, and 240fps slow-mo video

Apple's smartphone cameras consistently outpace the competition, and it looks like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be no different. The iPhone 6 camera builds on the already-excellent shooter in the previous model: the company promises it will take even prettier photos faster than ever before.

It has a 8-megapixel camera with a f/2.2 aperture and 1.5µ pixels, just like the last model. But the sensor has been upgraded. The "next generation iSight sensor" has what Apple's calling "focus pixels." Those pixels offer DSLR-like phase detection autofocus, which is supposed to be twice as fast as the 5S. And now it's easier to take high-dynamic range (HDR) photos. Both iPhones can take HDR shots with a single click of the shutter, rather than a series of shots as before. Apple has also brought back True Tone Flash, which, as before, uses two different LEDs to attempt to match the color temperature for better flash photos.

There is a difference between the cameras on the 6 and the 6 Plus however. While the iPhone 6 has digital image stabilization, the iPhone 6 Plus features far improved optical image stabilization. That means that the lens can physically move to compensate for the movement of your hand. It should really help when taking photos in low light. The iPhone 6 Plus won't be the first smartphone to feature optical image stabilization, but it will be the first iPhone to do so.

Video has also been improved across both phones. The smartphones can shoot 1080p video in 30 or 60 frames per second, and there's a fairly stunning 240fps slow-mo video mode, too. If you like taking pictures of yourself, you'll be glad to hear that the front-facing iSight camera has improved face detection and a new "burst" selfie mode to help you get the best shot.

Apple typically saves its biggest camera improvements for its "S" models — both the iPhone 4S and 5S featured major overhauls to camera performance — and that seems to be the case here. While Apple says it is using a new sensor, the company has not increased the size of the sensor, which means that we should not expect to see a massive improvement in image quality. Instead, Apple has focused on software upgrades. Still, the iPhone 5S camera was no slouch, so the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus should still be quite good.

While the camera on the iPhone 5S was very impressive, competition hasn't stood still. Nokia, most notably, changed perceptions of what smartphone cameras could do with its insane Lumia 1020. Its 41-megapixel, 2/3-inch sensor remains unmatched, but the company has so far failed to pack remotely similar performance into a regular-sized smartphone. The camera in Samsung's Galaxy S5 is quite good as well, with a notable, real-time HDR mode. The Galaxy S5 also introduced phase-detect autofocus, which Apple is now using in the 6 Plus. HTC, meanwhile, has tried a different approach with its low-resolution "Ultrapixel" cameras that can shoot in low light. Nevertheless, we've found that the iPhone 5S bested all of them, and we'll just have to wait to see how just how much better the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cameras are.

Check out our Apple iPhone 6 and iWatch liveblog for more!