The big differentiator between the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus is the latter’s dual-camera system, which Apple promises will offer the best photography ever in a smartphone. We’ve not been able to test this claim for ourselves, as reviews of the new iPhones are yet to be published, but we can now get a look at the sorts of images the iPhone 7 Plus produces thanks to a photo gallery from Sports Illustrated.
The photos come from yesterday’s Titans-Vikings NFL game, and although they’re mostly solid, they don’t tell us anything unexpected about the cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus. Without knowing where the photographer was positioned it’s difficult to say which shots benefited from the 2x optical zoom (or 10x digital zoom) afforded by the new 56mm equivalent 12-megapixel telephoto camera in the Plus. (This is in addition to the standard 28mm equivalent, 12-megapixel camera in the Plus and the smaller iPhone 7.) Having even a smartphone-sized telephoto lens is a great boon, but it obviously doesn't compare with using a longer, standalone lens. Just compare these shots with any of the photos presumably taken from the sidelines on Sports Illustrated's website.
The photos look bright and colorful, but this is also surely thanks to the fact it was a bright and sunny day: nothing beats a lot of natural light when it comes to taking great photos. Nevertheless, some of the images definitely look over-sharp and a little blown out. But without knowing more about how the photographs were taken (how much was the exposure tweaked, for example) it's difficult to say what's to blame for that.
We also don’t get a chance to see the famed bokeh (pronounced boh-kay) in action. This is a photographic technique in which the foreground appears in focus and the background is blurred. It's a key feature for the iPhone 7 Plus, but will only be available via a software update for the phone later this year. Bokeh is an easy effect to produce with a standard DSLR, but takes a bit of computational trickery to do on a smartphone. For that reason, Apple is restricting bokeh to a portrait shooting mode on the Plus, but we’ll have to wait to see what exactly that looks like.
Update September 12th, 7:52AM ET: And it looks like it wasn't just Sports Illustrated who got their hands on the 7 Plus. ESPN also published a bunch of photos from the US Open. Again, no bokeh, but a better overview of the dual-camera system's capabilities, with less over-exposure and over-sharpening. Via Tim Cook: