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Camera shootout: How the iPhone 6s compares to the iPhone 6

Christopher Phin | Sept. 30, 2015
With a 12 megapixel back-facing camera, 4K video capabilities, and Live Photos, the iPhone 6s's camera is a significant leap forward from the iPhone 6.

Ah, but that caveat. Both the shots you see here from the iPhone 6s are with HDR turned on, which has used its combined multiple exposures to fill out blown highlights and darken up shadows. The results from the iPhone 6s’s selfie camera with HDR turned off, while they give you more options thanks to their higher resolution, are actually arguably less good than those from the iPhone 6 if you’re thinking in terms of small thumbnails shared for fun on social media. Here are those regular, non-HDR 6s shots for the two scenes above: 

iphone 6s sample shot 16
Credit: Christopher Phin

iphone 6s sample shot 17
Credit: Christopher Phin

Other camera specs

A couple of other notable things: Panoramas are now even bigger, thanks to the 6s’s increased resolution—63 megapixels rather than the already-amusingly-huge 43 megapixels of the 6-series hardware. Despite this larger side, taking panoramas is still fast, presumably at least in part thanks to the 6s’s A9 processor. Indeed, if the selfie-in-a-church thing wasn’t bad enough, I looked quite, quite mad spinning around in its grounds trying to go too fast for the 6s to keep up. (It can be done, but that it’s so fast shows that in less artificial contexts the 6s will easily process panoramas quickly enough. Things slow down the darker it gets, mind.)

Burst mode, though, does suffer, presumably as a result of the 50-percent bump in resolution. Keeping the shutter depressed for about 10 seconds, the iPhone 6 shot 95 pictures, compared to 76 from the 6s. Let’s not get carried away: In most situations, the burst mode speed of the 6s is completely fine and should net you the shot you want, but it’s just worth noting that it’s around three-quarters the speed of the iPhone 6.

Live Photos: Not quite photos after all 

Of course, your other new option is Live Photos. With this turned on, your iPhone will capture 1.5 seconds of footage both before and after you press the shutter. (Well, I say footage, but Apple is at pains to point out that this isn’t video, even if what you import onto your Mac is, yes, technically, a .mov file.) 

Yes, this is complicated. You might have gotten it into your head that Live Photos are a series of full, 12 megapixel images, but Apple actually says “At the heart of a Live Photo is a beautiful 12-megapixel photo. But together with that photo are the moments just before and after it was taken, captured with movement and sound.”

In other words, the photo at the point you press the shutter is full-res, but not necessarily the footage you captured before and after, which you can see when you look at the imported .mov files—they’re 1440-by-1080, not 4032-by-3024. This helps explain why the .mov file that correlates to each JPEG is no more than twice its file size—and also, presumably, explains why you can’t define a different “poster frame” if you like, or save out different moments from the Live Photo as if it was a series of burst photos. 


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