Is it Worth Upgrading to the iPhone 7 Because of the Camera?

Apple released the iPhone 7 the other day.  Some people say the camera upgrade is a really big deal, but I’m not sure I’m convinced.  It does include 2 cameras though.  Is it worth it?

Two key challenges I have with the iPhone camera are shooting in low light and a really lousy zoom.  The dual cameras promise to fix these two issues.  Good marketing, or a real fix?  

iPhone 7: Better Performance in Low-Light?

Fun factoid, with its new super-wide aperture lens (f/1.8) the iPhone 7 will be able to see more than the human eye in low light.  The iPhone 7 will be able to capture about 66% more light than the iPhone 6 or SE.  Apple has also added image stabilization to reduce hand-held shake in low-light.  With these two changes, the iPhone 7 will significantly outperform the 6 or SE in low-light and do a much better job catching moments like blowing out the birthday candles in a dark room (without a flash).  Here’s the catch though.  If you like night photography and occasionally including some artistic blur, you’ve probably purchased camera apps like Camera + or Slow Shutter.  Running either of those apps, on any generation iPhone, is going to outperform the iPhone 7 with the native app.  Particularly if you’re in a position to be able to brace the camera in some way, such as on a table.   Since I already run both those apps, better low light performance isn’t a reason for me to upgrade.

iPhone 7: Better Zoom?

One of the two iPhone 7 cameras is, fundamentally, a 2x zoom lens (56 mm vs 28 mm), which will make your subject appear twice as large in your picture. I live and die by my zoom lens on my DSLR and am perpetually frustrated by the lousy iPhone zoom capability and grainy images you get when you do try.  You can buy a clip-on 2x zoom such as Aukey for $25 (ish) but, if you’re like me, I’m perpetually loosing my clip-ons or forgetting to pack them. This is when I admit that I got my iPhone SE just 6 months ago, so I am probably not going to rush out and get an iPhone 7 just to get a 2x zoom, but I will start eyeing other iPhone 7s with a touch of envy.

iPhone 7: Better Portraits?

I’ve also seen comments that the iPhone 7 will significantly improve the portraits you take.  Now, this statement is overblown marketing.  I ran the numbers (thanks Bob Atkins!) and it is about a 1” difference at 3’.  That means, if I’m holding my phone 3 feet from your face, the iPhone 7 will start to blur the stuffed gorilla hanging over your shoulder 1” closer than the iPhone 6 or SE.  Note to self…have subject step away from the hanging stuffed gorillas at the amusement park when taking photos.

End Result

On a scale of 1 (none) to 10 (HUGE!), how big of a deal is the iPhone 7 dual camera?  I’d peg it somewhere around a 6 or a 7.  If I hadn’t just gotten the SE, I’d be tempted to go get one. But, what I really appreciate is the fact that the dual camera will soon become the new normal, which we're all going to love.  If I were Canon, Nikon or Sony, I’d be feeling increasingly nervous!