Tom Wright6 Comments

iPhone 7 Plus: The Photographer's Sketchbook

Tom Wright6 Comments
iPhone 7 Plus: The Photographer's Sketchbook

The iPhone was my first camera. 

My interest in photography started with an iPhone. I have always been interested in the visual arts. At school I loved my graphics and art classes so much so that I spent as much time as I could working with paints and pencil... the problem is I sucked.

The idea of what I wanted to produce was clear in my mind but I didn't have the skills to express myself visually. Then I found music and had an outlet for my creativity. 

Fast forward a few years. I was teaching private music lessons and was a bit of an Apple fanboy. When the iPhone 3G was released, I remember waiting in line to get the phone and marvelling at its amazing design. 

The camera on that phone was a game changer for me. Being able to make something visual with no barriers to entry helped me to learn how to communicate visually.

All Images in this article have been shot and edited on the iPhone 7 Plus.

Click the arrows to see with and without blur

Bigger and Better Sensors  

Soon after getting the iPhone I started to move on to film. My early career in photography started with me teaching workshops on Polaroid film; I fell in love with the depth of field you get with a larger capture medium.  

While working with film my iPhone fell out of use entirely. There was no comparison. Polaroid had a more interesting character and 35mm film had much better quality than my humble phone. Over the next few years I moved from film to digital and from workshops to weddings & portraits. 

My iPhone camera hasn't been used for anything other than scanning documents since the iPhone 4. That is until now.  

The Digital Sketchbook. 

Shallow depth of field and subject isolation have become a huge part of the way I work. Without the ability to remove or isolate a subject from their surroundings my images would lose some of the feeling I try to create. That's where the new iPhone comes in. 

In the past the only way to get an isolated subject was to move to a mirrorless or DSLR camera with a much larger sensor. Even expensive point and shoots and bridge cameras failed to deliver this much coveted characteristic at normal focal lengths. 

The depth effect on the iPhone 7 plus is nothing short of amazing. Using two lenses (28mm and 56mm equivalent) the iPhone calculates a depth map to understand how far behind or in front of the focus point an object is, this is then processed by the camera app and a blur is applied to the areas behind and in front of your subject. 

This allows you to use your phone to compose a photo that has a characteristic that would require a much bulkier and much less convenient setup.

That isn't to say it's perfect. The beauty of this feature isn't the way it renders. This isn't Bokeh (the Japanese word used to describe the character of lens blur). For now at least you won't see beautiful lens blur with rounded and pleasant rendering and the feature won't work at all when your more than 2.5 meters from your subject. There are also areas the depth mapping gets it wrong, creating blurred areas that should be in focus or halos of sharp focus around the edges of your subject rather than a smooth and gradual reduction in sharpness. 

The true beauty of this is as a compositional tool. Artists have sketchbooks. Journalists have notepads. Now photographers have the iPhone 7 Plus. If I want to see how framing or depth affects the way a location looks or just to take pictures of my family, now I have a way to do that without bringing my main camera and lenses. 

This is the perfect tool to take visual notes and help retain the overall feel of the pictures I love to make. 

Will this replace my main camera? No way. Am I glad that I have this? Absolutely.