It's official... Apple has unveiled iPhone 7. Increased battery life, new Jet Black colour version, dust and water proofing, larger storage options were all included in this latest update of the world's best-selling smartphone. The additions were equally as newsmaking as the controversial omission of the headphone jack; the era of tangle-free, wireless listening is now upon us.
It is major changes to the iPhone camera system though that has enthralled iPhone Photography enthusiasts like myself, leaving us eager to upgrade to the latest model. The iPhone 7and 7 Plus boast a re-engineered 12-megapixel camera with larger f/1.8 aperture, six-element lens and new image processor. Optical image stabilisation is now standard on both models (previously limited to the Plus). Apple claims the camera is 60% faster than previous models and will record more detailed photos and videos with increased noise reduction in low-light conditions. There is also a new 7MP front-facing camera and improved, smarter, LED flash onboard too. Pretty impressive, however it's Apple's changes to the flagship Plus model that has left me scrambling to pre-order. Embedded in the iPhone 7 Plus model is a second 12-megapixel camera with a focal length of 56mm offering a 2x optical zoom; a first for the iPhone. As if this wasn't enough there is the promise of an intelligent shallow depth of field portrait mode coming later in the year.
Alongside these hardware changes is the imminent launch of iOS 10 billed as Apple's "biggest software release ever". Improved messaging, maps, notifications, news, Siri interaction, Home Kit and Photos app all feature in this major overhaul of the mobile operating system. The standout news is that photographers will be able to edit raw files taken with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus cameras. I'm expecting third party developers to take advantage of this option in a big way. Adobe with their Lightroom app and Google with SnapSeed have recently introduce RAW editing into their latest releases.
Inevitably, there will be those that sneer, snipe and reject the device as a below par photography gadget. Good enough for the 'Instagram Generation' and wannabes but never anywhere near the ultimate perfection that 'serious' photographers insist upon. I have come across a certain amount of pomposity within some photography circles that dismiss anything that isn't produced by Canon or Nikon and that doesn't carry an eye-watering price tag. Opinions that are possibly aired by the same, or like, individuals who a decade ago were dismissing digital cameras as inferior toys, yet today proudly own an all-singing high-end DSLR. Comparisons can also be drawn with those who once decried the use of Photoshop editing over the art of traditional darkroom techniques, yet now boast an Adobe Creative Suite subscription and 'educate' us on best practices in Lightroom workflow.
Refreshing then to hear that Magnum pro photographer Christopher Anderson, who has already been shooting with the new iPhone, quoted by Apple as saying "This iPhone is going to be a part of any professional's repertoire of tools. The camera didn't just handle low light, it rendered the separation of colours in a way that reminds me of film. Just Beautiful."
There is no substitute for experience, no fast-track to honing skills and perfecting competence; it is my belief that a skilled photographer will create a worthwhile shot on almost any device. Professional travel photographer and iPhone user Jack Hollingsworth took to Twitter to say "Smartphones still need smart photographers to create smart photography".
Professional photographer Jason Nocito who has also been using the pre-release iPhone 7 says "I love the depth of field capabilities and the ability to shoot fast without losing sharpness. This iPhone proves you don't need a five figure rig to be a great photographer. This camera is gonna change the game."
Truth is companies are commissioning work on the iPhone, stock photos taken with an iPhone are being purchased for ad campaigns and editorials, I run workshops with companies who wish to empower staff to take images for social media and web work. The purists aren't happy as they see newbies eroding their livelihood. It is an uncomfortable truth that technology has just about changed every industry on the planet and those who transition their business models to adapt to new trends and practices will be the ones who ultimately survive and succeed.
The iPhone is not a DSLR and vice-versa, each has its own merits and come into their own in certain conditions. However, the iPhone cannot be ignored any longer as a fad or a toy, it is a serious piece of kit that is evolving at a pace that many of us wished for but never thought possible.