iPhone 6s Plus: Best Camera and Battery Ever

| Dr. Mac's Rants and Raves

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #148


In September I reviewed the (then) new iPhone 6s (in rose gold). I loved the new 3D Touch and Live Photos features but concluded that I wanted an iPhone with a larger screen, a better camera, and less pink, so I swapped it for a space gray iPhone 6s Plus. Like the smaller 6s, the 6s Plus has 3D Touch and Live Photos, and both features are still as great on the bigger iPhone as they were on the smaller one. But the iPhone 6s Plus adds two features not found in the 6s and they make all the difference in the world to me.

The first is its camera. Simply put, this is the best iPhone camera yet, noticeably better than even the iPhone 6s camera, which shares many (but not all) of its components and is a fine camera itself. The secret sauce is the 6s Plus's exclusive optical image stabilization, which uses a combination of hardware and software to reduce hand-induced shakiness. My iPhone 6 Plus had it, but it only worked with still photos; the new iPhone 6s Plus has image stabilization for stills and videos, so almost all of your videos are smoother and better looking, especially in low light situations.

I’m fascinated by the way this technology works, using the gyroscope and M9 motion coprocessor to detect movement, then instructing teeny-tiny motors to move the camera lens up, down, left, or right to compensate for that movement. How cool is that? And, it works in all supported video resolutions up to and including 4K and also works with time-lapse images, giving you myriad new possibilities for hand-held time-lapses.

It’s not quite as good as a hardware stabilizer like the Roxant Pro Video Camera Stabilizer ($60) I'm learning to use with my iPhone.

Roxant Pro Video Camera Stabilizer

The Roxant Pro stabilizer is an inexpensive Steadicam for lightweight cameras like my iPhone. 

That being said, I still haven't mastered the Roxant while Apple’s stabilization had no learning curve. And Apple's rendition is built in, so there's nothing to remember (or forget)—it’s always there when you need it.

Another very cool camera feature is the Retina Flash for the front-facing FaceTime camera (you know, your “selfie-cam"). It detects the lighting conditions and then turns the entire iPhone display into a TrueTone flash adjusted in color and intensity to match the ambient lighting. Come on—you gotta love that. But my favorite part is that it's done with a custom display chip that allows the screen to flash three times brighter than normal. I’m not a huge selfie fan but the few I’ve shot with this camera looked better than usual.

Bob LeVitus

With (left) and without (right) Retina Flash. 

The other camera improvements – the new 12MP sensor and Apple-designed image signal processor – which are also in the iPhone 6s, surely play a huge part in the 6s Plus being the best camera yet. But while the iPhone 6s camera is really good, the 6s Plus's optical image stabilization makes its camera even better.

Moving right along, beyond the camera there’s one other feature that matters to me and that is battery life. I’m not sure if the iPhone 6s Plus has a longer-lasting battery than its predecessor (the iPhone 6 Plus), but I am certain it lasts a lot longer than the iPhone 6s I had for two weeks (before returning it for being too small, too pink, and not having the best camera).

I start out most days with a fully charged battery. On the iPhone 6s, I was often running on fumes before dinnertime. The iPhone 6s Plus battery lasts all day and well into the evening (as did my iPhone 6 Plus). A full charge almost always makes it from early morning until close to bedtime. Since I’m always on the go, not having to worry about charging my iPhone all day makes me giddy.

Anyway, while the iPhone 6s is tasty piece of kit, it’s the iPhone 6s Plus — with its larger screen, better camera, and longer-lasting battery — that won my heart. If those are the things that are important to you in your next iPhone, believe me when I tell you that want an iPhone 6s Plus even if you think Plus models are too big, which they’re not.

And that’s all he wrote…

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Gary Dauphin

I agree that the Apple camera in the 6s+ is the best Apple has ever produced, but I am still amazed at what my two sons are creating on their Galaxy Note 6 and Edge 5(?).  While the images are a bit oversaturated, they are crisp and at a higher resolution than the Apple phone.

That being said, I just shot a 30-second TV spot on the iPhone (in 4K), edited in FCP, turned it into the client without telling him, and it is airing on TV even as we speak.  A lot to be said there…

Mike Weasner

I upgraded from the iPhone 5s to the iPhone 6s Plus a week ago.  While the camera in the 6s Plus is probably the best iPhone camera overall for general photography and video, it does fall short in one important aspect that hurts using it for some types of astrophotography.  I had been able to do some amazing astrophotography with my iPhone 5s using the incredible “NightCap Pro” app.  The iPhone 5s camera had a maximum shutter speed of 1/2 second.  With the iPhone 6s Plus the maximum camera shutter speed has been significantly reduced to 1/3 second.  That’s a large reduction when trying to photograph in low light conditions or when taking photos of faint objects through a telescope.  So in this respect, the iPhone 6s Plus is not the best iPhone camera for astrophotography.

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