iPhone 8 Plus Camera Review

Check out my entire portfolio and website, including award winning short films shot on previous iPhones here:

My name is Tristan Pope and I have created a brand around mobile innovation and dance, so with every new release I am excited to see what new tech the OS and Hardware can bring to my craft & creativity.

http://instagram.com/dancers_of

The camera on the iPhone 8 Plus is definitely an improvement over the iPhone 7 Plus. It has an improved color contrast without removing that neutral density that all of us editors are fond of. We still have the ability to really dive into color correction, getting the most natural look as possible but adding that little extra pop of reds and blues that we were missing in recent updates.

The features most anticipated are:

  • Improved Quad-LED True Tone flash with Slow Sync
  • Portrait mode (now out of beta)
  • Portrait Lighting (beta at launch)
  • Almost Zero Shutter lag (this was important to me since I shoot dance, but I still need to get used to it, as I was actually really good at pre-firing on the old mode)

What is Slowsync? Slow sync flash combines a burst of flash with a slow shutter speed. This allows for way more natural looking shots in darker environments. This has amazing effects on the iPhone 8. My only gripe is you cannot tell it when to fire, it is automatic. Which is great for the average user but I like to push my camera to the limits so a toggle would have been nice, just like how HDR is now automatic, but you can still go into the settings and toggle it on and off as you wish.

Speaking of HDR… The automatic HDR is on point this time around. For all of my photos in this Dancers Of series I had it set to automatic, but after looking at the shots, i will definitely be keeping it toggled on while saving both shots for future just because of how good it is, but also because I often like a blown out background for some shots.

HDR AUTO on the left, HDR off on the right.

Portrait Mode is finally out of beta and has definitely seen improvements. Being able to decipher between frizzy hair and difficult backgrounds much easier.

Portrait Mode Lighting: This is a brand new setting that allows you to do some truly amazing on the fly adjustments as if you had studio lighting on your subject. Not only that but apps are starting to adapt to the two layers that are created in a portrait mode photo and allowing you to replace the background on the fly!

You can use Natural Light, Studio Light(similar to a bounce board in gold), Contour Light(similar to a harsher flash), Stage Light/BW Stagelight to drop out the background for a black background. This was hit or miss with the focus point of light often missing the mark or small artifacts making it through, it is in beta though, and from what it can already do, it is damn impressive. You also have the ability to toggle Portrait mode off if you decide a photo just looks better with the background intact, while still being able to apply the Portrait Mode Lighting.

Left Portrait mode is toggled off so you can see more of the city in the background.

So off I went to make a new "Dancers Of" series with the iPhone 8 plus & the very talented hip hop artist Lizzie Fleitas.

Here are some of the results:

Shot on iPhone 8 Plus

As you can see the results are stunning. Combining Portrait Mode and the great dynamic range of the iPhone results in some unprecedented results.If I didn’t tell someone “this was shot on iPhone” most likely they would just assume I went out with my DSLR and took some cool shots. That is FANTASTIC. When we can stop calling it “mobile photography” and just “photography” we have truly begun a new day and age. Just look at the detail in this photo raw right our of the camera:

No Edits. Only used the Vivid Cool Color filter within the iPhone app itself to give it a cooler temp.

You can see every eyelash, every freckle, the sparkle of her eyes, and even where some of her eyeliner has fallen off on her cheek, yes I would normally take that out in post but for the detail you can get I wanted you to see it all!

So if that is the new photography it can produce what about my favorite part, the video features:
  • 1080p @ 240 FPS
  • 4k @ 60FPS

This is unprecedented in a phone this size. To get these kind of results you usually need to drop a couple of grand on a camera body without lenses! For someone who uses the iPhone for Dance Photography and Videography this is a huge upgrade, needed to stay competitive.

An edited video with no color correction utilizing the 240 FPS for slow motion capture:

As you can see the results are buttery smooth. This is not much different than what we had in the iPhone 7 Plus other than the fact that it is doing it in 1080p which is PHENOMENAL. 1080p is in every home, TV, phone, etc these days so the 720p 240fps was starting to become dated. This was the refresh it needed to stay competitive. And it is the only Smartphone to be able to achieve this with such accuracy.

The pros:
  • Amazing detail in every photo
  • DSLR like image quality and bokeh effects via Portrait Mode
  • Amazing flexibility/creativity in all lighting conditions and non studio conditions with Portrait Lighting Mode.
  • Slow Sync flash for a professional grade low light flash scenario.
  • Improvements to the trutone flash
  • Almost zero shutter lag from when you snap the photo and your picture is captured
  • Full integration into the Photos app on the Mac with High Sierra allowing you to edit all the effects you can control via your iPhone
  • New HEIF and HEVC(h.265) formats to decrease image and video size while maintaining the quality and being able to hold more information, such as edits and adjustments. It truly is an amazing compression! *(see compatibility)
  • 1080p @ 60FPS Video Recording
  • 4k @ 60FPS Video Recording
The not so good...

So with every new thing there are always down sides. Other than a few hiccups with iOS 11, such as photos not coming into focus unless you pinch to zoom on them:

As well, in video, skin tones are often blown out even when adjusting the manual exposures. (all which I am sure will be fixed in an update)

My biggest issues are not with the quality or how the software on the iPhone or Mac compatible devices work, because they are seamless. It is more of a two pronged “ruffles my feathers”.

No Manual Modes

So many of the new features are “automatic” with no real way for someone who uses an iPhone as my main tool for photography and videography to tweak the settings manually, such as slow sync flash. This is an incredibly powerful tool in the right hands, but also an incredible unstable one if you don’t know how to use it. So I understand why Apple chooses to set things like HDR and Slow Sync flash to automatic. It is so anyone can pick up iPhone and get the best possible quality images. But for those of us who are more advanced and want to really push it to the limits we have to wait for third party app developers to give us access to those features instead of just building an “advanced mode” into the iOS. There are some workarounds such as HDR but nothing for the flash yet.

HDR now shows as a toggle on the right photo upper part of the screen

And as with all the iOS iterations before there is no way to quickly switch your frame rate or recording resolution without going into settings. Not a deal breaker, but just wish it was on the camera screen. Although in iOS 11 there is now a dedicated TAB for camera settings in the settings tab now. So it is ONE less menu to dig through which is highly appreciated. But of course we want more, give us that force touch feature to gain access to it right from the camera itself! 🙂

*Compatability

There are two issues here that I struggled with during this shoot. With the new formats HEIF and HEVC(h.265), the latter HEVC being mandatory to get 4K @ 60FPS and 1080p @ 60FPS I had compatibility issues up the wazzoooo!

Now because I wanted to use these resolutions, obviously I turned it on and I figured why not also take advantage of the new image format as well! Well, I use cloud services to backup my photos and videos such as dropbox and google drive, which luckily have since the time of writing this implemented either a service to convert your photos on dropbox to JPEG, or on Google Drive, implemented the ability to read the raw HEIF photo format. But here is where it gets tricky: I edit on a PC and a MAC. My main rendering goes to my PC as I have a monster of a desktop made specifically for it, and as of right now, windows has NO heavenly clue how to read these image files. Not only that but Adobe products, my go to, cannot import either of the formats for Photo or Video.(yet)

Now I go back to the idea that Apple always goes for the user friendly approach, opting to hide features and toggles, but when trying to get my photos an videos to even open on my PC, I was shocked at the process it took. I cannot even imagine, since these formats are automatically turned on when installing iOS 11, what someone not tech savvy would think when they cannot load their newly shot photos and videos without the help of an external service.

The Workaround

There is currently only ONE workaround for those of you who wish to edit on the PC and do not have access to a mac to re-encode or export all your photos and videos to a format the PC can read, and that is using the windows Photo Importer…

There is only one BIG problem. Getting your PC to recognize your iPhone can often be a painstaking process and you will often be prompted with this, even if you are plugged in, trusted the computer, and iTunes is reading your device:

I was ready to rip my hair out at a certain point. What had gone from a simple process of importing to dropbox or googledrive and then editing the files off the local saved copies of those files, turned into me searching the web for media converters, and other third party programs that I didn’t know if they would ultimately degrade the quality of my images and videos.

This is what Google Drive will look like on a PC.

I can’t tell you why or when, but at one point when running the windows importer, it allowed me to find my iPhone and there is a setting on iOS to import the “most compatible version” of your photos and videos.

This feature saved my ass as it imported all photos as jpeg and all videos in a compatible format with Adobe products without losing quality. However even this has it’s downside: Every photo imports with two or three versions: one with the effects you applied such as portrait mode another with colors, and one version as the original. So you are no longer saving space with that new codec, but using up double or more.

The videos imported fine and could be read by Adobe, but until Adobe adds support even those imported videos read as “300FPS” videos even though they are “240FPS”.

When all is said and done:

This is not at all a witch hunt at Apple, but when you introduce a new compression codec for video and photos(albeit not that new in the industry), it would be really great if you could work with major companies such as Adobe and Microsoft so when these hit the market there is no “waiting period” for industry standard programs and operating systems, if you are NOT on a Mac, to support the digital media off your iPhone which these days, is worth a lot. Until everyone starts updating and supporting this new format, I hope the work around above helps those of you who may be struggling. If you are on the Apple eco system completely, the experience will be a breeze (unless you use Adobe products on your mac as of writing this).

At the end of the day:

I am extremely impressed with the iPhone 8 Plus. When it was first announced I looked at it and couldn’t help but be distracted by the elephant in the room…

But after using it for a full “Dancers Of” series I can say it is a worthy successor to the iPhone 7 Plus. I never felt as if I was missing any features or hindered by the phone, if anything I was given more tools to express my creativity through Dance, Strength, and the passion of those I work with. And as companies such as Adobe and Microsoft add support for the new codecs I mentioned, we are on the right path to a very good file system that can hold more information but not eat away at precious disk or cloud space.

But don’t get me wrong, I plan to ride that elephant and I plan to ride it fast! So see ya again soon, but next time as a talking poo!

Part of the series “Dancers Of” on Instagram shot on iPhone 8 Plus