Apple iPhone 8 Plus Review

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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Resolution: 12.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/3 inch
(4.8mm x 3.5mm)
Lens: 2.00x zoom
(29-57mm eq.)
Viewfinder: No / LCD
Native ISO: 20 - 1250
Extended ISO: 20 - 1250
Max Aperture: 1.8
Dimensions: 3.1 x 6.2 x 0.3 in.
(78 x 158 x 8 mm)
Weight: 7.1 oz (202 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 09/2017
Manufacturer: Apple

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2.00x zoom 1/3 inch
size sensor
image of Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Front side of Apple iPhone 8 Plus digital camera Front side of Apple iPhone 8 Plus digital camera      

Apple iPhone 8 Plus Field Test

First Impressions of the iPhone 8 Plus Camera: real-world photos & lab shots!

by William Brawley | Posted 10/13/2017

A couple of years ago, I wrote a small piece about the quality of the camera on the iPhone 6S. Now, two years later, I've upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus, and again, I'm excited about the camera improvements to this new model. While the image resolution remains the same at 12-megapixels, the sensor and image processor are all new, and of course, the 8 Plus sports the dual-camera system with an added 56mm-equivalent f/2.8 telephoto lens. The 28mm-eq. wide-angle camera remains the same as on the 7 Plus, though the f/1.8 maximum aperture is a upgrade over the f/2.2 lens in my old 6S. Even more, I now can try some computation photography goodies, like Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting!

Now, I said two years ago that the smartphone camera wasn't going to replace a standalone camera and that's certainly held true -- for me personally. My Olympus E-M1 II goes with me pretty much anywhere and lets me capture images that a smartphone just simply cannot. But, again, I'm drawn to the simplicity of using my smartphone as my camera. The idea of walking around, traveling, hiking and packing no extra gear except for the phone in my pocket just seems so refreshing.

So, in my pocket, I now have two cameras, with supposedly improved image quality performance. And if DxOMark scoring is of any indication, the 8 Plus's recent score of 94 is quite a sizable image quality improvement over the iPhone 6's "73" (DxO didn't specifically test the 6S). Lab tests aside, let's dive in to see how the iPhone 8 Plus looks and works as a camera...

Wide-Angle Lens (28mm-eq.), f/1.8, 1/120s, ISO 64
General Image Quality

Overall, I'm rather impressed with the image quality from the iPhone 8 Plus. Given the sheer convenience of the default Camera app on the iPhone -- just a left-swipe from the lock screen and you're ready to go -- I tended to use that as my go-to choice for most shooting. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't let you capture RAW files with the default Camera app, however it does offer an official API for third-party developers. Sadly, the Camera app is JPEG-only.

Wide-Angle Lens (28mm-eq.), f/1.8, 1/120s, ISO 40

Looking at these JPEGs, photos display quite an impressive amount of fine detail for such a small sensor. Close-up and macro photos looks really great to my eye. Now, when it comes to pixel-peeping to 100% on JPEG images, you'll of course start to see this kind of digital "blockiness" effect as well as a lack of truly fine detail that other cameras with larger sensor would easily resolve. But, that's the limitation of the iPhone camera; it's a really small sensor, so you can't really expect that level of detail. For full-view and zooming-in to less-than-100%, the 8 Plus camera, both wide-angle and telephoto, capture pleasing detail.

Wide-Angle Lens (28mm-eq.), f/1.8, 1/1143s, ISO 20

Colors and dynamic range also look quite nice. Colors appear vibrant without being over-saturated, at least at default, unedited settings. Dynamic range was also pretty good. When shooting in the unflattering midday sun, deep shadows can sometimes look very black and the image overall is very contrasty. However, there were a number of photos that displayed lots of shadow detail while also retaining detail and colors in the bright sky.

Not an HDR photo.
Wide-Angle Lens (28mm-eq.), f/1.8, 1/1499s, ISO 20
High ISO

With such a tiny sensor, the iPhone 8 Plus excels when there's lots of light, keeping the ISO as low as possible. But if the light fades and you need to crank the ISO up, the 8 Plus handles that rather well, all things considered.

Portrait Lens (56mm-eq.), f/2.8, 1/23s, ISO 20

Using the third-party Camera+ app to capture RAW (.dng) + JPEG images as well as control the ISO setting manually, I was able to do a quick Still Life series in our testing lab. At base ISO of 20, details in the RAW files look really good for a smartphone. Fine detail, such as that in the Pure bottle and mosaic tile pattern, are clearly visible and look decently sharp for this type of sensor. The camera even captures lots of fabric detail; even in the often-difficult red fabric swatch.

A crop comparison between ISO 20 and ISO 1250, the lowest and highest ISOs.
Crops taken from RAW files open with ACR defaults.

As the ISO climbs, images do become quite noisy. Luminance noise at base ISO is still visible, but chroma noise doesn't really pop up until around ISO 80-100. ISO 400 RAWs are pretty noisy, but it's a pretty evenly-dispersed, fine grain noise. The red fabric is also pretty much devoid of detail at this point. At the extreme ISOs of 800-1250, the images (RAW) are extremely noisy, but not to a level that's completely unacceptable. It's pretty impressive for such a tiny sensor! The JPEG counterparts, at higher ISOs, display very heavy noise reduction processing; lots of artificial smoothing and detail reduction. If you must shoot at higher ISOs with your iPhone, grab a third-party camera app that offers RAW capture (For example: Camera+, ProCam, Adobe Lightroom Mobile).

iPhone 8 Plus "Portrait Mode"
Portrait Lens (56mm-eq.), f/2.8, 1/120s, ISO 40

Portrait Mode

Portrait Mode made its debut back on the iPhone 7 Plus as a beta feature in iOS 10. Now out of beta, the special camera mode utilizes the dual camera system on the Plus models to simulate a shallower depth of field. It's pretty clever and works rather well for the most part, but it's not flawless. I found that it gets "confused" with certain subjects or textures, causing artifacts and other improperly processed blurring. Interestingly, the "Portrait" effect is just that, an effect. After taking a Portrait shot, if you find you'd rather have a standard telephoto shot, you can simply turn off the blurring effect.

You can see how the artificial blurring effect didn't work all that well with this subject, removing the top portion of this plant. Thankfully, the iPhone lets you save both a "Portrait Mode" version as well as an original photo without the extra processing.
Click here for the full-res Portrait Mode version and the Regular one.

Portrait Lighting is also neat, and can be used both before or after taking a shot. You can see the effect in real-time as you take the shot, and if you decide to pick another lighting effect later, you can simply swipe over to another option. Portrait Lighting is still in the beta stage, and like Portrait Mode, doesn't get it right all the time. The Stage Lighting effect, in particular, is designed to completely blackout the background of the subject. The look is often still rough around the edges, literally. The Photoshop-like effect of isolating the subject from the background can oftentimes struggle to smoothly or completely isolate a subject, especially around finely details edges like hair or fur.

iPhone 8 Plus "Portrait Mode" with "Stage Light Mono" Portrait Lighting effect added post-capture. As you can see, it doesn't really look natural with this image, but it could work depending on how you frame your shot.
Portrait Lens (56mm-eq.), f/2.8, 1/120s, ISO 40


Overall, the iPhone 8 Plus is a pretty fun and superbly convenient little camera. The image quality is pretty impressive, and the performance specs, like burst shooting and AF speed, all seem really quick. The dual camera setup on the 7 Plus and 8 Plus -- and upcoming iPhone X -- make this pocketable camera even more versatile.

Wide-Angle Lens (28mm-eq.), f/1.8, 1/120s, ISO 64

Does the iPhone 8 Plus replace a standalone camera? For me, no, not really. The 6S didn't, and the 8 Plus likely won't either. For serious shoots or once-in-a-lifetime moments or adventures, I still think I'll bring along a camera with better image quality and more lens versatility. The iPhone 8 Plus is still shiny and new to me, so I'm therefore more excited to use it, however, I'm going to make an effort to use it more as a dedicated camera. As an experiment. Just to see how far I can push it. Should be fun!

iPhone 8 Plus Gallery Images •  iPhone 8 Plus Lab Samples


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