iPhone users got a new update today, taking their version of iOS to 10.1. While the update did come with its normal quota of bug fixes and the like, its biggest highlight was a feature it brought only to the iPhone 7 Plus – the much-talked-of ‘Portrait’ mode. In essence, as its name indicates, it is designed to help you take better portrait snaps.
And the reason it works only on the iPhone 7 Plus is because it is the only iPhone with dual cameras. Portrait mode can be accessed among the normal shooting options from the default camera app, and well, the moment you enter it, you will notice that the camera uses the 2x optical zoom to get closer to the subject. You also get a message advising you to be within 2.5 meters of the subject. Get too close to the subject, however, and you will get a message advising you to move further away. The feature also advises you on the light levels, and what we have observed is that it generally wants you to take shots in relatively well-lit conditions. Oh and forget about zooming in – it is not possible while taking a shot in this mode.
By default, the camera takes two pictures, one with the “depth effect” and one without, letting you see the difference the Portrait mode makes. The one with the “depth effect” has the background blurred out, giving that “faded background” effect that many photographers try for. And well, most of the time, it does seem to work just fine, especially if you are taking pictures of human subjects. Colors at times seemed a little too warm and there is a slight pause for processing the image, but by and large, image quality is very good indeed. Things do get a little more interesting if you move to objects, however, where even the subject sometimes seems to get blurred. That said, when it works, the effect works so well that we can see a lot of people using it for product shots – getting a product sharply outlined against a blurred background can look rather nice.
In best Apple tradition, however, things have been kept simple. You use the mode and take the picture and then play around with the usual editing tools and filters if you wish. You cannot “move” the focus area around as you can in the case of, say, the Honor 8 or even some of the older Lumia cameras (remember the Refocus feature). No, if you are looking for tweaks and bells and whistles, this is not your app. It just takes a picture and blurs the ground and in most cases, does both rather well.
So, what do we think of Portrait Mode? We reckon iPhone 7 Plus users will be loving it for the sheer simplicity which it brings to the portrait capturing process, and well, our advice would be to use it not just for portraits but also for other objects. A blurred background can make anything look good.