Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
Pros
  • Slightly above average image quality versus other smartphones
  • Color accuracy is good
  • Camera app is easy to use
  • Inclusion of optical image stabilization improves low light performance of main camera
  • Panoramic images are well constructed and are of great quality
  • Panoramic feature is easy to use
  • Camera's operational speeds are above average
  • Extremely large display screen is helpful for reviewing photos
  • Full HD video recordings look great on high-resolution HD screen
  • Battery life is above average
Cons
  • Disappointing to find an 8-megapixel main camera in 6 Plus when 6s Plus has 12-megapixels
  • 6s Plus offers 5MP in secondary/front-facing camera versus 1.2MP in 6 Plus secondary camera
  • Low light image quality could be a little better
  • Smartphone body is very large compared to other units
  • Can be a little difficult to hold smartphone comfortably while using camera, because unit is large and thin
  • Manual controls over main camera settings is limited
  • Limited ability to apply effects to video
  • No option to record 4K video
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured from complete shutdown = 47.3 seconds
  • Power up to first image captured from sleep mode = 3.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/o flash = 1.2 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 4.2 seconds
  • Continuous shot = 10 photos in 1.8 seconds at 8MP
All tests were taken using internal memory, Auto mode, default image quality, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at factory defaults unless noted otherwise. No image review mode is available.
Bottom Line
The Apple iPhone 6 Plus camera hardware has some good advantages over the cameras in older iPhone smartphones, including optical IS that improves the camera's low light performance. The Panorama feature with this model's iSight camera is outstanding, creating images that look better than the panoramic images found on most digital cameras. While it's disappointing that the 6 Plus iSight camera doesn't measure up to the greatly improved camera hardware found on the slightly newer iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, the 6 Plus does offer overall image quality that's a bit above the average smartphone camera in the market.
Pick This Up If...
You're looking for an easy-to-use smartphone camera, you don't want or need the latest smartphone camera features, and you're interested in shooting a lot of high resolution panoramic photos.
I'll make the most obvious statement about the Apple iPhone 6 Plus first: It's huge. If your whole goal for using a smartphone camera is because it's smaller than a typical digital camera, the 6 Plus and its 5.5-inch display screen may not work for you.

Now if size is not a concern, the 6 Plus' display screen -- which has a full HD resolution -- is well worth the large size of the unit. The screen is of a tremendous quality. You'll be able to see the videos and still images you've shot with this camera in complete clarity on this screen.

Ultimately, while the image quality that's possible with the main rear-facing camera of the Apple iPhone 6 Plus is slightly better than most smartphones, it's still a step below most beginner-level dedicated digital cameras. The 6 Plus images are certainly good enough to share on social media, which is probably why you'd be using this smartphone camera instead of a digital camera anyway. So for the photography purpose it serves, the iPhone 6 Plus main camera (called iSight) is pretty good.

And while the secondary, front-facing camera (called FaceTime) could use more than its limited 1.2-megapixels of resolution, it works fine for shooting basic selfies and 720p HD video.

(Please keep in mind while reading this review that it will focus on the iPhone 6 Plus' cameras and directly related features, rather than the communications aspects of the smartphone.)

As you'd expect with an iPhone product, the cameras included with the 6 Plus are very easy to use. Apple didn't overdo the features included in its Camera app, preferring to keep things basic. You will have the option of shooting in HDR mode, shooting in Panoramic mode, applying filters, and controlling the flash with the basic Camera app, but little else.

Apple has long been one of the best when it comes to creating cameras that can record outstanding panoramic image quality, and the iPhone 6 Plus builds further on that strength. This iPhone creates some of the highest resolution panoramic photos you'll find on any camera, and that includes most of the digital cameras on the market. The panoramic feature on the 6 Plus is very easy to use as well.

One nice aspect of having iOS 8 or iOS 9 with the 6 Plus is that you'll gain access to numerous third-party photography apps that can give you more manual control over the smartphone's camera settings, as well as access to some more special effect options.

The iPhone 6 Plus works fast in camera mode, minimizing shot-to-shot delays by recovering from the previous photo quickly. You can record photos in good lighting almost as fast as you can tap the shutter button, and there's a 10 frames per second burst mode, which also works well. However, once you move into low light conditions, the smartphone camera's performance slows considerably.

Video performance and quality is good with the 6 Plus. Although it would be nice to have a 4K video resolution option with this unit, it's certainly not a deal-breaker at this stage of the industry's migration to 4K video. I was pleasantly pleased with the ability of the iPhone 6 Plus to record clear audio during various test video recordings.

One especially nice feature of the 6 Plus that you'll rarely find on other smartphone cameras -- and that you won't even find on the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s -- is optical IS (image stabilization) for the iSight camera. The optical IS helps the 6 Plus record sharper photos than you might expect for a smartphone camera in a low light situation. This is the first time Apple has included an optical IS feature with one of its smartphone cameras. But, even though this unit compares favorably versus other smartphone cameras, the low light image quality with the iPhone 6 Plus doesn't stack up to most still image digital cameras.

Apple also has included an exposure control option with the main Camera app for the first time in an iPhone with the 6 Plus, which is a handy feature for dealing with tricky light in a scene.

Some photographers will be disappointed that there's no realistic shutter button for the iPhone 6 Plus camera. You can touch the screen to record a photo, or you can use one of the smartphone's volume buttons as a shutter button. However, neither option really has the feel of a digital camera's shutter button, such as the ability to press the button halfway to pre-focus on the scene. And it can be tough to hold the camera completely steady when pressing either of these shutter buttons.

Of course the biggest drawback that photographers who are currently using a dedicated still image digital camera will notice is the iPhone 6 Plus has no optical zoom option, which is the biggest problem across the smartphone camera market. The lack of an optical zoom will greatly affect the way most people interact with their smartphone camera versus a digital camera.

Bottom Line - The iPhone 6 Plus is a huge smartphone, necessitated with the 5.5-inch display screen. So some people will dismiss the 6 Plus immediately because of its size. If you don't mind a huge smartphone, the display screen on the 6 Plus is of a very high quality, offering full HD resolution, which is great for looking through your stored images and videos. Arguably, though, the biggest problem for the Apple iPhone 6 Plus iSight camera isn't really its fault. It does a decent job compared to most smartphone cameras, it's easy to use, and it works fast. But, ultimately, it can't match the camera hardware in the iPhone 6s or 6s Plus. Those iPhones were released a few months after the 6 Plus, and they offer greatly enhanced camera features versus the 6 Plus. So if you're looking for a new iPhone and you want the best possible camera hardware features, the 6s or 6s Plus are the easy choice ... as long as you can fit the newer models in your budget. The 6s Plus has a higher price point than the 6 Plus, usually around $100 to $200 more. If you're going to stick with the iPhone 6 Plus and its iSight camera's 1/3-inch image sensor and 8-megapixels of resolution, you'll find good image quality that's a little better than the average smartphone camera and a bit below the average point-n-shoot digital camera. The optical IS included with the 6 Plus gives it a bit of an advantage over most smartphone cameras, which rarely have an image stabilization option. Exposure control is offered in an iPhone camera for the first time as well. The easy-to-use Apple iPhone 6 Plus iSight is a good smartphone camera, but not quite a great one. However, it does make some significant improvements over older iPhone camera models, which is helpful for those who prefer the Apple brand of smartphone.



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