Two is better than one (or why I’m finally switching to the larger iPhone 7 Plus)

By Kenny Yeo - on 29 Sep 2016, 2:31pm

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus marked the beginning of Apple's "one big, one small" phone strategy.

They say once you go big, you can never go back to small. I'm talking about phones, of course. In 2014 when Apple announced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, I gave the larger 6 Plus a go. And while I liked having a larger display, I soon decided that it wasn’t for me. The bigger form factor was too much of a handful for me. I couldn’t use it easily with a single hand, and it wouldn’t fit in many of my jeans. 

Furthermore, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have almost identical innards. They share the same processor and have similar camera systems - the only difference being that the larger “Plus” models have optical image stabilization. So it was an easy decision for me to stick with the smaller iPhone 6. And when the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus came around, guess which phone I preferred. I stuck with the smaller iPhone 6s again. But now, I think I’m ready to switch.

The new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. I think I'm finally ready to go big.

The main reason is the dual camera system. Taking photos is one the things that I do most on my phone, and I thoroughly enjoyed using the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual cameras on a recent trip to Seoul, South Korea. 

The simplest way to appreciate the dual camera system is to think of the iPhone 7 Plus as an interchangeable lens camera, but with dual prime lenses and with the added benefit of being able to swap between them instantaneously.

Ok, maybe you are not into cameras, and you might be thinking now, what’s so great about the second camera? Doesn’t it just enable 2x optical zoom? Why can’t I just move closer to the subject that I’m shooting or just use digital zoom?

The dual camera system on the iPhone 7 Plus is a huge draw for me.

These are valid questions. While you could easily move closer to the subject for a shot, know that in doing so you change the perspective of the shot. Yes, while the simple way to think of the additional telephoto camera is that it enables 2x optical zoom, know that changing focal lengths also alters other aspects of the shot (more on this later). And finally, digital zoom is also a no-no for me because I find that it sacrifices too much image quality.

Now, without getting into details, wide-angle lenses tend to expand space. In other words, they make objects look farther apart. Ever wondered why the hotel rooms you booked online look so much bigger in photos than in real-life? That is the work of wide-angle lenses. On the other hand, telephoto lens compress space and make objects look closer than they actually are. The differing qualities of these lenses can alter the way a shot look and feel. 

For those concerned about specifics, the wide-angle camera on the iPhone 7 has a 28mm equivalent focal length, while the telephoto camera has a 56mm equivalent focal length.

This graph handily illustrates the different effects of various focal lengths.

In addition, there are times when having the option to use wide and telephoto lenses can be especially handy. At many places of interests, visitors are prohibited from entering certain areas, which means you can only shoot from certain positions and that limits your options. Having the choice of a telephoto lens can really help in situations like this, allowing you to get a closer shot of your subject when you cannot get any closer physically.

Here are some shots I took in Seoul to show you what I mean.

Note: These photos have only been resized. They have not been cropped so as to accurately represent the different results you will get from the two differing cameras and their focal lengths. The first shot is with the wide-angle camera, while the second shot is with the telephoto camera. I didn't change my position during the shots, and they were taken one after the other.


1. Namsan Tower

This photo was taken from my hotel room, and the telephoto camera allowed me to get a much closer shot of Namsan Tower. Of course, I could easily crop the first shot to get similar results, but that would come at the cost of image quality.


2. Gyeongbukgong Palace

This is a shot of the dragon found on ceiling in the Geunjeongjeon (Throne Hall). Visitors are forbidden to enter the hall, which makes it hard to get a good shot of the intricate dragon figures on the ceiling. The telephoto camera is useful here as it gave me a much clearer shot of the dragons.


3. Myeongdong

The photos above show how a telephoto camera can compress space. The second shot (taken with the telephoto camera) makes the street seem more cramped and crowded than it actually is.


4. Seoul cityline

Getting to top of observatories is a good way to take a good look at whichever city you are in. New York has Rockefeller Center, Tokyo has the Tokyo Sky Tree, and in Seoul, tourists flock to Namsan Tower. However, taking photos at observatories of the city skyline can be restrictive since there isn't much you can do to adjust your shooting position. Having the option of the telephoto camera allowed me to get a closer shot of certain sections of the city.


5. Geunjeongjeon

The telephoto lens isn't always useful. When I travel, I find that I take lots of photos of places of interest or architecture, which tend to look best with wide-angle lenses. The top photo of the Geunjeongjeon (Throne Hall) within the Gyeongbukgong Palace was taken with the wide-angle camera, and I find that it best captures the grandiosity of the palace grounds. The photo taken with the telephoto camera, however, misses out entirely on the hall's surroundings and doesn't quite show the expansiveness of the place.


Final Thoughts

Of course, having dual cameras doesn’t automatically mean you will take better photos. It just gives you more options, which some photographers, like myself, will appreciate. As a beginner in photography, I find that I haven’t yet developed a good eye for shots, and to make up for that I simply shoot more.

And the iPhone 7 Plus is perfect for that. It’s light and handy, which allows me to quickly shoot and reposition myself; and the dual camera system allows me to switch between two focal lengths on the fly, so I can quickly judge which camera will give me a more ideal shot.

The dual camera setup of the iPhone 7 Plus is a joy to shoot with and I think avid photographers will enjoy using them.

They say the best camera is the one that you have with you. I don’t carry my camera with me all the time, but I usually have my phone with me. And all things considered, I really liked shooting with the iPhone 7 Plus on this trip, and this is why I’m finally joining the “big” club and switching to the iPhone 7 Plus. 

Now, where can I find jeans with larger pockets?

Kenny Yeo

Kenny Yeo / Associate Editor

Specifications are not everything. It's what you do with what you have that matters.

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