If ever there was a publication that hasn’t done well in the online world, it’s Consumer Reports, the digital review rag which rushes to judgement faster than a New York politician running for President (you choose; coy, no?).
My new iPhone arrived and so far it seems like another stellar upgrade in every facet. Battery life is good (new iPhones always are), it’s fast, iOS 10 has some great new features, and the camera is to die for. Unless you’ve been reading Consumer Reports. I see another Rush To Judgement. What do you see? Nothing.
Must. Have. Photos.
Terry Sullivan at CR weighed in on iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus’ new cameras. Me thinks his boss assigned him to write a review but with the caveat that it be contentious to our sensibilities. How can you conduct a camera test and not come up with photos of substance?
Consumer Reports purchased several iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models at retail on the day of launch, and we’ve done some initial evaluations in our camera labs. So far, we’ve found no major leap in camera performance from the iPhone 6s models.
In other words, ‘meh.’ According to CR, iPhone 7’s cameras, despite the improvement in specifications, are, well, much the same as iPhone 6 models. To offer proof of the discovery that iPhone 7’s camera is ‘meh‘ CR took three photos of what appears to be an office and hallway. Wide angle, zoom in, close up.
Wait. Where’s the comparison to iPhone 6s? Where’s the comparison to anything?
The unofficial line seems to be something like “So sorry. Not enough time.”
Here’s the problem with comparing photos in a so-called photography test. It’s the variables. There are plenty and they range from camera, lens, sensors, lighting, photographer, application used, subject matter, and on an on. That’s why more reputable photo rags like DPReview will compare cameras and lenses under similar situations.
Oh, and there’s that age old problem of comparing photos. Perception. Humans vary and so do their perspectives on the exact same photo. Quality, all too often, is subjective, which explains why point-and-shoot cameras are dying, and why most people can’t tell the difference between a good photo shot with an iPhone and an average photo shot with an expensive Canon or Nikon DSLR.
CR conducted an initial evaluation and decided that there is no major leap in camera performance over iPhone 6s models. I agree. There is not a major leap because no one has defined what a major leap is. But there is a distinct and obvious difference when comparing photos from my iPhone 7 Plus to photos from an iPhone 6s Plus.
What? Improved color, improved low light photos, wider angle, slightly sharper focus (especially on the zoom). What else do you want? Already it’s difficult to tell the differences between photos taken by high end smartphones just as it’s difficult to tell the difference between photos taken by popular DLSRs.
Here’s a good example. Rafi Letzter did a side-by-side comparison of iPhone 7 vs. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and said the Galaxy came out on top. Unless you look at the photos.
To my eyes, and I’m a photographer wannabe, with a few exceptions on low light and ultra close-up photos, the comparison I saw showed other iPhone 7 photos to be sharper, less fuzzy, and with more naturally vibrant colors.
See? At some point it becomes subjective. We’re at that point.
I dumped Consumer Reports years ago because they’re better at grandstanding these days than actual product and usability comparisons, where they excelled in years past. Over at CNET you’ll find another extensive comparison which only corroborates what I wrote above. Slide-by-side comparisons of iPhone 7 Plus vs. iPhone 6 Plus, then a comparable slide-by-side comparison of the iPhone 7 Plus vs. the Samsung Galaxy S7.
Again, results are similar. All of these cameras take great photos; Galaxy S7 does better in low light, iPhones do better in natural light, but regardless, this is the way to do a slide-by-side photo comparison, not the crappy way Consumer Reports did it; without side-by-side photo comparisons.