Apple iPhone 7 Review

November 4, 2016 | Amy Davies |


The Apple iPhone 7 is the latest iOS smartphone and is the follow up to last year’s iPhone 6S. It features a 12 megapixel camera, with an f/1.8 fixed length (28mm equivalent) lens. Although it has the same resolution as its predecessor, Apple claims that the camera is a “huge advancement" in comparison, and that everything is entirely new. Not only has the maximum aperture improved from the f/2.2 of the iPhone 6S, but the camera is promised to be 60% faster and 30% more efficient. Other specifications of interest to photographers include a TrueTone flash, optical image stabilisation (previously only available on the iPhone Plus model), the ability to shoot raw format photos and a 7 megapixel front-facing (selfie) camera. Apple has improved the screen to display a wider gamut of colours, and there’s also some of the same functions as brought over from the previous generation, such as Live Photos, 4K video recording, the ability to capture panoramas, slo-mo videos and timelapses. The iPhone 7 was announced at the same time as the iPhone 7 Plus. The biggest difference between the two being that the iPhone 7 Plus has a dual camera setup.

Ease of Use

Apple keeps the camera operation very simple for its iPhone cameras, and there’s not much in the way of changes from the old model. The body design of the Apple iPhone 7 phone itself is also the same.

One new feature is “lift to wake” which is available as part of iOS 10 for iPhone 6S phones and later. This basically means that as soon as you lift the phone, the display switches on without you having to press a button. From here, you can simply swipe left on the screen to be taken directly to the native camera shooting app without unlocking the phone.

You’ll be able to take as many photos as you like without unlocking the Apple iPhone 7, and you can press a small square in the bottom corner of the screen to view any you’ve taken - but unless you unlock the phone, you’ll only be able to view any images you’ve taken during that session, rather than any you’ve taken in the past.

If you’ve used an iPhone before, you’ll be familiar with the native camera app, which has relatively few options available when compared to some of the Android models currently on the market. For example, you won’t find any “pro” modes, or anything that allows you to change advanced settings such as aperture, white balance etc.

Apple iPhone 7
Front of the Apple iPhone 7

Although you can now shoot in raw format, you can’t do that through the native camera app. To do that, you’ll have to download one of the myriad other apps available for iPhone, such as Manual, which gives you access to that setting. From there you’ll be able to record photos in the universal DNG raw format.

Going back to the Apple iPhone 7's native camera app, you have different shooting modes along the bottom of the screen (or to the right if you turn the phone on its side to shoot landscape). You switch between these modes by simply swiping. There’s Time-Lapse, Slo-Mo and Video for movie recording, and Photo, Square, and Pano for stills shooting.

The Apple iPhone 7 can shoot 4K video, but if you want to enable that you’ll need to go into the phone settings rather than activate it via the camera app itself. Annoyingly, if you want to switch back to full HD, you’ll also have to go back through the settings. Recording in 4K will eat up your memory quite quickly, so it’s best reserved only for special videos rather than every day movies.

Apple iPhone 7
Rear of the Apple iPhone 7

Along the top of the screen, or to the left in horizontal format, there’s a few more options. You can switch the flash on and off, switch HDR capture on and off, enable Live Photos, activate a timer, or choose from 8 different digital filters.

For both HDR and flash you can choose an “Auto” mode which means the camera will automatically decide for you if those modes should be enabled. Live Photos means that the camera will record a couple of seconds of video with each photo which can be played back on the iPhone, or in certain apps such as Facebook.

When you activate the timer, you have the choice of 3 seconds or 10 seconds. Either way, you’ll see a large display counter on screen counting down how long until the exposure will be tripped, and at the end, the camera will take 10 photos in quick succession. This can be useful for selfies and group shots so you’ve got different ones to choose from. The camera will automatically select which it thinks is the best one, but you can choose from the others if you prefer.

Apple iPhone 7
The Apple iPhone 7 - Camera Mode

If you want to switch between using the rear camera and the selfie camera, then you simply press an icon near the shutter release and the cameras will switch over. You can continue to use all of the same features when using the front camera as when using the rear camera. If you choose to activate the flash, when you take the picture, the screen will light up to illuminate your face, rather than be a standard flash such as you’d find on the back of the camera.

For the options square and panorama, they’re pretty self explanatory. The square option is useful for framing your shots ready for Instagram if you prefer the square format. For panorama you need to sweep the phone across the scene in a steady motion and it will capture the panorama automatically.

Unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone 7 just has a fixed lens, but you can activate digital zoom if necessary. To do that, you make a pinching in and out gesture on the screen itself and the zoom will be activated. In order to set the autofocus point you simply tap an area on the screen that you want to focus on - generally speaking the camera will have already chosen a focus point, but if you want to change it then this is useful.

Apple iPhone 7
The Apple iPhone 7 In-hand

You’ll also see that you can change exposure compensation by dragging your finger up and down the screen when setting the AF point. This can be helpful when you’re faced with a high contrast scene.

In order to take the shot you have a couple of options. You can use the virtual button on the screen itself, or you can use one of the physical volume buttons on the side of the camera. You may find this latter way is more akin to using a “Real” camera, but you need to be careful about where you place your fingers in case you obscure the camera’s lens.

As always with iPhones, you still can’t expand the internal memory by adding a micro SD card as you can with lots of iPhones. It’s therefore worth investing in the largest memory you can afford, especially if you intend to take a lot of photos or videos. The options you have are 32GB, 128GB and 256GB. For photographers, at least the 128GB version is recommended.