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iPhone 7 Camera Review: What’s the difference compared with earlier iPhones?

iPhone 7 camera review: We test the new and updated 12-megapixel camera that Apple has packed into the iPhone 7, boasting optical image stabilisation and a wider aperture lens for better low-light performance.

The iPhone 7 boasts a highly capable 12-megapixel rear camera, just like last year’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and the dinky iPhone SE. However, although the megapixel count hasn’t changed for this latest iPhone, Apple has made some obvious improvements.

A larger aperture lens means that the iPhone 7 can suck in more light when needed, which is particularly good news for night shots. In addition you now get built-in optical image stabilisation – something previously only found on the larger ‘Plus’ iPhone models. That means your snaps are less likely to be blurry when you shoot in dimly-lit environments.

So, how much difference does Apple’s tinkering actually make? Is the iPhone 7 camera significantly better than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s snappers across a range of conditions? Here’s our full iPhone 7 camera review, complete with test photos and sample video footage.

Read next: Full iPhone 7 review

iPhone 7 camera review: Camera app and experience

If you’ve used any recent iPhone, then you’ll immediately be familiar with the iPhone 7’s camera app. You once again flick up and down the screen to nip between the different modes, with Photo, Video, Square (photo aspect ratio), Pano (panorama), Slo-mo and Time-Lapse all available.

In Photo mode, the iPhone 7’s auto-focus is as nippy as ever when lighting conditions are respectable. You can manually focus with a quick tap of the screen, which allows you to manually adjust the brightness levels too. There’s a timer mode, filters and HDR settings to play around with, as well as a quick shortcut for activating the flash and switching to the front-facing 7-megapixel camera.

Capturing shots is as ridiculously fast as before. Just tap the shutter button on-screen and your photo should take pretty much instantly.

iPhone 7 camera review: Everyday performance

There’s no denying the iPhone 7’s photography chops when it comes to everyday shots. Every photo is packed with detail and remains impressively crisp, even when blown up to poster size.

However, there’s very little difference between the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 camera shots when lighting conditions are strong. There’s not even a massive difference between photos taken on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 6, until you zoom in and notice the iPhone 7 snaps pack in extra detailing.

Check out these photo samples to see how the iPhone 7 stacks up against previous iPhones.

iPhone 7 camera sample:

iPhone 6s camera sample:

iPhone 6 camera sample:

iPhone 7 camera review: Low light

Of course, the big whoop with the iPhone 7’s updated camera is its all-new low light abilities. Previous iPhones produced grainy, ugly photos when the lights went down, but the iPhone 7 addresses this issue with a new larger aperture lens and optical image stabilisation.

The results really do speak for themselves. That wide-aperture lens sucks in more light to produce brighter snaps than older iPhones managed, with noticeably less grain to ugly things up. Meanwhile that built-in optical image stabilisation helps to cut down on blurry results due to hand shakes, another problem with low-light photography.

iPhone 7 camera sample:

iPhone 6s camera sample:

iPhone 6 camera sample:

The only issue with shooting night pics on the iPhone 7 is a common complaint for smartphone snappers in general, and that’s the length of time it takes the iPhone 7’s camera to focus. If you’re in a rush to take a photo, chances are you’ll miss your moment. Even with some respectable soft lighting involved, you’ll be waiting a painful couple of seconds for the lens to snap into the right position and make your subject nice and sharp. Still, at least the auto-focus almost always gets it right, so you’ll only get a blurry shot if your subject is in motion.

As for that motion blur, it’s no worse than the blur we get from the Galaxy S7. Pets and kids are tricky as hell to capture in low light, but you’ll have no trouble taking romantic shots of your candle-lit dinner date and so on.

Lastly, Apple’s new 4-LED flash is more powerful than previous iPhone camera flashes. Its reach is better than before, but it’s also apt to temporarily blind your subject if they’re stood within about four feet of you.

iPhone 7 camera review: Video performance

Once again, the iPhone 7 shoots seriously impressive video footage. The autofocus is quick and clean, snapping onto your subject or else giving you a wide focus for landscape shots. Changes in lighting and other conditions are well handled too, so your video footage isn’t oversaturated.

We’re also impressed by the level of image stabilisation, which cuts out any judder or shake from motion. Check out our sample video footage shot on the iPhone 7 below.

You can grab the iPhone 7 from O2 right now, from £43 per month. O2 offers all three storage options, and the range of colours.