iPhone 6 And iPhone 6 Plus Rated Best Ever Camera Phones In Respected Benchmark, But With Some Unexpected Results
Apple AAPL +0.27%’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones have jointly topped the charts in DxO Labs’ respected DxOMark camera tests, outperforming every other phone tested to date in both photographic and video performance.
Both models share top honours with a total of 82 points in the DxOMark Mobile tests, placing them ahead of previous leaders, the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z3 and Sony Xperia Z2 which sit in a three-way tie on 79 points.
The DxOMark Mobile score is made up of photographic and video tests. Photo tests are broken down further into the following categories: exposure and contrast, colour, autofocus, texture, noise, artifacts and flash. The same categories then apply to video tests, except that the flash performance evaluation is replaced by an image stabilisation test.
Both iPhones 6 models score very well across the board, but the DxOMark results suggest it’s the new autofocus system which really gives them the edge over the competition.
Head over to DxOMark’s page here for the full report.
DxOMark results place the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at the top of the charts for photo and video quality (Image: DxO Labs)
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus
The iPhone 6 Plus uses the same camera as the iPhone 6, with the addition of optical image stabilisation (OIS). The OIS system physically moves the camera’s lens to counteract the natural movement and vibration which occurs while the phone is used hand-held.
This gives the iPhone 6 Plus a distinct advantage in low-light situations where longer exposures are required and camera shake becomes more of an issue.
iPhone 6 Plus better than iPhone 6 for stills photography
While DxOMark offers no specific stabilisation test for still pictures, the resultant quality improvements are noted in other ways:
DxOMark’s test showed that, thanks to OIS, the larger phone can use longer exposure times in low light situations rather than boosting the ISO setting to achieve the proper exposure. Keeping the ISO as low as possible results in reduced image noise and therefore clearer images, although it won’t help with fast-moving subjects which will still be subject to motion blur.
The DxOMark testers also noted that HDR images, where multiple exposures are combined into a single image, achieve better registration between shots and therefore less ghosting in the final image.
So, when shooting still images, the OIS system on the iPhone 6 Plus can deliver a genuine and measurable improvement in picture quality.
Could the iPhone 6 Plus be worse than the iPhone 6 at video?
However, it was a different story when it came to video. DxO Labs’ testers noticed a ‘video stabilization artifact’ on the iPhone 6 Plus. This lead to the iPhone 6 Plus actually achieving a slightly lower video stabilisation score than the regular iPhone 6.
Although no sample clips have yet been provided, these results might suggest at first glance that if you were hoping to make use of the iPhone 6 Plus OIS for video, you might actually be better off with the regular iPhone 6 in some circumstances.
So far, I’ve been unable to find any other test report which replicates this result. We’ll just have to wait for a full disclosure from DxO Labs.
Other testers disagree with DxOMark findings – could iOS 8 be making pictures worse?
While DxOMark praises the colour performance of the latest iPhone models, there are others who disagree.
Testers at Tom’s Guide, have reported issues with the iPhone 6’s automatic white balance, the feature designed to ensure natural looking colours under changing light conditions. According to Tom’s Guide, moving a human hand in and out of shot caused other objects in the shot to change colour.
They also noticed more chromatic aberration, which shows up as purple fringing in high contrast areas, on both iPhone 6 models when compared to the iPhone 5s.
They believe these problems are due to changes in iOS 8 and the way it processes white balance rather than a flaw in the camera hardware itself.
Testing an iPhone 5S before and after an upgrade to iOS 8 showed similar purple fringing appeared after the update which was not present in iOS 7. If this is the case, it could be possible to correct these issues on both the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 6 in a future software update.
You can view their findings in depth at tomsguide.com.
Scoring top marks overall in the DxOMark tests doesn’t mean the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have the best cameras across the board: The now discontinuedNokia Lumia 1020, for example, still trounces both new iPhones in the texture and noise tests, but is let down in other areas such as colour reproduction and video performance in general.
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, on the other hand, didn’t score badly on any individual test and it’s this consistently good performance, coupled with a few outstanding results such as autofocus performance, which allow the new iPhones to take an overall lead in the DxOMark results.
It’s also important to note that, as a rule, DxO Labs don’t retest phones when their firmware is updated. Being highly dependent on digital image processing to produce the final image, smartphone cameras can greatly improve, or sometimes reduce, image quality when a new operating system is installed.
In the case of the Lumia 1020 in particular, a subsequent firmware update, not tested by DxO Labs, greatly improved picture quality.
The Nokia ‘Black’ update improved colour accuracy and added support for raw image output, allowing the user to use professional image processing software on their computer to achieve excellent results.
While the iPhone 6’s results are very good, its victory in the DxOMark tests stands only over competing phones at the time they were originally tested, without taking any subsequent improvements into consideration.
Moving forward, there’s sure to be stiff competition from phones as yet untested by DxOMark, including the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 with its massive imaging sensor and challengers such as LG’s G3 with its laser-guided autofocus system.
If you’d like to see how the iPhone 6 compares to previous generations, you canfind out here. Also check out fellow contributor Amadou Diallo’s full iPhone 6 Camera Review.