iPhone 6S camera tested in depth

Throughout our photo expedition we shot the same subjects with both Dan's iPhone 6S Plus and our own 6 Plus. At first glance it was quite hard to tell the two sets of images apart – Apple has kept the exposure levels, colours and tonal rendition exactly the same, which is a good technical achievement considering that the camera is new. If you're completely tuned into the way an iPhone camera works, the one in the 6S will deliver exactly the results you're used to.

But closer inspection of the images revealed some interesting differences, and we've already mentioned this in earlier sections. Apple has changed not only the sensor resolution but also the image processing and, regrettably, it's done what a lot of camera makers do – it's gone for heavier noise reduction and increased sharpening.

The new camera can resolve certain types of detail better than the old one. Anything which hard, clear edges, such as lettering or signs, is rendered more clearly. But it can't quite record fine, subtle textures as well as the old 8-megapixel iSight camera. This becomes more obvious at higher ISO settings, where the old camera shows more noise but also more detail. The new 12-megapixel camera has the noise smoothed out but, as is usually the case with noise reduction, some of the fine textural detail goes with it.

Check out our comparisons below to see what we mean.

iPhone 6S sample image

The magnified sections of these images show that the iPhone 6S Plus (right) is resolving the lettering on the sign much better than the iPhone 6 Plus (left).

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iPhone 6S sample image

The contrast, colours and white balance are identical in the iPhone 6 Plus image (left) and the one taken on the 6S Plus (right). Apple has done a good job in keeping the colour characteristics identical.

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Click here for a larger version.

iPhone 6S sample image

There's very little to choose between these two pictures. Both cameras produce crisp, clean detail, though the iPhone 6S Plus image (right) does look just a little more 'processed'.

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iPhone 6S sample image

It's a bit of a surprised to see that the old 8-megapixel camera in the iPhone 6 Plus has captured the texture and detail in this sunflower more effectively than the new 12-megapixel camera in the iPhone 6S Plus (right).

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iPhone 6S sample image

Again, the iPhone 6S Plus is a clear winner (right) when it comes to rendering hard-edged, man-made objects like signs and lettering.

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iPhone 6S sample image

This low-light shot of Hollie tells a different story, though. At higher ISO settings the older iPhone 6S captures noisier but sharper detail than the iPhone 6S Plus (right).

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Click here for a larger version.

Rod Lawton is Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography magazines, including Digital Camera, N-Photo, PhotoPlus, Professional Photography, Photography Week and Practical Photoshop.