Why you'll love the new iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode

We've been trying out the iOS 10.1 public beta

We love the iPhone 7 Plus a great deal. The best feature of Apple’s new flagship is, without a shadow of a doubt – the camera. Because it’s actually two cameras that (currently) work independently. The second lens enables instant 2x optical zoom.

But even more clever stuff is on the horizon thanks to the latest iOS 10 public beta. This pre-release software is available to anybody with a reasonably new iPhone like the iPhone 7, 6S or iPhone SE – just sign up with your Apple ID at Apple’s website - though you’ll need a 7 Plus to take advantage of the best new feature – Portrait Mode with a special depth effect.

This unleashes the potential of the two lenses by making them work together. And we’ve been giving the new Portrait Mode a whirl. It shows up in your camera app just like video, square or any of the other numerous camera modes.

The effect uses both the wide angle and telephoto lenses to create a bokeh effect. This apes what you might get with a DSLR, where the subject is in focus while the background is slightly blurred.

As you can see in this shot taken in the standard camera mode, the background is normal.

The 7 Plus takes a great photo anyway, but when we flick on portrait mode, this happens:

As you can see, the background is blurred while the subject is still in focus - utilising the power of the dual cameras. The best bit is how the phone manages to differentiate between what is in the foreground and the background. As you can see, the hair is also a bit blurred at the back compared with the normal shot. We think this is fine here, but it may not be your bag.

Some shots work better than others and below, for example, the blanket is still in focys on the left. We think Portrait Mode still works well here though - it's established that the pizza in the left hand is part of the subject rather than the background, for example, while the plates are blurred as part of the background.

Portrait Mode does give you a little bit of help. If you're too close to your subject, it'll tell you to move further back. If you're too far away (more than 2.5 metres), then you'll also get a little warning from the 7 Plus. We found that the 2.5 metre warning was a bit hit-and-miss, sometimes appearing even when we were the correct distance from our subject. But then, this is beta software remember!

it's worth remembering that Apple isn’t the first to do this – the feature is also available on the twin-Leica lens Huawei P9, only there it’s called ‘Aperture Effect’.

Remember that, when installing any beta software, back up your device beforehand. Do not download the beta without doing this! And expect some bugs. We’d expect iOS 10.1 to be released soon, which will include the new Portrait Mode.

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