Can I emulate the iPhone 7 Plus' Portrait mode with an app? Let's check it out: iPhone 7 Plus vs FabFocus
For months prior to the iPhone 7 event, we've been hearing rumors and spotting leaks of the iPhone 7 Plus toting a dual-sensor camera. But what was it meant to do? Everything on the subject was pure speculation. Then, when Apple finally unveiled the phablet, it spilled the beans — the secondary camera sports a telephoto lens, which has a narrower F2.8 aperture and can be used for a 2x optical zoom. Additionally, Apple teased a Portrait mode, which would let us take beautiful mugshots with a nicely blurred background for a very artistic effect.
Portrait mode was announced to become available exclusively for the iPhone 7 Plus with the iOS 10.1 update. At this point, some might wonder “Can't I just use a regular bokeh-emulating app to blur the background in a photo and achieve similar results”?
Can an app easily emulate what Portrait mode does?
Developer Secondverse rode the hype wave around the upcoming feature and released an app called FabFocus — it's supposed to automatically detect faces within a shot and then blur the background for a very similar effect to the 7 Plus' Portrait mode. We are also pretty sure that there's going to be an influx of other such apps in the near future, just like how Prisma was quickly followed by other art-style filter apps, and how Face Swap Live has its own share of clones.
But can an app on your regular iPhone 7 or older iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, or SE achieve the same effects? We took a regular iPhone 7 with FabFocus and our new iPhone 7 Plus out for a spin to find out.
Drum roll, please
Well, we'd have to say “No, it can't”. The iPhone 7 Plus' telephoto lens lends itself to portrait photos much better than the regular one because it captures a mugshot much more honestly. It zooms in pretty close and has "tunnel vision", so you don't really capture a wide area of the background, which is good for bringing attention to your subject. As you can see on the picture above, the “regular” camera of the iPhone 7 distorts the face in an unflattering way with a slight fisheye effect going on. This is common to smartphones, with their wide-angle lenses, and we explore the issue (and a neat way to correct it) in-depth in this article.
Secondly, getting the FabFocus photo to look the way it does now required some manual labor on our part. While the app does do a pretty good job at recognizing faces and backgrounds, it still mixes them up at some spots and offers an editor for the user to manually tweak the final result. It's a finicky, time-consuming, and annoying task. Here's what the FabFocus image looked like before and after we fixed it up manually.
< FabFocus automatic detection FabFocus after manual fix >
In the end, is it a big deal? Well, if you care about portrait shots or bokeh shots (Portrait mode can be used for other objects, not just people), we'd say you should definitely consider going for an iPhone 7 Plus. But, if you only find yourself interested in taking such a photo once in a blue moon, you might want to invest in a clip-on lens for portrait mode (like OlloClip's products) and just using an app to manually add bokeh.