iPhone 7 Plus Portrait mode gallery: it's called "beta" for a reason

This year the differences between Apple's big and little iPhones are more pronounced than ever before, as the iPhone 7 Plus picks up an all-new dual-rear-camera system. That combination of a wide-angle and telephoto lens has given iPhone users their first real taste of optical zoom, but one of the coolest-looking capabilities of the camera on the iPhone 7 Plus wasn't quite ready when they handset made its retail debut last month: its blurred-background bokeh Portrait mode.

It's unusual for Apple to introduce a new product when one of its signature features isn't quite ready, but the manufacturer assured us that Portrait mode would be coming soon, and it wasn't long before we saw the first taste of that support arrive for users beta testing upcoming iOS releases. Just the other day, we finally saw iOS 10.1 leave beta and start spreading publicly, bringing Portrait mode with it.

Even though iOS 10.1 as a whole is no longer in beta, Apple's clear that it still considers Portrait mode to be a beta effort, and Apple tells us that it will continue to refine the feature further. And while we're interested to see where those efforts lead, we had to give even this beta release a try, and get an idea for the strengths and weaknesses of Portrait mode as they stand today.

Users access Portrait mode by swiping over from standard Photo mode. There, on-screen prompts advise you how to properly set up a shot: Portrait mode will refuse to work if you don't have enough light in your scene, and if you're too close or too far away from your subject, the camera app will let you know so you can reposition things.

When everything's ultimately in alignment, a “DEPTH EFFECT” label will finally illuminate, signaling you that Portrait mode is ready to go – and you've just got to snap the shutter to capture your stylized pic.

Upon a successful shot, the iPhone 7 Plus will store two versions of your photo: one, the full Portrait mode pic with the subject in focus and the background blurred out, as well as a version before the processing, where much more of the scene should be in sharp focus – just in case you ever wish you had a copy with full background detail.

So how does it all look? Well, performance of the Portrait mode is a little hit-and-miss. The most obvious limitation is that Apple's software still has trouble isolating the subject of the shot from the background.

The effects of that can manifest in a few ways. On subjects with high-contrast edges, that can lead to situations where the blur effect is either applied too liberally, mistakenly blurring part of the subject, or too conservatively, where the in-focus range extends beyond the subject to also capture a thin strip of the background.

Some of those edge-errors are subtler than others, like how a lock of hair that projects away from a subject's body may be blurred, while those closer to the head stay focused.

Other mistakes are more pronounced; look at the gate photo here, where some iron bars transition from in-focus subjects to blurred-out background elements, while adjacent bars do not. Here, the camera seems to be struggling with interpreting varying background conditions, and its ability to isolate the foreground suffers as a result.

Finally, it's worth noting that Apple's Portrait-mode blur effect doesn't seem to be an all-or-nothing affair. With pictures of people, we noticed that while Portrait mode will keep the face sharp while blurring the background, subjects' torsos are often very slightly blurred when compared to the full-sharpness shots accompanying the processed Portrait images. That's a much more minor issue, but it's one we're curious to see if Apple will be addressing.

For now, check out our full gallery below and let us know what you think: despite its flaws, are you impressed with what Portrait mode's able to achieve? Or are you going to withhold your enthusiasm until it's working just a bit better?

Related phones

iPhone 7 Plus
  • Display 5.5" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A10 Fusion, Quad-core, 2340 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 2900 mAh(21h 3G talk time)



1. Carbo

Posts: 42; Member since: Aug 07, 2015

The selective focus of my Samsung does much better than this. Apple needs to work more on the software.

2. Well-Manicured-Man

Posts: 711; Member since: Jun 16, 2015

Honestly, so far apple's iPhone 7 camera is a relative disappointment. Yes, the camera is better than iPhone 6s' camera in low light but not much better. The dual camera setup seems to be only of very limited use. If you think you need are real 2x zoom it's nice for you in good light conditions but rather useless for low light conditions. Portrait mode is of less use.

11. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

It isn't even that great in low light, it just seems to up the contrast/white balance which washes out day and night shots. Also, this bokeh problem is what HTC dealt with 3 years ago with the M8. I guess "it just doesn't work" really is their moto now.

3. palmguy

Posts: 987; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

Wow. Apple releasing a beta product. What's next, Google releasing a refined finished product.....oh wait. :-D

4. Unordinary unregistered

And then discontinuing it 1 year later. Allo is next.

5. mthaX

Posts: 42; Member since: Sep 22, 2016

okay , so should we care?

6. Modest_Moze

Posts: 184; Member since: Mar 23, 2015


7. AlikMalix unregistered

In my opinion, so far - disappointing. But Apple maps was very good once it's out of beta, same with Siri. But this bokeh effect still needs a lot of work.

8. jm405

Posts: 82; Member since: Mar 22, 2016

This does not look anything like the pictures they showed off at the unveiling of the IPhone 7 plus.

9. hellonerds

Posts: 334; Member since: Aug 27, 2013

Marketing lol.. I bet it was edited on the mac lol..

10. darkkjedii

Posts: 31601; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

It's been hit or miss for me. When it's on it's great, when it's not it's not. It's not a feature I'll be using a lot, so I'm not tripping. The rest of iOS 10 is bank though.

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