Above are two images shot with my iPhone 7 Plus. The top image was taken using the standard camera app. and is 12MP - 34MB. The bottom image was also taken using the standard camera app. but is 21MP - 60MP. That image has not been upsized or interpolated and has come off the camera with no editing. So how is this possible?
Well I discovered this by accident, but to be honest I should have realised it anyway. The bottom images is shot using the Panorama option in the Camera app. And it's possible because of the way iPhones create panoramas. Anyone who has used it will know that to shoot a horizontal 'pano' you hold the camera in vertical (portrait) mode. When you click on the start button you move the camera either left or right following a guide line to keep it straight. If you want to shoot a vertical 'pano' you hold the camera in horizontal (landscape) mode and move it up or down. There is of course no obligation to shoot a super wide panoramic image and you can stop the process at any time and create any format you want. Square, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or any ratio. Just stop the process when you have what you want.
The 'pano' creating software works by combining (stitching) a series of images as you move the phone. Now unlike some other smartphone (or camera) apps. the iPhone does this at full resolution. So if you move the phone approximately a distance that would be covered by two images taken side by then you get an image that is approximately double the size. As you can see above by changing from taking one image horizontally to combining two images taken vertically you get a change in perspective. However with practice and by changing position you can get the image how you want. Another example of how this works is shown below.
Above is a very wide panorama I shot with the iPhone 7 Plus the other day. As you can see it's a huge 45MP image.
Above I selected a 3:2 crop (see the photoshop menu bar at the top) and produced the image below. So by shooting a wide panorama I then have the opportunity to crop a high-res 'conventional' looking format image from that.
As you can see this is almost 20MP. Again I must emphasise that this is genuine resolution, there is no upsizing of any kind. And these 'pano' images are exactly the same quality as a 'normal' iPhone image. Below is a vertical image to show that's possible too.
There is of course the issue of movement. By using the pano function the exposure times are longer. i.e. the amount of time you take to move the camera. However, you can create these images very quickly on the iPhone. For example in the apple orchard shot above, the wind was blowing the tree, but as you can see, I've managed to 'freeze' the moment. And if you want to shoot portraits, then just asking your subject to stand still is all that's needed. If you have the iPhone 7 Plus then you can also use this technique with the second lens. The slightly longer than standard lens that Apple call a telephoto, though it's hardly that.
Now the camera and lenses in the iPhone 7 Plus are very good indeed and providing you don't want to shoot in low light without flash, then you can produce images that are virtually indistinguishable from basic DSLR and mirrorless cameras (and in some cases actually better) but the 12MP output is a bit limiting. Particularly for me, with my requirements for stock photography. So this technique is very useful for producing higher res. images without having to upsize. For me it also cuts out a lot of work. For years I have created panoramas and high resolution stitched images by taking a series of separate shots and stitching them together in software such as Photoshop Merge or PTGui. With the iPhone 7 Plus I avoid all that extra work and can actually see what I'm creating in front of me. I would also make the point that this works with any iPhone with a panoramic shooting mode, though the images will be smaller. I tried it on my iPod Touch and it works just the same.
Once again the camera functions in the iPhone 7 Plus turn out to offer more than would seem to be the case. Now I've written before about upsizing images from my iPhone quite successfully using Iridient Developer, but this technique avoids the need to use additional software when I'm processing, which with the number of images I create, is great for saving time. It also demonstrates yet again how smartphones are responsible for advancing what we can do as photographers. The panorama creation function on my iPhone is pretty spectacular anyway and using it to create high(er) res. images is a bonus. I just wonder in 20 (or even 10) years time from now just how many people will be using what passes for a stand alone 'conventional' camera. But if things are moving in the direction that my iPhone is, I for one will not be bothered about that. It is after all the aesthetic quality of the image that is paramount.