Review: iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus | iLounge

Review

Review: iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus

A-
Highly Recommended
iPhone 8 Plus

B+
Recommended
iPhone 8

Company: Apple

Model: iPhone 8 / iPhone 8 Plus

Price: $699 – $949

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Jesse Hollington

Pros: Solid updates to both of Apple’s standard iPhone models offer the same horsepower as Apple’s upcoming iPhone X in a proven and familiar form factor. New all-glass design brings back some of the “museum-quality” elegance of the iPhone 4 era. Virtually identical dimensions mean that almost all previous cases should continue to fit. A11 processor unlocks new camera improvements and experiences such as augmented reality. True Tone display improves on-screen color reproduction. Despite the same specs, both models feature noticeable camera improvements. iPhone 8 Plus gains a new Portrait Lighting mode for even better portrait photos. Fast-charging provides a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes. Wireless Qi charging makes recharging more convenient, especially when using a case.

Cons: Modest improvements over the iPhone 7 make this year’s update feel less significant, particularly in comparison to the looming iPhone X. The iPhone 8 continues to lag behind its larger sibling for photography. Package still only includes the same 5W power adapter as before, so you’ll need to supply your own adapter for faster charging. Wireless charging also doesn’t offer any additional performance over the included 5W power adapter.

The cameras in both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus also have mostly the same specs on paper as the prior models — they’re still 12 MP with the same apertures, six-element lenses, and optical image stabilization features. However, an analysis by Tech Insights revealed that Apple is using entirely new Sony-designed sensors behind the cameras, most notably offering a greater pixel pitch that should provide better low-light performance. Apple also claims to be using a new image signal processor of its own design that improve color capture and HDR photos and speed up autofocus.

In practical application, both iPhone 8 models appear to provide more accurate color representation in photos and generally handle themselves better in low-light conditions, producing photos with less grain, especially when using the slower 2x lens on the iPhone 8 Plus. Lens and sensor improvements also appear to provide a bit more clarity in photos taken with the iPhone 8 models, although this isn’t something that’s really only apparent with close analysis — it’s not something we think most casual photographers are going to notice or care about.

Apple also claims that the Portrait Mode in the iPhone 8 Plus has been slightly enhanced, courtesy of the more powerful machine learning in iOS 11 and the new A11 processor, providing more natural background blurring, although we didn’t find any significant differences from the iPhone 7 Plus in our testing in that area. On the other hand, the improved low light sensor performance is a real boon to Portrait Mode, allowing it to be used in many more situations than before, and as an added bonus, the iPhone 8 Plus also gains the ability to use the flash in Portrait Mode. The result is that you’ll see the “more light needed” prompt far less often when shooting in Portrait Mode.

The landmark camera feature in the iPhone 8 Plus, however, is Apple’s new Portrait Lighting, powered by the new A11 processor. Although it’s still slapped with a “beta” designation for now — much like last year’s introduction of Portrait Mode — the new feature works quite well, allowing studio lighting effects to be intelligently applied to portrait photos using facial detection and depth features.

Four special Portrait Lightning modes are available — Studio Light, Countour Light, Stage Light, and Stage Light Mono. Studio Light enhances the lighting on the subject’s face, and we suspect it’s the mode that many iPhone 8 Plus photographers will want to use most often, as it’s the most natural lighting for most portraits. Countour Lighting, on the other hand, emphasizes shadows and highlights, while the two Stage Light modes remove the background entirely rather than just blurring it, giving the feel of the subject being presented against a deep, black background.

Both iPhone 8 models also add a new slow sync flash mode to improve low-light photography. A feature commonly found on DSLR and some point-and-shoot cameras, the slow sync flash allows you to capture subjects in lower lighting conditions with the background properly exposed, such as a person standing against a landscape at night.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus also take video recording capabilities up another notch, making it possible to capture 4K video at 60 fps and slo-mo videos at 1080p up to 240 fps.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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