Brand New Apple iPhone 8 Plus MQ8F2LL/A 64GB in china

USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham reviews the iPhone 8 Plus as a camera, comparing it with back-to-back images taken with the previous model, the 7 Plus, on #TalkingTech. USA TODAY

 MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Let’s cut to the chase right now.

If you’ve been thinking about ditching your iPhone 7 Plus from last year for a new iPhone, specifically the 8 Plus (starting at $799) or the iPhone X coming in November because the camera is new and improved, here’s the bottom line. The new camera is indeed marginally better.

But most consumers will have a hard time seeing the difference.

The Basics

Our tests with the iPhone 8 Plus (which has almost the same camera as in the iPhone X) showed slightly better color and sharpness, can rock it with smooth, super-slow motion that improved upon what the iPhone 7 Plus has, and offers some software trickery that can make your portraits look even more professional. Additionally, both the 8 Plus and X have the new A11 “Bionic” chip, the fastest processor ever for an iPhone, promising faster renders of high-intensity 4K video files.

Beyond making calls, surfing the Internet and playing games, photography has become a major selling point for new smartphones, with each new model released by manufacturers said to now have their best camera ever. That’s what Google claimed with last year’s Pixel, Samsung with the new Galaxy S8 and now Apple as well. All three cameras are indeed incredible. They have better image quality now than point and shoot cameras, and they’re always with us, thus giving us the tools for more photo opportunities.

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 I thought the iPhone 7 Plus was indeed Apple’s best camera to date, so for the purposes of this story, I’ve chosen to compare the 7 Plus to the 8 Plus, period.

Remember that Apple in 2016 introduced a new concept to “iPhoneography” with the 7 Plus, by putting a dual-lens system for Plus owners, offering the standard 28mm wide-angle lens (the same one as on the standard iPhone) along with a 56mm “Portrait” lens, for a more professional look for people photos. Consumers buying the Plus instead of the smaller iPhone get the dual cameras, plus the larger 5.5 inch LCD screen, to the smaller iPhone’s 7 and 8 4.7 inch.

Here, and in the accompanying video, we show you many back to back shots of the iPhone 8 Plus and 7 Plus. I defy most consumers to be able to spot the differences. My Facebook followers certainly couldn’t tell on most of the images I posted over the weekend. This shot directly below, of a lifeguard station, was the one where many could indeed tell. The iPhone 8 Plus shot is on the right, the iPhone 7 Plus on the left.

The video is improved, but the video on the iPhone 7 Plus was also stellar.

The 8 Plus has several new recording modes: 4K resolution at 24 frames per second, or 60 frames, both for different cinematic looks, plus a new Slo-Mo mode at 240 frames per second. This is some of the smoothest, slowest Slo-Mo we’ve seen to date. That’s higher than possible on the 7 Plus, which maxes out at 240 frames per second at 720p.

Check out examples below.

Low Light

Apple says the 8 Plus performs better in low light than the 7 Plus.

We were out in the sand at 5:30 a.m., ready to test it out.

 The verdict: yes, it performs well in poor lighting situations, but then, so does the iPhone 7 Plus. At 5:55 a.m., all our images looked really poor, noisy and dark—on both devices—as you can see in the above photo. But at 6:29 a.m., once light started making it’s way into our day, things started to improve radically.

Here’s an example below. It was still so early that the lights were still on at the Manhattan Beach Pier. The iPhone 8 Plus is on the left, the 7 Plus on the right. The 8 Plus has slightly richer colors.

Software tricks

On the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple introduced a cool new software feature calling Portrait, which applies a DSLR like blurred background on people and things you photograph.

For the 8 Plus, Apple has added five new features to Portrait, what it calls “Natural, Contour, Studio, Stage and black and white.”

In a nutshell, these lighten up the face, add contrast, and in the most dramatic of the looks, eliminates the background to put the focus directly on your subject.

The examples below are Natural, Studio, Stage and black and white. This is how the iPhone 8 Plus saw photographer Tony Prince, who graciously agreed to pose for us at 6 a.m. at the beach.

As you can tell, the Contour feature is brighter, but to my eyes, it’s a little much. I prefer natural. The Stage Lighting effect is great when it works. None of our attempts were perfect.

Know that the features are also available after the fact: you don’t have to put them on during the shoot. But you might want to e-mail yourself the original and work on a copy, and then decide which one you like better.

 New file format

For the new iOS11 and owners of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus devices, Apple has introduced a new photo/video file format, .HEIC and .HEVC, promising smaller file sizes and better compression.

But look out, folks. I had many issues transferring these files to my MacBook, Dropbox and Google Photos, which initially wouldn’t read them. Additionally, you can’t currently open up an .HEIC file in Photoshop, the industry standard for photo editing.

We have two workarounds for you:

On your iPhone, go to Settings, Photos, and scroll down all the way to the last entry, Transfer to Mac or PC, and choose Automatic. This will ensure that the files are transferred as .JPGs and .MOVs, not as .HEIC and .HEVC files.

Secondly, I downloaded this .HEIC converter, which did the job and brought the files to .JPG form.

Bottom Line

 The 8 Plus has the best camera Apple has released to date, and works beautifully in a variety of different conditions. That it can do so much is a wonder.

But if you currently have a 7 Plus and want to swap it for the new one for a better camera, my recommendation would be to hold onto what you have, unless you just have this itch to spend money.

The differences in the older camera and the new one are slight and the most striking feature, the Portrait- mode software tricks, could be pulled off with a variety of free photo apps, most notably Adobe Lightroom Mobile or Google’s Snapseed.

The 8 Plus is a great phone, but there’s this new coming in just a few weeks, with an all-new design and an even better camera and…stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Readers—what are your thoughts about the new iPhone 8 Plus camera? Let’s chat about it on Twitter, @jeffersongraham. To see more photos and videos, I invite you to visit my

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