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New iOS 10.1 beta adds Portrait Mode feature – how does it look?

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Portrait mode is a much-hyped feature of the iPhone 7 Plus, albeit one that wasn’t available at launch. It’s now in the hands of developers, though, and the critics have been putting the new camera mode through its paces.

Though both versions of the iPhone 7 have much-improved cameras, arguably the biggest selling point of the larger “Plus” model is its new dual-lens setup. Not only does it allow for much better zoom, it’s just a software update away from being able to replicate the look of high-end portrait photography most commonly associated with expensive DSLR cameras.

Though not publicly available yet, a new developer-only beta of iOS 10.1 gives early access to Portrait mode, giving us a chance to see how it holds up in real-life use. Lots of critics have been putting the feature through its paces, and the response is pretty positive so far.


An example from Apple of the new depth-of-field effect

Portrait mode creates a photo effect in which the subject is perfectly in focus while the background automatically blurs. It uses the dual lenses – along with some very clever software – to create a 3D depth map of the surroundings. The camera uses face and body detection to pinpoint the subject and ensures they remain in focus, while applying layers or blur to background elements based on their distance from the camera. The end result is an image where the subject really pops, almost looking cut out of the scene. In other words, perfect for portrait photography.


See the difference – Portrait mode on the left and a regular photo on the right (thanks to TechCrunch for the comparison!)

The general consensus seems to be that the effect is very promising and very cool – but still needs a few quirks ironing out. With decent lighting, at the right distance, Portrait mode can produce some stunning effects, and it will only improve with beta testing and future iterations.

For a fuller exploration of the feature, TechCrunch has put together an excellent hands-on look at Portrait mode, while Serenity Caldwell of iMore compares the effect to photos taken with a Canon DSLR. Spoiler: the iPhone holds up pretty well!

If you’ve got an iPhone 7 Plus (or are planning to get one) rest assured Portrait mode will be coming to the public just as soon as Apple is happy with the state of iOS 10.1 following the developer beta.