Hands-On With the New 'Portrait' Mode Beta Feature in the iPhone 7 Plus

When Apple announced the iPhone 7 Plus, one major feature it focused on was a new "Portrait" mode that allows the device's camera to simulate a shallow depth of field effect, similar to what can be achieved with a high-end DSLR.

Portrait mode wasn't ready to go when the iPhone 7 Plus shipped, but Apple promised to introduce it at a later date and did so today, with the release of iOS 10.1. Available as a beta feature, Portrait mode is built into iOS 10.1, and we went hands-on with it to see how well it performs.


Portrait mode uses the 56mm lens to capture the image and uses the wider 28mm lens to generate a depth map of a scene. Using the small differentiations between the 28mm and 56mm lenses, the iPhone separates the different layers of an image and uses machine learning techniques to apply a blur that simulates a shallow depth of field.

When shooting, Portrait is similar to other modes in the camera app, with a timer to take an image and a Tap to Focus tool to set the focus. One helpful feature is the ability to see the depth effect live before snapping a photo.

In order for the Portrait effect to work properly, you need good lighting and a subject that's properly placed -- it can't be too close or too far away.

Portrait mode is in beta, and is currently only available for developers running iOS 10.1. This Friday, Apple will also make iOS 10.1 available for public beta testers, so Portrait mode will be more widely available. There are some issues and quirks that still need to be worked out during the beta testing process, but as a first effort, Portrait mode can produce some impressive images.

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Top Rated Comments

adamneer Avatar
101 months ago
I don't understand why I keep reading/hearing that DSLRs can't show depth of field live. Of course they can - it's not an effect that requires processing using a DSLR, it's just the natural characteristics of the lens optics and aperture. If this were true, you'd never be able to manually focus an image using live view mode on a DSLR.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
javco Avatar
101 months ago
To me the most impressive aspect is the real time preview of the blur effect. Yes it's artificial blur but no DSLR on the market does that.
All Sony mirrorless DSLR cameras do this in real time.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tmanto02 Avatar
101 months ago
Looks great! Makes me almost want a plus...but that would require a man purse, and i'm just not that fabulous...
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
polterbyte Avatar
101 months ago
Matthew Panzarino's tests ('https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/21/hands-on-with-the-iphone-7-plus-crazy-new-portrait-mode/') tell me that this is not a gimmick. Not by a long shot.

A couple of iterations in the future, and I see entrant DSLR enthusiasts changing their minds, for good.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
penajmz Avatar
101 months ago
This is really great that they were able to make the iPhone do this.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bluespark Avatar
101 months ago
I'm interested to hear what iPhone 7 Plus users think about this feature. Looks like a gimmick to me.
This is the absolute holy grail for some of us.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)