Apple just released what it says is best camera ever on a smartphone

iPhone 7+ features dual camera setup

Apple's new iPhone 7, unveiled on Wednesday, may have one of the most impressive phone cameras to hit the market yet.

The new camera gives users the ability to zoom further into images, and a new "portrait" software mode creates the shallow depth of field (where a subject in focus against a blurred background) that was previously a hallmark feature of high-end digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras.

"We are not saying to throw out your DSLRs," said Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Apple's worldwide marketing. "What we are saying is this is the best camera we have ever made in an iPhone, and this is the best camera ever made in any smartphone."

Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple Inc, discusses the camera on the iPhone7 during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, U.S. September 7, 2016.
Beck Diefenbach | Reuters

The hardware features are especially helpful in low lighting, and the software will roll out as a free updated to iPhone 7 users later this year, Schiller said.

"In a world where everybody just shares their pictures and videos, all day long you have to have a top-end camera, " Tim Lesko of Granite Investment Advisors, an Apple shareholder, told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Wednesday.

Here are the specs: The camera has a wider aperture, a six-element lens, a quad-LED, True Tone flash and a 12-megapixel high-speed sensor. It also has a special image signal processor that has twice the throughput of previous versions.

The new chip uses machine learning to detect objects and set exposure, focus, cinema-standard color, and white balance within 25 milliseconds — 60 percent faster than before.

There's also an optical image stabilizer in both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models, Schiller said. As predicted, the Plus also has two rear 12-megapixel cameras — one with a wide angle lens and one with a telephoto lens.

"It's obviously a superior camera. They're saying the best camera they've ever built. But unless you are a photographer … it's hard to tell the difference. I take great pictures with my iPhone 6," Danilo Kawasaki, co-founder and chief operating officer of Gerber Kawasaki, told CNBC's "Closing Bell."

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The camera compares to Samsung's Note 7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, which sport a dual 12-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera, with 4K video (resolution that's four times higher than HD video), flash and autofocus.

The Huawei P9 also has dual lenses, 12-megapixel cameras with two sensors, and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. The Sony Xperia phone camera has also gotten positive reviews, with a 13-megapixel front-facing camera, wide-angle lens, automatic white balance and shutter-speed control.

But it comes as Apple's cameras have continued to be a selling point for the devices, highlighted by the "Shot on an iPhone" advertising series. Having dual cameras that would merge visual information is an idea that has its roots with the late Steve Jobs, according to biographer Walter Isaacson, who spoke to CNBC last month.

"When I look back at what Steve Jobs was really passionate about, it was photography," Isaacson told CNBC's "Squawk Alley."

The prior model, the iPhone 6S, touted a 12-megapixel camera, and updated sensors, image signal processors, tone mapping, image stabilization, and a special pixel technology called Focus Pixels. It also introduced 4K video, with optical image stabilization available on the iPhone 6S Plus.

A 5‑megapixel selfie camera with true-tone "retina" flash was also a highlight of the 6S.

Disclosures: Kawasaki, his firm and his family own shares of Apple.

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