iPhone 6s Plus OIS

It’s one of those things where you don’t know how noticeable it’s going to be until you actually try it in hand. But tonight, we have it on good authority that Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) makes a noticeable difference when shooting video with the iPhone 6s Plus’ camera. So much so, that it can make choosing between the 6s Plus and the regular-sized iPhone 6s, a device that lacks OIS, tougher than last year.

A few hours ago, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber posted his annual iPhone review, and while the entire piece is a well-thought-out and nuanced read, one portion in particular stood out to me the most—his thoughts on OIS for the iPhone 6s Plus. 

When Apple lifted its review embargo this morning, tons of reviews were posted. While most touched on OIS, they were generally brief bullet-point-like mentions. Gruber isn’t known for stuffing a lot of technical details into his reviews, but when he does, it’s usually right on the money. For that reason, his thoughts on OIS has me waffling on my iPhone purchase decision at a dangerously late hour.

Here’s his initial thoughts on OIS:

This year, OIS remains a Plus-only feature, and Apple has made it even better, because it now works with video. The advantages of OIS for video are even greater than for still images, in my opinion. You know how when you watch a video someone shot on their phone — any phone — and when they walk around, you can see the picture rock up and down with each step they take? It’s a signature of amateur video shot on consumer cameras, and it’s unpleasant to say the least.

But this is what really got me thinking:

OIS for video reduces this jerkiness. And in my testing on the iPhone 6S Plus, the effect is dramatic. It’s a poor man’s Steadicam, built right into the iPhone 6S Plus. I say that this breaks my heart because, personally, I have no interest in owning the 6S Plus — I much prefer the pocket-ability and feel-in-hand of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6S. I could tell myself last year that the 6 Plus’s camera was only a wee bit better than the regular 6’s, and only under certain conditions. This year, OIS for video means the iPhone 6S Plus is capable of something the regular 6S is not: shooting smooth full-size videos while you walk around or pan the camera.

Like Gruber said, OIS was in last year’s models, but it was much less apparent and much less noticeable due to it being for still photos only. With video, it’s a whole different game.

If you’ve ever used a mirrorless camera with OIS built into the body or in the lens, then you know it can be the difference between getting a good sequence of video and not. OIS makes it feasible to shoot handheld video without a tripod.

Although it sounds as if John is sticking to the 4.7″ iPhone 6s due to its pocketability, it definitely seems like there’s a tangible difference (outside of pure size) that makes it harder to dismiss the larger iPhone.

I was 95% sure that I would go for the smaller iPhone this time around. In fact, I found an odd sense of relief when many of the reviews didn’t single out OIS as a major differentiating factor.

I must say, though, after reading Gruber’s review, I’m pretty much back at square one. As a guy who shoots lots of video, I’m now leaning towards sticking with the larger form factor, even though I’d love to have a more pocketable phone.

  • GMUSIK805 .

    Am i the 1st one here

    • Why, yes. It appears so.

      • kevin chang

        you are not alone 🙂

      • DevXav

        Jeff, some time ago I read about a topic here on iDB about the iPhone 6 Plus advantages and since then I know for certain I’ll take one.

        But as I only upgrade from S to S, the i6SP is going to be my choice.

        FullHD, battery life and OIS are my choices.

  • Sofakingstepwit

    You have “real” cameras that you use for your videos. Why not just use those for videos if you really care that much about video? Those videos will be better than what the 6S Plus puts out in every way. I know, I know…the best camera is the one you have with you…and the 6S Plus would make that camera better. I’m just saying, anytime I’m taking a video I actually care about, I’m pulling out my Canon 70D with a real lens.

    • No doubt. It kills me whenever I see headlines that say “DLSR Level” for a phone. The IQ may be good, but there’s just no way to can mimic having real glass. The iPhone will lose every time against a camera with a real lens, prime or zoom. That said, having a great 4K capable smartphone with good OIS would work nice as a B-cam, which is why I’m interested in the 6s Plus.

    • James G

      The gap between DSLR and iPhones gets smaller every year. And with all the features you get from an iPhone camera that Nikon and Canon will never do (live photos, yeah right Nikon)…it’s making it harder to justify a DSLR purchase.

      Now, for very special events like a Wedding or for professional work, you’re right it will always be DSLR. But In another 2-3 years I can only imagine what kind of shots we’ll see from iPhones.

      • Sofakingstepwit

        I’m not a professional but I do like to shoot and edit pictures and videos of various things that happen in my life. The quality that comes from my Canon 70D just kills the current crop of phones. I’m sure that things will creep closer in the years to come but the one area that

      • James G

        I’ve got a Nikon D90 so can relate to the quality difference. Still, images from an iPhone have come a long way.

  • Rob

    So is this a software feature or a hardware feature? Reason for asking is I’m wondering if this is something that could be added to the 6s in the future with a jailbreak tweak.

    • Merman123

      Hardware.

      • Yep. If it was software, there would be no reason to omit it. I’m betting it has something to do with the extra room in the 6/s Plus. I guess I could look at last year’s iFixit tear down to confirm that.

      • 9to5Slavery

        Wouldn’t it be possible for software too to make hardware obsolete as it is a feature seems easy to replicate with camera+gyroscope(+m8/9) combo?

      • Simon Moorhouse

        It’s hardware. As I understand, the camera assembly actually moves to counter the movement of the phone.

    • Nuno123

      Optical stabilization means physical parts moving to stabilize a photograph and you have that on iPhone 6 Plus and Plus S, the others iPhones and others mobile phones already have Digital stabilization since the beginning which is the software guessing the movement and trying to correct it… the same with cameras and you always pay less for digital stabilization and have less quality.

    • Franck Kamayou

      The iPhone 6 and 6s already have built in software image stabilization. no jailbreak tweak needed

  • Merman123

    I couldn’t be comfortable with myself knowing I have the “inferior” device either Jeff. Don’t forget that the 6Plus also has the 1080p display, which I could definitely see when next to my girlfriend’s regular 6. The better battery life is also a nice bonus.

    • Yeah, I agree… but you could argue that the iPhone 6 Plus is inferior when it comes to portability as well… I have to be honest, the 6 Plus is so big that it’s annoying at times. Thing is, it’s really the bezel that’s making it so bad. There are android phones with larger screens that are actually smaller in footprint than the 6 Plus. The latest Motorola X comes to mind.

      • Merman123

        Yeah that’s true, I guess it is a huge con for many people. The good thing is that this year you will be able to compare both of them side by side, both hardware and software. The bad part, is that whichever you choose, you will be sacrificing something from the other! :

        Like I told Cody, if a years worth wasn’t enough to sell you on the plus, then I think the 4.7 inch is the right phone for you all along, so I hope that you can get to like the 4.7 6s and feel comfortable about it 🙂

      • kickinghorse99

        Especially the 6+ with a flip case, it feel like carrying an iPad mini.

  • DarekSlaby

    Didn’t the iPhone 6+ have OIS?

  • Mark S

    If you care that much about video you wouldn’t be using a cell phone to shoot it. You’d use something with far more control. I’ll stick to those nice $45K cameras we use in the field and use a tripod and a proper lighting kit.

    • Joonyaboy

      I think the point is if you do a lot of phone videos, you may prefer the better option

    • Don Walker II

      $45k? what are you guys using? RED?

  • n0ahcruz3

    Can’t wait for 7s+ lol

    • 9to5Slavery

      Sapphire or SuperCharged battery lol

  • Jon McGowan

    Not mentioning any names Jeff , but it amazes me just how many bloggers seem to be experts on whatever topic they decide to chat about that day , i only wish i too had this talent 🙂

  • Shingo

    could someone make a video that see the differ on OIS and non-OIS video?

  • George

    I’m surprised people bend over to apple and accept that the iPhone 6s doesn’t have OIS.

    • Merman123

      I’m surprised that all you do is criticize Apple on a Apple blog. Seriously dude what’s up with that? Everyday…

      • Sharkey311

        trolls gon’ troll

      • N&LH

        he is a malware user. Coming here to troll people. Let him enjoy the crap Android

      • George

        You just proved my point

      • Why do you ha e a blog solely about apple products bookmarked and frequented often?

      • Okada San

        What point was proven again? You trashed people for accepting the fact that the 6s doesn’t have OIS. Merman123 replied that all you do is criticize apple. So how in the world does that prove your point? Learn how to use certain phrases at the appropriate time.

    • N&LH

      Enjoy the crap malware platform

    • What kind of phone do you have/use personally ?

      • N&LH

        he has malware phone

      • George

        Note 5

      • You are bent over now accepting the fact that Samsung has removed the SD card capability, installed a smaller mAh and non removable battery, and put in a smaller display with the same resolution as the old gen. All manufactures have there consumers bend over and take it for one reason or another.. Try not to be biased and only hate on Apple for doing it.

  • 9to5Slavery

    What would the S on the iPhone 6S stand for?

    • iPhoneWINS

      partial update for profits

    • Chris

      Speed. One could presume it refers to a specific feature, but speed is what every ‘S’ iteration to date has had in common.

      • 9to5Slavery

        I meant in feature, S for 4s meant Siri.
        S for 5s meant security 3GS meant speed

      • Don Walker II

        It stands for “Something”. iPhone 6 Something and iPhone 6 Something Plus

      • Chris

        Lol as in that 3D Touch is really “Something” ;P

  • kickinghorse99

    I guess iPhone 7 will have OIS.

    • iPhoneWINS

      and 7 Plus will have more

  • Malcolm Hall

    Huh? Gruber should do their research, last years 6 Plus also had optical image stabilisation so its exactly the same choice this year, not a harder choice haha.

  • Anonymous

    Saddly i still wont have OSI, the plus is just to big for me.

  • Rob Lombardo

    Yes, it’s a hardware difference between the 6(S)+ and 6(S), but considering that the 6+ has OIS, could it be enabled on last years model as part of iOS 9?

    • Rob Lombardo

      Jeff? weigh in?

      • Doubt it. It’s probably more substantial.

      • Franck Kamayou

        So the iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t have OIS for video?

  • James G

    Re-affirmed my 6s Plus purchase, coming from a 6. Thanks Gruber & iDB!

  • Gary le

    So the 6+ and the 6s+ have the SAME camera performance?

    • No. The 6s Plus has OIS for video. The 6 Plus had OIS for only stills. As a side note, the pixels are smaller on the 6s Plus, because there are more pixels in what is essentially the same surface are, so technically, you’ll have slightly poorer low light performance on the newer phone. Most people won’t notice this, though.

  • Mark L Ulrich

    Does anyone know if the forthcoming iPad Pro will have the OIS for video (4K) and photos? I know to some using a tablet, let alone a large one for pics & vid is weird. Just curious if the Pro would offer the same feature because it seems to make sense with other features on iPad Pro. Thanks in advance