The iPhone 6s Plus isn't just a great phone, it's a great camera/camcorder

I received my iPhone 6s Plus (128GB and space grey) Friday morning. Though it looks identical to its predecessor (the iPhone 6 Plus), it's a solid upgrade. Following are my first impressions.

My main reasons for upgrading were the camera improvements. These days iPhone is my still camera and digital recorder as well as my mobile phone. The iPhone 6s Plus excels at both of these functions more than any previous Apple smartphone. In fact, I had someone ask me what DSLR camera I had used to take some family photos. He was shocked when I told him I had used my iPhone. 

The latest Apple smartphones sport a 12-megapixel sensor with advanced pixel technology (called Focux Pixels) and an Apple-designed image signal processor. Do most of us really need that many megapixels for our photos? Probably not.  

For most folks, the highest resolution files needed will be for the occasional print or photo book. In this case, resolutions of 7.2 megapixels to 9 megapixels work just fine. Of course, having a 12-megapixel sensor helps "future proof" your photos, especially with 4K TVs growing in popularity and the high-end iMac sporting a 5K Retina display.

Plus, the new Apple image signal processor in the new iPhones — along with improved local tone mapping and optical image stabilization — let you take photos with vivid colors, sharper images and more details. The phones also pack a 5-megapixel FaceTime HD camera and Retina Flash. This briefly makes the display three times brighter with True Tone lighting, for brighter selfies in low light. (If that's your thing; selfies aren't mine.)

I'm also having fun with Live Photos, a feature that captures 1.5 seconds of movement surrounding a 12-megapixel still image. The best analogy I know of is the "moving newspaper" photos in the Harry Potter films. But be warned: Live Photos take up twice as much storage space as a normal still photo.

Admittedly as a new grandfather, I've gone a bit photo crazy of late. In time, the Live Photos feature may lose its novelty, and I may simply prefer either still photos or videos.

Speaking of videos, the iPhone 6s Plus takes high-definition video with support for 4K and a resolution of 3840 x 2160, delivering over eight million pixels. Add to this the expansion of optical image stabilization to video on the iPhone 6s Plus, and you can make fantastic films, even in low light.  After capturing 4K video, you can edit on your Mac, PC, iPad and with the latest version of iMovie on iPhone. You can even edit two simultaneous streams.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that 4K video takes up a lot more space than 1080p video, so be aware of this when you go to record videos in 4K. One minute of 4K video recorded with the iPhone 6s will take up around 375MB of storage. 

Another nifty new feature of the iPhone 6s Plus (and the iPhone 6s) is 3D Touch, which senses how much force you apply on the screen. For example, on the Home Screen, you can press down on an app's icon to quickly interact with the app. This feature is called Quick Actions. Pressing on the Phone app allows you to quickly call a recent contact. Pressing down on the Camera icon allows you to take a selfie. 

Inside of apps, 3D Touch allows users to "Peek" and "Pop" into their content.  Press lightly to "Peek" at a photo, email, web page or other content, and press a little deeper to "Pop" into the content itself. With Quick Actions, 3D Touch provides shortcuts to the actions you undertake the most. 

3D Touch and other advancements in the new iPhones are powered by the Apple-designed A9 chip, which delivers faster performance while maintaining battery life. How much faster?

The single core CPU performance of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is roughly comparable to that of the 12-inch MacBook Retina, and the multi-core CPU performance is "knocking on the door," according to tests done by Bare Feats. Plus, The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus blow away all the dual-core laptops in a Manhattan OpenGL 3D animation. And they beat all but the 13-inch MacBook Pro in a T-Rex 3D animation, according to Bare Feats.

The new iPhones are tougher than ever thanks to a body made of 7000 series aluminum, a stronger material than was used for previous iPhones. The aluminum upgrade was a good move because the iPhone 6s Plus survived a "bendgate" test ( performed by YouTube channel FoneFox.

The bottom line: the iPhone 6s Plus is certainly worth upgrading to — especially if your smartphone is also your camera and camcorder.