The single best new feature in iOS 10: Magnifier

11 September 2016, 06:47

Feature head image

Ah, but this is not the magnifier you’re thinking of. This isn’t about screen magnification. This is about turning the iPhone’s camera into a magnifying glass to see things up close. In fact, this new feature even comes close to turning the iPhone into a microscope.

Activating the new feature is as follows:

  1. Open the Settings app, then tap the General heading, then the Accessibility heading.
  2. Tap the Magnifier heading, and tap both switches you see: Magnifier, and Auto-Brightnesss.

That’s all that’s needed. From now on triple-clicking the Home button when the phone is unlocked will switch on the magnifier feature. The magnifier looks a bit like the camera app, but works in a very different way.

The slider beneath the image area adjusts the level of zoom, and it’s very surprising how far you can zoom in. I could see the individual fibre pattern on my trousers, for example. As with the camera app, tapping the screen causes it to focus on that spot and also locks focus until you tap somewhere else. At high zoom levels holding the camera steady becomes an issue because otherwise you’ll lose focus. Additionally, in low light situations the image is hit by a lot of noise (grain pattern).

The controls beneath are as follows:

  • Lightning flash: Switches on the flash light so you can illuminate your subject.
  • Padlock: Locks focus, and also serves as a visual indication that focus has been locked.
  • Shutter button: Freezes the image. Wait until the ring around the button goes yellow before moving the iPhone. Note that this doesn’t take a snapshot, although you can tap and hold on the screen to save the image (see below; the image is saved to your camera roll). Tapping the shutter button again unfreezes the image.
  • Filters: The filters icon lets you adjust the brightness and contrast of the magnified image, which can help in discerning details. You can also slide left and right on the image to apply a white/blue filter, yellow/blue filter, greyscale filter, yellow/black filter, and a red/black filter. The button at the bottom left inverts the image, including inverting the filters.

Saving the image doesn’t save the zoomed-in image but instead saves a standard snapshot without any zoom, as if you’re using the camera app. This is kinda odd all things considered but I suppose the theory is that you can zoom in manually to any particular detail using an image viewer/editor app. However, the standard screenshot feature of the iPhone – pressing Home and Sleep buttons together – works fine to take a screenshot of the zoomed in image.

There’s no mystery as to how the magnifier feature works. It takes advantage of the high megapixel count of modern iPhones, which allows the camera sensor to see a lot of detail, and then zooms in digitally to show things close-up.

Magnifier also works on the iPad, where the large screen means it’s arguably even more useful – although the lack of a flash light (if you have one of the Air or Mini models, at least) means you need to find good natural light.

Main feature illustration

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