The iPhone 6s has yet to hit the stores, but TIME asked photographer Benjamin Lowy to take it for a spin around New York ahead of the device’s Sept. 25 release. The results are unexpected, says Lowy, who brought the new phone to Coney Island and on board of one of Fly NYON‘s helicopters above Manhattan.
The new iPhones feature improved camera systems. The main rear-facing camera now has a redesigned imaging sensor with 12 megapixels, a 50% boost from the iPhone 6’s eight megapixels. To compensate for the smaller-sized photosites, Apple is using what it calls “deep trench isolation” technology, which introduces lightproof dividers between pixels to prevent light leaks, which usually produce noise and inaccurate colors.
For Lowy, the quality of the resulting images was impressive, “especially for such a small sensor,” he says. “When you print them, they hold up very well. There’s a lot of information there.”
Auto-focus also felt improved, as well the tonal range of each photo. “You don’t get over-sharpened images—a hyper-real sense of color that other phones give you,” he says. Instead, the iPhone photos mimic the tonality of raw files, a plus for professional photographers.
The phone’s front-facing camera has also been upgraded, to five-megapixel resolution and offering a true-tone flash powered by the phone’s retina screen. “What’s impressive is that the front iSight camera has the same megapixel range of the iPhone cameras I used in Afghanistan and Libya,” says the photojournalist.
The iPhone 6s also introduces Apple’s new Live Photo format, which combines photos with a short video to create moving stills à la Harry Potter. The new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus will be available Sept. 25 starting at $199 and $299, respectively with a contract.