Thursday, April 26, 2012

Photo surprise: iPhone 4S camera

I've done quite a bit of photography, including high school sports and food photography.  I never thought for once I'd be happy with what a mobile phone camera could do.  Point and shoot cameras barely work for me.

Since February, I've been working on Yelp, adding reviews and photos.  More than half the time, those photos come from the iPhone 4S I keep, instead of my Olympus E-5 or E-1.  After all, it looks a bit strange to pull out a large dSLR to take some interior photos of a restaurant or some photos of food, unless you're paid by the restaurant.

The iPhone 4S has been amazing.  Thankfully, they added an LED flash to the package, a faster (larger aperture) lens, and some intuitive software.  Touch to set a focus point is convenient.  I don't really give a !@#$ about the expanded number of pixels.  The sensor is tiny and it should be noisy, just like a crowded bus, full of uncomfortable passengers.

The photos are quite good and that's a huge surprise.  The exposures are usually good, but bright, bright sunlight is a problem.  I suppose the Camera+ app would help there.  I'm still learning to use it and with iOS 5.1, you can go from the lock screen to the Camera app with a tap, hold, and a slide.  Too bad that they don't let you use other apps with that.

It all works pretty well and you can choose the minimum and just capture a photo quickly or you can change some settings and work a bit more.  As mentioned earlier, the tap to focus functionality is easy.  If anything is not easy, it's positioning the phone to take a close up shot.  The lens is in an odd place (is there a camera on a mobile phone that's positioned well?) so my finger has been in the way.  If it's not that, I'm gripping the phone in such a way that I've pressed the Home button and the Camera app goes away.  The last phone had the camera in a more central location, which always ended up directly under my finger as I removed it from the holster.

I'm wondering what anyone could do to make the camera/software better.  If you're thinking Instagram-like effects, I'm really not thinking that those would be in the better category.  My E-5 has "Art Filters" and I still think they're only good for those who want to get attention.

Who knew that Apple would go from really poor digital photos to very popular (the mostest on flickr) to actually having a good sensor able to take good photos?  It's great to find a positive surprise.

2012.11.11: I'm still constantly amazed that they've done such a good job.  I've used my cheapo studio lighting and people are shocked at the quality.  Mind you, we're not looking at the individual pixels, but a full-sized print might not look bad at all.

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