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A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]

Part 1 of 2, Still Picture Mode:

In 2007, while other phone manufacturers were producing cell phones with 5MP cameras or higher, Apple chose to launch the original iPhone with a week 2MP, fixed lens camera. Then in 2008, with the introduction of the iPhone 3G, Apple chose to leave the camera untouched essentially continuing with the same lousy camera they introduced with the first iteration iPhone while disappointing many iPhone users (myself included). With the release of the iPhone 3GS one of the biggest improvements that previous iPhone users will see is the new 3.2MP camera.

iPhone iPhone 3GS
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Taken at the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City, looking northward toward the Apple Store.

Finally, with Apple’s third installment of the iPhone they have chosen to improve the onboard camera, and improve they did.  Granted, the megapixel count didn’t increase much (it’s now 3.2MP vs. 2MP), but they introduced a few key features that makes this camera shine: autofocus, spot focus, spot metering and more.  Images from the new iPhone 3GS are considerably sharper, have noticeably more detail and are easily worthy of printing by your favorite photo printer (I wouldn’t say that for the first two iPhones) so long as you stay in the smaller sizes (3×5 or 4×6).

If you’ve read many of my posts before then you will know by now that I’m kind of a photography buff, so this post was not only necessary for me to write, it was also a lot of fun to produce.  Over the past couple of weeks I’ve taken my new iPhone out on a few photo outings.  I’ve tried to lug around my old iPhone too, for comparison sake, and you’ll see below that the results are pleasing and in many cases startling.

Let’s take a look at the technical specs of the cameras offered in the iPhone:

iPhone iPhone 3G iPhone 3GS
Autofocus No No Yes
Spot Focus (touch screen) No No Yes
Spot Metering (touch screen) No No Yes
Image/Video Geo Tagging No/n/a Yes/n/a Yes/Yes
Image Size 1600 X 1200 1600 X 1200 2048 X 1536
Pixel Count (MP) 1,920,000 (1.9) 1,920,000 (1.9) 3,145,728 (3.1)
Video No No Yes, VGA (640×480) 30fps with Audio
Flash No No No

Camera Controls, Spot Focus, Spot Metering
One thing to notice immediately is that with iPhone OS 3.0 the interface has changed somewhat. Now you see a small thumbnail of your previously taken picture in the bottom corner. On an iPhone 3GS, you also see a slider button to toggle between video and still mode (video functions to be covered in a later post). However, what’s more is that you now get the focus square in the middle of the screen when the camera is focusing and adjusting aperture.

iPhone 3GS Camera Interface
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Note the still/video toggle and also the small square in the image which is where I touched on the screen for spot focus/metering

Touch anywhere on the screen and that is the spot that the camera will focus and take it’s metering from. This is a very cool function, one that we will likely see in high-end dSLR cameras in the future (mark my words!) and you saw it here first!! (well, on your iPhone 3GS first). Why is this function so important and cool? Well, with any typical camera these days, in order to “spot” focus or “spot” meter you must point the center of the camera at the point that you want to focus/meter, half press the shutter button, re-frame your subject then follow through on the shutter release. Well, not with the iPhone 3GS. Simply frame you subject, touch the screen where you want focus to be, and touch the shutter release button. Wrong exposure? No problem, just touch somewhere else and allow the phone to re-focus and re-meter that spot then retake the pic. Here’s a couple of samples to demonstrate this feature:

iPhone 3GS Spot Focus/Metering Demo
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Focus/Metering on Tree
Note the detail in the tree.
Focus/Metering on Flower
Note the detail in the flower.
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Focus/Metering on Desk Focus/Metering on Window

Macro
If you are a macro photographer then you will appreciate the new minimum focus distance of the new iPhone 3GS’ camera. Macro shots, albeit not as sharp as even a P&S camera, are now possible.

iPhone iPhone 3GS
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Comparison Macro between iPhone and iPhone 3GS.

Conclusion
The new camera offered in the iPhone 3GS is a significant step up from the previous two offerings. Now, having said that, I wouldn’t call the camera superior to all phone-mounted cameras, but it is a refreshing improvement. If you’re a hardcore photographer then by all means, don’t consider this camera for much of anything. However, if you’re a photo buff and like to experiment and would find value in these new features, then this will be a nice improvement to your phone.

Pros

  • Significantly better than previous iPhone cameras.
  • Spot Focus and Metering are welcome additions, and make using the camera function much more enjoyable.
  • Auto focus is finally here.
  • Video (See follow on post that will discuss this in greater detail).
  • Much improved detail in images (due mainly to auto focus)
  • 150% more megapixels than previous iPhone cameras, although 3.2MP is nothing to scream about.
  • Much improved low-light capabilities, albeit far from what I’d like to see.

Cons

  • Still lags behind the competition in camera resolution.
  • No flash.
  • Still not a point and shoot replacement (yes, I know it’s a phone first – it’s all about device convergence).
  • Ity, bity, tiny lens. Until this is bigger, not much here will change.
  • Still no physical camera buttons for shutter release or even to switch to camera mode.  You must use the touch interface.
  • No self-timer.

Samples

iPhone iPhone 3GS
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iphone2g pics grass5 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1] iphone3gs pics grass2 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]
iphone2g pics grass6 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1] iphone3gs pics grass6 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]
iphone2g pics watch6 112x150 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1] iphone3gs pics watch7 112x150 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]
iphone2g pics1 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1] iphone3gs pics2 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]
iphone2g pics4 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1] iphone3gs pics4 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]
iphone2g pics6 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1] iphone3gs pics7 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]
iphone3gs legocar3 112x150 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]
iphone3gs legocar7 150x112 A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]

Post your feedback in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think. Also, if you liked this post, there are many similar others so take a poke around.

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Note: All images in this post are © Copyright 2009 by Rob Lyons and AppChatter.com.

homebutton icon A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]

Comments

One Response to “A Tour of the iPhone 3GS Camera, Sample Pics [Part 1]”
  1. It’s the best article about the iPhone 3GS Cam I ever read , Thanks a lot; I also found this on this Gadgets Website they say some good tips to improve your iPhone performance.

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