Camera Zoom by KendiTech has been holding strong on the App Store’s top 100 list. In reality, there’s no wonder that an app offering a zoom function on the iPhone would be doing so well as this is a feature that most iPhone users wished the iPhone had. Well, now, through the Camera Zoom app, you can have it today.
Nearly every camera on the market, be it in a cell phone or not, has some type of zoom capability built in. Most (real) cameras have a combination of optical zoom and digital zoom capability that offer the photographer some flexibility in their photo snapping experience. However, everyone also knows that the only type of zoom worth having is optical zoom, since this leverages the lens to do the zoom work and allows the camera to use the full megapixel capability of the sensor for each image taken. Digital zoom, on the other hand, is where a camera will take the same resolution image at every zoom level, but then process the image by cropping and enhancing the result to give the user the effect of true optical zoom. So, in essence, the further you zoom in on a digital zoom system, the less effective pixels of the sensor you are using and your final result would have less detail in it.
Being a photo buff myself, I’ve scoffed at the Camera Zoom app since it hit the app store, since you wouldn’t catch me using digital zoom on any image. I much prefer to take my pics on my 3GS and post-process them in Photoshop (or even PhotoForge) where I have greater control and can sharpen them as necessary should I decide to crop them. So, needless to say, I have been putting off for some time to try out Camera Zoom.
Upon launching Camera Zoom on your iPhone, you are presented with a familiar camera interface but with one exception: the presence of a slider on the bottom edge of the screen. Since the app is called “Camera Zoom” it’s not hard to figure out what the slider is for – zooming. The first thing that struck me as odd however, is the focus/metering square of the 3GS is off-center (not touching the screen). When I compared the interface to the actual camera app, the image on Camera Zoom is already slightly zoomed from the original app and cannot but zoomed out to match that of the real camera app.
Taking pictures is easy, as one would expect. Simply slide the slider to the zoom you want, and touch the camera button on the bottom of the screen. If you have a 3GS camera, you can also touch the screen to focus / meter and then take you picture. The interface becomes a little odd here, since it appears as though the camera zoom app is actually zooming the camera interface in order to achieve the visual zoom effect. This makes for a rather odd experience when using the app.
The other issue I had with the app is that when previewing pictures, the preview function looks just like the camera roll in the real camera app, but does not have nearly the same functions. For example, you can preview a picture, but that’s it. No other controls or onscreen functions are provided. To email pics or copy/paste etc you will need to close Camera Zoom and launch the camera roll.
I did a series of photographic tests, to which only a couple of them are included in this review. The only real test worth doing is to compare the quality of the images coming from Camera Zoom to images coming from the real camera app, at different crop and zoom levels. The oddities that I mention above while, well, odd, don’t prevent one from taking zoomed pictures with the app. So, from here on out we’ll look at the end results.
My results after a few tests were actually rather surprising. The app appeared to perform rather well at digital zooming the image and achieved results that were on-par with my own post-processed images. There’s no doubt that the app is doing its own post-processing of the image in order to get a decent result after cropping away all the unused pixels. Looking at the pics below, you can see that the two images are very similar. On the left, is an image taken using the camera app and then post-processed (crop and unsharp mask) in PhotoForge and on the right, an image taken using Camera Zoom (no processing except for size). Here’s the results:
Cropped and unsharp mask in PhotoForge
|Camera Zoom No processing except size.|
As you can see, the two images are near identical. Both images exhibit significant noise artifacts (to be expected considering the dim lighting conditions and the amount of crop done to achieve the ‘zoom’ level). However, one cannot discount the ease of which it is to use Camera Zoom without having to post process. This is, in my opinion, the only reason why someone would use this app. For everyday, casual shooting the app works great. Digital zoom is easily and effectively achieved. However, if you care at all for image quality, then you’ll likely be the type to not even want to use digital zoom under any circumstance, even on your phone. For those I say, post process, to everyone else I say Camera Zoom is a great alternative.