One of my biggest complaints against the iPhone is the dinky fixed focus camera that Jobs had put onboard. With most other phones, five megapixals is pretty much the current standard but Apple for unknown reasons, went with a 2 megapixal camera and not even a high quality one at that.
Of course, this just adds to the challenge of taking a quality picture with it and in truth, once you work out a few things like how to trigger the shutter without moving the phone, it can take a decent enough picture. My old Nikon 950 was only 2 megapixels but it had really nice glass and not a chip of plastic as a lens.
Software can go a long ways to improving a picture and the iPhone is not any different. You can get a free version of Photoshop on the iPhone and it really can work wonders on these pictures. I have an unretouched image of my Thinktank International V2 bag sitting at Sacramento Airport and then one after I did some enhancements in the iPhone Photoshop app. It made a very noticeable difference.
Here is the retouched image
I did all this just sitting in my chair with my iPhone and my finger. No special hardware, software or anything else. I just snapped it then loaded the mobile version and touched it up. Now I just need to find a noise reduction app for the iPhone. I dont know about anybody else’s iPhone, but mine makes very noisy pictures unless it is a brightly lit picture. This is one of the weaknesses of the iPhone camera, it’s junk in low light. No other way to put it but simply, it’s simply junk in low light. I have been able get a few nice shots at night or in a dark room but it’s more luck than anything else.
This is a pretty usable image all things considered. And given that it was taken with a phone and not a “real” camera, all the better. But that last comment is a bit unfair I guess. I have taken very nice images with the iPhone, remembering it’s limitations and working around them. This next image was taken in the dim light of the waiting area for Captain Eo at Disneyland. I did some touch up in iPhoto to color balance it and raise the saturation a bit, nothing more than I do for most of my images nowadays.
I think it is perfectly acceptable to send around to friends and family as a decent snapshot. And I had the added luxury of not lugging my DSLR around for the day 🙂 So once you work out the constraints of the iPhone, it is a very usable tool. Not perfect and Apple could have certainly done better, much better without too much effort on their part but I get the feeling that Jobs is not a big fan of cameras in phones and so it was added very grudgingly. Thats a shame.. because a “Apple Quality” camera would have just about made the phone perfect.
What is very cool about the iPhone camera is the ability to shoot and send it right away via email or SMS. There have been times where I found something for sale, shot it, sent it with a question and gotten a response back in time to grab a deal. You can shoot barcodes and get the lowest price in the area for the widget, talk about leveling the playing field. I have used it to shoot impromptu location scouting trips where I see a place that I like and I rip off several images to keep on the phone. Some complain about the lack of a flash but then I have not really seen the need or even one that really works well so I dont worry about it too much. In the picture below, you can see how I’m documenting a photo shoot with my iPhone in part because I had a 70-200 F2.8 slung around my neck and I wanted a close but wide shot. This is what I call a “personal reference” shot, normally seen only by myself to provide some visual details on something. But here I’m sharing it and I’m sure you can see the value in using the iPhone for something like this. And it’s a pretty good image given how bright the backlighting was.
So in one way, I happily bash the camera and Apple but then I use it in some key ways that I could not easily do with my Razor or Treo in spite of them both having cameras. The iPhone integration just makes something just so much easier than anyone else. I just wish it was better.. but then I always think that about most of my toys 🙂