The iPhone 4. I can hear the protests now. “But wait – it’s not a camera – it’s a cell phone.”
If I described a small, hand-held device, rectangular in shape, with a five megapixel sensor, a built-in LED flash, an 800 to one contrast ratio, a 960 by 640 pixel display, that also captured 720p video at 30fps wouldn’t you naturally assume I’m talking about a camera?
Apple makes computers. Some of them sit on desktops. Some of them fit in your pocket or your backpack. All of them contain processors. Just like most DSLRs and traditional digital point and shoot cameras.
The new iPhone is indeed a camera. It’s many other things too, but it is a camera. And it’s a camera that contains a newly-designed, backside illumination sensor. It even has a front-facing camera for self-portraits. The image quality from the new camera is frankly just a little bit scary – as in scary good. Take a look at these sample images made with an iPhone 4 camera.
With “Tap to Focus” – Apple’s selective autofocus that automatically ties exposure to the area of focus, the iPhone is at least as competent as the more inexpensive of the point-and-shoot cameras. And with the built-in access to the Internet, it’s easier to share images via Flickr, etc., from an iPhone than the traditional point-and-shoot camera.
Many of the higher-end compact cameras don’t support HD video. The iPhone does. You can even edit video on the phone for an additional $4.99 to buy iMovie for iPhone.
My pal Chase Jarvis has proven with his “Best Camera” project that cell phone cameras – and particularly the iPhone, can make amazing and moving images. With the iPhone’s improved images, that will only be more true.
The era of the compact point-and-shoot camera may be coming to an end in the next decade. With improving cell phone cameras sitting in every pocket, it’s going to be harder to justify for the average person buying a separate $200 device just to take photographs.
As an aside, one of the beneficiaries of this new technology may be the 4/3 manufacturers. Their cameras may offer the best bridge between the DSLR and the cameras on cell phones like the iPhone 4. I myself have taken to carrying a Micro 4/3 camera rather than a point-and-shoot as my “everywhere” camera.
I realize that because I said “Apple” and “iPhone” in this post I’ll receive the usual amount of hate mail, snarky responses, irrational, mindless, hate-filled phone calls, etc., but I’m used to it. And if those who hate Apple for a living will just settle down and look at the bigger picture, they might realize that what I’m really talking about here is a sea change. And yes, the iPhone 4 is part of it. But it won’t necessarily be the end of it. Other cell phone companies will copy the iPhone’s specs and release even better cameras, with more functionality. Steve Jobs won’t stand still for that and will continue to improve the iPhone camera.
In the end, we all benefit from this sea change because it means more convenience, better quality and hopefully more beautiful, inspiring photographs to take in and enjoy.
And just for the record, I won’t be buying an iPhone 4 as long as I live in the USA and it’s tied to AT&T. But rumors continue to swirl that one day – one glorious day, Apple will cut the cord to AT&T and on that day, I’ll buy my iPhone 4 (or 5 or 6) and sell my trusty Canon G11 (or 12 or 13) and I’ll be happy knowing I always have a decent camera in my pocket.
Okay – go ahead – flame on :)
Sponsored by PMA – It’s not too early to mark your calendar because this is big. For the first time in the USA, the PMA tradeshow and conference will be open to the general public – September 6-11, 2011 in Las Vegas. See you there – http://bit.ly/9yaL2I