I just finally got an Apple iPhone 4s. The camera included with this phone simply blows me away. I now see why under $200 point and shoot sales are dropping like a rock. The pictures you can make with this phone meet or exceed the quality that you can get out of many of the sub $200 point and shoot cameras. In fact, with proper lighting and technique, this camera can perform up to the level of some of the $400 and $500 point and shoots.
Let’s start with the basics. The iPhone 4s camera is an eight megapixel affair with better dynamic range than the old iPhone camera. The lens is sharper, the camera lag time better, and the lens faster. The white balance is more accurate and the low-light performance (while not up to par with DSLRs) is better than previous iPhone cameras. Both shadow and highlight detail are also better.
The new iPhone 4s has a fixed aperture lens of f/2.4. That’s one half stop faster than the iPhone 4 cameras.
One of my favorite features in the new iPhone 4s camera is the ability to press the volume button on the top of the camera to trip the shutter instead of having to reach around and press the menu button to make a photo.
The overall color and image quality are better than I would expect from a camera phone. The new sensor is completely redesigned and it features larger capacity pixels, gathering more light.
As with other iPhone cameras, there is very little manual control. You can touch the screen to force the camera to set exposure and focus automatically for that area. There is a small flash which can be set to fire manually or on auto – letting the camera decide when it is and is not necessary.
The iPhone 4s is one of the most user-friendly cameras in the world. Since you can access this camera for as little as $199 (including the rest of the iPhone) I think it’s a great value. The best camera is the one you have with you and I never go anywhere without my phone, so I always have a camera. And now – I always have a camera that is competent enough to take photos that could print as large as 8×10″ if properly exposed in good light.
I wish there were more options available via the iPhone’s preferences to control things like exposure, ISO, etc., but since this is after all a phone first and a camera second, I think the compromises are generally fair. Are there better smart phone cameras out there? I often hear that the Nokia phones have great cameras but then again every time someone tries to demo that for me their phone crashes. The iPhone just works. I’m very happy with it and can highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for a smart phone camera.