Thoughts on the Apple iPhone 5 camera

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Don’t worry, I’m not about to start claiming the various image-processing apps are the best thing since sliced bread; they aren’t. What I am going to do is take an objective look at the iPhone 5’s camera as a tool for photographers. Firstly, we’ve got to remember that the device itself has a lot of limitations: it was never designed primarily to be a camera in the first place, which means a lot of niceties are missing: a dedicated shutter button, for instance. It is therefore important to consider things in perspective, and be realistic about the kind of functionality we can reasonably expect. I reviewed the iPhone 4’s camera here; from the 4S, the camera received a spec bump to 8MP with a slightly different sensor, meaning that the effective focal length of the lens is a somewhat longer 30mm – now five elements and with a fixed f2.4 effective aperture. The new unit is made by Sony, and focuses and shoots noticeably faster than the 4.

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POTD: Filling Stop and Traffic Jam

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Filling stop.

Why not full stop? Because this was a petrol station, as as consequence of the second image…

I couldn’t decide which image to put up today, so there’ll be two: actually, they’re kinda different sides of the same motoring coin.

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Traffic Jam. Just another day in Kuala Lumpur.

Somehow, whenever it rains, people lose the ability to drive or at least keep moving at a constant rate, and everything just grinds to a halt. It’ll take you two hours to cover a distance you normally do in 30min. I drive one of the most efficient turbo diesels on the planet, and I get abysmal mileage here – half of what friends with the same car get in Europe, hell, half of what I get when I drive on clear highways. If the government would do something about driver education and traffic planning, they could probably significantly lower fuel subsidies without affecting the net amount people have to pay. But, seems like nobody ever thought of that – maybe they were too busy cursing the traffic name they were stuck in.

I want to add another note about sufficiency: we’re there. What do I mean by that? Well, if I didn’t tell you both of these images were shot with an iPhone 4 (not even a 4S, which is supposedly even better from a camera point of view), would you know? How about if they were prints? Probably not. I’ve done experiments which show that even 8×10″s aren’t really enough to show cracks – if it’s a solid image, it’ll still look good; which is to say, as always, power of composition comes first. There are 5.0 decent megapixels on the iPhone 4 I’m using – that’s probably close to the same ultimate resolution as the Nikon D2H I used for professional work not so many years ago. I have photos in the Getty Images library which were shot with the iPhone 4. Of course there are plenty of situations where the iPhone won’t work – low light, action, anything other than 28mm etc – but I distinctly recall a time when camera phones were useless for anything but emergency ‘record’ snaps. And that definitely isn’t the case anymore. I’ve shot thousands of frames with my various iPhones; some of which I really, really like – I don’t wish I’d shot them with another camera. The best camera is the one you have with you all the time – and this fulfills the brief, and happens to have a pretty decent 28mm lens, too. Now if only they’d make it spit out a raw file instead of an over processed cartoon color JPEG. MT