updated 05:45 pm EDT, Mon October 4, 2010
Gadget site finds variations, surprises
Camera-oriented gadget site fosfor.com has published a multi-part iPhone camera shootout that compares photos taken in a variety of situations, showcasing the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3Gs and iPhone 4. The results are not unexpected, but the differences between the cameras can be surprising.
In particular, the iPhone 4 -- while generally taking much better pictures than either of the other two models -- clearly has weak points, like a tendency to overexpose the sky in landscape shots. The newer camera's HDR function can overcome this issue, but the 3G of all the models tested had the best automatic sky exposure.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 3G's camera was found to be useless at taking photos of very close objects. In his test, article author Mikael Svardh photographed a bottle of olive oil placed approximately six inches away; the iPhone 3G was unable to produce a focussed photo, while the other models had no issues.
Another interesting difference in the old models was the clear change in color balance in the 3Gs versus its predecessor. Throughout the article, there is a marked difference between the colors of the two models, suggesting that Apple was still tinkering with the best white balance for the shots most likely to be taken by users (outdoor and well-lit situations where phone cameras always tend to do best).
Overall, the iPhone 4's camera was judged to be a good balance of features, particularly excelling at indoor photography (in part due to its built-in flash) and clarity of image. The HDR feature of iOS 4 also made a significant difference in outdoor photos, giving them a much more natural tone.
Svardh also included pictures taken with a professional-level DSLR, a Canon 550D. While acknowledging the comparison of iPhone cameras to a DSLR is unfair, it provides a good reminder that while camera phones can in many cases replace the consumer point-and-shoot class, they fall far short for more serious photography.