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iPhone 4: HDR Photos with iOS 4.1

06 Sep Posted by Matt in News |
iPhone 4: HDR Photos with iOS 4.1

HEK33YKDJ24YAs Mark pointed out recently in his megapixel myths article, the number of megapixels your camera has isn’t the be all and end all of getting a good photo.  Whilst the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS sported cameras not far short of a gimmick, the iPhone 4 camera has reached a level where the quality is, on the face of it, reasonably good. Now the latest software update, iOS 4.1 (available later this week), promises HDR (high dynamic range) photos from your iPhone 4 camera… too good to be true?

iPhone 3G photo of London

iPhone 3G: Photos lack detail and colour

Well don’t go sticking your DSLR on eBay just yet – the quality of the lens and electronics in the iPhone 4 do not match up to even a basic compact point and shoot camera, though that’s not to say you can’t get good or even excellent results from one.  An article on Gizmodo comparing photos taken with the iPhone 4 to those taken with the excellent Canon S90 shows some interesting results, with the iPhone 4 photos often looking visually more appealing than those taken with the Canon.

iPhone4 Graffiti

iPhone 4: Wonderful Damage by Jean Fabien on Flickr

To clarify, High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is a process by which a single image is made out of several photos all taken at different exposures. The idea is that each photo captures different detail, and the combined shot ends up with a lot of detail in both the highlights and shadows.

The promise of HDR photos from a camera-phone sounds intriguing, and shows that Apple considers HDR technology to be an appealing mass-market feature.  Only recently we looked at how new software HDR Efex Pro is looking to capitalise on the recent surge in interest of HDR photography, especially amongst photographers who want a quicker and easier way to combine their images to create this unique effect.

iPhone 4: By Attila Acs on Flickr

Over at AppleInsider they have been trying out the new iPhone 4 HDR mode on their pre-release iOS 4.1 model, and the results are interesting.

First off, the results AppleInsider got are not like traditional High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos, and in fact in some of the examples the use of HDR mode didn’t appear to increase the detail at all.  In others though there was a marked increase in detail in the shadows and/or highlights, and in some cases (such as a completely washed out and ‘clipped’ white sky) the HDR mode can really help save a photo when the conditions aren’t perfect.

Of course, many other phones offer reasonable cameras these days, and even the most seasoned DSLR user can find the convenience of having a digital camera in their pocket a really useful asset when they see a creative opportunity.

As with any camera, you need to be realistic and play to its’ strengths – low light photography, fast movement and distant objects are unlikely to yield anything very good.  But a well composed and thought out creative shot in suitable light may just surprise you.

Check out the iPhone 4 group on Flickr to see some great shots taken on these phones, and AppleInsiders look at HDR photography on the iPhone 4.


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