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iPhone 4S: The most important camera released this year?

10 Oct Posted by Matt in News, Reviews |
iPhone 4S: The most important camera released this year?


Whenever there is a new iPhone the technology world seems to go into some kind of frenzy. Last week was no exception as Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook, took to the stage and unveiled the iPhone 4S.

In all honesty, once the whooping and cheering of the event itself had died down many people felt a little bit underwhelmed by the iPhone 4S.  It comes a full 14 months after it’s predecessor, the iPhone 4, and a lot of people had hopes for an iPhone 5 announcement.

So, the iPhone 4S looks the same as the last model, but actually a lot has changed under the hood. Predictably, the change we’re most interested in is the new upgraded camera on the iPhone 4S.

iPhone 4S Camera Key Specs:

iPhone 4S Camera Photo SampleThe iPhone 4 is still the most popular camera on Flickr, and has earned a reputation for being the best of the camera-phone offerings.  Last month we predicted that the next generation iPhone would get a boost in this area, and that intelligence seems to have held true.

Here’s the quick low-down on all of Apple’s current iPhone cameras:

iPhone 4S iPhone 4 iPhone 3GS
Resolution 8 Megapixels 5 Megapixels 3.2 Megapixels
Sensor Type Backlit CMOS CMOS CMOS
Max Aperture f/2.4 f/2.8 f/2.8
Face Detection Yes No No
Hardware Shutter Yes No No
Video Mode 1080p Full HD 720p HD 640×480 VGA
Image Stabilisation Electronic None None


In addition to these specific upgrades, the 4S has a new sharper lens, a refined LED flash, and the faster A5 processor allows for much speedier photo taking.

You can launch the camera right from the lock screen with the new model, and Apple say you’ll have your first shot in just over a second.  For comparison, my now ancient iPhone 3G takes around 20s to take a photo and display it back if you start from the lock screen.  The updated camera app has a more intuitive user-interface, too.

Apple claim that “the A5 chip is designed with an image signal processor that’s just as good as the ones found in DSLR cameras”, which is a bold claim.  Of course there is more to a Digital SLR than the image processor, and the iPhone 4S is not going to come anywhere close in terms of sensor size or lens quality.

Nobody has independently tested an iPhone 4S yet, so until next week when they hit the shelves we only have what Apple have provided (alongside that leaked Flickr image we posted in September of course) to judge the camera by.  Quite naturally, the official photos we’ve seen have all looked very nice.

iPhone 4S Camera: Our Verdict

As Chase Jarvis would say, the the best camera is the one that’s with you. So, even before we look at the specs, a camera built into your take-it-everywhere-I-ever-go mobile phone is enticing.

The reality of course is that before the original iPhone 4, even the least demanding of photographers would be infuriated at the dreadful image quality and slow reactions that phone cameras universally provided.

But times have changed, and the iPhone 4S looks like the most compelling of any device so far if you’re looking to leave your point and shoot camera behind.  It won’t be enough to make you chuck your Digital SLR away, but then you knew that already.

Bad Flash Photo

Compact cameras can perform poorly in low light

Even a relatively serious photographer should be reasonably happy with the camera in the iPhone 4S. You actually need to spend a reasonably hefty sum on a pretty high-end compact to get better real world results.

For example, if like a lot of people you use a modest point and shoot compact on nights out, you’re very likely to find that the iPhone 4S, with it’s back-illuminated image sensor, actually performs considerably better than your ‘proper’ camera because it doesn’t rely on washing everything out with a harsh flash.

If you like photography, and need a new phone, the iPhone 4S definitely looks like a smart place to put your (relatively large amount of) cash.

iPhone 4S Camera Photo Example

Example photo taken with an iPhone 4S (via Apple)


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