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Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 05:00 pm PT (08:00 pm ET)

iPhone 4 Review: 3 - Camera Photos & Videos


iPhone 4 vs iPhone 3GS: photos

The new camera's digital aperture responds faster than last year's iPhone 3GS, making it easier to capture the shot you wanted (once the Camera app is open), rather than the moment right after. Taking low light pictures is vastly better, and overall picture quality is significantly better.

The new phone also sports a useful new LED "flash" lamp, which can be turned on, off, or set to automatic. You can also activate the LED while video recording to help light your scene. On, the very bright LED can illuminate shots that would be too dark or noisy without it, but it's potentially annoying to use (it's very bright, and clicks on before the shot much longer than an actual flash unit) and may give you a picture that's overly orange.

Apple's LED at least uses a warmer white lamp, rather than the harsher blue tinged LEDs that most camera phones use, which tend to deliver unnatural and unflattering skin tones. Without the LED on, the new camera captures surprisingly good shots and video in limited light, a particularly difficult problem for most camera phones. The shots below demonstrate the kind of picture you can expect in a low light situation when using the iPhone 4 with the LED on and off, compared to the image captured by the iPhone 3GS camera.

iPhone 4 LED


The shots below was taken indoors in obscured florescent lighting. iPhone 4 still manages to capture vibrant colors and the detail of the clear plastic, while the earlier iPhone 3GS camera suffers a lot of pixel noise from the poor lighting available.

iPhone 4 indoors


In bright sun at Dolores Park, iPhone 4 delivers more accurate color and much more depth, capturing sharper details even in distant skyline.

iPhone 4 park photo


iPhone 4 beats top Android cameras, even point and shoot models

Expert tests performed by PC World which compared the iPhone 4 camera against Motorola's new Droid X, the HTC EVO 4G, and the new Samsung Galaxy reported, "iPhone 4 led the pack for overall image quality in our tests, serving up well-exposed, brightly colored images in our evaluations."

Even when compared to two popular 10 and 12 megapixel point-and-shoot cameras from Sony and Samsung, the panel wrote that "iPhone 4 outscored both of them in terms of exposure quality and color accuracy."

PC World noted that "iPhone 4's image quality was far less impressive in two categories: sharpness and distortion. It trailed the Droid X in terms of image sharpness, and those Sony and Samsung point-and-shoots finished far ahead of it." Overall however, the report concluded, "iPhone 4's photos looked more colorful and had better white balance than pictures taken with the other phones in this comparison."

Summing up the iPhone 4 photo experience, PC World wrote, "shutter lag is non-existent, image and video quality are solid, and the unique extras that the iPhone 4 has in its bag of tricks (tap-to-focus switching while shooting video, quick switching between the front-facing and back-facing camera, scrubbing a timeline to jump forward and back during clip playback, and a 5X digital zoom) take it a step above the competition in both speed and usability."

On page 3 of 3: iPhone 4 vs iPhone 3GS, other Android phones: videos.