postheadericon The iPhone 4's Camera, And Why It's Underwhelming

Megapixels in photography is sort of like GHz in computing. They're both commonly referred to units when discussing their respective devices. They're often the first and last thing novices use to gauge a device's worth. And they're both very misleading. Just like you can get a Pentium 4 up to 4 GHz and get week-long render times, you can use a 5 MP camera and still get crappy pictures. Case in point: the iPhone 4's camera. 

 Original picture in all of its hideousness

Of course as a cell phone camera, some concessions must be made. The lack of depth of field is completely understandable - it's focal length is like what? Nothing? I can live with that. The drab, washed out colours are unfortunate, but I won't be shooting any magazine covers with it. The fact that the low-light performance is so bad that I at first thought I had my finger over the lens is irritating, but that's common with a lot of cameras. The thing that I will not stand for is the insane amount of noise the camera picks up.

"That's one thing I hate! All the noise, noise, noise, noise" - The Grinch
The pictures above are at 100% zoom - that is they are at a 1:1 pixel ratio. Look how noisy the original (the one on the left) is. Again, that is not pixelation. And this is under optimal lighting. So yes, the iPhone 4 has a 5 MP camera. It's just that you can't zoom in past 20% or your image will look like you forgot to take it out of your jeans before you put it in the laundry.

Acceptable results are easily and quickly had through post-processing, but going home and editing my pictures before I upload them seems a bit incongruous with the concept of mobility. And no, please do not mention PS Express. PS Express is technically a photo-editing app in the same way flinging ball bearings at piano strings is technically music.

Admittedly, most of what I just wrote is moot - most people (including myself) will just be using the camera for its convenience. I just feel that Apple could've worked more on image quality rather than meaninglessly padding the pixel count. Not to say that wasn't good marketing. I've heard someone praise the iPhone 4's camera solely based on the fact that it "haz da fiv megah-pixelz". This post was partially to show that subscribers to that line of thinking are demonstrably wrong. But mostly it was just an excuse to post some pictures of Mario. 


Eric said...

OMG, that is one CUTE dog!!!! ><