The latest in Apple's iPhone 4 series is heralded by the manufacturer as the next big step forward in mobile phone technology, but is it enough to regain Apples place at the top of the smartphone tree?
Apple iPhone 4 review – Camera
One of the criticisms of the first iPhone was the quality of the camera. This was an area where manufacturers such as Sony Ericsson and Nokia had excelled, offering decent megapixel counts and features such as face recognition and LED / Xenon flashes. Though the iPhone was missing such features in previous incarnations, the iPhone 4 has upped its game. The iPhone 4 features a 5MP backside illuminated sensor, promising better image quality, while it also offers HD video capture at 720p resolution and 30fps. The functionality of the camera remains much the same as the previous iPhone – when shooting, you simply tap the screen at the point you’d like to focus on, though you can leave the iPhone 4 to decide upon the point of interest. The camera also now features the simple yet previously overlooked idea of a flash – much like a lot of other phone cameras on the market, the iPhone 4 features an LED flash, and the operation can either be left to auto activation or can be forced on. What’s slightly disappointing is that the flash isn’t of the more powerful Xenon type, though its worth observing that this would probably put further strain on the already groaning battery.
With regards to further innovation, the iPhone 4 now also features a front-facing camera that facilitates video calling, or ‘FaceTime’ as Apple label it, though this only works over a wireless Internet network as opposed to 3G. Furthermore, not only does the iPhone 4 support HD video capture, but it also offers in-phone video editing. Apple has launched an iMovie application, priced at just £2.99, with much of the functionality of the Mac desktop version, while other third-party manufacturers are surely soon to follow suit.
The camera on the iPhone for also offers a zoom, though this is a digital zoom as opposed to an optical zoom, and effectively simply crops, enlarges and then interpolates the image to achieve the same size as a normal image. While this is effective at expanding the size of the image, it does result in a degradation of detail.
Although the resolution of the iPhone 4’s sensor isn’t the largest on the market, and in fact is some way behind the market leaders. However, as we’ve seen with many cameras in recent times, resolution and megapixel counts aren’t everything – Apple has taken this approach and has decided to develop the technology on the sensor. As mentioned previously, the sensor boasts backside illumination technology that, Apple claims, will provide better images in low light conditions.
The improvement from the camera of the previous generations to the iPhone 4 is instantly noticeable when inspecting the images. Tone is much more pleasing, with an even distribution of shadows and highlights throughout the frame. When images are viewed closer, a reasonably high level of image noise and grain is noticed, though this is somewhat expected for a 5MP cameraphone sensor and the compression process taking place on the JPEG files. Another point worth noting is the rendering of fine detail, which is fairly impressive – despite the aforementioned noticeable noise, fine detail is maintained and is kept crisp and sharp right up to the corners of the frame. The 720p HD video recording is also an eye-catching feature, offering movie capture at a quality equivalent of a range of compact cameras.