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Apple iPhone 4 Camera Review

Daniel Bell tests the capabilities of the camera on the iPhone 4.

|  Apple iPhone 4 in Camera Phones
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Apple iPhone 4

Apple announced the arrival of the eagerly anticipated iPhone 4 in June 2010 with an improved 5Mp camera sensor, an extra 2Mp offered by the iPhone 3. There are now phones available with sensors comparable with those on compact cameras but as there is now a large number of photography related apps now available for the iPhone there is a vast potential for creativity.

Apple iPhone 4 camera: Features

  • 5Mp sensor
  • 5x digital zoom
  • Camera on front and back
  • Video recording, HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second with audio
  • VGA-quality photos (0.3Mp) and video at up to 30 frames per second with the front camera
  • Tap to focus video or still images
  • LED flash
  • Photo and video geotagging

Apple iPhone 4 camera: Handling

At 9.3mm thin, the iPhone 4 is the world’s thinnest smartphone. The iPhone 4 is built with aluminosilicate glass and is 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic and the glass is extremely durable and scratch resistant. The iPhone 4 is also very light and fits snugly into your pocket.

The 960 x 640 LCD display has 326 pixels per inch, therefore text and images are extremely sharp and IPS technology provides excellent colour and contrast from almost any viewing angle. The LCD display also doubles up as a touch screen, with very few buttons on the phone itself.
The touch screen is easy to use and responds extremely well.

There are very few options available within the camera app that comes pre installed on the iPhone 4. There are options to adjust the flash setting, turn HDR mode on/off, switch between the front and back cameras, switch to video mode and the shutter release button. There are other apps available which offer a self-timer, burst mode and other settings which are familiar on compact cameras.

Apple iPhone 4
Apple iPhone 4

Apple iPhone 4 camera: Performance

Detail in the wide-angle shot below is good throughout, with colours being punchy and saturated. Although the images aren't going to be suitable for large prints they will be great if you like to print your photos at 7x5in or 6x4in for your photo albums and will make a decent A4 print in ideal shooting conditions. Images produced look great on social networking sites such as Facebook.

The iPhone 4 has digital rather than optical zoom. The telephoto image below has been shot using the full 5x digital zoom available. As the image was shot using a tripod the image is sharp with plenty of detail but it is difficult to take a sharp picture when taking a shot hand-held with the 5x digital zoom.

Apple iPhone 4 Lens test images

ISO and noise performance

It is impossible to set the ISO speed yourself on the iPhone 4. It is set automatically and is rumoured to be between ISO80 and ISO1000. Given that many compact cameras now have an ISO speed of at least ISO3200 then you'd expect it to be difficult to take sharp pictures in low-light, especially without the use of the flash. Using our studio test chart noise has been handled really well giving a good sharp image.

ISO Test Chart
ISO Test Chart


Similarly to the ISO setting, the white-balance cannot be adjusted by the user on the iPhone 4. Under both the tungsten and fluorescent lights in our studio the iPhone 4 does a really good job at adjusting for the light. The fluorescent lights give a very slight magenta cast but the AWB has performed better than I have seen from some compact cameras.

Apple iPhone 4 White-balance test images

Apple iPhone 4 camera: Sample images & video

Unlike most compact cameras, the iPhone doesn't have a set of scene modes available. There is a HDR mode which blends the best parts of three separate exposures into a single photo. In the example below there is clearly more detail retained in the window when using the HDR mode. The best results when using the flash are when shooting close-up items as when capturing an object in the distance, the resulting images look washed out.

Apple iPhone 4 Sample Photos

Apple iPhone 4 camera: Verdict

In ideal conditions, such as well lit scenes, the iPhone 4 camera performs well and the best results are achieved when using HDR mode. Due to the quality of the LCD screen images often look better on the iPhone itself than on the computer. The iPhone 4 camera should not be seen as an alternative option to a compact camera but if you are in the market for a phone with a decent camera then it's unlikely you'll be disappointed by what the iPhone 4 camera has to offer. If Apple can create a sensor with more megapixels and introduce the ability to change more settings then the future of iPhone photography looks interesting.

Apple iPhone 4 camera: Pros

Large number of apps available
Size and weight
LCD screen
White balance performance

Apple iPhone camera: Cons

No image stabilisation
LED flash not great
No scene modes


Apple iPhone 4 Specifications

Front Camera
PixelsNo Data
Max ApertureNo Data
Smartphone Cameras
Smartphone Cameras
    Additional CamerasNo Data
    Max Aperturef/2.8
    35mm equivalent29.4mm
    Optical ZoomNo Data
    Image Sensor
    Pixels5Mp (Megapixels)
    Pixels (W)2592
    Pixels (H)1944
    Sensor TypeNo Data
    Sensor Size1/3.2 inch
    Sensor Size (width)4.54mm
    Sensor Size (height)3.42mm
    Aspect Ratio
    • 4:3
    LCD Monitor
    LCD Monitor3.5in
    Screen resolution614400
    Touch ScreenNo Data
    Focusing modes
    • Autofocus
    Exposure Control
    Shutter speeds shortestNo Data
    Shutter speeds longest1/2000sec
    ISO sensitivity80 - 1000
    Movie modeYes
    Video Resolution
      Video FPS30
      Stereo SoundNo Data
      Other Features
      Image StabilisationNo
      USBUSB 2
      Internal Memory0.5MB
      Power Source
      Battery TypeBuilt-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
      Box Contents
      Box ContentsiPhone 4, Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic, Dock Connector to USB Cable, USB Power Adapter & Documentation

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      Photographs taken using the Apple iPhone 4

      Oil Sands PlantNew YorkGlassesWatching the SunsetMorning walksunsetMonkey Puzzle TreeSarah and AlexUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitled

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      karl Plus
      17 654 United Kingdom
      24 Feb 2011 10:17AM
      Think that really lets it down is the flash, although it doesn't produce too bad results and is fairly bright. Taken 100s of photos on my iPhone - video is pretty nifty as well. With IS I think I could just about replace my compact for most "snaps".
      24 Feb 2011 10:57AM
      For web use it looks very acceptable.
      User_Removed 16 17.9k 8 Norway
      24 Feb 2011 2:15PM
      Erm... the iPhone 5 is supposed to launch very soon I hear... Wink
      Fluke 12 59 Wales
      25 Feb 2011 9:25AM
      Looks better than my HTC Desire, which is a great device let down by a crap camera.
      NikLG 15 1.7k England
      25 Feb 2011 4:35PM
      I find it very useful. It's always with me and can give pretty decent results ( from a phone ).
      There are so many apps that increase the options as well. I use one called 'camera +' that lets you dictate a focus point and an exposure area.
      I still have a compact and a dSLR, but for convenience, and not missing a photo op, I think it's pretty good.

      The phone also does many more things too of course....

      @Mike. I am not sure there will a new iPhone this year ( according to rumours I have heard ). I won't be upgrading anyway as I have only had mine for a few months...
      Carrera_c 11 273 3 United Kingdom
      3 Mar 2011 2:18PM

      Quote:Looks better than my HTC Desire, which is a great device let down by a crap camera.

      HTC Desire is a 5MP camera as well. I've recently got one and one of the first things I did was compare it with my brother's iPhone 4. The camera holds up perfectly well against the iPhone and the standard app actually offers more control than the iPhones standard app.

      There will be a new iPhone, and it will show its face in June/July. But I don't believe it's going to be much of a step forward from the iphone 4 tech wise, more of a re-design.
      josa 8 25 Czech Republic
      26 Jan 2013 10:05PM
      Real bad...

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