iPhone 5 Camera Tests and iPhone 4S Comparison

As usual with new iPhone releases, Apple has created a webpage showing “actual photos taken with the iPhone 5″. It is available here, and it features a gallery of six photos with an option to view them in full-size (the iPhone 5′s camera shoots photos at at 3264×2248 pixels).

Curiously enough, Dpreview’s Scott Everett recently took a photo of Big Sur in California (the location pictured above) with an angle very similar to Apple’s one for the iPhone 5 (also embedded above). Because of this, Dpreview was able to closely compare the picture quality of the devices with the same subject. While the camera may appear to be the same, there are some notable differences.

Looking at the EXIF data of the images confirms Apple’s assertion that this is a new sensor, despite the pixel count remaining the same. Close examination shows the iPhone 5 is using a 4.1mm lens to give a 33mm equivalent field of view, rather than the 4S’s 4.3mm lens, which gave a 35mm equivalent view. This means the new sensor is a tiny fraction larger. The iPhone 5 has also selected ISO 50, 1/3EV below the 4S’s minimum sensitivity of ISO 64.

Last year, a Sony camera was found in the iPhone 4S’ teardown. Check out the 4S/5 comparison shots at Dpreview, and more iPhone 5 photos over at Apple’s website.


Camera+ 3.0 Review

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Few iPhone apps have managed to substantially improve on the functionalities offered by Apple in its core system apps. Tap tap tap’s Camera+, a popular alternative to Apple’s Camera app, is one of them, and the 3.0 version released today takes a major leap in turning Camera+ into a more powerful solution to shoot, edit, and share photos online, as well as providing a solid foundation other developers can integrate their apps with.

The thing about Camera+ is that its lead developer and creator, John Casasanta, knows what people want from an iPhone app, and understands the rules behind viral marketing for software sold on the App Store. In spite of a 4-month ban that forced Camera+ out of the App Store due to a functionality the developers shouldn’t have hidden without telling Apple, the app has been an example of modern success in the App Store, granting its developers a renowned position in the top charts with millions of copies sold worldwide. But it’s not just about clever marketing (Casasanta also runs MacHeist, a website dedicated to promoting deals on Mac software that has amassed an incredible amount of followers in the past years). Camera+ is a very well-done app — from the polished user interface to the features it adds on top of Apple’s standard camera-related functionalities, Camera+ has become many users’ go-to camera app thanks to its enhanced view options, filters and effects, and elegant sharing capabilities.

With Camera+ 3.0, a free update for existing users, tap tap tap wants to refine every aspect of the app, whilst opening the door to third-party devs with APIs to offer Camera+’s features into other apps. (more…)

I’ve been a loyal and satisfied Witness customer since the app’s original release last year. Witness, developed by Orbicule (makers of Undercover and Macnification), is a Mac-based home surveillance system that uses your Mac’s built-in FaceTime/iSight camera to snap photos of whoever’s using your computer when you’re not there. This utility, in fact, securely communicates with a web service that’s connected to iOS apps (iPhone and iPad) that enables you to remotely lock your machine as you walk away from your house, and receive push notifications when the camera detects motion in front of your Mac’s screen. Witness sends push notifications, snaps photos and videos that are sent in real-time to your iOS devices (so you know instantly what’s going on), and can lock your computer using Lion’s standard login screen, or the app’s own lock dialog. You can read more about Witness in my review.

With Witness 2.0, released today, Orbicule has supercharged its home alarm system technology adding a series of functionalities that give more control to users away from their computers, and more issues to (possible) burglars looking to steal your Mac without being seen (or really, just people who want to mess around with your Mac without telling you). Aside from motion detection, which has been improved, Witness 2.0 comes with face detection, allowing you to be notified only when an actual person is sitting in front of your computer’s camera. There are settings to adjust motion sensitivity, and, overall, this feature can really come in handy if you have pets running around the house when you’re not there. I have tried this with my two dogs, and it worked remarkably well with motion sensitivity set to “Normal”: Witness didn’t detect anything with my dogs normally walking around, and I was only sent a notification when I held my dog right in front of the FaceTime camera. Similarly, Witness’ alarm didn’t fire off when I asked my girlfriend to simply walk around the living room, but I did get a notification as she approached my computer.

Next up: multiple cameras and sneak peek. Whereas Witness 1.0 allowed you to set up one camera (the built-in one) and watch images and videos sent after a successfully triggered alarm, Witness 2.0 lets you connect up to 3 cameras (USB or FireWire) and check upon your room from multiple angles. Combined with a new feature called Sneak Peek that lets you load an image from your camera at any time, Witness 2.0 offers a good combination of real-time capturing and multiple angles — I imagine this can be particularly useful for large rooms and office areas.

Last, Witness 2.0 has AppleScript support and auto-activation. You can ask Witness 2.0 to run an AppleScript when an alarm is activated, deactivated, or motion is detected, thus creating a whole new range of possibilities for remote automation. Someone’s using your Mac? Why don’t you tell iTunes to start playing this at the highest volume? Or perhaps open a totally creepy video in the default browser? With AppleScript support, you have endless possibilities for customization and it’s really up to you to find something that might be useful when executed automatically by the system. Even better, with Witness 2.0 you’re given the option to forget about activating your alarm as the iOS app now uses geo-location to see when you’re not near your Mac anymore, and activate the alarm for you. Obviously I still recommend manually activating alarms (especially if you’re working with multiple Macs in different locations) as geo-location can’t always be 100% reliable, but in my tests Witness managed to activate an alarm roughly 2 minutes after I left my house, so I’d say it worked fairly well.

With these new features and optimizations, I highly recommend existing Witness users to upgrade to version 2.o and check it out by themselves today. If you haven’t tried Witness yet, a single user license is available through Orbicule’s website at $39 with a student discount available.

Exclusive offer for MacStories readers: Using this link, you can purchase Witness 2 (single user license) with a 20% discount. The coupon code is directly applied, and it will be valid until February 6.

The developers of Camera+, the most popular alternative to Apple’s Camera.app on the iPhone, have posted updated statistics regarding the performances of Camera+ in the App Store, and the results are quite astonishing. To date, Camera+ has sold over 6 million copies and earned over $5 million after Apple’s cut. Camera+ was first released on June 7, 2010, and was later pulled from the App Store in late July, only to come back in December 2o10 with version 2.0. Since then, the app has been growing in popularity and receiving updates with various enhancements and bug fixes.

Over the past 6 months, Camera+ revenue has increased over 3x. Play along and fantasize for a second about that trend continuing over time… if it keeps going, by 2018 our daily sales would be twice the world population. Yeah, this growth might not be sustainable over time. Anyway…

The two most relevant things contributing to the large jumps on the right side of the above chart were the launch of the iPhone 4S in early October and the annual Christmas bump. Both were increases that were expected but what’s been surprising is how long each has lasted.

tap tap tap’s latest blog post is interesting not just because of app sales numbers alone: I think it provides good insight into the 4S “bump” from October and the typical sales increase in the holiday season, which is related to new users buying apps for their new devices. This year, however, sees a new iPhone model released against the holiday season for the first time. It’s been widely reported the iPhone 4S should be selling really well (we’ll know more on January 24), but tap tap tap’s numbers seems to suggest an impressive growth, not just a good one.

Camera+ is a rare example of a paid app maintaining a stable growth over time with only a few promotions and features by Apple. Read more about the app’s sales figures here.

iPhone 4S Vs. “Real” Digital Cameras

Chris Foreman at Ars Technica takes a look at the iPhone 4S’ camera compared to an iPhone 4, a Samsung Galaxy SII, an Olympus XZ-1 and a Canon 20D. Obviously, the iPhone 4S’ improved camera and optics turn out to be a recommended upgrade:

In real life use, each camera has a mix of benefits and drawbacks. The iPhone 4 was our previous favorite in smartphone cameras, and the iPhone 4S improves on that. The lens is a bit sharper and the hybrid IR filter seems to improve color rendering and possibly white balance. The new sensor also seems to have slightly less noise, better dynamic range, and three million more pixels to work with.

The combination of an updated sensor and the dual-core A5 processor also make the iPhone 4S much faster to start up and take pictures. It was nearly as fast at launching, focusing, and snapping sequential images as the Olympus XZ-1, and certainly faster than previous compact cameras we have used.

However, when compared to other cameras, it really is about convenience VS. options and full control, rather than just “quality” alone. Sure, DSLR still offers higher quality and reliability in several areas, but the iPhone 4S’ camera is more than good for still pictures both indoors and outdoors. More importantly, the iPhone 4S combines decent picture quality with the added convenience of having a great portable camera in your pocket with you all the time — a device that’s also capable of running software (apps) and being enhanced with hardware add-ons (tripods, lenses, etc.). And for many, having a camera like the one found in the iPhone 4S for a device that also happens to be a phone and a gaming machine might just be enough to capture moments of their next trip and quickly edit everything in iPhoto. The software plays an important role in the 4S’ big picture.

Check out Ars’ full report with comparative shots here.

Last year, popular app Camera+ for iPhone was removed from the App Store as the developers implemented a hidden feature to snap pictures using the iPhone’s volume button, which at the time was prohibited by Apple. As months went by, however, Camera+ made its triumphant return to the App Store with version 2.0, a complete rewrite of the app, and Apple unveiled iOS 5, which among other features includes the possibility of taking photos by holding down the volume button.

The latest update to Camera+ brings back VolumeSnap, as explained by the “VS” in the 2.4 version number. Just like in the old Camera+, and Apple’s new Camera app, you can take photos by simply pressing the iPhone’s volume button just like a physical shutter. The feature works as expected, and you can still use the regular software button on screen if you want.

Camera+ with VolumeSnap is available now on the App Store.

Shortly after the first beta of iOS 5 was seeded to developers in June, a series of code strings suggested the company could implement a panoramic photo-taking feature in the OS, allowing users to shoot wider photos with a Panorama functionality allegedly similar to what third-party apps like 360 Panorama and Pano are already offering. As Apple kept seeding more betas and eventually released iOS 5 to the public, Panorama was nowhere to be found in iOS, suggesting Apple wasn’t ready to debut the feature yet.

A series of screenshots posted by programmer and iPhone hacker Conrad Kramer earlier today, however, show the interface and options for what could have been Panorama in iOS 5. In particular, the screenshots show a very simplified UI to take multiple shots in a single camera session “from left to right”. It is unclear whether the design of the functionality was final but Apple decided to save it for a future version of iOS, or if the company decided Panorama wasn’t simply good enough for iOS 5. While Kramer seems to promise a Cydia tweak will be released to easily activate the feature on jailbroken phones, developers can play around with Panorama by manually changing a key on their devices. The resulting image of an iOS Panorama has also been posted on Dropbox showing a far from perfect output, although we can’t speculate on how the picture was taken, or the stability of unofficial, hidden iOS 5 functionalities.

As we mentioned above, those willing to check out panoramic photos on iOS right now should check out Occipital’s 360, which we reviewed here and here. Apple is working on an iOS 5.0 update that will introduce security fixes, better battery life and gestures on the original iPad, but Panorama wasn’t mentioned in the release notes for the new beta software.

Update: Cydia developer @chpwn has already submitted a tweak called “Firebreak” to Cydia to enable panorama mode on iOS devices.

Following the first Siri ad that was released last week, Apple uploaded three new commercials on its website and YouTube channel earlier today, showcasing once again the capabilities of the iPhone 4S’ voice assistant, as well as the improved camera and iCloud support.

The new commercials cover a wide range of hardware and software features of “the most amazing iPhone yet”, albeit some of them are also available on older generation models like the iPhone 4. The camera is described as “all new” with 8 megapixels and “advanced optics”, but the ad also focuses on what’s possible to do after a photo has been taken on an iPhone, showing the built-in photo editing functionalities that “no ordinary camera can do”. From the YouTube description:

With 8 megapixels, advanced optics and more, the all new camera on the iPhone 4S may be the only camera you need.

The second Siri commercial is similar to previous one, featuring different input requests from iPhone 4S users such as map directions, weather conditions, calendar appointements and Messages. Apple describes Siri as your “personal assistant for everything”.

The iCloud ad goes a little more technical — although with Apple’s usual clear and friendly style — to show iBooks and document sync across devices, Purchase history on iTunes, Photo Stream and Automatic Downloads for songs. “Now the things you do on your phone are everywhere you want them”.

Check out Apple’s new ads here, or watch the YouTube video embeds below.


iPhone 4S Example Pictures

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You’ve read the iPhone 4S review. Of the two standout features, the camera is the easiest to showcase. What amazes me is that anyone can pick up the iPhone 4S and snap a good picture. With patience and a photographer’s eye you can snap *great* pictures. It makes taking photographs fun.

Past the break, you’ll find lots of example images covering various scenery that should give you a good idea about what the iPhone 4S is capable of. I’ve tried not to touch up any of the photos, but I can’t promise that I’ve accidentally inserted one or two enhanced images. Scroll through, enjoy, and let us know what you think.