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12 Reasons Why I've Fallen In Love With My iPhone Camera

I've just bought an iPhone 4S, after having owned one of those rock-solid Nokias for 8 years. I've always been pretty immune to gadget/technology envy. People salivating over the latest phone has, frankly, always seemed like unattractive consumerism of the weirdest kind to me.

My trusty old brick of a Nokia did have its own camera. Well, I say camera, but a quick sketch often provided a more accurate rendering of most subjects. I treated it as a phone, pure and simple. The few pictures I did take with it made everything look like a game of Tetris! My DSLR took the pictures, and that was that.

But since my recent upgrade to the iPhone 4S, all this has been thrown into confusion! I'm taking more and more pictures with my phone, and it's becoming quite addictive. Even now, every time I take a photo with it, I'm shocked by the quality. I think that partly explains why I've been so impressed, because I just don't expect much from a camera phone. But there's more too it than just that. So here's what I love about the iPhone camera...


1. Total Freedom Of Movement

Using my new camera phone has made me realize how precious I've become about handling my DSLR. With the iPhone I can shoot from any angle with total ease, because it's so light-weight. I've been reaching above obstacles, putting my arm through small gaps, lunging to the side and so on.

It's reminded me that this is what all photography should be like - experimenting with vision. The early photographers used to have to mess around with huge cameras, held around their midrift. It was liberating for them when the design changed and they could position themselves more freely.

I once saw an interview with a photographer who made the comment, "Cameras and equipment get in the way of photography". I completely know what he means, and because I don't feel like I've got an impressive piece of photographic gear in my hands with the iPhone, my attention is totally on the subject. Time I took less interest in my DSLR and more in what it's pointing at.


2. Very Easy Focusing

Focusing with the iPhone 4S is incredibly simple. You simply tap the LCD screen on the part of the image you'd like to be sharpest, which momentarily brings up a small blue square, and fire away. Once you've tapped the screen the exposure locks on to that point, allowing you to re-compose things if you wish.


3. Opportunism and Candid Shots

I always have my phone on me. Sadly, my DSLR is not always quite so readily at hand. As a result, I've been having way fewer of those - damn, I wish I had a camera right now - moments. There are miles fewer missed opportunities with a decent camera phone. Plus, it's a whole lot easier to be discreet. I've grabbed a few cool street scenes and candid pictures of my friends and family that would have been tough to capture with a bigger, more obtrusive camera.


4. Good Sized Prints.

Had I tried to print out any of the 'photographs' taken with my previous antiquated phone, I reckon 2"x2" would have been the limit (provided they were viewed from a distance!). But the 8MP packed into the iPhone 4S produces great resolution and clarity for anything up to 8"x10" images.


5. Amazing 'In-Phone' Editing

That's the first time I've used the phrase in-phone editing, and it sounds odd! I'd been taking pics for about 2 weeks with my new phone before fully clocking that I could actually do some quite sophisticated editing with the built in software.

It's possible to eliminate red eye (by tapping each eye - very cool!), use an auto-enhance feature (which applies a tasteful amount of saturation and sharpening; no glowing, plastic-like monstrosities here!) and crop (with a system that uses grid-lines and a 'constrain proportions' option!).


6. Nice Bright Lens (Clarity and Sharpness At All Times)

The lens is fixed at an aperture of f.2.8. It can't be altered, and nor is there any manual control available for shutter speed and ISO. This is a shame, but the f.2.8 setting is very bright and makes for very clear pictures. It results in the automatically selected shutter speed being quite fast in most conditions, reducing the chances of blur.

I've hardly taken a single photo that suffered from camera shake or motion blur. A steady grip seems enough, even with evening/dim indoor light to ensure sharp results. When the available light really is too dim, an automatic flash kicks in to rescue the shot (although this can be turned off if you really dislike the look of flash).

7. Multiple Exposure (HDR) Option

As you line up a shot on the LCD screen there is an 'Options' menu with a couple of handy features. One is for a grid of thirds to appear, helping you organize the composition effectively. The other is for creating an 'HDR' photo. But don't worry, this isn't the HDR you might be thinking, i.e. revolting, radioactive things created by certain Photoshop junkies. It simply involves the creation of 3 unique exposures for a single image, which are almost instantaneously blended together, giving optimal exposure for each area (e.g. bright sky and darker foreground are equally well exposed).


8. Well Positioned Shutter Release Button

Small point this, but it contributes to the overall quality of using the camera. The volume up ("+") button on the side of the phone (top left) doubles as the shutter release. When the phone is held horizontally for taking pictures, this leaves it in the exact position of the shutter release on a conventional camera (much easier to use than a touch-screen button or keypad).


9. Composing On The LCD Screen

It's very well known that composing through a viewfinder is far preferable to using the LCD screen. One of the chief reasons for this is that LCD's reflect daylight to the extent that it can sometimes become near impossible to see anything in them at all. The viewfinder on my DSLR is easy to use and has a nice digital display of the key settings.

But the one advantage to composing with the LCD, that I've recently rediscovered, is that it closes the gap between what you see in front of you and the final 2 dimensional image. Plus, when I use my viewfinder I like to use both hands to block out all light coming through my periferal vision, which leads to a completely moronic pose that embarrases everyone around me!


10. Filter and Post-Processing Apps

I have to confess that I've barely scratched the surface of the apps available for the iPhone camera. Like all things Apple, there are apps for just about everything, and owners of the previous model raved about them. I'm looking forward to exploring the cool filters that can be used to add texture to photos, and using a few extra post-production tricks too.


11. Spot On White Balance

I've noticed that the auto white balance of the 4S is remarkably good. Since learning how to shoot in Raw with my DSLR, white balance has become more of a post-processing issue. I've forgotten how unreliable the in-camera auto white balance was when I was first getting to grips with camera settings. So it's impressive how accurate my phone is, even under tricky tungsten and fluorescent lighting.


12. Cool video mode

The cherry on the top of all the iPhone camera's abilities is the video mode. Just swoosh the dial across from photo to video and shoot away. Videos are played back via the same 'camera roll' section that photos are stored in. You can see a frame-by-frame breakdown at the top, and begin playing from any point in the recording.

So there are a few reasons why I've fallen in love with my new iPhone camera! I can finally understand why some people have been talking about the demise of the compact, with the unbelievable quality of camera phones. That said, I think some compacts are getting hot on the heels of beginner DSLR's, so it may just be that everything's becoming better at a rapid rate.

Have you been using an iPhone camera too? What have you made of it? I'm interested to hear how it's gone down with others, so feel free to comment away...

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