Dark Side of the Lens

The new iPhone 5 – and a new camera

iPhone 5The new iPhone 5 – best phone camera around?

When cameras were first introduced into phones, 10 years ago or so, they were fun but they couldn't be used for anything but the odd fun snap as, quite frankly, the quality just wasn't there.

Now there are some truly fantastic cameras built into phones. The iPhone 4Gs, the Samsung Galaxy III (though many find the Galaxy II produces more faithful images), the Nokia Lumia 800, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S, and the HTC Incredible S usually appear on the lists you'll find of the best ones around.
There are even some phones with insane resolutions …. the Nokia 808 PureView has a staggering 41 megapixels! That's twice that of most professional dSLR cameras!!! However, it does not take things such as lens quality and sensor image size into account … megapixels are probably most important to the marketing department in this instance.
In the majority of, objective, comparison reviews we found (as unfortunately we are not able to test all the top models ourselves) the iPhone 4GS or Galaxy III come out on top more times than not.  We found that to be the iPhone 4Gs came out on top the most, but we admit to having an iPhone bias here.
Take the beautiful photos the cameras take natively, add an arsenal of awesome apps, and you have a serious piece of camera hardware in your pocket.
Let's concentrate on what are generally considered the top rivals for the smart phone, and thus camera, market … the iPhone and the Galaxy.
The difference, in real world terms, between the iPhone 4Gs and the Galaxy II isn't substantial, and it is unlikely that if you put two images side by side you'll favour the results from one phone over the other, in most lighting conditions at least. The technical specs of both cameras are pretty much identical (main camera at least, the Galaxy does seem to have a better secondary camera, the one you tend to film yourself with).
However …. then along comes the iPhone 5, and a camera upgrade. Is it a major upgrade or just a tweak?
Well, firstly, as everyone gets so hung up on megapixels, it is still an 8 megapixel camera, so no change there.
Of far more excitement is that the lens is now f/2.4!!! If you don't understand aperture, just accept our word that f/2.4 is excellent! It means a large aperture (the hole that lets the light in to reach the sensor) and that in turn means 2 main things: it will work better in low light conditions and it will work better with fast moving objects. All very cool and a very limiting factor with most camera phones
There is also a new "dynamic low light mode", presumably to make use of the new lens. The main processor is now an "A6 processor".  Although Apple has so far been guarded on the actual power here, it is more powerful than it's predecessor and Apple as saying it will result in more accurate colour matching. More importantly it means faster image capture (40% faster is being quoted), and better noise cancellation. You can also now capture still during video capture. 
There is also the new panorama mode. This allows for in-camera photo stitching (several shots into one large shot, resulting in up to a massive 28 megapixel photo).
Some of this, such as the panorama mode, is via iOS 6, the operating system, so we may see that appear for the 4G and 4Gs models.
Other features, or buzz words, flying around include a sapphire crystal lens cover (this apparently will result in clearer pictures), a hybrid infrared filter, and five-element lens construction.
The iPhone 5 has yet to reach the public, we won't get hold of one until next week *fingers crossed* The impressions from the lucky few that have their hands on one already do seem very favourable though.
So, is this going to mean the iPhone 5 will leave the Galaxy iii in the dust in terms of it's camera? Well, although these changes are all really good, they are not game changing … just very welcomed.
However, given that the iPhone 4Gs and Galaxy iii are generally neck and neck in the camera stakes, it does seem likely that the iPhone 5 is going to have the edge over the Galaxy III …… for the short term at least.
We'll post more once we've had a chance to play for ourselves *grin*
(This article was written for the Phone Photo Fun page on Facebook – go check it out!)

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