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Review: iPhone 4

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Wow. The camera on the new iPhone 4 is truly impressive. It is one of the best cameraphones I've seen, if not the best. I'm a very harsh critic of cameraphones, and I would feel comfortable leaving my point and shoot camera behind and relying on my iPhone 4.

Though it's only five megapixels, as opposed to the eight megapixels you'll find on some other new phones (and some twelve megapixel Sony Ericsson phones), Apple proves the wisdom that a larger sensor with fewer megapixels results in higher quality images than a sensor packed to the brim. Details are sharp, even at full crop, and noise is kept to a bare minimum. The extensive noise reduction results in some fuzzy edges, but it's a more pleasant effect than speckled, low-light noise. Under very bright sunlight, we saw some lens flare effects, which could cause strange glare or solar effects on images.

The camera works well in low-light, but it replaces some of the color noise I'd usually expect with a fine grain from the noise reduction processing. The iPhone 4 could pull off some darker pictures without a flash that other cameraphones could not. With the flash turned on, colors weren't so accurate, but noise was still held in check, and the LED was able to completely light me up in a pitch black room for a self portrait shot. You'll get a classic bright glare in the foreground, but the flash will do its job in a dark bar or dim party setting.

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These photos are definitely print-worthy, and I will be using some the next time I print a gift photobook in iPhoto. When you share these pics on your social networks, your friends will be jealous of the shots you took using only your phone.

Here is a sampling of images Rich and Philip took with the iPhone 4.


For comparison, Rich took a series of shots with the iPhone 3GS (the next gallery), then the same shots with the new iPhone 4 (the second gallery below).

iPhone 3GS Sample Photos  

iPhone 4 Sample Photos  


I'm equally impressed by the high definition camcorder on the iPhone 4. I've used many other phone camcorders capable of 720p recording, and the iPhone easily tops them all. There was no pixelation or waviness like I've seen in most other phone videos. In bright outdoor light, the picture looked fantastic, almost as good as the video I'd expect from my dedicated high-def camcorder. Even the sound quality is superior on these videos. The files can be quite large, more than a megabyte per second, but for this level of quality, the extra storage space is worthwhile. When you need to send a video via e-mail or MMS, the iPhone compresses them to a much smaller size, and they still look good, but they are obviously not as good as the full 720p resolution.

The iPhone shoots video using H.264 compression, but packages videos in the less compatible .mov container. This shouldn't be a problem for computers with QuickTime installed, but I would have preferred an .mp4 container, which is more common.

Below is my high definition sample posted on YouTube. To see the video in all its high-def glory, be sure to click on the resolution pop-up menu and select 720p, then watch the video full screen.


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