Marketing tells us that lots of megapixels is a good thing. Our eyes tell us that it isn't so. We've seen some 5 and 8 megapixel smartphone cameras that just plain depress us. And Apple is the undisputed king of marketing, so when Steve Jobs told us the iPhone 4's camera was the bee's kness, we took it with a grain of silicon. Happily, Steve was telling the truth, and the iPhone 4 not only beats the mediocre iPhone 3GS for still image quality, it's among the best 5 megapixel shooters. In fact, it takes better photos than the HTC EVO 4G and its 8 megapixel shooter.
Here are two sample photos, with a 100% crop of each:
Video quality on the 3GS was pretty good, at least relative to its photo quality. The iPhone 4 takes 720p video at a natural 30fps that's good enough to leave an older generation Flip Video at home. It's not as good as Nokia Nseries smartphones, at least not those made in the past 2 years, but it's better than most camera phones on the market. We did note a tendency to overexpose, which you'll see in our sample video. That video was shot indoors on a cloudy day-- we'd understand if we were outside in bright sunlight but that wasn't the case here. Given the light loving sensor, videos shot in less bright locations actually look better. Recorded volume was too low in our tests.
The nearly featureless camera application gains a few features: zoom and selectable focus points. Tap on the viewfinder to select the focus point and bring up the digital zoom bar.
Video specs: 1280 x 720 resolution, MPEG 4 MOV/H.264 format with AAC mono audio. Unlike most camera phones, you can shoot in portrait mode as well as landscape. Video file sizes are reasonable; our sample video is 40 seconds and 53 megs. After the camera has saved the video, you can email it, send it via MMS or upload it via it to iTunes.
Since iOS 4 has user selectable wallpapers, you can use camera images as wallpaper.
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview