Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard there's a new iPhone in town. Though many (myself included) were disappointed that Apple announced the step-up iPhone 4S rather than a full-fledged update to an iPhone 5, there is still plenty to be excited about in the new model, not the least of which is the new 8-megapixel camera.
Apple did more than just pack in the extra megapixels here, making significant improvements to the optics as well. In addition to adding a fifth lens element to sharpen image quality, the company also increased the lens aperture to f/2.4. Combined with the backside illuminated sensor (a technology Apple introduced in the iPhone 4 with great results) and an improved LED flash, the brighter lens should improve the camera's low-light performance. And there are also excellent new features such as face detection (which recognizes if you're taking a portrait or group shot and automatically focuses and sets the exposure appropriately) and all the previously announced improvements in iOS 5, such as quicker access to the camera from the lock screen, ability to use the volume button as a shutter release, and more. And there's also full 1080p HD video recording at 30fps with image stabilization which uses both the phone's internal gyroscope and software to keep your video stable.
With all these improvements and the increase in resolution, the iPhone's camera is getting closer to competing with an actual point-and-shoot. Thought the smaller-sized sensor means it can't really compete on pure image quality, the existing iPhones are already among the most-used cameras on Flickr, so it's clear that plenty of folks think image quality is good enough.
Of course, the iPhone 4S isn't the only phone threatening to replace the point-and-shoot. HTC recently announced two phones, the Titan and the Radar, which both sport cameras with even brighter f/2.2 lenses. The HTC Radar has a 5 megapixel sensor, but the Titan matches the new iPhone's 8 megapixel resolution.
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