Will the iPhone 4S's new camera replace your point-and-shoot?

Will the iPhone 4S's new camera replace your point-and-shoot?

Summary: The announcement of a new iPhone 4S may have disappointed some, but improved camera features may make it a point-and-shoot killer.

SHARE:

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.

Related links:

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Smartphones

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

42 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • My iPhone 4 has already replaced my point and shoot

    So I guess the answer is no: the iPhone 4S will not replace my point and shoot.

    The camera improvements on the iPhone 4S sound like more spec sheet d!ck measuring than anything else (my phone is 8 megapixels long which is bigger than your phone's 5 megapixels), certainly not worthy of an upgrade from the iPhone 4.
    toddybottom
    • RE: Will the iPhone 4S's new camera replace your point-and-shoot?

      @toddybottom Do you actually know the specs of current point and shoot camera? I have a nikon coolpics that is 12mp. There are PnS cameras that are 14+ MP. If you really don't care just how good the picture is then yeah, stick with your 5mp iphone camera. I have the galaxy s 2 with the 8mp camera (upgraded from sony ericsson x10 with an 8mp camera too). I took some pictures with my xoom tablet (5mp camera) and there was a noticable difference. Still, my phone's camera is just for quick shots while I'm out during the day, but if I'm going somewhere I know I'll want to take pictures I bring my nikon.
      SpiderTech
      • You're confusing "resolution" with quality.

        @SpiderTech<br>"There are PnS cameras that are 14+ MP. If you really don't care just how good the picture is then yeah, stick with your 5mp iphone camera."<br><br>Why are you using 14 MP vs. 5 MP as a measure of quality? That proves absolutely nothing. By the time that crappy point-&-shoot is done trying to suppress the storm of noise in that image, your "photograph" is a mottled hash of color splotches that probably won't net you 5 MP of detail in the first place.<br><br>I'm not saying the iPhone camera is good. But NOISE is a far bigger determinant of picture quality today than megapixel marketing BS. Once you're beyond 5 MP, it's time to start focusing on image QUALITY, not resolution.
        dgurney
      • What does that have to do with anything?

        @SpiderTech
        "Do you actually know the specs of current point and shoot camera?"

        Why do I care? All I care about is whether or not the amateur, spur of the moment pictures I take look good. And yes, they look just fine on the iPhone 4. And yes, I did have a point and shoot camera and yes, I never use it any more. Ever.

        "If you really don't care just how good the picture is then yeah, stick with your 5mp iphone camera"

        I care to a certain point. I felt that pre-iPhone 4 iPhones took terrible pictures. Not good enough for taking pictures that I actually want to keep in my digital photo album.

        With the iPhone 4 though, the pictures look fine. No, perhaps not as good as your Nikon coolpics 12mp but I my iPhone 4 sure is a lot more convenient to carry around.

        If I were taking professional pictures, I wouldn't use a point and shoot camera anyway and I would know ahead of time that I was going out for the express purpose of taking "professional" pictures so the extra bulk would be acceptable. Carrying a point and shoot camera with me everywhere I go just in case I want to take a picture is not at all convenient though.

        The question was asked by the blogger: Will the iPhone 4S's new camera replace my point-and-shoot.

        I answered it honestly.

        I'm not sure what else you expect.
        toddybottom
      • RE: Will the iPhone 4S's new camera replace your point-and-shoot?

        @toddybottom
        >> "Carrying a point and shoot camera with me everywhere I go just in case I want to take a picture is not at all convenient though"

        That is the perfect answer. When I go out and I know that I am going to take pictures, I take my DSLR camera so that I can get real good pictures. If I am going out and I don't know whether I will take pictures, I won't carry a camera at all. So a phone with a good camera is a good choice in that case, instead of carrying a phone AND a point and shoot camera.
        mKind
      • Point and shoots are in trouble...

        @SpiderTech The megapixels aren't what makes a good photo. The iPhone 4 took decent photos at 5mp (for a phone). Once you get above 5mp or so, the resolution becomes irrelevant unless you are printing 8x10 or larger. The quality and quantity of the light gathered becomes more important at 5+ megapixels, otherwise you introduce large quantities of image-degrading noise. So at 5mp+ you need sharper lenses, better light gathering, and better image processing. The iPhone 4S camera upgrade addresses all of these areas while simultaneously upgrading the sensor to 8 megapixels. This means you should be able to do reasonable prints up to 8x10 from the 4S camera. It also means that the image quality should now compete very well with most of the cheaper point-and-shoot cameras. Since it looks great on paper, I am eager to get my hands on the 4S to see if the reality matches the specs.

        I own several DSLRs and a high-end full-manual point and shoot. There are just times when the higher quality of a DSLR is required. So, I'm certain the iPhone 4S will not make a dent in my DSLR usage, but I fully expect it will change most of my point and shoot habits. Carrying a camera and a phone is just a pain. I expect that most of the time, the iPhone 4S camera will be good enough, so I plan to stop carrying the point-and-shoot.

        If I were Canon or Nikon, I would start licensing technologies to phone manufacturers and making labeling arrangements. Having a phone with Canon-designed optics would be a big plus. The writing is on the wall for most point-and-shoot cameras and the camera manufacturers need to plan for other revenue streams.
        BillDem
    • End the idiotic megapixel war.

      If this puny chip can produce usable images at 8 MP, think what it could have accomplished with only 5 MP. Advances in chip technology should be focusing on NOISE, not useless resolution specs.

      When is some manufacturer going to step up and educate the public about this huge issue? They managed to push "megapixels" into the mainstream, so why not harp on noise now? It's the top problem in photography today.

      You pretty much always have your phone with you, and you'll be taking pictures indoors in lower lighting much of the time. That means you need CLEAN pictures. Flash looks bad at best, and is often far too weak to illuminate the scene anyway. With better chips (lower noise), you can take pictures in low light with far better results.

      THAT is what people should be demanding.
      dgurney
      • RE: Will the iPhone 4S's new camera replace your point-and-shoot?

        @dgurney. They said they put in an IR filter and better sensors, additional lens etc because it was needed when they increased the aperture. They put additional image auto white balancers and noise reduction to autocorrect most common image problems. Not sure what you think they aren't doing, sounds like Apple made a lot of improvements beyond just more megapixels...
        teetee1970
      • You are spot on!

        @dgurney <br><br>Unfortunately, most people don't care enough to invest the time to learn what to look for in a digital camera or any other product. So the manufacturers have chosen to dumb down the sales pitch to one thing...resolution as defined by MEGAPIXELS. Sad but true.<br><br>I'm with you, I'd gladly stick with 5MP resolution if that meant larger receptors with lower noise and better low light performance. What people should be happy about with the 4S is that Apple did some stuff that actually matters. They increased the light gathering ability of the lens. They added another lens element to allow sharper images. And they improved the response time so that you can actually capture a moment rather than watch it pass by while the camera loads up on your phone.
        Suptapong
    • No news here at all.....

      @toddybottom

      We're all used to decent cameras on our Nokias, Blackberries, HTC etc so I really can't see a big issue here. Unless you've been 100% Apple and not used to them.

      So-what that the 4s has a better camera? Its finally catching up with some of the Nokias; no big deal unless you think Apple invented this too! (And we know some do!)

      As for the question.... My Sony V3 is my point and shoot but given that it has infra red night focus, and night lighting to allow you to actually take pictures in the dark, then NO. Don't get me wrong.. My HTC and Blackberry Torch are often used as I definiitely have them to hand all the time. Video and stills are great for a device thats 100% on your possession. I would use my iphone but can't be bothered charging it every day, thus it's used for user testing only.

      Maybe the 5 will address the BAD battery life; definitely needs it if you ask me, but we'll need to wait and see.
      johnmckay
      • RE: Will the iPhone 4S's new camera replace your point-and-shoot?

        @GetReal-mac.com

        The N8 12 megapixel photo's are around 1.8Mb files, the sample pictures of the iPhone 4S are around 2.2Mb files.

        So what's going on there?
        bannedagain
      • Unlike the other Apple shills here, I don't think iPhone's camera is best

        @GetReal-mac.com
        I will not regurgitate meaningless megapixel numbers or spec sheet features like "extra lenses" or "IR filtering" which is all meaningless in the end. I'll leave that fanboy behavoir to bannedagain and DeRSSS.

        I will say however that my iPhone 4's camera has replaced my point and shoot camera without making any statement on the quality of other camera phones. I'm actually pretty sure that any of the Carl Zeiss camera phones are far better. However, I don't own one so I won't comment on it authoritatively.
        toddybottom
      • battery life?

        @GetReal-mac.com

        Battery life....really? iPhone has had good battery life. Anyway. This isn't the place for iPhone battery life debates.
        greengarden74
  • RE: Will the iPhone 4S's new camera replace your point-and-shoot?

    Um...Did you guys ever make a post about this back when the international galaxy s 2 came out? How about when the AT&T version came out? I haven't seen a single post about the GS2 talking the way you are here about the iphone 4S. The GS2 has an 8mp rear camera that can shoot 1080p video and a 2mp front camera which actually beats the 4S's VGA front cam.
    SpiderTech
    • But how is its quality?

      @SpiderTech
      You stated some specs. But how GOOD are the images?

      We don't know that about the iPhone 4S either.
      dgurney
    • Sorry, but SGS 2 camera can not even begin to be close to iPhone 4S camera

      @SpiderTech: ... which includes additional lens, IR filter, uses signal processor -- all of it can be found nowhere else, even in the mentioned HTC cameraphones -- and 2.4/f aperture.
      DDERSSS
      • You are Apple's favorite puppet

        @DeRSSS
        Apple just has to put features on a spect sheet and you happily regurgitate them again and again with absolutely no thought behind what you are doing.

        You don't even have an iPhone 4S yet this IR filter, additional lense, signal processor, and 2.4/f aperture are the end all and be all of cell phone cameras.

        You seriously must be paid by Apple to do this.

        There can be no other explanation.
        toddybottom
      • RE: Will the iPhone 4S's new camera replace your point-and-shoot?

        @DeRSSS. Look forward to seeing anandtech review the image quality. The iPhone 4 rated highly in comparisons of actual images between smartphones, bet that the iPhone 4S is also going to outperform similar sounding spec'ed phones on competitors. You can tell already that Apple cares about the quality of the photos by the fact that they added more graphics processor, lens, etc, mix of hardware and software changes.
        teetee1970
    • Be fair mate....

      @SpiderTech

      This is a back-patting thread on the iphone. Dont dare try knocking it OR confusing the issue with any facts. I remember when the iphone came out with a camera and there was a serious article here, explaining how good it was to have a phone with a camera. Odd when most folk (non Apple mind) had been using them for years. My Sony P900, and the Nokias were great at that time (no doubt many others too). Some things haven't changed too much since.
      johnmckay
  • dumb da dumb dumb

    Where's the Delete button?
    dgurney