Now that the iPhone 4s is packed with 8 megapixels, it also features a backside illumination sensor with a resolution of 3264 x 2448, would you replace your trusty camera with an iPhone 4s for street photography? I have read couple articles which boldly claim that the iPhone 4s camera is just as good as a Canon EOS 5D MKII. This kind of comparison is silly because it’s just like you compare a BMX bike to a Ducati motorcycle.
After having the iPhone 4s in my possession for five weeks, I think that the iPhone 4s is a convenient camera to have in my pocket 24/7 for its size, weight and fun to use. It is not a camera that I would depend on for street photography. Although, the iPhone 4s is now come with an improved lens that offers five elements f/2.4, real-time stabilization, built-in hybrid infrared filter, and intelligent face detection, it still doesn’t give me the same functionalities as a camera does. However, with the onboard electronics that are able to offload the image data 30% faster than its predecessors and the in-camera HDR feature, the iPhone 4s has brought me some decent candid shots at close range.
The two photographs above were taken under food court lighting—the typical flat and soft light that you found in the malls around America. These shots would come out blurry and lack of details if they were taken with my iPhone 3Gs. I highly recommend that you keep the HDR on all the time if you want to capture colors and details. Without the HDR on, detail in an area like the hair of the lady in blue t-shirt would not be separated from the man’s black coat in front of her.
It would be an incomplete review if I fail to mention the photography apps that I’m using with my iPhone 4s, wouldn’t it? There are tons of apps that I can either buy or download for free from the iTunes store, but I only find a few that useful and fun to use. The most useful app is Snapseed from NIK Software. It is available for both iPhone and iPad at the price of 4.99USD. With the Snapseed app, you will be able to tune only a part of your photo with its revolutionary Control Points under the Selectively Adjust feature, or adding effects with filters like Drama, Vintage, and Grunge. You can also add borders and fine tune the border width to your photos. Once you’re done with your editing, you can choose to save to iPhone, upload to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter or print out via Apple’s AirPrint™.
Another worth to mention app is Lumière by Nebulus Design. Lumière is designed to be quick and easy to apply vintage look filters to your photos. To change the effect filter, or photo border you just swipe your finger across the screen. A simple shake of the device will randomly pick a nice combination. Lumière is available at the App Store for $1.99.
Mill Colour from The Mill is another photo editing app that I like. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t function correctly with iOS 5. Pixlromatic from pixlr is also a fun photo editing app that you should try. I do like it BW filter a lot. By the way, Hipstamatic has introduced the new Nashville HipstaPak. It comes with a James M Lens and a Rock BW-11 film. This is a must have if you like creamy, warm, full tonality bw. Below is an example which I captured a few days ago.
As you can see, the Nashville HipstaPak produced acceptable black and white image and decent contrast. The green foliage is nicely transferred to zone 2 to 4 with a lot of details. From zone 5 to 9, the tonality looks warm and creamy just like the classic Agfa Scala film. I think this Nashville HipstaPak is perfect for portraits.
Snapseed filters will enable you to convert any snapshot into a work of art within minutes. The Drama filter—faux HDR— works better than other HDR apps I had tried in the past. Snapseed even allows me to fine tune the amount of effect and saturation. If I spent more time to tweak the image below with Snapseed’s Selectively Adjust feature, the result would be better than the one you see below.
An example of Snapseed’s Vintage combined with Grunge filter.
For the shot below, I first feed it to Lumière, then Iris and Snapseed to achieve the effect.
Focusoid does a good job in simulating different out-of-focus techniques. It allows users to gradually decrease the sharpness on each side of the focusing zone by adjusting the Shallow Focus, Depth of Field or Tilt Shift effects. With its Blur tool, you can just simply pick a brush size then paint over the area that you’d like to apply the effect. I find myself hooked to the Blur and Masking tool.
SwankoLab is a darkroom app from the makers of Hipstamatic. You choose the chemicals, mix your own recipes and process your photos without the smells of photo chemistry and the darkroom.
In other words, the iPhone 4s camera and image quality are improved comparing to its predecessors. Though, the image quality can be compared to some point-and-shoot digital cameras; still, comparing the iPhone 4s to a full-frame camera like a Canon EOS 5D MKII isn’t real. Probably the future iPhone 6 will be able to match its image quality to professional image standards. Right now, the iPhone 4s camera is nothing more than a smart and fun point-and-shoot camera.