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The iPhone 4S - the technology behind its camera

Posted: , by Nick T.

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The iPhone 4S - the technology behind its camera
Introduction

That the iPhone has become a widely popular substitute for those ubiquitous point-and-shoot cameras is an indisputable fact, as its impressive Flickr stats go to show. And the photographic glory of Apple's pride and joy is expected to reach new peaks in the near future thanks to the potent new camera that the iPhone 4S will come equipped with. 8-megapixel sensor, backside illumination, hybrid IR filter, F/2.4 aperture size, and a handful of other specs were touted at the smartphone’s unveiling. But in real life, how much of a difference all this technical mumbo jumbo is going to make?

We will now break down into bits all of the iPhone 4S' camera features and explain how they act together to make the photos that Apple's latest smartphone shoots look their best. 


Resolution

Megapixels are the tiny dots that make up the image, and their number is usually what most consumers are interested in. As common sense would lead one to believe, the more pixels you have, the better an image is going to be. In this category, the 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4S should be an improvement over the 5-megapixel one found on its predecessor as it has 60% more pixels at its disposal. But in reality, pixel count does not automatically translate into quality images.

The iPhone 4S - the technology behind its camera
Lens quality

The optical system is the camera's “eye” and as such its quality is crucial. Of course, Apple is well aware of that fact, which is why the optics on the iPhone 4S have been improved. Five lenses working together is what guides the light towards the image sensor. In comparison, this is one more from what the camera on the iPhone 4 had, and according to Apple, the result is 30% sharper images than ever before seen on an iPhone.

Aperture

Guiding light is one thing, but letting it in is a different story. The wide F/2.4 aperture on the smartphone's camera allows for more light to hit the sensor for the same amount of exposure time, meaning that images can be captured at lower sensitivities and at higher shutter speeds. And while there are smartphones out there whose camera apertures go even wider, the F/2.4 figure is impressive nonetheless. The end result should be less digital noise, reduction in motion blur, and a boost in low-light performance when compared to previous iPhone models. 

The iPhone 4S - the technology behind its camera
Back-illuminated sensor

In a nutshell, that is a build process that arranges the elements within the sensor in a way that allows more light to be captured and transformed into digital information. On one hand, the iPhone 4 has a back-illuminated sensor as well so having the technology on the iPhone 4S’ camera isn’t anything groundbreaking. But on the other, Apple claims that the new iPhone’s sensor captures up to 73% more light than the one found in the previous model, so we might see some noticeable real life improvement after all.

Color accuracy

A so-called hybrid IR filter blocks away those pesky infrared rays allowing only visible light from entering the camera module. Now, Apple didn’t bother to describe what the “hybrid” part of the feature’s name stands for, but one possible explanation is that the IR filter both absorbs and reflects the unwanted infrared spectrum. With its help, the iPhone 4S' camera will supposedly achieve better color accuracy and uniformity across the entire image.


Last but not least, the A5 chip will also play a part in making those photos of yours look better. Apple claims that its built-in imaging signal processor can deliver up to 26% more accurate white balance when compared to the previous iPhone model. Since our first-hand experience with the iPhone 4 shows that its camera doesn't get along well with bright sunlight, we hope that both these new features will take care of the issue.

One more thing…

However, what the smartphone’s camera really outruns the competition with is its raw speed. Apple claims that the iPhone 4S needs only 1.1 seconds for its camera to boot, to focus on an object and to take a photo of it. In addition, 0.5 seconds are allegedly enough for the camera to capture the next image. These latency times are nothing but mind blowing, and if they turn out to be true out in the real world, the iPhone 4S would steal the “fastest camera on a phone” title from the Nokia N9.


Video performance

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video should be worth a million. Apple’s latest smartphone can capture footage at 1080p HD resolution, which is pretty much as high as any modern handset can go. The higher resolution translates into sharper, more detailed videos, and the effect gets even more noticeable if you play them back on your flat-screen HDTV.

Another feature that helps making iPhone 4S videos look great is the temporal noise reduction. In plain words, the still areas of the frame get their noise levels averaged over time. There is a video demonstration of the technology on YouTube, so feel free to check it out by hitting this link. 

Video image stabilization is a perk that you might be already familiar with, but it has to be mentioned nevertheless. Think of it as a way of reducing the effect your shaky hands have on the footage while it is being recorded, and the end result is smoother, eye-pleasing video.


What Apple skipped on

Although Apple equipped the iPhone 4S with one pimped out camera, the LED flash that it is backed up by appears to be untouched. That isn’t good news as the flash performance on the iPhone 4 was underwhelming, to say the least. Sure, some of the changes in the camera’s optical system might make a difference when shooting at night, but all the tweaks would be in vain if the final image gets spoiled by a blob of light that the LED flash is going to slap on it.


Conclusion

The iPhone 4S - the technology behind its camera
So, now that we’ve gone over all of the new features of the smartphone’s camera, you probably see how hard Apple has worked on making the iPhone 4S one of the best cameraphones on the market. If its real life shooting skills turn out to be as good as they are on paper, the iPhone 4S could easily substitute that point-and-shoot camera of yours. However, even though those iPhone 4S camera samples look stunning, none of them has been taken under poor lighting conditions. 

Nevertheless, we cannot wait until get our itchy hands on the iPhone 4S and throw it in the ring against some other smartphone heavyweights where its true photographic power will be revealed. And even if it doesn’t emerge victorious at the end of such a battle, it will surely give the competition a run for its money.

60 Comments
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posted on 07 Oct 2011, 10:55 6

1. Libra501 (Posts: 14; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)


really cool post PA.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 13:20 16

19. NeXoS (Posts: 278; Member since: 03 May 2011)


This is what I'm saying! It takes BRILLIANT company like Apple to invent something like "putting a camera lens into a mobile device"!

Only Apple could figure out that most consumers use their phones for pictures or videos.

Sooo amazing Apple, what will you come up with next???

Watch all the other phone makers copy Apple and start putting camera lenses into their phones!

OHHHH WAAAAAITTT!! HOLD ON A MINUTE!

Samsung ALREADY DID ALL THIS BACK IN 2009!!! ROFL!!!

http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_announces_12mp_and_8mp_backlit_cameraphone _sensors-news-2310.php

Nice going Apple, what will you COPY next???

And iPhoneArena, how much did Apple pay you to copy and paste their online product brochure?

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 14:21 2

21. thekai12 (Posts: 25; Member since: 07 Dec 2010)


your awesome with our comment and you look nice and smart

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 16:30 1

26. phbelov (Posts: 122; Member since: 25 Mar 2011)


Off please. You guys keep conscience. Apple is now in hard period. Their founder and genius died.

And... Samsung is copying Apple, but not vice versa. Why aren't you talking like so about Samsung. Samsung has copied the whole iPhone interface, icons, etc. And guys who's copying now?

Nexos, have you got an iPhone, have you photographed with it? Have you seen the photos that the device takes? If you can't buy an iPhone then you'll buy alternative device.

iPhone is the standard gauge right now and I think you understand it.

And the last thing. iPhone 4 has a great camera. And iPhone 4S has got better.

(You can minus this post or whatever but it's truth...)

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 16:43 1

29. phbelov (Posts: 122; Member since: 25 Mar 2011)


Oh and I forgot about accessories and a packaging box.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 16:52 2

31. ardent1 (Posts: 1997; Member since: 16 Apr 2011)


NeXoS - you tried to omit the fact Samsung copied from the Japanese handset makers in the first place.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 17:06 2

32. ardent1 (Posts: 1997; Member since: 16 Apr 2011)


NeXoS:

One more thing - Apple worked on a videophone/pda in 1995. The source is:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camera_phone

The Japanese electronic companies were working on digital camera and cellphones in 1997.

NeXoS, please STFU since you are talking out of your ass. Apple's device in 1995 predates your 2009 example by about 14 years. NeXoS, how can you be so STUPID!!!

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 00:27 3

44. NeXoS (Posts: 278; Member since: 03 May 2011)


Hey assdent1, can you read? I didn't say camera phone, I said they put a CAMERA LENS into a phone before Apple did. That's what they were HYPING UP the whole time at the event...the new "revolutionary" camera lens they put into the iPhone 4S.

Well, "revolutionary" must be iSheepese for "we just copied ANOTHER idea from someone and claimed that we invented it!"

Also, this guy created the first camera phone assdent1:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Kahn

Now what? Yea, that's what I thought, now you STFU stupid asstard!

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 00:47 3

45. ardent1 (Posts: 1997; Member since: 16 Apr 2011)


NeXoS:

You don't know what Apple produced or didn't produce back in 1995 and that was my point. Apple doesn't tell the world what they were working on such as putting a camera len into a mobile phone device. NeXoS, you are so STUPID.

"Also, this guy created the first camera phone ..."

B*lls**t. All Philippe Khan did was document as being the first person to send a camera shot over a cellular network. If you had read that article, you would realize the first person or company to create the camera phone IS NOT KNOWN!!! We also don't know who was the first to place a camera len inside a mobile phone device.

Again, STFU!!! I can't believe NeXos is so f*cking stupid. That's twice now. Call me all the names you want, but that doesn't change how in your eargerness to slam Apple, you revealed the depths of your ignorance. Way to go.

posted on 09 Oct 2011, 10:42

60. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)


yeah i m talkin abt ur post lol

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 17:55 2

34. iDroidx650 (Posts: 72; Member since: 26 May 2010)


wow what a bitch. she can't admit the iPhone 4s camera is gonna be killer

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 21:40 2

42. biophone (Posts: 1896; Member since: 15 Jun 2011)


That pic is just a celebarity not nexos. Great review pa of the camerea cant wait to play with it. I am sure the pictures will be stunning as they are on my 4

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 01:56 2

47. rooney (unregistered)


Are you okey? The current Galaxy S 2 use its backlit sensor. And it is the commercialize tech. You are ridiculing Sammy? Do you need to do it? I think you are an Ifan and have a lot of idle time to do something not fun

posted on 09 Oct 2011, 10:05 1

59. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)


BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 10:55 10

2. dze (unregistered)


Well I got to said Apple first IPhone is revolution, but four year later they still evelution unfortunely other leap ahead iPhone...... Apple lost there hype.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 11:18 10

3. alecgale (Posts: 55; Member since: 29 Jun 2011)


i think with steve jobs dying and the iphone 4s being a disappointment i think apple will just become another smartphone manufacturer

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 12:05 1

10. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)


Dying? FYI. In Australia, orders are already delayed for over a week :-)

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 13:18 6

18. cc (unregistered)


Gemini, I love how you automatically read his post and reply with what you believe to be something that makes his statement false.

Steve Jobs DID die. That has no connection to whether or not there are tons of idiots in Australia.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 16:44 2

30. bucky (Posts: 1571; Member since: 30 Sep 2009)


Generalizing all iphone owners as idiots makes no sense either. My sgs2 is gone once this phone comes out

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 19:56 1

40. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)


@cc. Steve Jobs is dead. He's not dying. That's why I placed that question mark. I just wanted to give him an fyi that the ip4s is still doing pretty well. And, you are dumb to generalize everyone who gets the ip4s to be idiots. You are the stupid idiot :)

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 11:20 8

4. koss (unregistered)


Those pictures have a lot of digital image noise... look at the sky in pictures. I think galaxy s2 is now the king in smartphones camera... except nokia n8

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 11:28 5

7. Tre-Nitty (Posts: 461; Member since: 16 Nov 2010)


No its not. I have both and the iphone 4 pictures are better. Stop trying to hype stuff up because u don't like a certain company.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 12:33 4

13. Allday28 (Posts: 274; Member since: 19 Nov 2010)


s2 pics look kind of crappy when they are printed out..

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 11:25 2

5. ReturningToNokia (Posts: 130; Member since: 09 Jul 2011)


Good info. Looking forward to PA's cameraphone comparison of the iP4s, N9, and other 8MP cameraphones soon.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 11:27

6. Irteza (unregistered)


if its better than n8 then apple got it right otherwise a big fail (just on the camera part) not going to commnt on other aspects as this isnt the post about other things

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 11:40

8. vu2ikl (Posts: 11; Member since: 22 Sep 2011)


iP4S camera will definitely be better than iP4.
This time.. include the xperia arc S which also has a 8MP, back illuminated exmor, f/2.4 lens in the comparison. along with SGS2 and N8...and then it will be a just comparison.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 11:59 2

9. ps (unregistered)


N8 camera is much better! f/2.8 widelens and carl zeiss

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 18:59

39. box (unregistered)


Right on! Now if only Nokia would put that in the 701 and all the mid-to-high-end WP7 phones they'll be releasing, they'll be nearly unbeatable.

I don't care about a few milliseconds of load time if the picture will be crummy. It's a camera on a phone, not a DSLR, and I don't buy a phone because it can take fast pictures. Especially when it drops calls, has an itty bitty screen, built in china, and the cultish following it does

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 12:07 5

11. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)


The ip4 already took good photos. With these improvements, I don't think there's anything to complain about. Android fanboys are of course the exception :-)

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 12:12 4

12. Dazzler (unregistered)


I don't know what to say. Do you (yes you Hunter Skipworth) even know what's the sensor size? Have we seen how the image stabilization works? How is the color accuracy? For all we know it's the same hardware we have in SE Xperia Arc. There is ABSOLUTELY no other information available. And photo editing in phone? Is that something new? Are journalistic levels so low now that you just copy-paste what a company says without checking yourself?

Still no information on the sensor, and we start telling how good the camera is. Does it match the 1/1.83 sensor size of N8? Or is it still just 1/2.3 or 1/3.2?

And about Full HD video, do we know the bitrate? Is it high profile?

I was glad that you didn't say it was better than Canon 5D mark II.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 12:47 2

16. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


I agree to wait for the reviews on the camera. Built in photo editing into the OS is new however as far as I know. I don't think android has it. I'm sure there are 3rd party apps.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 13:00 2

17. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)


just checked on the gs2 and can edit photos from the android gallery...have not installed any 3rd party editing apps...not sure if it is part of android or was added by samsung

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 16:33 2

27. LionStone (Posts: 468; Member since: 10 Dec 2010)


On my ThunderBolt, I have an auto-unlock, so as soon as I hit the wake button my homescreen pops up and I can hit 'camera', it's pretty quick. Tap the pic I can add effects or edit (crop, rotate), clean it up or not, tap it again and I can upload to anywhere in about a minute, probably less in 4G. Stock.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 13:31 3

20. NeXoS (Posts: 278; Member since: 03 May 2011)


Android doesn't need photo editing. Adobe made Photoshop Touch for Android!

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 10:47 1

53. gohan (unregistered)


i have something to say to u.I have readed all of your comments on iphone and android phone. i have being using this two phone.iphone 4 and samsung galaxy s 2 i have two words for u "fu** off" with this stupid argument. have u ever used an iphone , even with dual processor in galaxys 2 during heavy processing like 3D gaming it just lags off it doesn't have a chance of comparison. if u what to know the real picture clarity take photo using both iphone ang galaxy and upload it to your computer(if u having any) then see the difference.....after that u can argue with your stupid idotic imaginations...................

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 04:32

48. - (unregistered)


WP7 has it since the Mango update. So arguably, it isn't considered 'new'.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 15:30

23. Irteza (unregistered)


IP4S's Sensor Size is 1/3.2"

there is a chart at allaboutsymbian about this ..

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 15:55

24. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)


@dazzler. The things that you brought up will be asked by every phone buyer when they buy a phone, hahahaha.

Wake up. Geeks are quite the minority. The general consumer only cares about the results. And at the end of the day, it is the results that really matters anyway, whether you are a geek or not. And the ip4s will definitely produce very good photos. When you show a photo to someone, they will not ask you what aperture or what lens or what sensor technology were used. All they would notice is whether it's a good or a bad photo. Same with videos.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 18:31

36. Dazzler (unregistered)


@530gemini: It does not matter whether I am a geek or not. FACT is that you cannot say a camera is good unless you actually compare the photos. It's a well-known fact that iphone4 photos were over saturated. Absolutely no camera interface, just plain blunt.

No amount of software optimization can replace the sensor quality and size. Simple FACT. If you don't agree, you need lesson in basic photography 101.

Check the difference for yourself:

http://goo.gl/8nOuO

http://goo.gl/C773S

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 20:00

41. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)


Over saturated? Ip4 photos are pretty good. Many reviews and tests have proven that. You're just not happy that the iphone takes good photos and is better than most smartphones. Btw, what do you think about Samsung's oversaturated amoled displays? I bet that would be alright for ya huh. Lol.

Like I said, it's all about how the picture turns out. Whether it's good to the eye or not. People edit photos to enhance it. Who cares about saturation levels as long as the end product looks good.

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 08:01

51. Dazzler (unregistered)


Show me one study which says that iphone4 pics are NOT over-saturated. Did you even look at the pics I mentioned? Can you say which is ip4 picture? Hint: Look at color saturation.

Where does AMOLED comes into this debate? Why are you trying to skip to screen technology when we are discussing about camera?

My whole point for my first post was:

+ How can you say ip4S is a very good camera when you haven't used it at all? If yes, where is the comparion?
+ What sensor do they have? If you are not worried about sensor in a camera, you may leave this discussion. It's futile discussing image processing with someone who has no clue about sensors.

I know it has an aparture of F2.4. I think this will be Sony IMX105 sensor. But there could be multiple sensor types. Nothing new for Apple or any other OEM. This IMX105 matches the exact specs as for ip4S. It's effective 8.13MP, F2.4, BSI (back-illuminated CMOS). Same 1080-30P / 720-30P video capability.

This has a 1/3.2 sensor size. This is compared to 1/1.83 sensor in a N8. Check the difference for yourself. Calculate the difference yourself. N8 (being more than a year old) will still have the best camera in this regard. Whether fan boys/girls will accept this fact is totally different matter of course.

And you know this is the exact same camera module used in SE ARC and is also used in GS2. GS2 has multiple sensors, this is one of them. If you have better information than this, please feel free to invalidate my points. Just don't bring useless-irrelevant points in the discussion.

cheers..

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 06:31

49. XiphiasGladius (Posts: 804; Member since: 21 Aug 2011)


Here take a look at this, this article will answer most of your questions. . .
http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/item/13334_For_those_who_were_wondering_a.php?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 10:54

54. gohan (unregistered)


u stupid iphone 4s hasn't launched at all...then how can u say this utter foolishness.................. about the comparison.......

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 12:33

14. RVM (unregistered)


just wait for N8's successor. It's camera will be something really special...

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 12:40

15. SGS2 (unregistered)


steve jobs dead is more hit than iPhone 4s

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 14:42

22. gogo231 (unregistered)


Apple fail.

Nokia with it's huge sensor still crushes everything in the mobile world.

Though it might not matter for the fruitcakes.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 15:56

25. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)


You're just another spec whore :-)

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 16:33 1

28. gogo231 (unregistered)


The other way around. I don't care 4 ur "retina" display, or faster cpu and more ram. A nokia N8 with it's slow cpu and BEST camera on a phone as free voice turn by turn navigation is more than enough for me. Especialy at the more pedestrian price point.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 17:28 2

33. bucky (Posts: 1571; Member since: 30 Sep 2009)


Nobody owns the n8.

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 18:13

35. Phonecall01 (Posts: 175; Member since: 02 Apr 2009)


looking good. Some me criticize iphone 4s, but it will still sell like any previous model

posted on 07 Oct 2011, 23:29

43. ore (unregistered)


now now.. nokia still the best

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 01:05

46. Muh (unregistered)


Now guys let's be honest, why are you trying to deny that the iPhone camera is very good ?
For me, I have had "iPhone 4" and it's pictures were brilliant. I was not so pleased when it's about video capturing, but anyway it is good.
Well, for me, I don't like iPhone and I will buy Samsung Galaxy S 2 because I want Android system ( "almost" open-source ), I want to control my phone.
iOS gives you something, Android gives you another thing, it's about personal preference..
Don't be mad, and don't be idiot. If you love iOS based pick one, if you want Android based pick one, if you don't want a "smart phone" pick one. It's about you, not me or anyone else.
Now, back to the camera issue, for me, if I want a camera I should by one, any simple digital camera will be a way better than all of phones' cameras, but for the basics now these new phones have good cameras. If you really want to take professional photos, pick a DSLR camera.
NOTE: FOR THOSE WHO ARE SAYING "IF YOU DON'T HAVE MONEY, DON'T TALK ABOUT IPHONE": YOU ARE SO RUDE AND SO STUPID.

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 07:37

50. Loki (unregistered)


I think we should stop bickering and let the sales do the talking. Let's see how the sales of both IPhone 4S and the Nexus Prime will be! Though I was hoping that it will be the Iphone 5 instead :((

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 09:01 1

52. franksyed1 (Posts: 12; Member since: 28 Feb 2011)


Can it better the NOKIA N8 carlzies with xenon ?

posted on 08 Oct 2011, 22:35

57. Wow (unregistered)


Wow, what's a Nokia? ;)

posted on 09 Oct 2011, 09:32

58. sprintguy09 (Posts: 79; Member since: 17 Apr 2010)


Its funny how people fuss an fight over cell phones on the web lol just pick what you like an shut up

posted on 09 Oct 2011, 23:43

63. cheeseycheeser (Posts: 396; Member since: 24 Mar 2011)


Yes, Apple is over hyped. But I enjoyed this post. The camera is one of the most important parts of a phone for me, and while I'm not going to be giving up my Thunderbolt for this, I think it's awesome that Apple is saying that it matters. Because like it or not, Apple still has the influence. And this will hopefully lead to better cameras on other phones! (:

posted on 12 Oct 2011, 03:07

64. hammad (unregistered)


wait for the sony ericsson 12 mp android .

posted on 12 Oct 2011, 03:10

65. hammad (unregistered)


SE arc s has 3D . Better than i phone

posted on 12 Oct 2011, 05:02

66. iron rod (unregistered)


f**k off budy,, this is stupid phone

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