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Summary:

The iPhone 4S is an improvement over the iPhone 4 in several ways — faster A5 processor, better 3D graphics performance, even a better antenna design. But the camera is arguably the best change, and we’ve got the side-by-side photos to prove it.

iphone-camera-feature

The iPhone 4S is an improvement over the iPhone 4 in several ways — faster A5 processor, better 3D graphics performance, even a better antenna design. One significant improvement that I think will convince many to upgrade is the improved camera. Alyssa and Hannah were camped out at the front of the line I waited in, and cited the camera as a huge motivator prompting their decision to upgrade.

Alyssa & Hannah (iPhone 4)

They were excited about Siri and all the possibilities that come with talking to your iPhone to have it do things for you. But when I talked to these two early birds, they were most genuinely enthusiastic about the camera. Hannah was convinced that the better camera alone was worth the cost to upgrade from her 3GS. I suspect that many others are just like Hannah, and rely on the iPhone as their primary camera for taking snapshots of their lives. But just how much better is the new camera? While I’m sure that more thorough testing will come in over the following weeks, here’s a quick comparison of the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S.

I took these two pictures just before the store opened with the Colorado sunrise behind me.

Aspen Grove Apple Store (iPhone 4)

iPhone 4S Campers (iPhone 4)

The first thing you’ll notice when you first try the camera app is that it is faster. Not a lot faster, but enough to notice. Everything is just a little snappier. But the real treat is the actual image itself. The image below was taken about an hour after the above pictures outside the store. The early morning light is quite a bit better than the sunrise light, and you can click-through to see the detail in the new pics.

Aspen Grove Apple Store (iPhone 4S)

iPhone 4S Line (iPhone 4S)

The new camera sensor is a respectable 8 megapixels (up from 5MP in the iPhone 4) and video capture has graduated to 1080p (up from 720p). The new larger f/2.4 aperture lens makes an immediate difference as well. Low-light and indoor lighting performance is significantly improved. Below are two indoor shots with limited light coming through the closed blinds. The iPhone 4S shot has better exposure, even if the low-light still poses some difficulty for the camera.

Teddy Bear (iPhone 4)

Teddy Bear (iPhone 4S)

Outdoor lighting shows much more consistent exposure between the two models, but the improved resolution of the iPhone 4S is an obvious advantage.

This shot of the planter has shadows and some strong highlights. Both images were taken at the same time with the same light, but you can see that the iPhone 4S has improved shadow detail. The red push seems more subdued as well.

Planter (iPhone 4)

Panter (iPhone 4S)

This image of the pepper from my salsa garden was taken with the HDR setting in indirect light. Here the difference is less stark, but the increase in resolution is nice, especially if you wanted to crop the image down.

Pepper (iPhone 4)

Pepper (iPhone 4S)

Here’s some other outdoor shots to show off the differences. Pay particular attention to shadow detail and the red push in the marigold pictures. I believe the iPhone 4S pictures would be easy to pick out even without the captions.

Flower (iPhone 4)

Flower (iPhone 4S)

Marigold (iPhone 4)

Marigold (iPhone 4S)

Flower Bed (iPhone 4)

Flower Bed (iPhone 4S)

The iPhone 4S camera is a great upgrade for anyone, even those coming from an iPhone 4. The new f/2.4 lens makes both low-light and high-contrast exposure photos a bit better, and the higher resolution is great. I think Hannah will love using the iPhone 4S as her every day camera, as will anyone else that don’t carry a separate point-and-shoot. What are your thoughts on the image-taking abilities of the new iPhone 4S?

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  1. Pedro Leitão Friday, October 14, 2011

    I actually prefer the colors in the iphone 4. I don’t get these comparisons, all the photographs taken with the iphone 4 look better to me. It’s probably because of the size of the previews, but if that is the problem only an idiot would use previews that size when wanting to show the advantages of the new camera, right?

    1. Instead of making judgements based on the thumbnails, you can click through to view the full size images. The shadow detail in the 4S pictures is fairly obvious.

      The difference between the red push on the 4 and the 4S is also clear. If you prefer the saturated reds in the iPhone 4 pictures, I suppose that is a valid choice. Just keep in mind that you could start from a more neutral color balance with the 4S and then tweak the saturation to your liking in iPhoto/Aperture/Photoshop afterwards.

  2. could we see some shot using the flash in near darkness eg. 1,2 and 3 meters away of the same subject please?

    Im a night owl so its a big deal for me :)

    1. I’ll see what I can do. No promises though.

  3. can you add some shots with the flash in near darkness eg. of the same subject 1,2 and 3 meters away for us to get an idea how useful (or less) it is please?

  4. I think the obvious conclusion is that the 4S is much superior. Not sure why anyone would want to argue that??

  5. North Bay Startup Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Thanks for the comparisons! I am hoping to upgrade soon from my iPhone 3GS and am super excited about the camera upgrade. That and Siri. :)

  6. the iphone 4 camera looks significantly better with much brighter and more vivid colors. I am not sure what some of you are seeing

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