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Home » Links, Opinion

Cool Link: iPhone 5 — 8 megapixel camera a step backwards?

Submitted by on April 7, 2011 – 1:28 pm 7 Comments

Photo courtesy of MacTrast

Ahh, Spring. Time for renewal, allergies, baseball and iPhone rumors.

Recently, the interwebs have been buzzing (a little, anyway) about a comments made by Sony CEO Howard Stringer stating that Sony will be supplying the 8 MP cameras for the next generation of iPhone. I recently posted about it here. I still don’t think it’ll be called the iPhone 5, but for consistency’s sake I’ll call it that here.

Over on MacTrast, Frank Prendergast has written an excellent post “iPhone 5 — 8 megapixel camera a step backwards?”  comparing the current iPhone 4 5 MP camera by OmniVision to the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc mobile phone camera.

If the Arc is anything to go by it would seem that while they may have improved the low light situation with the same size sensor, there are definite noise and diffraction issues. When comparing the images that are available online, many of the iPhone images are better. The iPhone 4 images have less colour noise, are not overexposed and show more detail with less blur with any reasonable light source.

This leaves us with the obvious remaining advantage of an 8mp camera, a larger image size – 3264 x 2448 vs 2592 x 1936 – but if it’s at the cost of sharpness, detail and colour, I’m not interested.

After reading his post, I agree completely with Frank’s conclusions. I really like the OmniVision camera currently in the iPhone 4. In lieu of a huge, light gathering lens (and the iPhone 4’s lens is slightly larger than its predecessors), it also has larger sensors which significantly improved the light sensitivity of the device over previous iPhones and other mobile phone cameras. Although I have faith in Apple, without significant advances in CMOS technology, replacing the current camera with one that has more, smaller sensors packed into the same amount of space will probably result in reduced image quality overall.

For nearly all uses, the 5 MP resolution of the iPhone is more than most users need. Images can easily be enlarged to 8″ x 10″ with no loss of quality. and can be blown up to much larger sizes and still look great. What I like about the current OmniVision camera is the great light sensitivity (for a mobile phone camera) coupled with its color and detail qualities. It’s a pretty good camera.

I understand the marketing needs and the perception in the consumer’s mind that more megapixels are better. Using that logic, 8 beats 5 in the camera wars. But at these resolutions, give me quality over size. I prefer how my iPhone 4 camera produces better details and fewer artifacts than the Sony camera rumored to replace it. If I need anything larger, I’ll break out the DSLR.

Click here to read the excellent post, “iPhone 5 — 8 megapixel camera a step backwards?” on MacTrast.

=M=

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Marty Yawnick

Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.

  • http://www.eventualfuture.com James Campbell

    Hopefully they have an upgraded image sensor in the iPhone 5. That is what counts, not MP’s. As stated you can print 8x10s with no loss in quality already.

  • Matt F

    I would suspect that given the amount of talk that Jobs devoted in the rollout of the iPhone 4 regarding the quality of the camera , and the REASON for the improved quality vs. other phones with higher megapixels, it'd be seriously unlikely that they would backtrack and now jump on the megapixel bandwagon.

    We'll just have to wait and see, though. It is entirely possible that the part for the next iPhone could be made by Sony, be 8 Megapixels AND have a larger sensor and therefore be of better quality than the one in the current Sony based offerings.

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      Agreed. Anything can happen. iPhone rumors are as fun as baseball's hot stove league.

      =M=

  • chrisD46

    I have been pleased with the OmniVision sensors image quality in the 3GS and iPhone 4 . More mega pixels at the expense of image quality (Sony) would definately not be a good move ! Based on criteria important to serious iPhoneographers I believe roughly 6 MP is plenty – now expand your sensor requirements Apple at further improving low light capability , noise reduction , imrpove dynamic range , contrast and color quality . Lastly , the serious iPhonepgrapher will not fall for the : "more megapixels is better" marketing ploy unless Apple uses a new kick ass sensor that can move forward with noticeable improvement over the iPhone 4.

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      If the 8 MP sensor is worth it — if they solve the quality issues, then this is definitely a positive step forward in iPhone camera quality. However, I really like the characteristics of the iPhone 4's OmniVision camera. I like the light sensitivity and the color characteristics. These would change even with a 5 MP Sony sensor. I'm not too thrilled about learning the quirks of a new camera unless the upside is worth it.

      =M=

  • Jaime Ferreyros

    I'm still very happy with my 3 megapixels 3GS iphone, don't see any need to change.

  • @mrfubar32x

    Well that would suck. I also hope that apple does the right thing.