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.