The iPhone 4S hits the street this week. For many iPhoneographers, though, Christmas comes early with this Wednesday’s release of iOS 5, Apple’s latest and greatest operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

Over the weekend, I was able to use an iPhone 4 with a golden master — basically a release copy — of iOS 5. I didn’t have much hands on time with it, but here are my thoughts and a few screenshots of the greatly improved Apple Camera and Photos apps.

First, even with all of the new features of the OS, it’s fast on an iPhone 4. The test iPhone 4 I used felt as fast and responsive as iOS 4, even with all the new stuff it’s processing. No word on how the new features effects battery life, if at all. I only had the phone for about 15 minutes. The battery did not completely drain during that time….


Anyone who updates to iOS 5 will get the new Camera and Photos apps. The new Camera app gets a few new features, including a rule of thirds composition grid. Other new features include a much asked for Volume Shutter Button, greatly improved start-up time, and improved shot-to-shot time.

In my non-scientific tests, Apple Camera’s shot-to-shot time was already among the fastest available — averaging just under one shot per second until the cache filled up. Apple claims the new camera significantly decreases the time until the camera is ready to shoot again — to about half a second. And it does. While I didn’t have a stopwatch, the camera felt quicker and did seem to be ready to shoot again quicker, even on a 4. I’ll update this post with times on Wednesday when the iOS is released.

The HDR toggle is replaced by an options button, where the HDR and Composition toggles now live. This is an extra step to turn HDR off and on now. Some may be put off a little by this minor inconvenience. The Rule of Thirds grid is a welcome and long-overdue addition to Camera. Nearly every other third party camera app has this feature.

Back in the old days before the iPhone 4, the Home button could be programmed to access the camera when the phone was locked. It was a very convenient feature that helped reduce the likelihood of missing shots. This great feature returns sort of. iOS 5 now has a similar feature, where the Camera can be accessed directly from the Lock Screen, without the need to unlock the device. Until you’ve missed that perfect shot by a second, you really can’t understand fully how great a feature like this is. Thank you, Apple, for restoring this functionality.

In August of 2010, Camera+ was pulled from the App Store for a while because of the hidden VolumeSnap feature where you could use the iPhone’s Volume buttons as a physical shutter release. That feature is long gone from Camera+. In iOS 5, Apple adds this feature to Camera. The Volume Up button now serves as a shutter release when in Camera. It’s very convenient and very responsive. Having a physical shutter release helps the iPhone feel more like a camera and helps to reduce missed shots by not hitting the software shutter release onscreen. The Volume Up shutter release is implemented simply. All it does is take a photo — nothing else. Many iPhoneographers will find this feature alone worth the upgrade.

For a more full-featured shutter release button, look into the excellent Canopy Kapok iPhone 4 Case, which also features white-balance and exposure lock and a focus lock.


The Photos app gets a huge rebuild. In addition to it’s new organizing features, Photos now also gets basic editing tools which will probably cover at least half of your primary, pre-apping photo editing.

Photos now has basic auto image enhancement. It performs minor color balance and normalization along the lines of the free “Flash” apps. Not much. In my test it didn’t visibly reduce noise or fill in shadows like a full DRC app such as Perfectly Clear would. For well-lit photos, though, the new Auto-Enhance should do a decent job of white and color balance. In Photos edit mode, it toggles on and off easily and an onscreen indicator shows clearly when the photo is enhanced. It’s easy to figure out and very easy to use — once you find the Edit mode. I’m still keeping Perfectly Clear by Athentech Imaging and Photoshop Express on my iPhone for more dynamic range correction and images that just need more work.

The new Crop tool is basic but does as much as or more than many of the crop apps available in the App Store. The handles are responsive. There’s a constrain lock to keep a 4:3 aspect ratio, but there are not any other preset aspect ratios that many of the dedicated crop apps have. UPDATE: As a reader pointed out, Crop does have other preset constraints.


The Crop tool has an easy to use straighten function. Using a two-finger gesture in the Crop screen, you can rotate the image to straighten. Guidelines as you rotate help you align the image. The straighten function does not resample images up to their original resolution like Crop Suey does. It simply cuts the image off where needed.

The Crop tool is basic but good. It’s not even close to full-featured, though, and I’ll still use Crop Suey for much of my cropping and straightening.

Be careful when editing in Photos, though! Edits are destructive! Edited images save over your original image in your camera roll and there is no option for “Save As.” While there is an Undo, once you save your edited, cropped image, there’s no going back. It’s one thing I really don’t like about the new Photos app.

Both Camera and Photos are vastly improved over previous versions. The new tools and features enhance and improve a basic workflow. Even with the new improvements in Photos, there’s still a need for more advanced editing tools, but quick, basic and easy tweaks can now be done right in the app.

The improvements to Camera, while basic are big ones. With the grid lines, volume button shutter, and speed improvements, Camera will probably be my goto camera app.

iOS 5 is an insanely great update and thankfully Apple did not short-change iPhoneographers this time around.

iOS 5 will be available for download Wednesday, October 12, 2011. It’s compatible with iPhone 3GS, 4, and 4S, as well as iPad, iPad 2, iPod Touch 3rd Gen, and iPod Touch 4th gen. Be sure to read our post “iOS 5 – Should You Upgrade Right Away?” before upgrading.



Big thanks to Devin Pike for letting me grab his iPhone 4 with iOS 5 away from him for a few minutes the other night.

Disclosure: We are an partner and get a small commission if you purchase a Canopy Kapok case through this link. That’s not why I singled out this case in this preview, though. The case has some awesome features, including the additional external buttons and it absolutely rocks. It’s become my primary iPhone 4 case. =M=