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Is your cameraphone an oxymoron?

iPhone 3G v iPhone 3GS v Palm Pre

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Let's try something tougher

Dark, backlit subjects are difficult for a simple point-and-shoot camera to image decently, but a few of my test shots of this glad-handing bronze businessman ("Shaking Man" by Terry Allen, 1993) came out not half-bad.

iPhone 3G 2.2.1 - backlit-image example

An iPhone 3G with Software 2.2.1, as expected, turned in the worst performance
Click for a full-resolution image

My oldest phone/software combination - the iPhone 3G running Software 2.2.1 - tried its level best, but it just didn't have the chops to pick out detail in both the statue's face and the background. Luckily, it's a free upgrade to Software 3.0.

iPhone 3G 3.0 - backlit-image example

Software 3.0 helped the iPhone 3G to sharpen the background
Click for a full-resolution image

The difference between an iPhone 3G running Software 2.2.1 and 3.0 is subtle, but noticeable. Check out the improved detail and the sharpness of, for example, the post on the left.

Palm Pre - backlit-image example

The Palm Pre's sharpness and balance are good, but color is again off a bit
Click for a full-resolution image

Of all the cell-phone cameras I tested, the Palm Pre edged ahead of the others in sharpness and depth of detail. But, then again, "sharp cell-phone camera" is a bit of an oxymoron.

iPhone 3GS - backlit-image example

When trying to balance between foreground and background, the iPhone 3GS blew out the background
Click for a full-resolution image

When I used the iPhone 3GS's choose-a-focus-and-exposure-point feature, it was difficult to find a happy medium. Focusing on an edge of the statue and including just a bit of the background, as in the image above, blew out the background. On the other hand, focusing just on the background made statue's face a dark, detail-free muddle, as I detail on the next page of this article.

Nikon D70 - backlit-image example

My DSLR chose a balance of foreground and background exposures
Click for a full-resolution image

There's something to be said for using a real camera and not a micro-lensed toy, as are the cameras in even the smartest of smartphones. Even when I let my old Nikon D70 automatically set the exposure based on the Shaking Man's face, it responded intelligently.

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