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Test report: Apple iPhone 4S has one of the best phone cameras

Consumer Reports News: October 21, 2011 03:23 PM

Consumer Reports engineers have completed tests of Apple's iPhone 4 S's revamped 8-megapixel camera and have determined that its performance compares with the best phone cameras we've seen.

The camera performance of the iPhone 4S is Very Good overall, noticeably better than performance of the iPhone 4, its predecessor, which remains available.

In shooting still images, the most noticeable improvements between iPhone 4 and 4s were found in the still camera's performance under low-light and high-dynamic-range conditions, such as when shooting a subject in the shadows on a bright, sunny day.

Pictures taken in low light had much more detail, while colors appeared natural. Visual noise levels—the grainy patterns that often mar uniformly toned images, such as a human face or the sky—were minimal. The iPhone 4S also did an impressive job of preserving the finest details of its subjects under a wide range of lighting conditions, from extremely dark to very bright.

In its iPhone 4 version, at least, Apple’s smart phone was already among the better smart phones for shooting video. Video quality is slightly better for the 4S, thanks in large part to its ability to shoot in higher resolution—that is, in 1080p, or so-called “full high-definition,” compared with the 720p resolution of the iPhone 4. Our video tests revealed greater rendering of details, as well as improved exposure performance in bright light.

Bottom line: The iPhone 4S lives up to Apple’s claims of a significant improvement in camera performance, notably in still-camera performance, where the company had fallen behind competitors over the past year or so. Indeed, the 4S is among the best phones we’ve ever tested for imaging performance, rivaling another recent phone with an 8-megapixel camera, the T-Mobile G2X.

We're continuing our tests of the iPhone 4S and will report soon on other aspects of its performance.

Mike Gikas

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