Tag Archives: iphone as camera

iPhone Users Complain About Purple Flare

iPhone 5 users have been complaining about a purple burst that has been appearing in some of their photos. Apple has confirmed that purple haze is considered normal behavior for the iPhone 5’s camera. Millions of users have reported when a bright source of light is in a photo, the light source takes on a purple glow. Some users have suggested that the purple shade is a result of a sapphire cover that is on the iPhone 5’s camera.

The iPhone 5 had the biggest launch in Apple’s history, selling over 5 million units in its first weekend. The issues with the camera is only been one of the problems that has been reported by iPhone 5 users. Complaints have ranged from issues with Apple’s new maps feature to the aluminum casing scratching too easily.

Here are some more pictures showing the purple flare:

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Photo Editing Apps for the iPhone

With the first cellphones that had cameras, you could take a photo and that was it. There was no way to manipulate the image without figuring out how to get it on your computer and using something like Photoshop to modify the image. Today, there are hundreds of apps you can download to your iPhone that can be used to manipulate your images. In fact, I could probably make a career out of reviewing and writing about camera/photography related apps for the iPhone alone if anyone was interested. Since this is one of a series of 4 or 5 articles and not a career, I selected three apps for this article – Hipstamatic, Camera+ and Adobe Photoshop Express. My “scientific” method for selecting these three apps was simple. The first two are hugely popular and the Photoshop (PS) Express is because I use Photoshop all the time and wanted to see how the less than 64 calorie lite version worked. I also selected those three because each one worked differently.


With Hipstamatic, you select the result you want to achieve by selecting the film, lens and flash before you take the shot. Once you take the shot, you’re done, at least as far as using Hipstamatic. That’s probably part of the appeal. It works like cameras did twenty, thirty years ago or longer. Thirty years ago if I wanted to produce a grainy black & white image, I put Tri-X (400 ASA) or T-Max 400 film in my camera and started shooting. If I wanted less grain I would shoot with Plus-X (125 ASA) or T-Max 100. Once the film was in the camera and you captured the image, even though you could manipulate the image in the darkroom, you couldn’t make Tri-X look like Plus-X regardless of what you did.

The app costs $1.99 and comes with three film type effects, three lens type effects and three flash type effects. You can also purchase any of an additional five packages for $0.99 each containing various film, flash and lens combinations. The basic package gives you 27 possible combinations of film, lens and flash, and if you buy all of the additional five packages you would have a total of 441 possible combinations. However, my guess is that most people that use Hipstamatic have a few favorite combinations that they use almost all the time to achieve the overall effects they desire.

To demonstrate how these apps work, I decided to use this bird bath in my back yard as a subject. This first image was taken with my iPhone without any manipulation to provide a base line for comparison.

This image was captured using the Blanko film, standard flash and John S lens combination in Hipstamatic.

This image is the result of the Ina’s 69 film, Jimmy S lens and Dreampop flash combination.

This is the last image taken with Hipstamatic and combines Kodot film, Kaimal Mark II lens and Cherry Shine flash.

As I indicated above, there are 27 different combinations in the basic package. These combinations were selected randomly and I haven’t tried all 27 to determine the combinations I prefer, but these four images at least provide an idea of what kind of effects the app provides. You do have to select a film and a lens, but you have a choice as to whether or not you use the flash when you take the photo.

On the plus side, I think it’s a great app for the 15 to 30 or 15 to 40 age groups. I think it’s more of a “fun” app than an image manipulation app, but in looking at images posted on Flickr, I found a number of creative applications that produced some interesting arty kind of images.

On the negative side, I found it difficult to compose an image in the small square “viewfinder” the app provides. Frequently the key subject was centered in the “viewfinder” and then off to one side or the other in the finished image. It also seems slow to change the selections, take a photo and for the photo to “develop” but that could be the user as much as the app.


At the risk of upsetting a lot of Hipsamatic fans, I believe that Camera+ is superior to Hipstamatic for one very important reason. With Hipstamatic and similarly designed apps, you select the effects and hope the result is what you’re trying to achieve. Camera+, on the other hand, is an app that allows you to manipulate the image after you’ve captured it. In other words, it’s a post processing app that is available for a price of $1.99.

The app effects are laid out in a logical workflow order. You can either capture the image once you have opened the app or you can “grab” an image from your camera roll and manipulate it in Camera+. Once you’ve selected the image there are five categories of changes you can make:

1. Scenes – this is presented as a lighting difference. It appears that it is making small changes to EV and White Balance depending on the scene type you select – night, portrait, beach, sunset, etc.
2. Adjust – this rotates the image 90 degrees left or right and/or flips the image vertically or horizontally. The horizontal flip is interesting because it mimics the result of reversing a negative in an enlarger so that left becomes right and right becomes left.
3. Crop – this category allows you to crop freeform the way you want the image or you can use a number of pre-set crops that create various shapes and image sizes.
4. FX Effect – Modifies the color and tone of the image. There are 27 choices plus an additional 9 that can be purchased for $0.99.
5. Borders – Like Crop, this one is self-explanatory. There are 18 different borders from which you can select.

The following three images were taken with the Camera+ app and manipulated in the app to produce the images.

Photoshop Express

With Photoshop Express you can:

1. Crop, straighten, rotate or flip the image
2. Change the exposure, saturation, tint, contrast or convert to black & white.
3. Sharpen, use soft focus or sketch
4. Effects which are mostly color and tone changes as well as add borders to the image.

As you might expect, this isn’t Photoshop CS5 or Lightroom 3, but for a free app, it does a pretty good job. The first image is the same tree in the snow that I used in the last article. As I pointed out, the sensor in the iPhone exposes for 18% gray and causes the snow to look gray. The second image I changed the exposure to render the snow as white and sharpened the image somewhat. I made no other corrections.

For this image, I cropped it, changed the exposure, converted it to black & white, softened the focus, added a border and showed it to the subject, all in less than a minute from the time I took the photo until I was finished with the adjustments. The Photoshop Express uses the same common finger-swiping motions to set the adjustments that the iPhone employs for other applications.

After working with these three apps for a few days, I like the Photoshop Express the best and the Camera+ second. One of the reasons I prefer Photoshop Express is because I use Photoshop CS5 and am familiar with its features and terminology. I also feel that Photoshop Express and Camera+ give the photographer more freedom to manipulate an image than does Hipstamatic. However, as the most popular image manipulation app available, there are a lot of people out there that prefer Hipstamatic and would disagree with me. It’s up to you to select the one that fits your requirements the best. They are all excellent apps that are inexpensive and easy to use.

Photo Credits: All Photos by Steve Russell

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Putting the iPhone Camera to the Test – Compared to a DSLR

Recently I attended an event that I didn’t expect to be anything more than something I had to go to because it was expected. It turned out to be much more fun than anticipated and I started wishing I had brought my camera with me. Since I didn’t I took out my iPhone and started shooting away. To my surprise, some of the images were quite good.

This experience got me to thinking about the iPhone as a camera in ways I hadn’t thought about it before. I know people that believe that the iPhone is a great camera and they wouldn’t have any other while other people I know scoff at the idea of the iPhone being a “serious” camera.

I have a DSLR that I use for most photo opportunities so I decided to compare the two for myself. As luck would have it, at about the same time I was given this opportunity to write a series of articles generally talking about putting the iPhone as a camera to the test. This is part one where I compare and contrast the two types of cameras to emphasize the strengths and limitations of the iPhone camera.

In some ways, comparing the camera in the iPhone 4 to a high end DSLR is like comparing a hamburger from the local pub to an 18 oz. porterhouse from Peter Luger’s Steak House in New York. Yet, the hamburger is pretty darned good and most people eat hamburgers more often than they do expensive prime grade steaks. A comparison of this nature is unfair to the iPhone. It’s not designed to compete with a DSLR and to expect it to compete at that level is unrealistic. However, it is a camera, among other things, and we compare cameras of different levels all the time.

Limitations of the iPhone

Snowy Egret

You can’t take a photo like this one with an iPhone for a number of reasons, the main two are the focal length of the lens and the sensor size. This image was captured using a Canon 7D and a 300mm telephoto lens. The iPhone sensor is miniscule compared to the 7D’s sensor and the lens on the iPhone is equivalent to a 28mm wide angle lens on a 35mm camera or possibly a 45mm on the 7D. Of course, most people wouldn’t try to take a photo like this with an iPhone.

The image was also cropped so that the bird was the dominant part of the image. Because of the small sensor size of the iPhone, cropping an iPhone image to show the bird as large as in this photo would result in so much noise in the image that it would be rendered unusable.

Now that you have an idea what I’m talking about when I mention limitations of the iPhone when compared to a DSLR, I’ll list all the ones I can think of.

1. No interchangeable lenses
2. The user can’t control/adjust the shutter speed
3. The user can’t control/adjust the aperture setting
4. Small sensor limits the ability to produce quality prints larger than 8X10
5. Image quality degrades in low-light situations
6. Only 5 megapixels
7. No on-camera white balance control

Because the lens is a fixed focal length lens, the only way you can “frame” the photograph before taking it is to move closer to or farther away from the subject. To be fair, the iPhone4 has a 5x digital zoom slider. However, if you use a digital zoom you will lose image quality. You would probably achieve better results by not using the digital zoom when taking the photo and cropping the image in any number of image processing software products like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, iPhoto, etc.

Like many smart phones, the lens has a fixed aperture of f/2.8 which fixes the depth of field. However, the iPhone automatically adjusts the shutter speed and ISO to get the best exposure. Tests have indicated that the ISO can range from 80 to as high as 1000 and the shutter speed can vary from a low of 1/15 of a second to a high of 1/1000 of a second.

Most point and shoot cameras have the same limitations except a majority of them now have more than 5 megapixels. Granted image quality (IQ to us photography geeks) isn’t solely dependent on the number of megapixels and the size of the megapixels is important, but a higher number of megapixels is one indication of potential IQ of a camera, so don’t expect the iPhone to perform as well as the higher end P&S cameras.

Advantages of the iPhone

Portability is one of the iPhones greatest advantages. I always have my iPhone with me. It easily fits in my pocket and if I want to take a photo it’s extremely easy to use.

The iPhone is a consummate multi-tasker. Ten years ago you would see people that carried a pager, a PDA, a cell phone and if they wanted to take photos they also carried a camera of some type. The iPhone, and other smart phones, take the place of all those gadgets and they do a much better job.

The iPhone is much less intrusive than a DSLR. Imagine going out to dinner with a group of friends and pulling out a DSLR with an external flash attached. It’s overkill for the kind of photos you’ll be taking and you’ll more than likely attract attention from everyone else in the restaurant. If you’re taking photos with your iPhone, most people won’t even notice. Cell/smart phone cameras have become so ubiquitous that people tend to ignore them which can facilitate great candid shot opportunities.

You can take a photo with the iPhone and immediately email it to someone. Try that with a DSLR or P&S cameras. I took these two photos at a whisky tasting I was attending so I could send them to a friend, mostly to make him envious. I sent them as a text and received confirmation via return text message that they had the desired effect within minutes after taking the photos.



When you’re not trying to exceed it’s capabilities it actually takes good, clear photos. Frankly, 5 megapixels isn’t something to scoff at especially given the physical size of the iPhone’s sensor. Here are a number of photos taken with iPhones where you can easily see that there are users out there taking very good images with the iPhone.

Boats at Spadina Quay

iPhone 4 portrait of Emma

[iPhone] Don't fall in..

[iPhone] Sunset over Glen Garry, New Year's Day 2010


Howth sunrise

I believe that these images show that a lot of people are producing very good quality images using their iPhone. What is also interesting is how the various apps and available gadgets are being used to create various effects with the iPhone. I’ll talk about those in the next article.

Photo credits:
Snowy Egret by Steve_Russell_Photography on Flickr
Glass of Scotch by Steve Russell on Flickr
Five Glasses of Scotch by Steve Russell on Flickr
Boats at Spadina Quay by fortinbras on Flickr Commons
Emma by JaredEarle on Flickr Commons
Don’t fall in… by slynkycat on Flickr Commons
Sunset over Glen Garry by slynkycat on Flickr Commons
Day 43 byyuki on Flickr Commons
Howth Sunrise by Damo B on Flickr Commons

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