Friday, September 10, 2010

iPhone camera HDR

I've long been saying that the limited contrast range of cameras is more or less the last big obstacle to overcome. And I said that the camera in the iPhone 4 is a pretty serious camera. So it's actually not trivial news that the new iOS 4.1 software allows the camera to take "HDR" images. It means it combines three varied exposures to capture a bigger range of contrast and combines them in the camera.

It's been possible before, but because you had to take separate shots manually, you needed to use a tripod, otherwise the pictures wouldn't match, and I was not impressed by the software available to try to make them match.

It seems that the iPhone takes the three images within a split-second, making this a non-issue, unless you or the subject is moving. Admittedly I have hardly made extensive testing! I just remembered it this evening and captured this "amazing" shot of a ceiling and lamp. But notice the difference in range, it's impressive. Can't wait to use this feature in real life.

Without HDR:

With HDR:

The iPhone (only model 4 can do this, by the way) also saves a normal-exposure JPG next to the HDR file, so there's no big reason not to use this feature anytime the contrast is sort of high. (It does not save a true HDR file with the full contrast range which can't be shown on screens or print anyway, it only saves the combined, processed JPG file, which is fine by me, it seems to do a good job of the processing.)

This feature ought to appear in "real" cameras pretty soon. Perhaps it is already in a few compacts, but I've not heard of it being in any cameras with exchangeable lenses.
... Ooops, reading on about the new Pentax K-r, it seems that one actually has the feature, hurrah. I just hope it takes the three images very fast, without slapping the mirror down between each. Should be logical, but you never know.


Miserere said...

Nothing is logical with Pentax, Eo.

The K-x and K-7 already did in-camera HDR. The upgrade for the K-r is that it now aligns the 3 images automatically, allowing you to shoot hand-held.

The new Sony A33 and A55 also have this feature.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thank you.

I think the alignment of the photos is essential. Which might be why I never really noticed that the K-x can do HDR. I very rarely use a tripod.

Miserere said...

I've seen HDR photos from the K-x that were taken hand-held, so it's possible if you have good technique...and the in-camera shake reduction also helps in this respect. But I agree that having the camera align slightly misaligned images is a more practical solution.

JohnO said...

Just downloaded 4.1 on my iPhone. No extensive tests done yet, but the images I've take look really good.