Apple is Killing the Camera Competition… with a Phone!
AppleInsider has a quick review of the new HDR capability that will soon be available on all camera-equipped devices running iOS 4.1.
HDR - that is, High Definition Range photography - is something that heretofore has generally been known only to high-end photographers with fancy cameras, specialized software, and the ability to use it all. The gist of it is that you take several pictures of the same scene taken with different exposure settings. Then you mathematically combine them together in such way that overly-dark portions of the image are brightened and overly-bright portions are toned down, all while improving the general detail. The end result of this process can be striking.
Apple has taken all of these high falutin’ concepts and created a system that intelligently does all the hard work for you.
In my opinion, Apple has set a new standard for usability for photography in general and digital cameras in particular. Canon’s working on in-camera HDR, too having filed a patent for it recently. Sony already offers a couple of high-end models that perform some low-grade HDR. But Apple is changing the game altogether. Here’s why:
Apple’s iPod touches and iPhones are running with real CPUs in them. The latest models are powered by Apple’s powerful and efficient A4 chip. So iOS is able to perform Photoshop-grade manipulation of the HDR images and churn out high-quality results. But that’s just the beginning.
When’s the last time you upgraded the firmware on your point-and-shoot camera or on your dSLR? Right. Never.
But Apple updates iOS several times a year. They’ll be able to really push the envelope of HDR capabilities as fast as they can code them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually introduced automatic tone mapping as well.
Now, since Apple’s iPhone 4 already has the best smartphone camera on the market today, it’s kind of surprising that they’d put effort into what no one else has effectively done… bringing HDR capability to the layman. But then, this is Apple we’re talking about.
But what excites me is not so much that Apple did this. Or that it’s on the iPhone and new iPod touch. It’s exciting because dedicated camera manufacturers will necessarily have to step up their game and lower their price. And we’ll all get much better photos as a result.