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The iPhone 4s as a Camera for Cycling

I was excited about the iPhone 4s as a camera for cycling since I always carry my phone with me.

But that excitement has turned first to disappointment, then disgust:

  • Bad exposure 90% of the time, blowing out highlights 90% of the time.
  • White balance that is always wrong (often 20 points too magenta, at least in the forest).
  • The iPhone 4s chooses a low ISO and low shutter speed; 90% of my shots are blurred. So I take 20 shots, and 1 shot is sometimes usable.
  • World’s worst ergonomics; no way to grasp the phone for a comfortable grip, certainly not while riding. Even stopped it’s as awkward as it gets.
  • Often blurred on one side of the photo, sharp on the other.
  • Focuses on infinity even when a person’s face and body is smack dab in 2/3 of the frame.
  • No control of ISO, shutter speed, flash intensity, aperture.
  • No image stabilization, which is critical for a camera with no good grip.
  • Flaky focus that won’t stay put.
  • Idiotic lens placement, very hard to avoid having my finger over the lens, which forces a tenuous grip to be used.

After a few weeks of trying to use it as a camera, I’ve concluded that the iPhone 4s is a total waste of time for my photography. Add in the video mode which refocuses the lens every 4-5 seconds and the video is useless also (hey, 100% failure is where I draw the line).

The right camera which can be carried by cyclists for getting quality shots? The Fuji X100 (or perhaps the X10). Most of my Views From a Bike series used the X100.

Scaled down and color adjusted, the iPhone 4s photos look sort of OK if your quality standards are ultra low, but iPhone 4s photos are equivalent to about 0.5 megapixel 90% of the time for what I shoot, because the camera can’t focus properly and almost always uses too low a shutter speed.

Note that I am not saying the iPhone 4s cannot be used, especially in boring bright sunlight. But I’m not much interested in boring mid-day photos. And I’m not saying you cannot like it. I am saying it’s crap for my purposes, because when any camera screws it for all but a few of hundreds of photos, my patience runs out.

A gorgeous mid-day scene is shown below (well, it was gorgeous as I actually saw it), but the iPhone 4s blurred it (all 4 shots were blurred in spite of being extra careful; bad focus and shutter speed both) and the color is awful even after a big color adjustment.

Ancient oak
iPhone 4s
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