Making Good Pictures From That iPhone Camera | iLounge Backstage


Making Good Pictures From That iPhone Camera

It started with a wander around the airplane hangars at Duxford in the United Kingdom yesterday: I didn’t have my “real” camera on hand, but the scene in front of me was cool—quite possibly too cool to capture with my iPhone. In the mood to experiment a little, I took some iPhone shots anyway, in left to right sequence canvassing the hangar. This is what one of the pictures looked like.

Nothing special, right? So once I returned home, I had a play around with the Photomerge function in Photoshop Elements, also found in the standard Photoshop. This feature lets you stitch together images to make panoramas—highly detailed, super-wide images that go well beyond whatever a camera’s lens could capture in a single unassisted photo.


I gave Elements a set of photos, placed them in rough order like this, and then let it combine them into a single image.




See the Big Version

Voila, from four horizontal images, I suddenly had a small panorama of the hangar interior. Well, maybe not small: it was 5186 by 1048 pixels, a 5.4-Megapixel image from the iPhone’s 2-Megapixel (actually 1.9-Megapixel) camera. You can see the whole thing by clicking under the stitched shot above. It has been slightly brightness-adjusted, but otherwise unedited, producing a really neat if not exactly professional caliber image. I’ll tell you the rest of the story when you click on Read More below, or the title of this article.




See the Big Version

So I tried the process again, this time using six vertical images rather than four widescreen ones as the basis for a panoramic countryside photo. This one came out as 5204 by 1389 pixels, a 7.2-Megapixel image, which again received only minimal brightness adjustment. Not bad, eh?


There are other ways to improve the results you get from the iPhone’s camera. A very important step is to play with the colors and sharpness using a decent photo editing program such as iPhoto or Photoshop Elements, adjusting the “levels” or color temperature, and sometimes downsampling the photo to a lower resolution, then sharpening it. Bad pictures can be made at least decent. Also, using an accessory like Griffin’s Clarifi can make a big difference when taking photographs of nearby subjects. As noted in our Clarifi review, it takes the iPhone’s lens, which is set to focus on “infinity,” and makes it focus much closer to the camera’s face. Clarifi is great for specific applications.



Note that shooting panoramas, even high Megapixel ones, is not a cure-all for the fact that the iPhone’s camera sensor is inherently not fantastic by reference to even cheap pocket cameras sold these days. Jeremy shot these comparison images with a Canon point-and-shoot to demonstrate that having lots of pixels doesn’t mean that the pixels look good. The inset 100% crops show how little detail there actually is in even a panoramic iPhone image when you zoom in. So with good tools, you can make nice iPhone pictures, but they’re no substitute for a better iPhone camera. What do you say, Apple? Time for an upgrade in the next iPhone?

« A Brief Note on the Nearby Clarence, NY Plane Crash

Buffalo Chow, or, My Shout Out to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Western New York »

Related Stories



Awesome illustration. I have had Photoshop now for 3 months and did not know the option for Panarama what there. Thanks for all the info. Love the birds in the hangar. Beautiful planes!!!

Posted by David Perez on February 12, 2009 at 12:25 PM (CST)


The links to the big pictures aren’t working for me. They just go to the 600 x 160 versions already in the article.

Posted by Muero on February 12, 2009 at 2:04 PM (CST)


When the iPhone 1st came out I’d read that the camera was horrible? The pictures above does it justice. A 2 megapixel camera is nothing to scoff about. 2 megapixel cameras can more than hold their own. Cameras in phones have come a long way and the quality of photos from the iPhone is extremely descent, always has been.

Posted by spacecowboy on February 12, 2009 at 10:06 PM (CST)


We have always praised the camera since our first iPhone review - while it isn’t fantastic by today’s standards, it was a very good pick at the time.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 12, 2009 at 11:03 PM (CST)


If you guys are going to put someone’s comment front and center on the home page, at least provide them the courtesy of correcting their typos. 

David said:
“and did not know the option for Pan>A<rama >WHAT< there.

Posted by Tammy on February 13, 2009 at 1:23 PM (CST)


It’s not whether it’s 2 megapixel or 3 or 4 MP that makes a good camera image. It has a lot more to do with the quality of the lens and the size of the image sensor elements. In many cheap cameras they have a high MP number, but the lens is crap. The lens focuses the same light level/value on multiple pixel elements, thus the image is just a larger version of a rather small resolution image…But they get to put 5MP on the box!!!

NASA sent a 1MP sensor to Mars on the rovers even though there were 5MP commercial cameras less than 400$ bucks. No, they weren’t being cheap. That 1MP camera cost tens of thousands of dollars for parts such as a high quality lens even Carl Zeiss would be jealous of, and the pixels on the sensor were physically larger thus capturing more light. In the end, those 1MP images produce quality compared to 10MP and true color quality (i.e. more dynamic color range.)

So, when we get glass lenses in our phones instead of cheap plastic, the quality will instantly get better.

Posted by Colin MacKenzie on February 15, 2009 at 6:49 PM (CST)


If you guys are going to put someone’s comment front and center on the home page, at least provide them the courtesy of correcting their typos.

David said:
“and did not know the option for Pan>A<rama >WHAT< there.

Posted by Tammy on February 13, 2009 at 7:23 PM (GMT)

ANAL, get a life

Posted by nomad in UK on December 13, 2009 at 12:29 PM (CST)

If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.
iLounge Weekly

Recent News

Recent Reviews

Recent Articles

Sign up for the iLounge Weekly Newsletter

iLounge is an independent resource for all things iPod, iPhone, iPad, and beyond.
iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, Apple TV, Mac, and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc.
iLounge is © 2001 - 2019 iLounge, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy Policy