Eight Ways Apple Could Improve the iPhone Camera

Today, Verizon is set to announce its version of the iPhone. Odds are good that it’ll be the iPhone 4 with a CDMA radio inside of it. One of the most-lauded features of the iPhone 4 is the higher-megapixal camera, up to 5 megapixels per picture, and complete with 720p video. That beats out my piddling 3GS, which is stuck at 3 megapixels.

But it’s put me in mind to think of all the things I’d like to see in the next iPhone this spring. With all of the improvements the camera has had over the last couple of years, I still have some issues I’d like to see addressed or fixed that aren’t, to the best of my knowledge, addressed by the iPhone 4.

1. I want it to load faster. It can take 10 seconds before I’m ready to take a picture with my iPhone from the first time I tap the app on the home screen. It’s quicker in succeeding loads, but that first one is a killer. I also wish I could switch back and forth from camera to video mode more quickly. That’s a three second transition right there.

2. Improved photo organization. This is the big one. I want to be able to sort my photos into folders. Right now, the only organization offered to you is through iPhoto. Load all your iPhone pictures into iPhoto, organize them there, and then synch up. I don’t use iPhoto, though. I actually tried to import the 5000 pics I’ve taken with my iPhone into iPhoto late last year and the damned thing crashed. Repeatedly. It might be worth trying again now with the new computer, we’ll see. But it would be so much easier to have iPhone-specific folders to sort things into.

iPhone 3GS Camera Roll

When viewing a lot of lookalike pictures, these small squares aren't a big help.

3. Variable photo layout. The 4 x 5 grid display of pictures works. Most of the time. Sometimes, though, I need to see more of the pictures to determine which one I want to open up in an app. When I take six pictures in quick succession, there’s likely only one good shot, and the difference is so minimal that it’s impossible to see at that small button size. How about a slider so that I can see up to a 3 x 3 grid of larger pictures?

4. Separate out videos from photos. I’d like a way to view only the videos or only the pictures or both in a given folder. I take far more pictures than videos, so when I’m looking for that one video I took a couple weeks back, I don’t want to page up 10 times to get to the general area before slowly and more methodically sliding my finger up looking for that icon with the video timer along the bottom. At the very least, include by default a “Videos” folder that has a link to all the videos in the Camera Roll.

5. More manual control. I understand that this is a consumer device and that we need to keep it simple so that everyone can use it. But maybe Apple could open up the API to give full manual control to the users via third party apps? I’d love to control the ISO or the shutter speed in specific situations. I bet it would make HDR apps easier to write. White Balance selection would be nice, too.

6. External shutter. Tap Tap Tap famously broke the rules by turning one of the exterior buttons into a shutter button, but it’s not a bad idea — just poorly executed on their part to break the rules and then publicize it. Tapping on the screen is NEVER going to be a good way to get a good picture, since it will always cause camera shake. An external button won’t save that from happening, but I do believe it will be easier to use.

Aside: Tap Tap Tap recently blogged their annoyance that another developer was breaking App Store rules to publicize an application. Even the commenters to that blog post saw how ironic that was, coming from a company who no doubt used that external shutter button thing on Camera + as a great way to publicize their company and their application, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of downloads once it came back from the grave.

7. Selecting pictures on web forms. I use WordPress as my blog engine. I can’t use the back-end to upload a pic from my iPhone on Safari. I can click on the button to upload a file, but then nothing happens. I have no access to the file system, per se, so Safari doesn’t know where to look. I would like some way — without downloading a new app — that Safari would know that I’m trying to upload a pic and would let me to choose it there. This one would obviously be a little difficult without some new HTML code, but I bet such a tagging would immediately be adopted across all blog engines.

Maybe Safari could be trained to open my Dropbox app so I can pick a file out of there to upload to the server? I’m dreaming now, but it’s an idea.

8. Better low-noise images. I sound like a typical photographer these days, I know, but this is the area that always needs improvement, no matter what camera you’re shooting with. Five megapixels is good enough for a camera phone. Being able to have a faster shutter speed in anything less than full sunlight would be huge. I have a lot of blurry and grainy images of my daughter. Help me fix that, Apple.

Again, I’m shooting with a 3GS, and the iPhone 4 probably does load faster by now, for all I know, and maybe it even takes less noisy images. Even so, don’t we all want our tech to be faster and cheaper? Those requests will likely never go away.

We’ll have to come back to this post when Apple announces the iPhone 5 in the weeks or months ahead.

Good luck to Verizon in keeping their network stable under all the strain they’re about to have.

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One Response to Eight Ways Apple Could Improve the iPhone Camera

  1. Pingback: Testing iPhone HDR Photography | AugieShoots.com

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