Can the iPhone 3G S change how cameras are made?

The recently announced iPhone 3G S finally assessed the issues that the phone’s previous cameras–that they were very limited in capability. However, Apple isn’t even a photography company but they have pushed a feature that may change how compacts are made and the way they take images: tap-to-focus.

A search on Flickr can show users many different videos and photos taken with the new iPhone 3G S. After looking through the pages, a user can see just how capable that little sensor is. Because a user can tap an area to focus on it precisely, users have the ability to have a shallower depth of field that mimics the images one sees come out of a DSLR. Additionally, add in the fact that most people find that using their cameraphone to be, “good enough” for everyday usage and you have yourself a compact camera changer. This is all fine for most people despite the fact that the iPhone 3G S doesn’t have a flash or optical zoom (although external lenses can be had.)


For example, any smartphone (meaning even a Blackberry, G1, or Palm Pre) can shoot a picture and then immediately text it, email it, or upload it to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter etc. They do all this through use of a 2G, 3G or WiFi network. How many compact cameras have those capabilities? Not very many, instead they sync up with your printer so that you can print your shots; but people print less and less these days. And one that can do all those tasks isn’t guaranteed to have such amazing battery life. Additionally, memory cards fill up because of the fact that camera manufacturers keep pushing more and more megapixels onto those tiny sensors. With a cameraphone being about 3MP, one can store lots of photos on their 2GB MicroSD cards and still use that beautiful 3 inch LCD screen on their phone to show off all those pictures to friends, family, etc.

These cameras are actually even changing the way that we receive our news. When an airplane crashed into the Hudson River where I live in New York City the first and most iconic images of the event were taken with an iPhone and sent to Twitter.

As a guy that recently graduated from journalism school, I can tell you firsthand that many programs are teaching their students to make better use out of their smartphones–the reasons listed above are part of it all. If a DSLR had all the connectivity capabilities that a smartphone has then not only would the system be super expensive but it could mean that pros (like us) could be out in the field all day and night working non-stop to get those shots that we need to please our clients. Let alone if mobile versions of WordPress, Moveable Type, or Blogger were available then the capabilities of pros vs. everyday cameraphone users would be more balanced.

With all this in mind, perhaps if the iPhone OSx or Android were modified to run on a DSLR then the capabilities would be greatly increased.



  1. Sloaah says

    You described how the camera can “mimic” an SLR due to shallower DOF. This isn’t true at all – the tap to focus function does not mean that the camera has shallower DOF. The photos in the above flickr account are only like that as they are taken close to a subject; in this situation, the DOF is equal to an average phone, or greater than normal compacts, which in turn have far greater DOF than SLRs.

  2. Eric says

    It’s a pretty common belief that cell phones will wipe out the P&S market one day. I’ve noticed people for years now taking vacation photos with phones (even crappy camera phones). Truth be told, from what I’ve seen of my 3GS so far it’s great for taking quick snaps.

    I also hope people begin learning that “only” 3-5 megapixels is actually a good thing when dealing with small image sensors. Right now P&S’s make up something like 70% of the market. I can easily see camera phones engulfing most of that leaving the top 30% for m4/3’s cameras and DSLR’s.

  3. says

    One important change is that this is the first camera that is fully accessible to blind photographers such as myself. In fact, the entire iPhone 3GS is accessible right out of the box: this and the fact that now, for the first time, developing acessible apps for the iPhone is relatively simple makes for a radical change, from an accessibility point of view. If a modified version of the iPhone OS were to be available on DSLRs, these cameras too would be accessible to all (also to visually impaired photographers. In fact, for me, if apps like ezimba, camerabag and flickup are accessible, I can control my entire digital workflow. That is an amazing thing to me.