New iPad (3rd gen) vs. iPhone 4S: Camera Comparison

I think I was among many surprised at Apple’s inclusion of a much better camera in the new iPad. I would have been perfectly happy with just a front facing camera, after all, the likelihood of me even wanting to use the tablet as a backup snapper was very low. Despite that, Cupertino’s design team thought it best to include a 5MP sensor with backside illumination and bunch of other filters and goodies. Essentially, a lower resolution version of the 8MP iSight camera in the iPhone 4S. (And yes, Apple confirmed the new iSight branding now applies to anything using the same sensor technology.)

So, I went out to compare the two, to see exactly how they faired against each other. Would the iPhone’s point-and-shoot replacement outgun the iPad’s? Or would it be more even? I was interested to find out. I left the settings along, and avoided using the iPhone’s LED to make it as fair as I could.  It was difficult to get the same angle and shot each time, but, they’re near enough to compare.

iPhone 4S

iPad

Comparing the images above, the most apparent difference between the two cameras is the color. I’d say the iPhone had better color saturation, and a sharper image thanks to the higher contrast. But, the iPad’s shooter is by no means poor.

iPhone 4S

iPad

Again, looking at the pebbles, the iPhone has more vibrant color and is sharper. That could be down to extra contrast, or that since the iPhone’s is a larger image to begin with it looks crisper – having been reduced to the same size as the iPad’s display. iPhone image: 3264 x 2448 vs. iPad’s 2592 x 1936. iPhone has near enough 8 million pixels, the iPad has 5 million. In theory, to fairly judge the sharpness, I’ll reduce the iPad’s down to 60% of the size, and then see if indeed the iPhone’s images still look sharper.

iPhone

iPad

As is seeming to be a familiar pattern now, there’s much more color and contrast in the iPhone’s camera. Unfortunately, having made the iPad’s shot smaller, it’s hard to see anything. Click the images, and they should load up in full size.

A few more test shots:

iPhone

iPad

iPhone

iPad

Low light/Dusk:

iPhone

iPad

Interestingly, the auto exposure kicks in a little too much on both. To the human eye, the sky was practically black/navy. Both clearly used their ISO range to the max, and came up with an almost sky blue image. But what we gain in light we lose in clarity. Both images are noisy. iPhone seems to fare a little better in this test, but not by much.

Close-ups: 

iPhone

iPad

The iPhone does seem to do better in close up situations too. The iPad was at least a centimetre further from the keyboard than the iPhone before its focus was locked in properly.

Final Thoughts: 

I’m impressed with the new iPad’s camera. Although it doesn’t quite match the iPhone’s in terms of saturation and contrast, it’s still quick and takes a much better image than virtually any other smartphone or tablet out there. A huge improvement on the iPad 2. Still, I’m not going to take it out with me specifically to take pics. However, if I need to capture something and all I have is my iPad, at least I can be confident that images should be good enough to share.

Have you tried out the new camera yet? What do you think? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me: @TiP_Cam

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  • erickarroqui

    Great post! I believe iPad’s camera is almost there but it’s certainly a change.
    Thanks for your article it helped me with my decision on what to buy.

  • Todd

    Thank you!