Apple's new iPhone 3G S sports new camera, video

Autofocus, tap-to-focus, and macro features join VGA video on Apple's upcoming iPhone 3G S, due to start shipping next week.

The camera in Apple's upcoming iPhone 3G S sports not just video, but also some new features besides the usual not-so-useful bump in megapixels.

The phone, available next week in the United States and some other countries, comes with a 3-megapixel camera compared to the current iPhone 3G's 2 megapixels. It can shoot video at 30 frames per second at VGA (640x480) resolution, matching competing phones and addressing a shortcoming of the current phones.

Videos can be edited on the iPhone 3G S by trimming the sequence of still images taken from the video.
Videos can be edited on the iPhone 3G S by trimming the sequence of still images taken from the video. Apple

But the iPhone 3G S can do more than just shoot video, said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, at the company's Apple Worldwide Developer Conference here. People can share videos through e-mail, MMS, Apple's MobileMe service, and YouTube.

And taking advantage of the iPhone's relatively powerful hardware, people can "scrub" through a video--that is, click and drag to fast-forward and rewind--as they watch to jump to the spot they want. Likewise, they can trim videos to pare back to the desired portion. The scrubbing and trimming uses an interface that displays the video as a filmstrip sequence of still frames.

The iPhone 3G S also includes still camera upgrades for the photography crowd--and it should be noted that the iPhone rivals SLRs for activity on Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site , outpacing all mobile phones and all but one actual camera.

First is autofocus. Mobile phones' tiny image sensors often mean everything is in focus whether you want it to be or not, but the iPhone 3G S will let come with autofocus to try to ensure that the right part of the image is sharp. A feature called "tap to focus" lets people tap on the screen image to focus the camera on a particular part of the image--foreground or background, for example.

Yahoo's Flickr site puts the iPhone head and shoulders above other mobile phones for popularity on the photo-sharing site.
Yahoo's Flickr site puts the iPhone head and shoulders above other mobile phones for popularity on the photo-sharing site. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Coming along with autofocus is an automacro mode, too, for close-up shots, Schiller said.

Apple also said the new phone has better low-light performance--a common bugaboo not merely for mobile phone cameras but for regular point-and-shoot models as well.

The iPhone 3G S will cost $199 for a 16GB model and $299 for a 32GB model, Apple said. Other features include better battery life and faster performance.

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About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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