The iPhone's camera is an unexpected plus

Kevin Ho of the CNET Blog Network tests the iPhone's camera in San Francisco and offers some tips for getting the best shots.

Kevin Ho
Kevin Ho is an attorney living in San Francisco. He's from Iowa originally where he got his first Atari computer when he was little and remembers using the Apple IIGS. He is PC-user but secretly a Mac person in the closet as evidenced by many an iPod cluttering his desk drawers. He'll be writing about his experience with the iPhone. Disclosure.
Kevin Ho
3 min read

One of the joys of the iPhone is its camera.

I didn't think that I'd like it or even use it very much. But in addition to the phone's SMS texting, e-mail and Web-browsing technologies, I've actually used the iPhone's camera feature much more than I thought I would. I've already posted a few photos on this blog, but here are some more random pictures and thoughts.

(1) The iPhone camera works best at moderate light and is great at capturing stealthy candid shots, which are the best ones, I think. In low light, however, the iPhone's pictures are grainy, so hold your camera very still if you want to get a decent picture.

Hold your iPhone camera still in low light.

(2) Random people have asked me at random places to take photos of, well, random things (as with the woman in the post office who asked me to take a picture of her pet parrot).

Yes, in the post office!
It's always nice to have people smile at you when they ordinarily would have no other reason to do so.

(3) The iPhone is sturdy enough to go on bike rides in various forms of "pockets" and pouches that biking spandex allows you. In testing the EDGE network (which is slowly improving, I swear) during bike rides, I've used the iPhone with sweaty and greasy hands after riding on uneven roads. Also, even though I may be exhausted, the iPhone's user interface is still very simple and easy to use.

(4) Self-portrait pictures are doable with the iPhone's camera, but you have to learn some muscle memory to remember where the virtual 'shutter release' is on the iPhone. Perhaps, a future option for controlling the iPhone's camera would use the home key as the shutter release.

(5) Once you get your iPhone out in a social setting (better yet if you have two other friends who have theirs too) people will want to look at them, so don't have any incriminating e-mails, pictures or text messages on your iPhone for all to see.

More attention was paid to Zach's iPhone than the sushi.
A candid picture of Zach at Dolores Park Cafe in San Francisco.
But the iPhone will invariably break the ice, be a conversation starter or generally be a distraction during a dinner you happen to be at, without exception.

(6) The iPhone allows you to take pictures of people who wouldn't otherwise ordinarily agree to have their pictures taken, and it allows you to take pictures at times you wouldn't ordinarily consider. It's small, subtle and doesn't look like an imposing camera with a zoom lens the paparazzi would use. Take advantage of this. In other words: spontaneity.

(7) San Francisco is an amazing and picturesque place--where else would there be free symphony concerts in the park, parrots in the post office, a massive park to bike through that empties out onto the beach?

The S.F. Symphony in the park, as captured on the iPhone. Too bad it doesn't have video functions.
The Conservatory in Golden Gate Park, as captured on by my iPhone.
(Well, I'm sure there are many places in the world like here, but still.) But what better way to capture and share it then by taking pictures?

The iPhone's 2-megapixel camera provides decent-quality pictures. But what's really cool and useful is its seamless integration with the built-in e-mail functions or the iPhone's ability to sync with programs like iPhoto or Google's Picasa. This ultimately enables you to share these pictures with a lot of people--and fast.

And, as cheesy as it may sound, the iPhone's camera allows you to share and capture the world around us, really. You can bond, take pictures that you can delete, you can be goofy, you can smile more.

Max and I in the middle of a bike ride at Ocean Beach (a self-portrait too!).
A captured moment: Smile!
Think about it: You tend not to forget your phone when you leave home, but it's not too often that I'll automatically default to bring my camera along. Here, the camera is built-in: therefore, I ALWAYS have a camera on me.

I know that in the future, the camera will have a higher resolution, a flash, an image stabilizer and video functionality. I will be sure to get that version of the iPhone as quickly as I got this one.