iPhone on Holiday

iPhone at the beachRecently I posted about upgrading my old iPhone 3G to a 64GB 4S. One of the things I was mostly looking forward to with the upgrade was the much improved camera and the ability to take video. Last week I spent some time at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and I had plenty of opportunity to experiment with both the still and video camera.

Although it’ll never replace my DSLR the stills camera managed to take some really respectable shots. By far the biggest issue is the lack of a zoom. The colours are great, the focus is sharp but you can’t use the zoom to frame a shot. You need to move if you want to change what’s in your shot.

The video camera is also excellent. The pictures are bright, crisp and clear and it’s very easy to start recording. The small size of the iPhone makes it very easy to move the camera around. Movement is not something I’d had to think about before have previously only used a stills camera, but a static video shot gets boring very quickly.

The audio quality is quite poor, at least when you are in a windy location, and as I was on the coast it was nearly always windy. The white noise of the wind masked much of the voice that I was trying to record. Unfortunately I can’t afford a Foley artist so the wind noise remains on the final version.

To edit my travelogue there was really only one option, iMovie. As iMovie runs on the iPhone you don’t need to move your video files and get start editing straightaway. Each evening in our hotel room I could review the footage and start the editing process.

A touch interface is a natural fit for video editing work, but almost as soon as you start using iMovie you begin to realise the limitations of it. Both rearranging and deleting clips should be possible by drapping them. Instead I found it very hard to make iMovie recognise my dragging, it repeatedly selected the clip instead. Also trimming clips is difficult to do accurately because you cannot drag to frame level accuracy. While dragging the timeline around it also had the annoying habit of scrolling back to the start rather than the small adjustment I was trying to make.

The themes included with iMovie are quite nice, but as is the case with the whole app very soon after you start using them you really how limited they are. The two main problem is that when joining clips together you are limited to either a simple jump cut, cross fade or a single theme specific transition. It’s certainly important not to over use transitions, but having a few more options would be nice. You’re also extremely limited when adding text to the video, which is a key part of making a travelogue video.

I took some panorama photos using my iPhone as they’re a great way to show a scene that you just can’t capture with an ordinary camera. The first app I tried was Dermandar. This app is incredibly easy to use. You hold the camera vertically and then rotate it and the app captures pictures automatically and then stitches them together. The resulting panorama’s look great, until you try and take them off your phone. Part of the ease of use comes from the fact that it uses the video camera rather than stills camera so it’s much quicker to take the pictures. This is much lower resolution though so the resulting images are disappointing small.

The next app I tried was Autostitch panorama. Rather than the pictures being taken automatically you need to line up your photos and press a button to take a picture. When you’ve captured enough click “finish” and the app will stitch them together very quickly, producing great looking full panoramas. It’s not quite as simple to use as Dermandar, but it’s far from difficult and the results are excellent.

I’m not quite ready to leave my DSLR permanently at home, but there are certainly occasions when I will think twice about lugging it around with me.

Photo of iPhone at the beach by John_DL.


Author: Andrew Wilkinson

I'm a computer programmer and team leader working at the UK grocer and tech company, Ocado Technology. I mostly write multithreaded real time systems in Java, but in the past I've worked with C#, C++ and Python.

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