Exactly one decade ago this week, Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPhone to the world. Looking back, it’s probably safe to say it was the first step in revolutionizing mobile telephony. Eventually, the iPhone also revolutionized photography, with its latest release so far being the cream of the crop.
It all started pretty modest, though. The very first iPhones were equipped with 4, 8 or 16 GB of flash memory to store your 2.0 megapixel shots on, which you could then watch on your 3.5 inch display with 320 x 480 resolution at 163 ppi. In short, this is how an iPhone picture looked like back then:
A little over a year later, it was already time for an update. Skipping the “2” for whatever reason, Apple immediately introduced its iPhone 3. Because it focused mostly on connectivity, the camera didn’t really get an update, with the exception of geotagging. It wasn’t until June 19, 2009, that an extra megapixel was added to the iPhone 3GS, as well as auto focus, macro, white balance support and a “tap to focus” feature. It was also the first time you had 32 GB to storage shots like these:
In 2010, Apple took its “biggest leap since the original iPhone,” by introducing the iPhone 4 and its new look. It still featured a 3.5-inch display, but with a LED-backlit 960 x 640 resolution 326 ppi display. Even more revolutionary was that the iPhone 4 was the first with two cameras. On the back side of the device, there was a 5 megapixel HD video/still camera with a “backside illuminated sensor” and 5 x digital zoom, alongside a LED flash. On the front side, you could only expect a VGA quality video/still camera, which was developed for Apple’s then also introduced FaceTime.
Just like the 3-to-3S upgrade, the introduction of the iPhone 4S mainly focused on the device’s powerfulness. For its photography, it meant an upgrade to an 8 megapixel back camera (nothing changed in the front). It was also the first time you had 64 GB at your disposal.
By introducing the iPhone 5 on September 21, 2012, Apple finally ditched its 960 x 640 resolution 326 ppi display for a new, 4 inch 1136 x 640 resolution 326 ppi display. The camera in the back kept its 8 megapixels, but the one on the front was upgraded to 720 p “FaceTime HD” capabilities.
Apple announced both the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S on September 10, 2013. The S became the new flagship model, the C was designed as a mid-range model, and the company continued producing its 4S as an entry-level model. The front camera was rather similar in 5, 5C and 5S, with just a slightly improved low light performance in the two most recent releases. The back camera on both the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C were also rather similar (1080 p video, 8 MP, f/2.4 aperture, autofocus, face detection, panorama mode…), but the 5S camera was significantly improved: 1.5µm pixels (compared to the 1.4 on the 5 and 5C), f/2.2 aperture (as opposed to f/2.2) and its dual (and not single) LED flash. It also added burst mode possibilities and a “slo-mo” mode for video’s.
Bigger was once again better when the iPhone 6 was introduced on September 19, 2014. It had a 4.7 inch 1334 x 750 resolution display (326 ppi) and it was the first iPhone to featured up to 128 GB storage. Introduced on the same day, the iPhone 6 Plus had a display of no less than 5.5 inch, 1920 x 1080 (401 ppi) resolution. But when it came down to the front and back camera, none of the new iPhones really had anything new to offer, other than the 6 Plus’s optical image stabilization, that is.
After the iPhone SE introduction, to keep the fans of smaller devices satisfied, iPhone photography was once again revolutionized on September 16, 2016, with Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The review by our online editor-in-chief is the best recap. The iPhone 7, both Plus and standard, came with a 12 MP camera with an f/1.8 aperture, which allowed for 50 % more light to hit the sensor than the 6S model. The iPhone 7 Plus had both that camera, and a second 12 MP camera with a telephoto lens at f/2.8. The wide angle had up to 5 x digital zoom, while the telephoto offered an optical zoom of 2 x, and a digital zoom of 10 x.
The iPhone 7 Plus is unequivocally the best camera Apple has ever put into a smartphone. This was expected, and the quality of images is most certainly outstanding… for a cell phone. The gap is slimming between the quality of images taken on a cell phone and those taken on full size cameras (or even point and shoots), but there is still a gap.
Source for specs: everymac.com.