If The Best Camera is The One in Your Pocket, iOS 5′s is Effing Fantastic WWDC 2011 Reaction

Cult of Mac
by Eli Milchman

image: Nico Kaiser/flickr

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a famous photographer say something like “it’s not your equipment, it’s how you use it”; but they love to trot out that phrase like a dog breeder trotting out a prize poodle. And of course, they’re right. In fact, one of the most important — if not the most important — feature is that the camera is actually around for you to take the shot with — or you’ll miss the moment. The second? That the damn thing doesn’t require much fumbling around with to operate.

The iPhone has never had any problem with the first one. And today, bam — Apple has just taken care of the second. In fact, the camera tweaks in iOS 5 should make the iPhone the most-used camera ever. Here’re the much-needed improvements, in order of grooviness.

1. Fast access to the camera: This is what it’s all about. Being able to almost instantly access the camera through the iPhone’s lockscreen means the difference between catching the shot of your coulrophobic buddy hauling ass away from that clown at your kid’s birthday party, or just a shot of a confused clown.

2. Dedicated hard shutter button: Why one of the iPhone’s four physical buttons didn’t do double duty as a shutter button from day one is a wee bit baffling; having to tap the screen to take a shot is not only unsatisfying, it’s also ridiculously awkward (especially when taking self-portraits. Which we do considerably often here at the Cult of Mac, vain twits that we are). Wonder what these guys think of the this.

3. New shooting functions: I had a photo instructor who could practically smell if the image we brought into class was even just the tiniest bit skew. But iOS 5′s gridlines should make it easy for even a plastered, one-eyed goat to capture decently level images (and yes, gridlines have been around for ages on apps like Camera+). And then there’s the way-overdue new focus/exposure lock. Having to tap on the screen to set exposure only to have it frustratingly adjust again after recomposing the shot will now be a thing of the hazy past; frankly, I’m baffled that Apple hasn’t added a dedicated slider to manually adjust exposure, but the exposure lock is a big step in the right direction.

4. New editing features: the limited photo-editing functions additions in iOS 5 aren’t going to replace hardcore editing apps like Photoshop Express and PhotoForge2. But the ability to crop, nix the dreaded red-eye and quick-adjust images will make having to bring out the big guns less frequent, and make sharing photos a quicker and easier affair.

And that doesn’t even delve into the new photo sharing possibilities through iCloud and Twitter — which makes these huge improvements all the more significant, right?

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