The iPhone 4S promised incredibly better video and still shots. Built-in image stabilization, 1080p video, and an added 5th lens were just a few of the upgrades made to this already impressive device. So, how do the two compare in the field? Is the iPhone 4S really that much of an upgrade from the iPhone 4 when it comes to shooting video?
LockerGnome’s Chris Pirillo decided to give the two iPhones a true side-by-side comparison. Shooting with them both in their native video formats without any adjustments to focus or resolution, he took the devices from a naturally lit living room to a bright and colorful outdoors environment. From there, he headed into his fairly dark home office filled with unnatural lighting including colored LED clocks and various monitors.
The results were fairly surprising. What is in itself a very capable camcorder, the iPhone 4 is clearly more blurry around the edges than the iPhone 4S. Grass, carpet, and concrete were far less defined on the iPhone 4 than the images captured using the 4S. In addition, the higher resolution of the 4S doesn’t appear to be suffering from the same tearing and vertical sync issues that other 1080p camcorders its size commonly do. Motion is smooth and the image is sound, even when being moved around quickly. There do appear to be some very minor stabilization artifacts when holding the camera in unstable hands, but this is much less noticeable than the shaking of the iPhone 4. Image stabilization is also limited to camcorder functions rather than still photos. You’ll still need to hold the iPhone just as still on the 4S as you did with the 4 to take a clear shot.
The iPhone 4S appears to have more depth of field capability than the 4. Focusing on the forefront (or background) object alone and blurring out everything else is a difficult task for the 4, but the 4S does it naturally and with a greater degree of precision. This is one of the biggest draws to using a DSLR such as the Canon 5D Mark II for shooting video, and while the iPhone 4S hardly compares to a camera of that caliber, it is surprising to see that degree of depth of field in such a compact device.
Audio also appears to be crisper on the iPhone 4S over the 4. They both record in AAC, 44100 Hz mono, but it appears that the 4S has managed to make the microphone a bit less muffled than the iPhone 4. This is likely due to the higher sound quality requirements of its Siri voice recognition software.
Both cameras require manual focus on the part of the photographer. During filming, your subject may become blurry if it is moved closer or further from the lens to any degree without being adjusted manually.
Due in part to higher resolution, the data rate of the iPhone 4S is over double that of the iPhone 4. This means that you’ll need significantly more disk space to shoot the same amount of video on the 4S.
Here are some of the technical details from the test shoot to demonstrate how these two videos break down in terms of specs:
iPhone 4: H.264
iPhone 4s: H.264
iPhone 4: 1,280 x 720
iPhone 4S: 1,920 x 1,080
iPhone 4: AAC, 44100 Hz, Mono
iPhone 4S: AAC, 44100 Hz, Mono
iPhone 4: 27.62
iPhone 4S: 27.91
iPhone 4: 375.7 MB
iPhone 4S: 855.8 MB
iPhone 4: 10.53 Mbit/s
iPhone 4S: 23.96 Mbit/s
Over all, the 4S is a great upgrade if you value better video quality. The addition of a fifth lens appears to have worked wonders to improving the depth of field, and image stabilization is a much-needed feature, especially at such a high resolution.