Apple iPhone 4S Digital Camera Review$199.99
All things considered, the iPhone 4S earned a sub-par resolution score. Remember that the camera is just one feature on a decked-out gadget, and despite that, its resolution performance is better than a number of point-and-shoots we've seen this year (not included in this comparison group—no point in fighting straw men). Sharpness is mediocre, and it loses points for its mid-range pixel count and singular photo size, but there's almost no distortion at all, and chromatic aberration is well controlled. That's a pretty good result overall, even if it still ends up at the back of the comparison group. More on how we test resolution.
As we tend to expect from cameras with no zoom, the iPhone 4S earned the best distortion score that we award. It shows almost no distortion at all, just an insignificant 0.04% pincushion effect. We can't ask for much better than that. A few other cameras in our comparison group earned our top score as well, but the 4S is the straightest arrow of them all.
The 4S certainly doesn't take razor-sharp photos, but they're a lot crisper than the score lets on. The iPhone's relatively low pixel count (8 megapixels) compared to most point-and-shoots (12 to 16 megapixels these days) could partially account for the mediocre score. The lens is tiny and flat, which isn't an ideal design, so that could knock a few points off as well. The 4S also doesn't seem to apply as much sharpening as a number of point-and-shoots. So the score is low—much lower than any of the point-and-shoots in our comparison group—but the real-world results do look decent, especially toward the center of the frame.
Chromatic Aberration ()
Aberration is well controlled, with just a small amount of green fringing visible in areas of high contrast at the edges of the frame. Of the comparison group, the 4S earned the top score by a notable margin.
Quality & Size Options
Most cameras weigh in north of 12 megapixels and offer at least a few photo sizes and aspect ratios, but not the 4S. It only captures 8-megapixel photos in a 4:3 aspect ratio.
We did not test the new iPhone's stabilization capabilities. Anti-shake is always on, so we can't collect a control data sample. It's only electronic stabilization anyhow, so even if we did test it, we wouldn't expect it to have any noticeable effect in our somewhat violent testing procedure. More on how we test image stabilization.