iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS Camera Test, Video and Photos

Posted on 25 June 2010, Last updated on 25 June 2010 by

cam In the keynote that announced the iPhone 4 [Portal page], Steve Jobs told the world that the iPhone 4 features a 5MP camera. A decent bump from the previous iPhone 3GS’s 3.2MP camera, but still a far cry from some of the latest phones out there which are rocking 8MP cameras (see: HTC Incredible). Jobs was quick to also say that the iPhone 4 uses something called a back-illuminated sensor which is designed to capture more light than traditional smartphone sensors, to enhance low light performance. The iPhone 4 is also capable of recording HD video at 720p (1280×720) at 30 FPS, according to Apple.

Here I’ve got some comparison photos and videos from the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS cameras:

Video Recording

At the end of the video there is a link to the same video taken with the iPhone 3GS. Make sure you are watching in HD.

Real HD video and flash (YouTube) HD video are a bit different. The raw file is certainly of a better quality than what YouTube is showing, but you should still be able to get the gist of it.


I’ve taken a variety of shots with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. Be sure to click on photos to enlarge them for full detail. The iPhone 4’s flash is turned off in all photos. The iPhone 4 takes photos at a resolution of 2592×1936 while the iPhone 3GS takes them at 2048×1536.

General Use

iPhone 4 iPhone 3GS

Close Ups

iPhone 4iPhone 3GS iPhone 4iPhone 3GS iPhone 4 iPhone 3GS

Extreme Close Ups

iPhone 4 iPhone 3GS

Low Light

iPhone 4 iPhone 3GSiPhone 4 iPhone 3GS

Extreme Low Light

iPhone 4 iPhone 3GS iPhone 4 iPhone 3GS

For one, it looks like the iPhone 4 has better contrast than the 3GS. This is particularly apparent in shots of the pen, where there is a more broad range of blacks and whites in the iPhone 4 shot; on the corresponding 3GS shot, you’ll notice that the darkest black on the photo appears to cover more area instead of fading through a series of shades as the light and colors change.

Probably the best picture to see the difference in resolution is of the belt in the Close Ups section. This was semi-dark shot and the iPhone 3GS’s photo suffered because of it.

Special back-illuminated sensors are great, but just how much better is the low light performance on the iPhone 4? I might be able to dig up a technical answer, but let’s look at what it means in real world terms. Take a look at the first two photos in the Extreme Low Light section. On the iPhone 4 shot, you can see the lilies toward the bottom of the pond a bit better than the 3GS shot. Additionally, the pond’s surface is not as noisy in the iPhone 4 shot as it is in the 3GS’s, due to the enhanced low light performance.

Is this really a significant improvement? I would put my money on the fact that the majority of iPhone 4 users will not notice the difference between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS cameras when it comes to photographs. Most user’s photos will either stay on the device, or be uploaded or sent somewhere at reduced quality. But for those who really use their camera, I think they’ll be quite please with the iPhone 4’s camera. On the other hand, the HD video recording capability on the iPhone 4 is a pretty clear improvement. The flash is also something to consider, though because the iPhone 3GS doesn’t have one, we didn’t use it in these shots (if you are interested in flash info, you’ll find it in our upcoming full iPhone 4 review).

9 Comments For This Post

  1. Chippy says:

    Looks like the image upload process has stripped out the EXIF data. We’ll see if we can get a couple of originals up for EXIF analysis.

    Steve /Chippy

  2. sandeep says:

    nice post .thanks for the info.really grt comparision

  3. Habbycam says:

    I use the Habbycam SD Brace which makes a big difference

  4. macgyver says:

    What iOS was the 3GS running on? Was it running the iOS4 or version 3.1.3? (i.e. is the low light improvement due to the iOS4 operating system or due to an actual hardware change in the iphone 4?). I’m particularly interested in this as I would happily upgrade to the iphone 4 if I knew I’d get better quality photos. Cheers

  5. Muhammad Abubakr Chaudhry says:

    I don’t think there is any difference. The only difference is that one is dark and the other is light. This can be corrected at the time of taking the picture by focusing on a dark area which will make the picture brighter. And secondly even if the picture is a lil bit dark, that can be corrected by so many iphone built in apps such as the Adobe Photoshop express.

    I Personally have iPhone 3gs and I am totally comfortable with it.

    Attached is a video i made from my iphone 3gs and uploaded on Youtube. Although the video is compressed but still see the quality.

    To sum it up, i am satisfied with my 3gs

  6. Muhammad Abubakr Chaudhry says:

    Sorry! I think I forgot to post the link to my video in the previous post.

    Here is the link


  7. wordpress web hosting says:

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post. Sarah

  8. Mike Green says:

    Keep in mind the iPhone 4 has a white balance problem that’s why there is more yellow in low light.

  9. deana says:

    iphone 4 is so much better

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