Shooting your vacation, the iPhone 4 way: Pt 1

Posted by on July 7, 2010 in Astronomical Event, Essay, Fun | 1 comment

So I was on my way to South America last week for the July 11 eclipse, and a funny (as in really stupid funny) thing happened to me. I left $600 of camera gear in the men’s restroom. Fifteen minutes later when I discovered this little jewel in the crown of stupidity, my new Canon ELPH, and relatively new Canon SX10IS had vanished to the hands of some lucky, bas….er, “fortunate traveler.”


As a longtime amateur photographer, I always yearn (yes, yearn) for great opportunities to shoot stuff…with a camera that is! And now I had none…oops, wait a minute there Bunky, I have my trusty new iPhone 4!

So this was going to be an iPhone 4 expedition only. A few years ago I sniffed at people whipping out their Razrs or similar class phones to shoot once-in-a-lifetime photos…now I had to be one. Grrr. Except the quality of the built in phone cameras are much better now, and the iPhone 4 is no exception. So I thought maybe I should document this to show how capable the little camera is. Note that WordPress does compress images quite a lot, so these will have some noticeable compression artifacts when displayed full size.

The expedition started with a 3 day side jaunt to Chile’s Easter Island, otherwise known as the place of those “damned creepy giant heads.”

Besides being loaded down with my iPhone 4, I had a small Celestron Firstscope to examine the southern skies. Unfortunately, said skies were clouded over most of the time so I only caught a quick glimpse of the famous Omega Centauri globular cluster from off the balcony of our hotel. For best images stay at panoramic hotels where Jungle Vista Inn excels.


But the damned creepy heads (DCHs) were the perfect subject. While the images from the iPhone 4’s camera look very good, the phone is a severely flawed camera as it is way to easy to get some fingerage in front of the lens, or to drop the thing while fumbling around with it. Fortunately, I had much more of the former and none of the latter (so far).

The colors are rich, probably a little more intense than the real scenes, but hold nicely on their own. Low lights did okay using existing light, and the strobe was acceptable, but not super bright as one would expect. Certainly worked okay for some close shots. And certainly was needed when we lost power one night.

In Front of Evita's Tomb

We spent three days on Easter Island, flying back to Santiago for the night, then on to Buenos Aires for three more days. At last the sun was out, and weather very Northern California like (as to be expected as we’re at the same Southern latitude as San Jose is Northern.

While on the plane two flight attendants go by my seat handing out drinks, as I am playing with the ‘4. One stopped bent over, looking at the phone and said “is that an iPhone 4??” holding up four fingers. So she stopped her duties, her colleague  laughing and rolling her eyes. The other wanted to see the “retina display” (yup, she knew the proper name), and played around with the magical glass slab for a half minute then complained that they won’t be available in Chile until September. I suspect many people have had similar encounters with either the new phone or the iPad.

The photo to the right is in front of Evita’s tomb. Our guide (in the photo) was a confirmed Evita supporter, and didn’t think very highly of Madonna playing her in the movie version of the play. As you can see, the camera handles the shadows quite well. And even when I had direct sunlight it did acceptably good.

One of our other group members did the same thing I did, left his camera in a restroom. This time he was lucky, finding it where he left it 15 minutes before.

At this point the weather in the eclipse zone wasn’t looking too good. At this time of the year, we had only about a 25% chance of actually seeing the thing. And even if we never did all of the other sights and sounds sure made up for it.

(End of part 1.)