Apple iOS 4.1 was released this week after its announcement last week. It included a number of changes including Game Center (sic), a few bug fixes and surprisingly High Dynamic Range Photography, or HDR. No-one was really expecting this from Apple at all, but it is definitely welcomed. So what is it?
Well, put simply HDR is a combination of a number of different exposures that are blended together with the best features of each extrapolated to provide detail across the entire scene. Fortunately for us, our eyes do this on the fly constantly without us really knowing about it and adjust the amount of light they see dynamically as you look out a bright window, or back into a darker room. Cameras aren’t so versatile and need a little assistance. If you take a photo through that window you just looked out your camera has two basic options: Expose for the bright areas, or expose for the dark ones. HDR will take a photo of the scene with both of these areas exposed properly and meld them together so the entire scene is properly exposed. Clever, huh?
This is a feature that on my relatively expensive Canon SLR requires me to bracket the scene, set the camera to continuously shoot photos in rapid succession, put the three exposures into an image editor like Photoshop or Photomatix, get the balance right in the photo, wait for it to number crunch and spit out my HDR photo. Pretty time consuming? You betcha. This is how the iPhone 4 does it… Open camera application, make sure HDR is turned on with an on-screen button, take the photo, wait 3 seconds and review both the HDR and the photo the camera would’ve taken if HDR was off. Tell me which you’d rather?
Yes the SLR gives me a bucket load of options to configure this and that, but when you just want to get past the limitations of an already wonderful little point and shoot, this is a free addition that just can’t be beat. See below for my comparison shots of what you can now get out of a photo where the light in the scene just won’t play ball.