iPhone is a lousy flower camera

Apple’s iPhone has many great features, but the camera isn’t one of them. I tried a couple of shots of early-blooming wildflowers on Pass Island at Deception Pass State Park this afternoon with results that I’m unwilling to share with anyone.

The nice big sharp display leads one to believe that photos will look good, but there are several problems. There’s no way to focus and the set focus is too distant to make nice frame-filling wildflower photos. I have several frames with beautiful grass widows (Olsynium douglasii) nodding my way and a blue sky in the background. But the flowers are soft and the background is sharp. In the bright sun it was hard to see the focus point.

Kay examines grass widows on Pass Island.

Another problem is there’s no way to control the exposure.  It’s completely automatic. In this photo of a friend who came along on the trip the highlights are badly clipped. There’s nothing Photoshop can do to retrieve detail from that level of overexposure. The iPhone apparently is biased toward shadow detail. I ran into the same issue shooting bright yellow spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum).

Color balance is also completely automatic. Under mid-day sun I think the results are too blue. I’ve corrected the color in Lightroom on the photo of Kay examining the grass widows, but straight out of the camera it just isn’t acceptable.

It’s a shame the iPhone camera is so mediocre because sometimes it’s nice to just carry one small device and not be encumbered by a pack full of heavy glass and camera bodies. For a blog entry a big high-res file just isn’t necessary. I guess I’ll have to go back to carrying at least my Canon S70 pocket camera when I don’t want the bring the big iron along.

In any case, today was a fantastic day to be out in the sunshine poking around to see what had come into bloom. Washington Park in Anacortes and Pass Island at Deception Pass State Park are two of the premier early-season flower spots around here. There was more blooming on Pass Island, perhaps because it’s a little more protected. Here’s what we saw:

  • grass widows (Olsynium douglasii)
  • beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis)
  • western buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis)
  • spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum)
  • red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
  • small-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora)
  • early saxifrage (Saxifraga integrifolia)
  • field chickweed (Cerastium arvense) a single flower in a protected spot
  • prairie stars (Lithophragma parviflorum)
  • Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium)

It’s interesting to note that most of these were blooming two weeks earlier in 2008, which was also a cool spring. Our spring of 2009 is even colder.

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