Yesterday, John Gruber’s Daring Fireball called out Consumer Reports for what ge saw to be wildly inaccurate ratings of the iPhone 5’s low-light capabilities. They found the camera to be not much better than the iPhone 4S in their testing, but he had seen a massive improvement.
I have also seen the iPhone 5’s low-light performance as a huge step forward for the iPhone as a photography tool. Gruber noted that he had shot all of his images with a the built-in camera app, where CR had shot them with third-party apps. It seemed incredibly likely that the new camera took advantage of some software improvements, then, that these third-party apps weren’t tapping into. Either a boost in analog gain or an improvement in ISO rating up to the iPhone 5’s apparent max of 3200.
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Well, it turns out that it indeed was. Today, Gruber points to a post by Jim Rhoades, the maker of Scout Camera and Paperless. Rhoades details three new properties that developers can take advantage of to enable the boosted low-light properties of Apple’s built-in camera app.
While it’s not documented yet in the AVCaptureDevice Class Reference, taking a peek at the “AVCaptureDevice.h” class header reveals the related properties:
They chose to make the low light boost mode optional, as the increase in light sensitivity comes at the cost of some increased noise (not surprisingly). Making it optional was a good decision.
“While this low light boost mode won’t make it into the update of Scout Camera that is currently “waiting for review” by Apple,” says Rhoades, “I’ll be looking at implementing it for the next update.”
So that’s good news for all of us that love shooting with the iPhone, but like to do it with other camera apps like Camera+, Instagram or Scout Camera.