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What's the Skinny on the iPhone 4S Video?

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If you like using your phone to capture candid video, the iPhone 4S (or the iOS 5 upgrade for your iPhone 4) offers plenty of new or improved features to make upgrading worth your time, says Joanna Silber. So now it's perfect? Well, not quite.
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My previous articles in this series have already covered a lot of the iPhone 4S video features—and why having the iPhone as your go-to video camera is becoming a very appealing option. Some of those basic features of the iPhone video camera remain the same in its recent update, the iPhone 4S. Briefly, these features remain constant:

  • The iPhone 4S maintains its fully automatic exposure, focus, and white balance.
  • The tap-to-focus feature still allows you to focus on a specific portion of the image.
  • The storage and retrieval functions of the video camera are still simple and streamlined.
  • You can trim your videos in the storage interface, which lets you create additional smaller videos to share, or you can simply modify your originals to a smaller file size.

So what's new?

iOS 5 Features

The iPhone 4S comes with Apple's recently released iOS 5 software, which of course is also available as a free download for older iPhones. With a few camera-centric features, iOS 5 makes using the iPhone video camera easier than ever.

First of all, you can now access the camera right from the lock screen. Simply hitting the Home button twice gives you immediate access to your camera (and your music player), without having to unlock your phone and scroll any screens to open the camera application (see Figures 1 and 2).

This speedy route to the camera can be especially helpful when those unplanned moments pop up that you're dying to catch. It's also convenient if you want to "borrow" your coworker's phone while he's in a meeting, and load it up with inappropriate photos. Wait—did I write that? No, I most certainly did not, and I won't take responsibility for the results. (But hey—it could be funny. Depending on your coworkers, of course.) If you fear retribution, be sure to lock this feature in your phone settings, so that you can access your camera only via the application after unlocking your phone. Look for this option under Settings > General > Restrictions.

Figure 1 By hitting the Home button twice, you get a slightly different lock screen, which allows you to access your iPhone camera application quickly, without even unlocking your phone.

Figure 2 Lock down the quick access feature in your general settings if you only want the default home screen to be available.

Second, iOS 5 gives you the option of shooting with the volume button (it shows a plus sign) on your phone, instead of using the button on your display screen. This might not seem like a big feature, but it actually makes shooting feel a lot more intuitive, allowing the phone to be handled more like a camera, and giving your eye an uninterrupted look at the viewfinder.

The still camera has a few additional fun features, such as the ability to do minor image-editing right in the camera application, and a grid you can overlay on the viewfinder for easy centering and framing of your image elements; however, these features aren't available on the video camera.

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