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How "good" are the cameras provided by the iPad 2? Will the iPad 2 cameras meet my needs?
The rear camera supports HD video recording (720p up to 30 FPS with audio), and functions as a still camera as well, although Apple does not specify megapixels. However, by measuring the resulting photos it has been determined that the rear camera is approximately 0.7 megapixels.
The front mounted camera, designed to be used for video conferencing in conjunction with Apple's provided "FaceTime" software over a Wi-Fi network, takes VGA quality photos and video up to 30 FPS. Neither camera has autofocus capability nor does either have a flash.
Given that Apple doesn't even specify the megapixel capability of the better of the two cameras, it should be an immediate signal that these cameras aren't particularly high-quality. One with even basic understanding of photography likewise would recognize from specs alone that the iPad 2 does not have "good" cameras. However, an assortment of opinions from reviewers nevertheless may be of interest.
Let's just put this out there: the iPad 2 cameras are really pretty bad. They're not unusable, but it's clear that the sensors employed are not top shelf by any measure. . . Neither one of these produces remotely satisfying results for still shots, and in particular. . . the back camera just seems utterly second rate. For video duties and FaceTime calls, the cameras are reasonably useful -- but we would never trade a dedicated camera (or at least a smartphone with a 5+ megapixel shooter) for this.
While what Apple gave the iPad 2 is roughly equivalent to the camera hardware Apple included in the fourth-generation iPod touch, the new cameras deliver sub-optimal quality for still photography, videography, and arguably video calling. Photos have little detail; videos have a higher-contrast grain than ones shot with the iPod touch, and colors are rendered with an unnatural ruddiness. Part of the issue is due to Apple's software implementation of these features, essentially scaling low-quality images to fill the large iPad screen, but the hardware's not great either -- disappointing regardless of where you want to point your fingers.
Stills on the rear camera aren't impressive at all, and what makes it worse is that the images are noticeably blurry and noisy when upscaled to the iPad's native XGA resolution. . . Video quality is almost exactly the same as the iPod touch (latest gen with cameras). It's actually pretty good. . .
[Regarding the interface,] the problem is that the camera control bar moves when the iPad is rotated. Yes, it moves. Contrast that to the iPhone and iPod touch where the bar never moves, and the capture button is always on the bottom near the home button - icons rotate, but the whole bar doesn't move. On the iPad 2, icons rotate, and the whole bar moves.
In both landscape and portrait view, the capture button goes to the bottom of the screen, dead center. In portrait, it's not too hard to just stretch the thumb and tap capture. It isn't comfortable, but it's doable. In landscape however, you either need to either hold the iPad 2 with one hand and tap the capture button with a free hand (which is a great way to accidentally drop the thing or introduce biblical amounts of camera shake), or stretch your thumb to the max and hope to goodness it's long enough to reach the button.
If you're thinking that you'll use the iPad 2 as your only camera then you're likely to be disappointed. The camera on the back of the iPad 2 is really not designed for "photography". It's slightly worse than the one on the iPod touch. Also it's a big device to hold while composing your shot. In a pinch if it were all you were holding and it meant missing the moment, by all means fire up the iPad 2 and take the shot. Otherwise, use the camera for your Apps, and low res shots that won't be printed and displayed.
Side-by-Side Video Tests
Although reviewer assessments are helpful, a side-by-side collection of basic videos, from YouTube user DetroitBorg, shot with the iPad 2 and the iPod touch 4th Gen also can be useful for you to decide if the iPad 2 cameras are "good" or at least "good enough" for your needs:
Ultimately, the cameras in the iPad 2 aren't high quality, as should be quite apparent from both specs and the assortment of reviewer opinions above.
However, if your needs include online video conferencing, shooting basic HD video, and the occasional still photo where quality isn't important, the iPad 2 cameras should be adequate for those with modest expectations.