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How do the cameras in the iPod touch 4th Gen compare to the cameras in the iPhone 4? Does the iPod touch 4th Gen provide a camera that is "good" for my needs?
The iPod touch 4th Generation and the iPhone 4 both have dual cameras -- one front-mounted VGA quality video/still camera designed for video conferencing over a Wi-Fi network with Apple's included "FaceTime" application -- and one rear mounted "HD" camera.
However, the rear camera on the iPhone 4 is much higher quality -- a 5 megapixel HD video/still camera (full 720p at 30 FPS with audio) with a "backside illuminated sensor," a 5X digital zoom, autofocus support, and an LED flash -- whereas the iPod touch 4th Generation has a rear camera that supports lower quality video (upscaled 720p up to 30 FPS with audio), and can take 960x720 still photos (roughly 0.7 megapixels). It does not have autofocus support or a flash at all. Additionally, with a software update to iOS 4.1, the iPhone 4 supports HDR photography and the iPod touch 4th Gen does not.
One with a basic knowledge of photography would immediately dismiss the camera in the iPod touch 4th Gen as low quality, and this is quite apparent from the specs. With a small lens and no optical zoom, the camera in the iPhone 4 is clearly limited as well, but certainly better.
For in-depth evaluations of the iPod touch 4th Gen camera quality in "real world" use, ArsTechnica, AnandTech and iLounge each provide useful details. As one might expect, the iPod touch 4th Gen is decidedly okay for taking photos in good lighting but fails rather miserably in low light. Perhaps most interestingly, ArsTechnica noted that the front-facing VGA quality camera on the iPhone 4 seems to be of better quality as well, even though the "official" specs are the same.
Side-By-Side Video Comparison
For shooting relatively low quality web video in bright light, the iPod touch 4th Gen delivers respectable results compared to the iPhone 4, as this video from the Czech Letem Svetem Applem demonstrates:
This side-by-side iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th Gen camera comparison from TechTechManTV also demonstrates the difference between the devices shooting both video and still photographs:
Camera Comparison Summary
Ultimately, the cameras in the iPhone 4 -- even the HD camera -- are not "high quality" per se compared to many basic "point and shoot" cameras or video cameras that are equipped with larger lenses, larger sensors, and optical zoom. The camera in the iPod touch 4th Gen is substantially worse, but still quite usable for basic tasks where quality is not that important.
Truly "serious" photographers and videographers would have dismissed the iPod touch 4th Gen camera on specs alone, and rightly so, but for those who need to take the occasional photo or video, particularly for web use, it can be "good enough" for many with modest expectations.