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Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 10/29/2010

Occoquan Color, by iPhone

By Kevin Ambrose

* Freeze watch N & W | Full Forecast | Tropical update *

The leaves are changing color along the Occoquan River at Sandy Run Regional Park, October 23, 2010.

I like my iPhone 3GS just fine but I will never consider using it for a photo shoot. Well, let me clarify. I will never consider using the iPhone for a photo shoot unless I leave all of my camera gear sitting in a backpack next to the kitchen door as I drive away for a photo shoot. I arrived at the Occoquan River last Saturday morning with two tripods and no cameras. Given the one hour round trip from home, and the rapidly changing light conditions, I felt I wasted a good chance for a photo shoot.

As I gazed at the beautiful scene of colorful foliage, reflecting clearly upon the surface of the Occoquan River, I remembered my trusty iPhone. I figured that the iPhone could at least capture the essence of the moment. I further rationalized that we could also check out the photo and video quality of the iPhone and then, perhaps, I could justify a "serious" photo shoot with what I considered a glorified cell phone and email/web device. So, I pulled out my iPhone and took a few photos and a short video.

See below for more photos and a video. Also, I'll rate the iPhone 3GS photo quality.

A 23 second iPhone video showing the autumn color along the banks of the Occoquan River at Sandy Run Regional Park, October 23, 2010.

You can judge the results for yourself. Given the situation, I was quite happy with the outcome. At least you will get a picture of what I saw Saturday morning at Sandy Run Regional Park, it was truly a beautiful scene. The photos and video capture the moment, which was my goal.

The iPhone 3GS, with its 3 megapixel camera, does well with bright light scenes, especially if you have a steady hand. Recent improvements to the camera in the iPhone 4, including a 5 megapixel sensor, a LED flash, and additional DSLR attachments, make it more of an option for photography. The Motorola DROID X has topped the iPhone with an 8 megapixel camera that can record 720p HD video. Who knows, perhaps I'll be doing future photo and video posts with a new cell phone device?

A wide view of the Occoquan River at Sandy Run Regional Park, October 23, 2010.

Regarding the photos in this post, I think they are fine for low resolution webpages, such as this post, but I won't be making the photos into 8x10 prints for my office. I also noticed the colors in the photos appear a bit skewed, particularly the blues and purples, but not in a way to detract too much from the scene. In summary, the iPhone is a nice back-up camera option when you want to capture a quick shot and don't have access to your favorite camera(s). I can hardly wait to upgrade my iPhone. What cell phone cameras have worked well for you?

I used an iPhone app for camera zoom that I felt did not work too well. It produced a blurry photo compared to the iPhone's non-zoomed photos.

By Kevin Ambrose  | October 29, 2010; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  Photography  
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It's actually the reservoir, the river is below the dam. I was the manager of Fountianhead Reg. Park from 1978-94. Sandy Run opened as a rowing facility in the mid 80's. I spent many an hr on the Occoquan working & fishing.

Posted by: VaTechBob | October 29, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Kevin, you really captured a great scene--glad you had your iPhone. And yet, I never thought I would see the day when you would use it. Completely understandable though haha, I would have done the same. Look at those colors! anyway, my Motorola Droid is pretty darn good. Even in low light. But my preferred cell camera device so far this year has been with the HTC Droid Eris. While both cameras are 5MP, the Eris just captures images better! Noticeably.

Posted by: Camden-CapitalWeatherGang | October 29, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I rowed for GMU in 83/84 and 84/85. It was wonderful being out there early in the morning or later in the evening, especially when the leaves were turning.

Posted by: wiredog | October 29, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the beautiful photos! I've got great fall foliage near me in Harpers Ferry too. I know it's not supposed to be so colorful, due to the summer drought, but it seems to be happening anyway....

Posted by: tinkerbelle | October 29, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Your other option is to stop in a CVS along the way and pick up one of their ISO400 disposables for $5 apiece. For another $3.50 plus an hour wait (minus whatever discount they are running at the time, and it's a good time to get a snack and read some mags) you get 30 shots processed onto a KodakCD at 1.5MP apiece.

This would really go a long way if they would just scan the film to a higher resolution which they will figure out one day. When my 4 year old V3i can match the results and I can store hundreds of them on even the little 1GB microsd card that is the most it can handle? I can outshoot it with my cellphone but the disposables take much-better pictures even with the 1.5MB/image limit, even shooting ISO800 film. Short of a real smartphone with a decent-resolution camera without so much noise-reduction.

Or just stop into an electronics store along the way and buy a real camera. You can always return it later. Chalk up the 15% return cost as a learning experience :) so none of these are really out of the question unless you actually get out on the river and find that all you have is your cellphone. Then you take what you get and like it :)

Posted by: chucklebuck | October 29, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

ps the blurry "zoom" photo is probably exactly what you would get if you took the "wide-angle" pic and cropped it down to the same apparent field of view. That's probably all that the phone does.

The thing is that the average cellphone just isn't designed to accurately reproduce high-detail scenes with a wide dynamic-range. You'll get "something" but probably better results even a cheap film camera or digital p&s. Which is why I would prefer to turn my G9, say, into a cellphone than to try to turn my cellphone into a camera.

Posted by: chucklebuck | October 29, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Yep chucklebuck, it's just digital zoom which is bad on most cameras with the option.. it's like taking a low-quality digital file and trying to blow it up in size. On the whole phone cams are starting to get fairly good though, I'd imagine in a few yrs they will take as nice of photos as any other digitial point and shoot. I recently got an iPhone 4, and it's HDR option is interesting even though I generally dislike HDR as a whole.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | October 29, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I love the photo posts.
Wish I had had my camera this morning. Saw a bald eagle perched in a dead treetop while driving 66 a few miles past Gainesville. I have never seen a bald eagle in Prince William county.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | October 29, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

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