How to use the camera flash on the iPhone 4

January 30, 2011

Not only does the new iPhone 4 have two cameras, but the one which should be thought of as the “main” camera has a flash! Read the rest of the post to find out how to control it and how well it works.

The flash function on the new iPhone 4 works only with the rear-facing camera, which is the better of the two cameras, featuring 5.0 megapixel exposures and an f/2.8 lens. As is befitting a device which is primarily intended to be a telephone and not a camera, the flash feature could be considered to be a little simple-minded, but it does not do a bad job.

The camera flash controls are in the upper left hand corner of the iPhone 4 camera screen. Normally, the control displays the current setting of the flash feature, which defaults to “Auto.”. The options are Off, Auto, and On. If you tap the current setting on the screen, the flash control will change to the display shown in the photo at the upper left of this column. To select a mode, simply tap on the setting you want, either  Off, Auto, or On. The meaning of these settings are as follows:

Off- The flash will not fire, regardless of the conditions.

Auto- The flash will fire depending on the camera’s opinion of the need for it. If the iPhone feels that the photo will be better with the flash, it will fire. If it does not, it won’t. Your mileage may vary.

On- The flash will fire, regardless of the conditions.

Please note that the firing of the flash is a two-stage operation, and one that cannot be rushed. First, the camera faintly illuminates the scene with what looks like orangish-red light in order to determine the amount of light needed. The test illumination turns off, then the white LED flash fires. You will need to hold the camera steady through this process, which lasts a second or so, in order to get a good photo using the flash. That’s all there is to it.

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