iPhone 4 is a videography game changer

I’m a gadget geek, it’s a surprise to no one who knows me, either personally or through my work on youtube, that I’m exited for the Australian launch of the iPhone 4 later this month.

It’s not just the snazzy “retina display”, the beefed up CPU or the “death grip” antenna that has me twitching with anticipation, it’s the video.

Both my hobby and my trade is as a videographer. Producing video is what I do and what I’m passionate about. An essential part of that is, of course, the equipment. I own several cameras which all have their own strengths and trade offs.

My best camera, the (now sadly breaking down) Canon HG10 delivers a superb image, and teamed with my (heavy and expensive) wide angle lens, the RODE shotgun video mic, and my LED light panel allows me the very best flexibility, power and highest quality result, but all that equipment is clumsy, heavy and cumbersome to carry, so I only load up with it on trips dedicated to gathering material.

My JVC Everio GZ-MS120 is small, light, records to dual SD cards, has epically good batter life, and delivers a pretty decent, if only Standard def, image even in low light. This is my utility camera, this is what I take when I’d worry about damaging my more expensive equipment, or if I need to be ultra mobile and nimble. It has been reliable and dependable in the extreme.

My SONY Bloggie is tiny, easily slipping into a pocket as a Mobile Phone would, it can capture HD footage, uses SD and Memory stick cards, has decent battery life and pulls in surprisingly good image and sound for this type of “dumbed right down” pocket camera. It’s highly convenient, and has come in super handy on many occasions.

I have a few other cameras, but these three have become my chief, dominant sets of equipment for producing my videos but they all have something in common, I don’t always have them on me, even the supremely pocketable Bloggie doesn’t always come with me, but my iPhone does.

There’s an old saying amongst photographers (and us video guys too); “The best camera is the one you have with you”

What that really means is, even the most advanced, expensive and complex camera gear is useless if you don’t have it with you when that unexpected opportunity presents itself… and this is why most pro photographers who, like me, can’t possibly always have their best equipment with them, will carry small “point-and-shoot” pocket cams, or even just rely on their camera phone and with skill and talent even these “basic” tools can capture beautiful images, or those once in a life time moments, or news worthy events…

The iPhone 3GS has what is most kindly described as “adequate” video capabilities, standard def, 640×480 resolution, passable sound from the built in mic, next to useless in even “a bit dim” lighting let alone low light. These issues can be worked around, and with something like the OWLE Bubo, the 3GS can be pushed to service exceeding it’s raw talents. But its strength is that I always have it with me, constantly, and every minute of every hour of every waking day it is within my reach.

It’s performance as a still and video camera lags desperately behind my other equipment, but it is often “the best camera” I own, because it is always with me. Ready. Waiting.

With the release of the iPhone 4, and its 720P HD video recording capabilities, and much more technically advanced imaging sensor and more powerful CPU than it’s predecessor, my “best camera” will be MUCH better still.

The iPhone 4 has yet to release here in Australia, so without any hands-on experience to test it out, I’ve spent the last few days trawling around the internet for posted examples of the video the iPhone 4 spits out, both raw examples, and samples edited with the new iMovie iphone app, and on traditional desktop editors… and I am very impressed.The images I’m seeing seem equal to, or exceed those of my Bloggie and the low light performance seems to eclipse my JVC handily.

The iPhone 4, simply put, seems to be the best camera on any phone right now, or at least EASILY in the top three but the other competitors being android phones, for which I discovered with horror and surprise that there isn’t a single application available anywhere to enable even basic trimming or editing of videos on the phones, so on that score alone the iPhone wins by miles in terms of usefulness and flexibility.

The video performance on the iPhone 4 even seems to handily beat that of many dedicated “pocket cameras” like the aforementioned Bloggie, or it’s competitors from JVC, Samsung or the ubiquitous Flip (though in at least two direct comparisons I came across, one model, the Flip Ultra HD seemed to just edge out in front).

The iPhone 4 and its superb video performance, combined with the surprisingly powerful iMovie app (bound to only get better, or joined in the app store by even more powerful alternatives for HD video editing on device) seems to me to be destined to make a massive impact on videography, for people like me, for journalists, for film makers and for documentarians.

Already YouTube and Vimeo are being flooded with content created with the iPhone 4, there’s even professional content appearing to both show off the power of the phone…. and to try to body-surf the hype and novelty for some extra press and attention.

After that initial novelty fades the micro-revolution the iPhone 4 will have sparked will have a lasting impact on video content creation.

A very good HD video camera, with the ability to not only shoot, but trim and produce entire, complete finished edits, and even upload directly with a device that is ALWAYS with me, by default, constantly. It’s what I’ve been wanting, and asking for, for years now.

The Video that really sold me on the fact that this wasn’t JUST hype and novelty is this short film about the “Pikes Peak International Hill Climb” & Ducati;

It’s not the most artistically accomplished example of iPhone 4 film making, not the most skilfully shot, what it is however is an example of how the iPhone 4 (and in this case, the assistance of the OWLE Bubo) has completely replaced traditional film making equipment, it doesn’t LOOK like a “film made on a camera phone” it looks like it should, clear, sharp beautiful… a proper film that just happens to have been filmed on a camera-phone. It’s a superb piece of work, and the perfect example of what can be accomplished with the iPhone 4 in skilled hands.