Video Quality

The rear facing camera is native 1280x720 and unsurprisngly captures 720P video. It's essentially the same quality as the iPod Touch, which doesn't come as a surprise at all. There's been considerable discussion about whether this back sensor is optimized (or intended) for video. Given that 1280x720 size, it seems obvious this is likely the case. As we'll show, video on the iPad 2 is actually very good, it's still capture that suffers. 

In all honesty, 720P video capture on the iPad 2 is almost as good as the iPhone 4. In addition, there's no apparent change in magnification when switching into video mode on the iPad 2 like there is on the iPhone 4. This is again because 160 pixels are tossed away on the left and right sides in still mode. Unfortunately there's no way to capture a 1280x720 still from the iPad 2 unless you shoot video and manually grab frames. Video on the rear facing camera is captured at 1280x720 at 29.970 fps H.264 Baseline (1 reference frame) at 10.6 Mbps. Audio is 1 channel AAC at 64 Kbps. 

Like other iDevices, you can view the actual aspect correct capture frame by double tapping on the preview. 

 

I took two video samples with the iPad 2, one at our usual bench location in afternoon lighting, another outside the local cafe at night to show low light performance. As usual we've uploaded both to YouTube as well as hosted originals in a big 7-zip (186 MB). 

The iPad 2's 720P rear facing video capture sample in daylight is actually pretty impressive and on par with all the other iDevices. Apple still has class leading quality at 720P even when competitors are doing encodes at 1080P, and at this point it looks like their ISP and encoder is roughly the same as the A4's. 

I also took one more video at another location at night. I start outdoors and then go indoors into a cafe to give a feel for low-light performance.

Front facing video isn't super impressive on its own, but again on par with other iDevices. It's 640x480 (VGA) at 29.970 fps H.264 Baseline (1 reference frame) at 3.5 Mbps. Audio is 1 channel AAC at 64 Kbps. 

In spite of being just VGA the front facing video quality is quite decent. No doubt Apple is making a concious effort to go with lower resolution sensors (but with bigger pixels) instead of pushing for more megapixels on the front camera. It's a tradeoff that makes the front facing cameras on iDevices better in low light. Until FaceTime gets HD on mobile devices (and we get more mobile upstream bandwidth), VGA seems good enough.

Still Quality

It's still quality on the rear facing camera that's really disappointing. Still images are again cropped to 960x720 (4:3). The images are simply noisy and underwhelming all around. The competition is shipping higher resolution front facing cameras than what's in the iPad 2's rear facing camera, and the result is that the thing feels like it's saddled with two sub-par cameras. 

We've done the usual thing and taken photos with the front and rear facing cameras in our smartphone lightbox and at the bench locations. In addition I shot photos with the iPad around town and everywhere I carried it with me. 

The front facing camera seems to have some odd white balance issues, as it shows a reddish cast in our lightbox. Out in the wild, I never ran into any serious performance issues with the front facing camera, and honestly VGA seems fine for the time being until mobile devices get the bandwidth to juggle 720P videoconferencing.  

I guess the issue I have with the iPad 2's cameras is that the back one already seems woefully insufficient. Apple has already demonstrated that it's possible to both have a thin device and awesome cameras with the iPhone 4. Coupled with onboard HDR, the iPhone 4 still delivers images that rival all but Nokia's best. It's just puzzling why a device that costs substantially more out the door than the iPhone 4 delivers such subpar still capture quality. In reality, thickness is probably the most important constraint here, as the iPhone 4 is thicker than the iPad 2 and thus Apple couldn't simply toss the iPhone 4 cameras inside the iPad 2. I won't speculate about Apple's motivations for going with these cameras, but the end result is a rear camera that honestly doesn't impress.  

Compared to the Xoom


The Motorola Xoom's 5MP Rear Facing Camera

The Motorola Xoom's rear camera captures at 2592 x 1944 (5MP) and is assisted by an LED flash. This gives the Xoom's rear camera a 7.29x higher pixel count than what Apple offers with the iPad 2. But do more pixels mean a better looking picture? Well in this case, yes.


Mouse over to see the Motorola Xoom's camera quality


Mouse over to see the Motorola Xoom's camera quality

The iPad 2's rear camera predictably produces very saturated colors like the iPhone 4. The rear sensor is very noisy in low light situations and it's not very sharp on top of that. You'll also notice that Apple's funny white balance algorithm acts up in the shot with two external lights vs. one external light. 

The Xoom by comparison is pretty consistent in terms of white balance. Motorola also produces a sharper image, although the colors are far too hazy. If Apple over compensates for color saturation, Motorola tones it down a little too much. The LED flash keeps the shot with no external lights from becoming too noisy but it also royally screws up the white balance, making the image a bit too green.

As we mentioned in our review, the Xoom is surprisingly potent when it comes to taking pictures. It's by no means great, but it's way better than the iPad 2.

The Cameras: UI and Placement Apple's foray into iPad cases - Smart Covers
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  • Mishera - Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - link

    An and you made an excellent point when you said that tablets don't seem on a path towards perfection.  Right now IPads are somewhat of a novelty.  They're kind of like that thing you see at a museum as a child that make you go "wow" or a concept at a convention that's not fully realized.  The problem is people seem content with the device as it is because it's Apple, and companies are trying the "square in circle" method to put it in schools, businesses, etc.

    Thats what really bothers me. Apple pretty much marches on it's own beat, consumers eat up what they release, and companies desperately try to run behind them and release something with better specs, never questioning if there is a better direction.  As a consumer device it's excellent, its just there are so many more directions tablets can go.  I would almost would say that Microsoft had a better idea of what a tablet should be with their umpc line, except they could never get the ui right, and now it seems like their hardware endeavors are over for so I wonder who could really bring a better concept to market.  To make tablets work it's going to take on os and a hardware so far android can't do it, microsoft won't to it and hp is still a question mark so we just have to be content with whatever apple gives us.  
    Reply
  • Zink - Sunday, March 27, 2011 - link

    Here's a very surprising video showing the flexibility of the glass used in the screen.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedd...
    Reply
  • JustinB - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    While OEMs are racing to create a competitor to the iPad, it seems like commenters on sites like this are trying to create a competitor to the Reality Distortion Field... Reply
  • NetJunky - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - link

    Actually Dropbox has its own lack of security. So I wouldn't say, that this is a best example of data sharing via web. Reply
  • Bronx 6 - Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - link

    Apple had touch first congrats.They can keep there not so tech ridiculously rich ppl who buy lesser powerful or frivolous shoppers.xoom is to much with not enough (like ipad) on board no dongle needed ports/hdmi/usb/micro usb like acer.i bought an ipad2 as my first owned apple product just so I could show everyone whata piece crap it is and then return it to the store.The things I get off android apps are sooooooo much better because they arent being ran by the Nazi's (apple).,i like not having to waste money on anything app wise,movie(better than anything I could dream for) and of course free absolutely FREE music mp3s.now I even get artwork on them and they appear just as if I bought them.The music mp3 apps even (some) even include music charts so you know what's new and hot.i dont need cable tv,satelite,nadda I get thousands of channels free from apps which use flash and lemme tell flash is the key to the future and present.i love how developers make the good apps ipad has for honeycomb tabs(splashtop hd remote desktop)-myfav allows me to use all pcs as if I was on it even whem im in another state.the resolution is amazing also the many keyboards u can get-new swype is surreal should be stock on all tabs.tried to ruin acertab with viruses it wont phase it amazing alone.i so love the apps on droid they are made by ppl wno arent like the government and honeycomb keeps getting better asnow 3.1 is so muchbetter and its free.the power.of these tabs are like two ipads and the cameras on ipad2 is patheic like an old boostmobile vga cam.mine has the same quality cameras as iphone4 has another + acer has the best tab for the buck they have a functual full usb port and it connects alot.of useful things like keyboard,flashdrives,ch arging capabilites.i had bought one accessery a case stand that's it had hdmi cords already.the ipad I bought over 8 seperate things totally a money hungry company who designs product too keep you buying shit week after week.itunes is just plain retarded.i get the sameshit they do for free easier than a pc.wide open is free like usa is supposedly.if ur reading this and have a tablet download swype beta for honeycomb.It takes the basic stock keyboard but adds stuff u will love even if you dont swype u type better than the stock more like a real one.i bought 2apps in 2YRS yet ive had more than I can think of.i spent $8 total.i have sold more of these to anyone I show and teach.my old mother has one and now wont use her win7 pc's only thru the tablet-thats including me fixing her old pcs accross the country in california all from my badass acer tablet.apple should stick to ipods.droid tabs are diffently ipad.killers.i hope ppl enjoy wasting their money basically getting raped.so dumb ppl stay apple,smart ppl sick of paying for things that we shouldnt and having the ability to do all n then some on tablets enjoy.ps these flash modified apps on droids I cant praise the quality they look during playback is wow.ive watched more hdtv thru this than I have in years with my hdtv sets pretty crazy,so is the gaming similar to xbox360.buy an galaxy tab first then return it for an acer so you can appreciate getting more for less.send me the difference for enlighting u on values of better things.then again the world is more than 50% ignorant and very rude to ones who help them.take it as grain of salt Reply
  • rampantarmadillo - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    I recommend that you learn to seperate vertex and fragment perf, this would demonstrate you aren't clowns. Reply
  • powchie - Saturday, December 10, 2011 - link

    anand, brian,
    what's that workflow that the iPad cannot fit in?
    Reply
  • ChaoticCupcake - Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - link

    Any word on whether or not a camera can be attached and used as a webcam for FaceTime, Skype, etc.? Reply
  • omkarphatak - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - link

    Find out why choosing an iPad 2 over a laptop makes no sense... http://www.buzzle.com/articles/which-is-better-ipa... Reply

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