New iPad vs iPad 2: Photo and video camera tests

One of the features of the new iPad that Apple brags about is the new camera. The FaceTime front-facing camera is still a poor quality VGA camera, but the rear camera has been upgraded to a 5 megapixel iSight camera with a f/2.4 lens and 1080p video-recording capabilities. Although it's not as good as the iPhone 4S' 8 megapixel camera, it's still a huge improvement from the poor camera featured on the iPad 2.

The new iPad features a much improved 5 megapixel f/2.4 aperture, 5 element lens and hybrid IR-fliter

The first thing I found interesting is that even though both the new iPad and the iPad 2 have a VGA front facing camera, it was clear that the new iPad has a better sensor because the image looked a lot brighter. What didn't come as surprise was how much better the rear facing camera was on the new iPad.

I recommend watching the above video in full screen so that you can really see the difference between the two video cameras. One thing I noticed is that when recording video, the new iPad has a tighter (closer) crop than the iPad 2, but when taking still photos, the new iPad has wider crop than the iPad 2.

Speaking of images, the iPad's new lens blow's the iPad 2's VGA lens out of the water. The iPad 2 produces dull, grainy images and the new iPad actually takes some pretty nice photos. No, they aren't quite as good as the iPhone 4S, but I'd venture to say that they're better than the iPhone 4 -- although, I haven't officially done any head-to-head tests.

Here's a couple examples that show just how much better the new iPad is at taking taking photos. In each pair, the photo on the right is taken with the new iPad and the photo on the left is with the iPad 2. (Click the images to see larger versions).

The first photo really shows how much more detail the new iPad picks of up in its images. Look at the trees and grass -- the iPad 2's version look blurry and pixelated.

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This next one demonstrates that the new iPad produces much better bokeh (out of focus area), and has a shallower depth of field. This is why in the new iPad's version, the flowers really seem to pop.

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No words are needed to describe this next pair. Just look at how dull and boring the iPad 2's image looks. Gross.

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So I think the video and images speak for themselves -- the new iPad's camera is a huge improvement over its predecessor. But the real question is -- will the improved camera actually give you the confidence to walk around taking photos with a big ol' iPad?

Leanna Lofte

Former app and photography editor at iMore, Leanna has since moved on to other endeavors. Mother, wife, mathamagician, even though she no longer writes for iMore you can still follow her on Twitter @llofte.

  • It's good the camera is there, and glad to see that it is much improved but the reality is I'll likely never use it for real world stuff. It's mostly used around the house and my son likes to take pics with it.
  • Areed. I can't see any circumstance where I would want to take a picture/video with the unwieldy iPad (for photography) in lieu of my iP4s or even my wife's iP4.  Even if the iPad had a better camera than my iP4s I don't carry it everywhere. Also with my little one's normally being the focus of pictures, the camera access in 5.1 makes the phones even more appealing. As Chris P said above, my daughters use the cameras on the iPad and that is pretty much it. 
  • You made the mistake here and In the gallery post you made earlier... It's a FaceTime camera on the front, and an iSight camera on the back. Check out Apple's information pages if you don't believe me :)
    Thanks for the pictures, though!
  • Crap. You're right. Fixing!
    (I'm still on just 3 hrs of sleep!)
  • Shocker. A 5MP camera is better than a 0.7MP camera? Why is this news?
  • Nice point
  • I honestly can't see a difference they honestly both look like crap
  • Nice photo difference between an iPad 2 and new iPad, no surprise there. Definitely an improvement. But even a cheap point-and-shoot digital camera can do better. Who is going to run around with their iPad and take photos? You will look like an idiot holding that thing up. Just use your cellphone and bluetooth them over to the iPad.
  • One of our client needs some iPad apps to do teacher reviews and there is media functionality included that were only possible because of the iPad's camera. A reviewer needed the ability to take pictures and videos of classroom settings, student/teacher participation, etc. in addition to written notes/comments.
    Another client needed the ability to "scan" documents from a custom app that integrated with their services.
    Point: Not everyone tries to use the iPad as a "point and shoot" camera. There are all sorts of other uses.
  • Good point, very well put.
  • Omg omg omg the camera on the new iPad is better I can't beleive it !!!!!!!!
  • I do not believe apple this time around made enough Improvements to warrant the purchase of a new I pad. I think apple needs to do better the next time to spark my interests and make a real attempt at producing a superior product to its predecessor(iPad 1 vs 2, original, MacBook air vs the present one). (speed, more storage, unique software) I think the companies' whip (Steve Jobs) is no longer and it will eventually have a dramatic inpact to the company's future. Hope I am wrong.
  • I opted for the iPad 2 and the price drop. The higher rez screen is nice and sure, the new camera is a bit better, but I don't have any problem with the iPad 2 camera and the hundred bucks I saved buys gas for the car. Apple will definitely have to start thinking of more than incremental upgrades in the future. That approach worked with Steve Jobs around but no one else at Apple has that kind of Karisma and mesmerism.
  • I do not understand why Apple is still using a VGA front camera. I make a lot of video conference and it would be desirable to have a higher resolution front camera. And why they did not include LTE technology compatible with European frequencies?
    To be honest I am quite disappointed with this new iPad.
  • The improved camera is welcome, but I agree with the sentiment that the front facing camera should have been bumped up. I'm more likely to use a camera with FaceTime than general picture taking. Trying to take pictures with a 10" tablet just doesn't seem all that practical (although I suppose you could make the case that if it was the only thing available to you at Starbucks when you took a picture of a robber or something...)
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  • Looking forward to reading more. Great blog article.Thanks Again. Keep writing.
  • To anyone who thinks the camera in the new iPad is "nice and all but why bother with it", I take it you haven't endured the brutal tango that is life with a 0.7 MP camera in a [formerly] "top of the line device". Yes, better cameras than even the 5 MP one in the new iPad are plentiful, but the iPad 2 was a prestigious (and not at all inexpensive) device, with a camera that was more befitting a "free with contract" cellphone. Why put the camera there at all if it is going to take pictures that are scarcely usable as anything but Twitter profile icons? This is not the Apple way. The wrong has been righted with the new iPad, but the bitter memory of all the iPad 2 units that went out with such a disgraceful camera still haunt my existence.
  • Now it's only the more used camera (front facing) that's the disgrace... may the "even newer iPad" will finally get the camera thing right. Years after competing tablets leapfrogged them on the camera front.
  • "So as you can see the new ipad's camera is much better than the ipad 2...."
    No, no I can't. There is a subtle difference but I do not notice that the new camera is a significant upgrade. I watched the video on a 1080p HD monitor too.