Apple iPad 2 review: Love and hate 2.0

GSMArena team, 23 March 2011.

The camera is nothing special

Sure the iPad 2 improves on a lot of the hardware bits of the original iPad but the only thing it really adds is the camera. Apple has integrated two cameras into the iPad 2 – a VGA front-facing one and a 0.7MP rear camera for taking photos and capturing videos.

The simple-as-it-gets interface is familiar enough and this time there’s even no autofocus. There is spot metering, though, – you can tap on the screen and you will notice the iPad will change the exposure to expose better for the spot you’ve pointed. There is a bar for digital zoom too, but you would really be better off staying away from that one.

iPad 2 is capable of recording 720p videos at 30fps, but it can only do 960x720 pixels images. What a bummer, right? We can understand this is a tablet and doesn’t need much of a camera, but we wouldn’t mind a 3 megapixel snapper, for example. The iPad 2 is perhaps the first device to take photos in a resolution lower than the one of its own screen.

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The camera interface

Apple used a 1MP sensor (not even a 2 or 3 megapixel one) and that’s the reason for this unusual resolution. You see, with the sensor only having 1280 x 720 pixels and the camera capturing photos with an aspect ration of 4:3 this is as high as you can go. But we can’t quite get why Apple didn’t just go for 1MP 16:9 shots. Is it just because this way the photos matches the display ratio so when you review an image in the gallery there will be no black bars. Really?!

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iPad 2 camera samples

The still camera is barely good enough for a quick Facebook candid, let alone something more. The iPad 2 is a tablet and you are not supposed to carry it around and take shots. But you can capture HD videos as a small compensation.

The video quality is not quite as impressive as on the iPhone 4, but it is still decent – colors are good, the framerate is consistently high and the detail is mostly there. It’s pretty much the same as on the latest iPod Touch.

Here goes an untouched sample 720p@30fps video clip (14MB).

And here’s a video uploaded to YouTube for convenience.

Yes, the Apple decision about the camera makes no sense. It used one of the poorest still cameras available, and yet it records 720p video. How about that?

Video quality comparison

We entered the Apple iPad 2 in our Video Compare Tool database too and put it head to head with other 720p mobile camcorders.

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Apple iPad 2 in the Video Compare Tool

Photo Booth and Facetime

iPad 2 comes with two camera–related apps – Photo Booth and FaceTime.

The Photo Booth is almost the same as the Mac OS X Photo Booth - you can use the front or the rear camera to take funny pictures of yourself or a friend. There are only 8 different filters here, but the results are pretty funny nonetheless. The only downside is the picture resolution – VGA (0.3MP) for the photos taken with the front camera and 960x720 pixels (0.7MP).

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Photo Booth interface

The app has very simple interface – you have nine squares where you can see the actual filter applied in real time. You choose a filter and tap on it. Now you can take a picture, change the camera or review/delete your previous Photo Booth photos.

The FaceTime video-calls became quite popular among Apple fans, so there is no surprise you can facetime on the iPad 2. Luckily this time Apple won’t charge you for the FaceTime app (like it does on the Mac OS X).

The FaceTime on iPad 2 is done the same way as on the last-gen iPod Touch and Mac OS X. You need to be signed with your verified Apple ID. Then you must have the phone number (if you are calling someone with an iPhone 4) or the email (for iPod Touch, iPad 2 or Mac OS X users) saved into your contact list. This is necessary because there is no dialer app here, just the FaceTime one.

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FaceTime interface

As usual the FaceTime calls work fine, you just need enough friends with FaceTime-capable iGadget and a good Wi-Fi connection.