As I test the Acer Iconia Tab A500, I was surprised at how much I liked using the tablet as a camera because of the built-in app and the large screen. While the quality of the images is less than stellar, the experience of taking pictures on a large screen is surprisingly good. If Acer had given the A500 a better sensor and lens, it would be a really great picture-taking tool.
The iPad 2, which I also use, suffers from two major problems in the photography department; poor image quality and the poor shutter button placement. The Iconia A500 isn’t perfect, but the camera app is a nice step up compared to the the iPad 2’s camera app. If it were not for the color issues the 5MP camera would also be a big improvement over the iPad 2’s poor performing camera.
The form factor and the placement of the shutter button (see above) in the camera app of the Acer A500 make it is easier to get sharp images. The shutter release button is close to the edge so you can still hold the A500 steady with both hands while taking a shot. It is actually easier to get steady shots by resting your elbows on your chest as you tap the shutter button with your thumb making sharper pictures that look better that they would otherwise.
Taking pictures with a tablet feels awkward, but once you get past feeling like people are looking at you funny, having a large 10.1″ screen to compose your shots is strangely satisfying.
Despite some intense backlighting, the A500 camera metered well enough to get the interesting trunks of the trees in the shot above, preserving color in the green leaves. Unfortunately you can also see a little bit of a purple hue that many of the pictures taken with the A500 have. Below is an even more pronounced example of this color distortion. Not all of the shots suffered as much as the one below, but it is an inconsistent problem that affects many of the images I took. Some photo editing will likely fix this, but I haven’t used a camera that added this much color distortion.
The automatic focus on the A500 works well most of the time. On the iPad 2 you have to tap the screen to focus. The camera app on the A500 has an infinite focus feature that does a good job without having to tap the screen and it focuses faster. Sometimes it is hard to get sharp pictures of objects up close in dark settings (see below the blurry image). This is a common issue, but it is worse with the Iconia A500 than it is for the camera in my iPhone or my HTC Thunderbolt.
I really enjoyed composing pictures with the 10.1″ screen. If it had a better sensor and lens, I’d start using the A500 to take snapshots on a regular basis. Thanks to all the extra functionality, the A500 camera beats the iPad 2 camera easily. It has filters, metering options, white balancing options, and better on-screen placement of the buttons.
I’m looking forward to the next generation of tablets which will hopefully bring cameras on par with the iPhone 4 and entry level point and shoot cameras. Until then, I’ll enjoy composing shots on the large screen, but can’t replace my point and shoot.
Below are more of the images I took on my photo walk with the Acer Iconia Tab A500. None of them have been touched up at all. A little time in Photoshop or any simple photo editing application could make these images as good as those you would take with a small point-and-shoot camera.