Just how good is your tablet’s camera?

Raise your hand if you’ve found yourself watching your kid's dance recital or school play through the lens of your iPad. Lots of people use their tablet's camera to shoot photos or videos. If you’re planning to do that for an important event, take some time beforehand to experiment with your camera. We discovered a few oddities in tablet cameras that you should know about before you use yours.

What you don’t see is what you get, Apple version

You’re at a wedding, filming the best man with your iPad as he toasts the bride and groom. You’re careful to keep crazy Uncle Bill, who's off to the side, out of the viewfinder. That doesn’t matter. The iPad is capturing every frame as Uncle Bill snickers all through the toast. Talk about a photo bomb! But you're oblivious until you watch the video replay.

What’s happening here? The default aspect ratio for recording videos on the iPad is 16:9, which is what you see on most TV screens. But during the actual recording of the video, all you see on the iPad, also by default, is a 4:3 aspect ratio. That’s a more-square shape than 16:9, so everything that’s being shot is not visible on the screen. In other words, you're capturing the action off on both sides, but you won't see that until you're in playback mode. But there’s an easy fix. Before recording, double tap the screen, and the iPad will switch to a 16:9 letterbox view.

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What you see is what you don’t get, Android version

When you choose video mode on some Android camera apps, you could be in for a surprise. The camera immediately starts recording, whether or not you're ready. In addition, the camera zooms in slightly, cutting off a bit of what you might have intended to film. If your video camera works that way, be prepared to start filming as soon as you push the button, and make sure you adjust the camera’s aim so you're capturing what you want. Too much trouble? Then just download a different camera app from Google’s Play store. Google’s own Camera app is a good choice if you want a simple photo/video app.

Snap and release? Or release and snap?

Some Android cameras take the photo when the shutter is pressed down, much like a regular camera. Others take it when the shutter is released. There’s not much you can do about that. Be aware that the picture is being captured a little later and try to release the shutter at just the right moment.

—Donna Tapellini

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