A Word of warning concerning EXIF and the iPhone

Here’s a nice way to start the year – dealing with iPhone bugs.

I’ll make it short and simple: while downloading and archiving photos from my iPhone, I came across a few inconsistencies in the EXIF data, namely:

  • A photo taken during Xmas eve had no EXIF tags whatsoever
  • Two photos taken on Dec 31st 2008 had the date one year in the future:
$ jhead IMG_0353.JPG
File name    : IMG_0353.JPG
File size    : 817115 bytes
File date    : 2009:01:02 12:01:37
Camera make  : Apple
Camera model : iPhone
Date/Time    : 2009:12:31 15:45:53
Resolution   : 1200 x 1600
Aperture     : f/2.8
GPS Latitude : N XXd XX.XXm  0s
GPS Longitude: W  Xd XX.XXm  0s
Comment      : AppleMark

Although I have CameraBag installed, none of those was taken (or otherwise manipulated) with it or any other third-party app, since I seldom use anything but the camera (and even when I use CameraBag, I like to have the originals around).

Given that firmware 2.2 is apparently rife with image handling bugs, I suppose this isn’t too surprising, but since I archive all my photos by date using jhead and a few helper scripts, this drops a very large spanner in the workings of my photo workflow.

(One could argue that images taken with an iPhone aren’t really “photography”. but all my years dealing with EXIF and phones tell me that if there is one thing that you absolutely need to get right on those are the time-stamps – otherwise, taking photos with your mobile as a memory aid becomes rather pointless.)

I fully intend to file this on Radar, but only after searching OpenRadar to see if there are any dupes. Still, I would suggest that you take a good look at the photos you’ve been importing into iPhoto from your own phone, preferably using jhead or a similar non-Apple utility (although iPhoto and Preview also display the same erroneous dates).

And now I am going to go back and check the other 230-odd photos, matching them against my memory of when they were taken…