When Apple launched its new iPhones at the special event a couple of weeks back, Phil Schiller used the usual Apple talk to put across just how magical and amazing the new camera in the iPhone 5s is. But, is it that much better than the camera inside the iPhone 5/5c? I took the two phones out to compare results, and I have to say, there’s not as much difference between them in daylight as I’d hoped.
With all my camera comparisons I take pictures from the same spot, focussing on the same part of the object, with the same settings on both phones. For the iPhone, it’s always in auto-mode, so that’s easy to ensure fairness.
In a lot of the outdoor images in decent light, there’s little difference in between the images. Both are sharp, colors come out well in the two images of the post box.
Again, there’s very little to separate the two cameras. I could argue that the colors are richer in the iPhone 5s’ camera, but that difference is barely noticeable, and swings the other way – in favor of the 5c – with the postbox images at the top of the article. It’s more to do with not being able to focus and set auto-exposure on precisely the same point in each image.
For daylight shots, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that you shouldn’t make a decision on these two phones purely based on the camera. Despite the company’s fancy presentation, and the processing that takes place when taking a picture with the 5s, it’s doesn’t make enough difference to the end product to warrant upgrading for a better camera.
Here’s one area where you might notice some difference: Image Stabilization. There was a slight breeze while I was out, and the blackberry bush’ branch was moving a little. The 5s’ comes out much sharper with less motion blur than the 5c’s.
Panorama is another area the 5s excels. As you’re moving across the scene, the 5s is constantly adjusting the exposure, almost using HDR automatically. It creates a more balanced and less contrasting final image. You’ll notice in the 5c’s photo that the grass is much darker, harder to make out.
True Tone Flash?
Another of the iPhone 5s’ unique features is the True Tone flash. The usual white LED light combines with the orange, warmer light to give more natural skin tones when using the flash. Anyone with kids will know how difficult it is to get your model to keep the same pose for long enough. Thankfully, one of my kids was asleep and didn’t even know he was the subject.
In all the photos I took, these were the two best. I tried with my daughter, but she kept moving around. Even in those it’s clear that there’s a difference in the the cameras’ flashes. You can see how much paler the standard 5c flash makes skin look.
Daylight Gallery Slideshow
Here’s where we’re expecting to see the biggest difference between the two cameras. The iPhone 5s features a larger sensor with the same number of pixels as the iPhone 5c. What that means is that each pixel is larger, and should result in more light being taken in by the camera on Apple’s flagship model.
In lowlight situations, the 5s should outperform the 5c. And it does. The iPod pictures above may not be too telling, but if you look closely at the iPod’s screen, and at the top of the picture where there’s less light, you’ll notice a tiny bit more noise/graininess.
And finally, some real, definite difference in quality. Not only does the 5c generate a ton of noise in lower light situations, it also seemingly loses all ability to produce natural colors.
Again, it’s obvious that when there’s less light to play with, the 5c struggles to cope.
All in all, for most daytime general photography, you’re really not going to notice any real difference in the quality of your pictures. But, once low light situations are added to the equation, or you’re using the flash to light up people’s faces, you will see a clear difference in the quality. 5s camera is better in those situations.
I’ll be updating this post after sunset again with outdoor pictures, lit by street lights. Stay tuned for more comparisons.
UPDATE: Night Time
As promised, I went out in to the cold of the night (read: not that cold) to grab a few very low light shots. Just to see what the limit of each camera was.
Again, if you look to the left of the image, in the background where there’s less light, the iPhone 5c produces much more noise. The ability to capture more light is more evident when looking at the pillar in the foreground. The 5s manages to almost reproduce the white/cream color of the pillar, white balancing to the extreme considering the street light was giving off an orange light.
Better light capture and white balancing is evident again here. There’s some impressive processing going on in the 5s. If you click to enlarge the 5s’ photo of the fence and hedge, you can see the green color of the grass (almost). Yet again, the 5c has much noisier, and more orange images. You can barely tell the fence is even there.