iPhone 5S Camera Review - The iPhone 5S, the latest premium smartphone from Apple, features a new 8 megapixel iSight camera, with the new camera app allowing fast continuous shooting and recording of slow-motion videos. Daniel Bell reviews.
The iPhone 5S was announced in September 2013 and features a new, larger sensor, with even bigger pixels. Resolution remains the same at 8 megapixels. Combining this with the larger f/2.2 aperture lens means there's more light getting to the sensor for improved pictures.
iPhone 5S Camera Features
The iPhone 5S has an 8 megapixel back-illuminated sensor, which is 15% larger than the sensor used in the iPhone 5, and a fixed f/2.2 aperture lens which lets in even more light. There is auto image stabilisation, which works by taking four images and combining the best parts. The iPhone 5S is capable of shooting at 10 fps.
The camera app has a limited number of modes. The photo app includes the ability to shoot HDR images. You can also apply one of 8 photo filters such as mono and chrome. You can shoot square pictures as well as 360 panoramas. The True Tone flash combines a white and an amber LED to adjust the flash intensity and colour temperature to light your subject perfectly. All images are geotagged automatically.
Videos are recorded in full 1080p HD. The 3x digital zoom is available during recording and you can also record slow-motion 720p HD videos at 120 fps. Pictures can be taken during video recording.
8 megapixel back-illuminated sensor
Auto image stabilisation
4.0 inch 1136 x 640 touch screen
16Gb, 32Gb and 64Gb capacities
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
Full 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps
Auto ISO (up to ISO 2500)
Available in space grey, gold or silver
iPhone 5S Camera Handling
The iPhone 5S is the same size and weight as the iPhone 5. It is the perfect size for keeping in your trouser pocket. The only noticeable difference from the previous mode is the new home button, which is now flat rather than concave. The screen is a 4 inch widescreen multi-touch display with a resolution of 1136x640 pixels. It is wonderfully bright, clear and very simple to use.
There are very few options available within the camera app that comes pre-installed on the iPhone 5S. There are options to adjust the flash setting, turn HDR mode on/off, switch between the front and back cameras, switch to video mode and the shutter release button. There are other apps available which offer a self-timer, stabilisation and other settings which are familiar on compact cameras. Continuous shooting is also available now, just press and hold the shutter button.
Unfortunately, a common problem with iPhone's, the battery life is terrible for continuous use during the day, so regular charging is a must. We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot and focusing speed. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot without Flash
Shot to Shot with Flash
The continuous shooting speeds are very impressive.
iPhone 5S Camera Performance
Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Apple iPhone 5S Sample Photos
Sample Photos - Images are colourful and well exposed. Portraits have decent skin tones, but there is a little red-eye when using the flash. Unfortunately the fixed wide-angle makes it difficult to take flattering portraits, but the front lens isn't as wide making it the preferred choice for a selfie. The new flash has also made a massive improvement to shots in low light.
Apple iPhone 5S Lens test images
Lens Performance - Image detail is good, certainly acceptable for an 8 megapixel sensor. You can use digital zoom but you'd be better off not using it and cropping images instead. Purple fringing isn't an issue, but moire is. It can be seen in our wide angle picture in the centre of the building. You can't get that close to subjects, so macro shots won't be brilliant. The last picture above clearly shows the benefit of the HDR mode, there is clearly more detail in the darker sections of the building.
Apple iPhone 5S ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - It's not possible to manually set the ISO. The iPhone 5S does generally use very low ISO settings, where noise is clearly not an issue. When you get to the higher ISO settings, such as ISO 1250 & 1600 which has been used in some of our review images, detail is quite poor.
Apple iPhone 5S White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Again, you can't manually set the white balance. Under the incandescent lights a slightly warm image is produced, under the fluorescent lights the AWB performs well.
Panorama | 1/2415 sec | f/2.2 | 4.1 mm | ISO 40
Night Panorama | 1/120 sec | f/2.2 | 4.1 mm | ISO 1250
Panorama mode - The iPhone 5S takes 360 panorama images and the images are excellent - detail is good and stitching is superb.
Apple iPhone 5S Digital filters
Digital Filters - The camera app includes eight filters to use when shooting, examples of each are above.
Video - Below is a video recorded in full 1080p HD. Quality is good, although moire can be seen again.
The camera on the 5S is the best iPhone one yet, but it falls short of receiving our recommendation award. Yes, you can take great pictures, but it's still frustrating that Apple haven't allowed more manual controls over shooting. There are apps available for a self-timer or even shooting with a slow shutter speed, but it's about time there were more options available in the native camera app.
As you can see below, there are plenty of pros and it's without doubt the iPhone 5S will prove popular amongst photographers. You can shoot at 10 fps, panoramas are superb and HDR images a great and easy to take.
iPhone 5S Camera Pros
Improved image quality
Flash has significantly improved
Can shoot at 10 fps
Wide aperture lens
Large number of apps available
HDR mode delivers good results
White balance performance
Easy to share pictures
iPhone 5S Camera Cons
Digital zoom produces poor quality images
Very limited control over camera settings such as ISO, white balance
Short battery life is enough to make you cry