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Apple iPhone 5 iSight Camera Review

The new iPhone 5 has landed in the office and we take a look at how the camera performs.

|  Apple iPhone 5 in Camera Phones
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Apple iPhone 5

The latest iPhone from Apple comes with the iSight camera found on the 4S and has the ability to shoot 28 megapixel resolution images. It is available in black or white with prices starting from £529.00 and increasing depending on the size of the built-in memory, with options being 16Gb, 32Gb and 64Gb.

iPhone 5 iSight Camera Features

The new iPhone features the 8 megapixel iSight camera that was found on the iPhone 4S and has been improved with a brand new panorama feature using one smooth motion up to 240 degrees. It uses the gyroscope, A6 chip and camera app to create a high-resolution panorama up to 28 megapixels.

The app has been updated, with 40% faster photo capture and better performance with reduced noise in low-light. With Face Detection, up to 10 faces can be recognised by the camera. The camera app maintains features previously found such as the LED flash, grid to help with composition and HDR.

Videos are recorded in full 1080p HD with improved video stabilisation. The front camera records in 720p HD, but the main use for this is FaceTime. Pictures can be taken at the same time as video recording.

Apple iPhone 5

Key Features

  • 8 megapixel iSight camera
  • Five element f/2.4 lens
  • 4 inch, 727k dot retina touch screen
  • GPS and digital compass
  • 1080p HD video recording up to 30 fps with improved stabilisation
  • 240° panorama mode creating 28 megapixel images
  • Autofocus
  • Tap to focus video or still images
  • Face detection in video or still images
  • LED flash
  • HDR
  • Available in black or white
Apple iPhone 5

iPhone 5 iSight Camera Handling

The iPhone 5 is the lightest iPhone yet being just 7.6mm in depth, it is slightly taller than its predecessor as it has a larger screen, but weighs just 112g. It is the perfect size for keeping in your trouser pocket.

The screen is a 4 inch widescreen multi-touch display with a resolution of 1136x640 pixels. It is wonderfully bright and clear and very simple to use. Apple haven't changed any of the physical buttons, but have moved the headphone socket to the bottom and have changed the USB to a lightning connector, which is much smaller than the one used on previous models.

There are very few options available within the camera app that comes pre-installed on the iPhone 5. 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, burst mode and other settings which are familiar on compact cameras.

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.

Shutter Response
  0.05 secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   34.0 secs
Shot to Shot without Flash   0.2 secs
Shot to Shot with Flash   2.2 secs

The shutter responds quickly and is very quick from shot-to-shot, but does take an age to switch on.

Apple iPhone 5

iPhone 5 iSight 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 5 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Images are well exposed with good colour reproduction, particularly when using the HDR option (HDR is covered in more detail below). It's not a particularly good camera for portraits as you have to be up close to your subject and skin tones don't look great, although you could use an app such as Perfect365 iOS App to improve your portrait pictures.

Apple iPhone 5 Lens test images

Lens Performance - Image detail is good, but the digital zoom option is best avoided, you might as well crop your pictures using another iOS app. You can get up close to your subject to take well detailed macro shots.

Apple iPhone 5 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - You can't manually control the ISO setting on the iPhone but it rarely goes above ISO 200 even in darker conditions. This may lead to blurry photos if you are shooting moving subjects in low light. Noise isn't a problem up to ISO 200, but you can see in the ISO 400 image above that noise has reduced image quality. As you'd expect it worsens when using ISO 800 (see low light image above).

Apple iPhone 5 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - You can't control the white-balance setting either, but under our fluorescent and incandescent studio lights, the iPhones auto white-balance performs well.

Panorama 1 | 1/1004 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 64
Panorama 1 | 1/1004 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 64

Panorama mode - Panorama images are really impressive, they are really well stitched together with impressive detail, the full size version of the image above is 25 megapixels!

Window No HDR | 1/20 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 80
Window No HDR | 1/20 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 80
  Window HDR | 1/20 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 80
Window HDR | 1/20 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 80
Drive No HDR | 1/128 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 50
Drive No HDR | 1/128 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 50
  Drive HDR | 1/128 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 50
Drive HDR | 1/128 sec | f/2.4 | 4.1 mm | ISO 50

Another impressive feature is the HDR mode, with this switched on it takes two pictures, one with HDR and one without. In the first example above, you can see the extra detail in the image in the bright window. The second example gives you a lovely blue sky when using HDR, the non-HDR version looks rather dull.

Video - Below is a video recorded in full 1080p HD and quality is good.

Value For Money

The iPhone 5 is available with prices starting at £529. The market for smartphones with a good camera is intense, with options including the Nokia Lumia 920 (8.7 megapixel camera) priced around £300, LG Optimus 4X HD (8 megapixel camera) priced around £310, Samsung Galaxy S III (8 megapixel camera) priced around £380, Sony Xperia T (13 megapixel camera) priced around £400 and Nokia PureView 808 (41 megapixel camera) at £499.

iPhone 5 iSight Camera Verdict

Upgrading from the iPhone 4 to iPhone 5 delivers a clear increase in image quality. Not only this but it is quicker in use, for example, HDR pictures are rendered much quicker. We recommend you use the HDR mode all the time as it generally produced much better results. The new panorama mode is excellent and really easy to use.

What is frustrating is the limited ability to change camera settings, such as ISO, white-balance, or simply to use a self-timer. There are apps available that allow you to set a self-timer, but surely it's about time Apple opened up these options via their own camera app.

In terms of the camera, the iPhone 5 is the best yet. You can spend much less and buy a compact with much better image quality, but as a smartphone camera, the iPhone 5 is pretty good.

iPhone 5 iSight Camera Pros

Large number of apps available
Fantastic panoramas
HDR mode delivers good results
Size and weight
LCD screen
White balance performance
Easy to share pictures

iPhone 5 iSight Camera Cons

No image stabilisation
LED flash not great
Very few camera settings available


Apple iPhone 5 Specifications

Max Aperturef/2.4
35mm equivalentNo Data
Optical ZoomNo Data
Image Sensor
Pixels8Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)3264
Pixels (H)2448
Sensor TypeNo Data
Sensor SizeNo Data
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
    LCD Monitor
    LCD Monitor4in
    Screen resolution727,040 dots
    Touch ScreenYes
    Focusing modes
    • Autofocus
    • Touch AF
    Exposure Control
    Shutter speeds shortestNo Data
    Shutter speeds longestNo Data
    ISO sensitivityNo Data
    Movie modeYes
    Video Resolution
    • 1920x1080 FullHD
    Video FPS30
    Stereo SoundYes
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationYes
    Internal MemoryNo Data
    Power Source
    Battery TypeBuilt-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsApple EarPods with Remote and Mic, Lightning to USB Cable, USB Power Adapter, Documentation

    View Full Product Details

    Photographs taken using the Apple iPhone 5

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    Ade_Osman 16 4.5k 36 England
    30 Oct 2012 6:36PM
    Great camera, just don't try and find your way home with it thoughGrinGrinGrinGrinGrinGrin


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    31 Oct 2012 12:05PM
    I just got my new iPod Touch 5th Generation. Will this be tested too, or is it broadly the same?

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