iPhone 5 review - Cameras

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


iPhone 5 Review - Camera

Upon first impression the iPhone 5’s camera doesn’t seem to have had much of an upgrade as it sports the same core specs as the iPhone 4S. It shoots 8MP stills and 1080p video, it has an f2.4 lens and it doesn’t have any extra clever camera tech like the phenomenal image stabilisation of the Nokia Lumia 920. But, as well as managing to make the whole assembly 30 percent slimmer and adding a harder sapphire glass cover Apple has managed to improve overall image quality.

Shooting in as identical situations as possible the iPhone 5 seems to produce crisper, more detailed results than the 4S. Some of this could be down to higher use of a sharpening algorithm but regardless, straight out the camera its shots tend to look better, and the 4S was already the best phone camera on the markets (Nokia 808 PureView notwithstanding).

iPhone 5 4

The difference is less noticeable on video but here the iPhone 5 does have another trick up its sleeve, and it’s one of those real ‘why didn’t they think of that before?’ moments. The second microphone used for noise cancelling when making a call has been positioned alongside the rear camera where it plays double duty for recording audio when shooting video. The result is less chance of muffled or otherwise peculiar sounding audio because of your hand covering the other microphone that sits on the bottom of the phone.

iPhone 5 camera sample

iPhone 5 Camera

The iPhone 5 copes with both dull and bright days, pulling colour out of the former and maintaining highlight and shadow detail in the latter.

Then of course there’s the Panorama mode. We’ve seen panorama modes on plenty of other devices before but none anywhere near as impressive as Apple has managed here.

iPhone 5 camera sample 1

For a start the process is super easy. You just tap the shutter button and start panning round – the phone will do the rest. It’s not just easy, though, it’s also superb quality. Unlike any other equivalent we’ve seen you get a really high resolution image, and the image processing does an excellent job of smoothing out the image, keeping exposure changes gradual. It can slip up, particularly if you go too fast but for the most part it’s very capable.

iPhone 5 Camera

Indoor shots also look good...

iPhone 5 Camera

...though it can't cope with focussing properly in the pitch black, even when its LED is bright enough to light the scene.

One issue the iPhone 5 does still struggle with, though, is focussing in the pitch black. Unlike the impressive cameras on the BlackBerry Z10 and Nokia Lumia 920, the iPhone 5 doesn't take the time to light up the scene with its LED, focus, then take the shot. Instead it just sort of guesses the focussing and shots come out blurry.

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September 13, 2012, 5:32 am

Wow, no comments from Apple haters? Amazing, won't be long though. In no rush to upgrade from my 4, will wait until its been out a while until I consider buying one. I'm glad they haven't made it any wider though, I find some of the new Android phones such as the SG3 way too big and wouldn't buy one for that reason. Not because I HATE Android btw


September 13, 2012, 2:31 pm

Well then racey i better kick off the rage then!!! Seriously though another proprietary connector? Other than that no big surprises (not that we were expecting any). I wouldn't buy an iphone personally i don't like the design of the operating system which i feel has long since been surpassed in feel and flexibility by android (wasn't true a couple of years ago but is now). Then again i wouldn't buy the galaxy s3 either im holding out for a new nexus phone.


September 13, 2012, 3:37 pm

Its no shock really that they have changed the connector and no shock they have used their own format rather than the industry standard. Apple have always done things their own way. £25 is steep for an adapter but eBay will be littered with £2 copies in no time. My only concern is how much support will it give the phone when placed on a speaker dock? Especially now the phone is taller. I think it could place a lot of strain on the tiny new connector.

Marcus H

September 13, 2012, 5:26 pm

It's not as if they bring new connectors out very often - the old one is ancient. There are adapters for USB mini and old style connectors, and those will start to spring up a low prices I am sure.


September 14, 2012, 5:28 pm

This article makes me laugh, look up any other smartphone review on the site (LG Optimus 4X for example) and you will see comments like 'thankfully the headphone socket is on the top' and you will see heaphone jack on bottom of the phone in the 'cons'. Apple however do exactly this and all of a sudden it's revolutionary and you should just try it because it actually makes sense. Just made me smile.


September 15, 2012, 12:28 am

Glad it made you smile rather than anything else. Niall was saying 'thankfully the headphone jack is on the top' in reference to some phones putting them on the side - not many these days but some still do. Top or bottom is fine but I was just pointing out in this article that not only is bottom not a bad thing but that it actually potentially makes even more sense.


September 15, 2012, 5:52 am

This is iPhone 4.1, not 5. No significant improvement from the previous version. It is quite evidente that Apple lost the momentum since Steve left the company


September 15, 2012, 6:27 pm

I`m an Apple hater. I just posted a joke on another section of TR iphone review. It sums up my feelings on all things Apple.
Q, How do you milk sheep ?
A, Bring out another iphone.


September 15, 2012, 6:47 pm

So basically no comment on the fact it is still a 2nd or 3rd choice smart phone due to the fact the new S3 will be 4g and this isnt. Funnily enough some of are interested in surfing the internet at speed - something this review did not cover at all - surprisingly....

I was really looking forward to the I5 coming out and upgrading to it, but now find myself in a quandry as to which smart phone to pick - none of them are perfect and sadly the I5 is looking 2nd best to the competition.

Martin 6

September 18, 2012, 12:54 pm

Another TR review proving that proof reading is a dying art! Hopefully one day digital content providers might start using them instead of just spell check.


September 20, 2012, 5:20 am

When Android syncs with Outlook as easily as iOS does, maybe I'll switch.


September 22, 2012, 5:07 pm

Very classy phone - particularly like the new CPU which is more powerful than the GS3 quad core model and uses less power - as battery life is such a critical feature in a smartphone (and why Id never get a HTC). I think it should come with minimum 32gb built in - 16Gb is too stingy for the asking price. Apple can charge the asking price because people will pay it!! Ill stick with my Galaxy Note (bought new and sealed for £280 on ebay) because Android is alot cheaper and more rewarding to use. But if you have the cash to spend on an iphone (and many people working in London do) then you're getting a superb phone by the looks of it


September 23, 2012, 12:44 am

Just got my iPhone 5 and after a few hours of playing with it, I can honestly say its excellent! I've had an iPhone 4 since the release date back in 2010 so it's been a long wait. Phone feels good in my hand and the increase in screen length is very nice and noticeable (with compatible apps). The new "ear buds" are very impressive in my opinion (not that ill use them over my Bose ear phones) and will be a good back up set.

I have two very big gripes tho. 1, maps. It's a pretty poor effort from apple and I don't like that I've lost street view. I honesty hope google will be allowed to release the maps app because apples maps are no where near the standard of google yet. 2, dock adaptor! This should have been included with the phone! It's pathetic that apple are charging for an item that costs less than the ear buds and ten times more essential!! I have several docks that require the adaptor so there's no excuse for not giving it to us for free! It's not like apple need the money! Not sure Jobs would have done this!?

Fair score Ed! Awesome phone tho ;)


September 23, 2012, 8:33 am

Headphone connectors are better on the bottom. My phone goes in my pocket head first.

It's something I always liked about my old Touch HD2. Now I use Bluetooth so it's irrelevant.


September 23, 2012, 8:35 am

No, it's the iPhone 4SS ;o)

But yes, Apple is coasting on the value of its previous work. It's done nothing interesting since the iPhone 4.


September 23, 2012, 4:24 pm

@racey1979 - agree, I was considering the GS3 until I saw how big it was face to face. If they produced a phone with the same specs but a 4" screen form factor, I'd seriously consider jumping to Android. But the obsession seems to be flagship phones with jumbotron screens, which I find too big to hold (and I have decently sized manly hands, not tiny ones - guess phone size is very subjective)

@todd10 - saw that on yahoo questions. funny stuff - the best is the Samsung ad on youtube spoofing the losers who queue up outside Apple Stores for the next iphone. Funny as hell. I can't stand Apple's smug patronising marketing. That being said I never understood the hater thing either. I'm a grown up and I can spend my money how I want for the device that best suits my needs. I also look at all devices pros and cons without brand loyalty being part of the question - got a beat up old iphone 4 currently, it works for what I need, it's nicely built and fits in the hand. The galaxy s3 feels cheaper, is far too big but has heaps more features (and lets me get rid of apps I don't want, which Apple don't let me do to Newsstand and the new Passbook). I don't feel a need to get vitriolic arguing over why the phone that I don't have is utterly sh1t.

I honestly think WW3 is going to start as an argument between Apple and Android fanboys! Just pays your money on what you want and enjoy what you bought instead of arguing over what other grownups spend their money on.

Has to be said though I'm enjoying the coverage of Apple's monumental screw up on the Maps, it's hilarious to see them make a huge blunder.


September 23, 2012, 4:31 pm

"To comply with EU regulations that stipulate microUSB must be used as the standard connection for all new phones, Apple does offer a Lightning to microUSB adapter for £15 too."

Well then to comply with EU regulations shouldn't Apple supply said adaptor free so that microUSB is used on the new phone AS SOLD?

I do wish Apple would stop marketing their stuff as if it's revolutionary and going to change everyone's lives. Granted the original iPhone changed the smartphone market in a huge way, but now the iPhone of the day is just a very well built bu otherwise unremarkable smartphone among many. I guess I'm just one of those people who likes to actually assess a product's capabilities against my needs and then decide what's best, and I hate the overwhelming smugness of their marketing.
They make very well made, slick and easy to use products which are in a premium price bracket. Not devices which represent the second coming of the Messiah (or some other hugely world-shattering event)

Still....they can't smug their way out of the Maps cock-up. :) Funny stuff, Jobs the perfectionist wouldn't have allowed that release in current state, methinks.


September 23, 2012, 8:19 pm

The iPhone 5 is not all it is cracked up to be. My mrs has an iPhone 4S and would advise sticking with that or getting that instead if you must have an iPhone.

1) bad screens - http://forums.macrumors.com...
2) chipped finish out of box -
http://forums.macrumors.com... - with user survey
3) bad home button -
4) screen light leakage -

iPhone 5 vs iPhone 4S scratch & scruff test


September 24, 2012, 9:02 am

You're making the assumption that the iPhone 5 is "not all its cracked up to be" because you have one with all those issues or because you've found a few people complaining on a forum about issues that are very rare (apart from the scratching of the back) that haven't even made it to news?

I have an iPhone 5. It hasn't any scratches, it hasn't a dodgy home button, it isn't leaking light and the screen is perfect but if any of those things were to happen, I'd take it to my local apple store and within 5 minutes, I'd be walking out with a brand new handset.

As I've said previously, I love the phone, but I have issues, BUT my issues are common ones that everyone knows about, not one of cases on one forum.

What a ridiculous comment to make! I bet you don't even own an iPhone!


September 24, 2012, 9:09 am

Well said! I am a fan of apple products but I'm growing tired of the over marketing, slow catching up of other products and refusing to expand products past their egos!

Free adaptor please. The ability to put an SD card in my iPad please. A little more flexibility with my UI please! Why can't they listen to the people who have made them what they are!!


September 24, 2012, 9:21 am

@gdawg304 Well said! I honestly don't understand why some people get so carried away that they are branded apple haters or why people hate apple so much to be called apple haters!?

I've always liked apple products but I've always liked Samsung products too. The S3 is a gorgeous looking thing. I just think its too big for what I want in a phone. I'm not going to start slating every other company that isn't apple because I'm a grown up that left school a long time ago. Like what you like, buy what you want and just have a grown up discussion about these things.

Why can't we all just get along!?

Hamish Campbell

September 24, 2012, 12:48 pm

errr...you don't think changing the screen size for the first time deserves a new number?

Hamish Campbell

September 24, 2012, 12:50 pm

oh don't worry, Jobs would have done it.


September 24, 2012, 2:25 pm

If it was about any other phone I would say that you are right. But, Apple's marketing campaign presented iPhone5 as product that makes perfection look sloppy. After such campaign any fault looks like rose thorn in eye.


September 24, 2012, 2:28 pm

I bought one for the girlfriend on Friday. Apple duly delivered it exactly on time and the setup went flawlessly. Upgrading from her iPhone 4 to the 5 was absolutely effortless, this is something that Apple do so very well. Backup to iCloud, restore from it, job done.

My comments so far are :-

The quality is stunning. Anyone wanting to see a fun video, go on YouTube and watch the Android guys do a drop test against the S3.
The extra screen real estate is extremely useful (more icons, widescreen, landscape web browsing / gaming) but doesn't really make the phone any bulkier.
It's very slim and much lighter. Incredible considering that it's bigger.
It's very fast. She's gone from a 4 to a 5 and the difference is profound.


After only 1 charge the battery is not lasting as long as expected. She's certainly draining it to 10 / 20% in a days use. Although right now she is using a lot and it's not had many full charges.
She got caught out by the maps app in London on Saturday. Although everyone knows this will improve fast and she don't need it often.

So far. Big improvement.

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