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).
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.
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.
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.
Indoor shots also look good...
...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.