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iPhone 5C - Camera Image Quality

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Updated:

Summary

Our Score:

8

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iPhone 5C – Camera Image Quality and Performance

The iPhone 5C’s rear camera hardware is functionally identical to that of the iPhone 5. It has an 8-megapixel Sony sensor that’s 1/3.2-inch in size, resulting in 1.4-micron sensor pixels.

It’s entirely free of the headline-grabbing features seen in recent high-end phone cameras. There’s no optical image stabilisation, no oversized sensor and no super-fast lens – like the iPhone 5 it’s an f/2.4 lens.

iPhone 5C 6

However, it remains an excellent camera for the average person. It’s quick – both in terms of the speed of focusing and the delay between shots. We recently looked at the Lumia 1020, a camera that can produce far better images, but takes longer to do so. Snaps missed because of camera processing lag are rare with an iPhone.

Let’s take a closer look at what it’s capable of, image quality-wise.

Detail and Exposure

Fate decided to offer us a particularly miserable day on which to take photos, but a grey cloudy scene is a pretty good test for a camera. It offers plenty of opportunity for it to overexpose clouds, or underexpose other elements.

However, the iPhone 5C fared well. Its exposure is even and well-judged, showing some detail in the cloud cover without making the foreground buildings appear more depressing than a weekend at a motorway service station. iPhone 5C 3

Getting right down to pixel level, the iPhone 5C camera – predictably – captured a similar level of detail to the iPhone 5. Apple does seem to have reduced its image sharpening a tiny bit with iOS 7. Compared to an iPhone 5 running iOS 7, our test image looks a tiny bit softer and a tiny bit less noisy – with slightly lower contrast.

iPhone 5C 2

This sounds like a negative change, and that’s how it appears at pixel level. However, zoom out and the iPhone 5C’s shot looks a little more natural. The two are fundamentally very similar, though.

Low-light and Flash

With a small 1/3.2-inch sensor, the low-light capabilities of the iPhone 5C are naturally going to be quite limited.

Without using the flash, low-light shots are extremely noisy. However, as ever Apple makes the right moves when it comes to processing images to make them most usable.

The shot below – which was very gloomy in person – shows that the exposure compensation has been boosted to make use of what little light there is. However, the level of noise is still worse than you’d see in an HTC One or top-end Lumia phone like the Lumia 925 or Lumia 1020.

iPhone 5C 5

The iPhone 5C features a fairly unremarkable LED flash - it misses out on the clever dual-tone LED flash of the iPhone 5S, and the 'vignette' like effect shows the limits to an LED's range and even-ness.

iPhone 5C 6

The LED flash isn't a wonder, but we're glad it's there

Macro and Focusing

The iPhone 5C does not have a specific macro mode. You simply have to tap on your subject to focus and hope you’re not asking too much of the lens.

You can’t get extremely close and still have your subject in-focus, and since the iPhone 5 was launched in 2012, the 8-megapixel camera rig has been outclassed several times technically, but it’s not bad at all. Image sharpness is very good.

iPhone 5C

Depth of Field

Other than low-light performance, another key area that other higher-end cameras can beat the iPhone 5C is depth of field effects.

The camera can’t handle truly shallow focusing, and background areas are only somewhat blurred. With some effort you can produce shots with a somewhat shallow field, but having been spoilt with the Lumia 1020, it’s clear that the iPhone 5C isn’t close to performing at that camera’s level in this respect. The HTC One outclasses it too.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 5S vs HTC One

iPhone 5C 4

As with most mobile cameras, only relatively minor depth of field effects are possible

HDR

Like the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5C has a very good HDR mode, which merges two different exposures to reduce overexposure and increase the amount of shadow detail in your photos. As the demo below shows, it manages to reduce the slightly glum look to photos on grey days.

iPhone 5C 1

The HDR mode is strong as ever

It’s not so intense that it makes photos look entirely artificial either – a too-intense application of HDR can result in weird halo’ing around objects (which can look good in the right hands, but generally looks a bit naff.)

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Video Capture

The iPhone 5C is – like the iPhone 5 – a decent video capture device. It can take 1080p videos and uses software stabilisation to avoid handheld footage looking like migraine-inducing jerk-o-vision.

iOS 7 also introduces a neat dual-capture feature. When recording video a shutter button appears, letting you take photos on the fly. Where other phones prioritise more gimmicky features like capturing front and rear camera footage at the same time, this less flashy addition seems much more useful to us.

Front Camera

The one hardware element of the iPhone 5C that does significantly improve upon the iPhone 5 is the front camera. It has a 1.2-megapixel camera – just like the last iPhone – but the sensor is slightly larger.

iPhone 5C

We wouldn’t extend to using it for portraits to print out, but it is an above-average video chat camera. It is particularly effective at dealing with bright light sources. Where a lesser front camera tend to show a smeared halo around lights, the iPhone 5C keeps things looking as they should – crisp and clean.

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yogi bear

September 11, 2013, 7:11 am

So it's basically the iPhone five in plastic.

torjs99

September 11, 2013, 9:12 am

no originality here. move along

Prem Desai

September 11, 2013, 11:18 am

Is a point to this phone? Most of us would use a case which will cover up the colourful plastic.

Makes sense to buy an iPhone 5 and a nice case.

DigitalFury

September 12, 2013, 7:41 am

An iPhone 5 shoved into a Lumia 620 body. This is "innovation" according to Apple, which obviously died with Steve - enough said.

toboev

September 12, 2013, 7:45 am

In your video you say something along the lines of, "at £80 less the 5C will attract plenty of people" (paraphrased).
Surely for most people, on a 24 month contract, the maths is more like a monthly difference of under £3.40 bethween the 5S and 5C. For the price of a pint per month, would you really opt for the lesser phone? I know I would drink an extra glass of water each month and have the better phone.

TechAxle.Com

September 12, 2013, 10:42 pm

Its really very better with compare to 5s, I love colors.

Steve Jobbo

September 15, 2013, 9:16 am

I can see this being a great success,a sort of 'lifestyle' statement to people who see through the fact that you can get a just as good windows/android device for half the money.I will wait for a 6C or 6S,with a decent size screen,full 4G capability,more realistic pricing due to competition,a battery that lasts a full day,and maybe wireless charging.

isa

September 16, 2013, 2:49 am

I'm wondering about sounds and mic quality since there seems to be less holes?

Gbrl

September 19, 2013, 1:53 am

My olnly question about iPhone 5C is: can you change the background image? Every single picture I see, there's the default one...

Guido

September 19, 2013, 10:17 am

Too bad the iPhone 5c does not come in the color black.

mode11

September 19, 2013, 7:54 pm

At this price you might as well just buy a 5 if you can find one, which has a nicer build, or just pony up the relatively small extra and get the full 5S. There's not enough clear daylight between the two models, and the 5C's price means it's not really a budget competitor. Who can justify / afford the 5C but not the 5S?

And Apple's pride notwithstanding, the latest phone needed a 4.5"+ screen. This is not enough for the next whole year. I initially resisted the Tim Cook bashing, as I felt that Apple's success could hardly be down to just SJ. But TC does come across as a manager rather than a leader, and Apple are treading water at the moment (though iOS7 does look nice).

jjonja

September 20, 2013, 11:22 am

if you don't want touch ID , 5c is real deal ..

jase

September 20, 2013, 6:28 pm

What a waist of time I think people will stick to getting the iphone 5 / 5s the price is not big enough between them and I bet it feels cheap and horrible in comparison they should of really dropped the price for it to be a success

jase

September 20, 2013, 6:29 pm

I bet it flops it needed to be alot cheaper people will just buy the 5 / 5s

Fred Clemons

September 21, 2013, 4:13 pm

There is no iPhone 5, the 5C replaced it. It will be a huge hit. Some people don't care about specs, they just want a phone that works & looks cool and the cheaper price tag will sway some buyers, as will finally having an iPhone with a little color

lampcampsnowpack

September 22, 2013, 5:45 pm

They usually have classes at the apple store for there products

Clyde Frog

September 24, 2013, 11:21 am

Although I'm not overly impressed with the specs of the 5C, the 5S is not an option for me as I've absolutely no desire to purchase a phone with a fingerprint scanner. Ever.

MattMe

September 24, 2013, 11:32 am

I don't understand why every review seems to simply overlook, or just not care that this is an iPhone 5 in a cheaper case, selling for the same, or maybe even more than the 5 would have, had they continued production. Shameless customer-raping pricing by Apple, yet again.

This is massively over-priced, and the plastic case isn't appealing, and it certainly does not make the phone look like a premium product. They could have manufactured the original case with colours if that's what they thought they were missing.

I cannot take any review seriously that gives this device a good score based on these facts alone. There is absolutely no value to this device at all. Over the standard contracts that I'm sure 90% of consumers would have with this phone, it's going to make little, if any, difference to their monthly payments over the 5s.

Pg

September 24, 2013, 12:34 pm

Not sure about hit, but it will sell, if only because the 5s will sell out. Way too expensive, can't see the point in it.

Pg

September 24, 2013, 12:39 pm

Awesome rant. Unfortunately, you've just been ranting about your lack of ability at using smartphones. But it's good to vent.

If you can't get to the apple store for a class, I'd ask a friend to show you the basics of the phone. Keep to the basics initially (phone calls, texts, taking pictures), until they are second nature, then start using all the apps and dig into the settings.

The internet is also your friend, so if you find a setting you don't know about, search for it. There'll be information on it somewhere.

Matthew Bunton

September 24, 2013, 1:12 pm

Oh yeah a real bargain from Apple at that price.:/

Why are people still throwing money at Apple for way overpriced tech?

MikkaMakkaMoo

September 24, 2013, 1:13 pm

You do know that you can return it for a full refund within 14 days?

http://store.apple.com/uk/open...

William Stuart

September 24, 2013, 7:30 pm

The plastic actually feels really, really nice. I went into a three store over the weekend and came away feeling much more positive about it, it doesn't feel like any plastic phone I have felt before, and feels vastly more impressive than the gs3 or gs4 so don't worry about that. I think they did need the 5C though, it creates a bit of fun in the iPhone lineup.

William Stuart

September 24, 2013, 7:31 pm

It is optional you realise, and even without that it is a pretty big update over the iPhone 5.

robchan

September 24, 2013, 8:35 pm

No, it's iphone 5 in Crocs. ;D

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