iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 cameras compared in our Photo Shoot Out

iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 cameras compared in our Photo Shoot Out

We compare photos taken with the iPhone 5s, 5c and iPhone 5, in some cases the results were very surprising

We will share the images in this feature on our FaceBook group so that you can examine them with more clarity. In each example here the photos are shown in order: iPhone 5, 5c, 5s.

View the iPhone 5s, 5c, 5 photos here.

While the iPhone 5c shares its iSight camera with the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5s camera gains some major improvements including a new clever two-part LED flash, described by Apple as a True Tone flash, a larger f/2.2 aperture, and better low-light sensitivity thanks to larger sensor pixels, as well as the new image signal processor in the new Apple A7 chipset.

To find out what this mean for photo quality we have run some photo comparisons between photos taken with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s in various scenarios. For example, we wanted to see what the jump from f/2.4 of/2.2 aperture actually does so we took some low-light photographs. We also took a closer look at the difference between images taken by both cameras when zoomed into the maximum to see how much of a difference the bigger pixels of the iPhone 5s made.

When we examined the photos later we did so 'blind' without knowing which phone produced the image we were looking at, we also zoomed in to the photos to inspect the detail and colour reproduction.

iPhone photo comparisons: Low-light with flash

The True Tone Flash on the iPhone 5s mixes two LED light sources of different temperatures to shed more natural light on your subject. This should avoid the washed-out glare of most simple flash units. We took some photos in the dimly lit environment of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. As you can see from this example the iPhone 5 and 5c photos suffer from red eye, with the worse example being the iPhone 5. We wouldn't say that there is a big difference in skin tones, but the iPhone 5s image is a lot clearer, and the flash has lit his face rather than the surroundings.

iPhone photo comparisons: Low light without flash

With its wider aperture and bigger pixels, the iPhone 5s should perform better than the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c when it comes to low light photography without the use of a flash. What was really surprising was how much better the iPhone 5c did than the iPhone 5. In the image taken with the 5s, the detail was apparent, clear and crisp, colour reproduction was more accurate and there was less noise. Examining the 'sprinkler valve' wording on the sign reveals a world of difference between the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c. Again we felt that the reds were a little too red in the iPhone 5c example.

In this case the iPhone 5s was the clear winner, the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 had very issues, and were equally noisy.

iPhone photo comparisons: Colour reproduction

An important test of how good a camera is would be how good the colour reproduction in the photographs is. Even in this age of Instagram, nobody really wants images to suffer from over saturation. How accurately did the iPhones represent the colours in the images we took? You can certainly see a difference between many of the images here, in the case of the iPhone 5 and 5c the colour reproduction was certainly less accurate than the iPhone 5s, especially in reds.

In the case of this red and gold wallpaper, at a glance there isn't such a big difference between the shots, although the iPhone 5s image is brighter, despite the low light conditions.

In terms of greens there was less difference in colour reproduction, as you can see from these pictures taken outside. There is little to separate the quality of these images.

In this colourful example, there doesn't appear to be a lot of difference in the colours of the clothing, but the stripy bag highlights the extra detail that the iPhone 5s has picked up.

iPhone photo comparisons: HDR photos

Apple's been offering an HDR (high dynamic range) option on the iPhone camera app since iOS 4.1. A high dynamic range image combines a series of photographs, each shot at a different exposure: underexposed where everything is darker, overexposed where it's lighter, and properly exposed in the middle. The best parts of these images are put together into one shot that brings out details in both the shadows and the highlights. What was notable from these HDR examples was that with HDR turned on you could see some detail in the windows. The iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 HDR quality was very similar, when we zoomed in closely we could made out the detail of the wall on the other side of the window, the detail of the windows themselves was clearer on the iPhone 5c though.

iPhone photo comparisons: Coping with light and dark

Not everyone will utilise HDR of course. We took a this snap without HDR to see how the cameras compared when switching between areas of dark and light in a photo. When we examined these shots close up we could detect subtle differences, for example, around the windows of St Pancras hotel colours were brighter and crisper in the case of the iPhone 5s image, while the iPhone 5c was veered towards the red, and the iPhone 5 was blurry and washed out. Looking at the text on the Euston Road sign the iPhone 5s example was far clearer while the other two images looked scanned in. Looking at the darker areas of the photos, around the window of the British Library the iPhone 5s was the best by far, with the iPhone 5 being really pixelated. Finally, the sky: In the case of the iPhone 5s the difference between the blue and the white clouds could be detected close up, while there was less of a distinction between the blue and white on the iPhone 5 and 5c with the iPhone 5 being the worse of the two.

We took a closer look a the sky in these images, as you can see the shade of blue is more accurate and crisper in the image taken with the iPhone 5s, while the blue in the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 images suffers from blur and looks artificially blue.

iPhone photo comparisons: Bigger Pixels

While many of Apple's competition in the smartphone space have been adding megapixels to their cameras, Apple has always been of the opinion that it's the quality of the camera sensor that matters. Basically, it's not about how many megapixels you have; it's how big they are. In the iPhone 5s the main camera's pixel width has grown from 1.4 to 1.5 m. That's just 100 nanometre per pixel, but larger pixels yield greater electrical output, leading to clearer images in low-light conditions without resorting to messy noise-reduction techniques.

So how did the photos match up? As you can see from the examples in the majority of cases we could see additional clarity in the photos taken with the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c offered more clarity than that taken with the iPhone 5. .

One way to judge the effect of these bigger pixels is to utilise the zoom. When we zoomed in on the windows of the St Pancras hotel we found that the photo taken with the iPhone 5 shows much more noise than that taken with the iPhone 5s.

iPhone photo comparisons: Macro photographs

These close up shots were taken without zoom, we were particularly interested at how well the iPhone focused. We found that all of the phones struggled a bit to find and maintain a focus point. In the case of this flower photograph we were surprised that when we looked closely at the anthers the iPhone 5c did a much better job when it came to focus, at least in these examples. We are going to do more testing here as we certainly expected to find that the iPhone 5s photo would be more defined not less. When it came to the red side of the spectrum we felt that the iPhone 5c over did it somewhat, with the most faithful reproduction being the iPhone 5s in terms of colour and the detail in the petals.

iPhone photo comparisons: Motion Photography

They say never to work with children or animals, but it's likely that you will be using your iPhone to take photos of pets or children and they do have a habit of moving a bit. The new burst mode shooting on the iPhone 5s is a great way to get the most out of photographing children, the iPhone 5s should reduce motion blur because it takes four images and melds the best parts of each photography together. It is also possible to take photos in a 'burst mode' on the iPhone 5 and 5c, although in that case what this means is that if you tap and hold the shutter then the camera will keep on taking snaps, just not 10 a second as in the case of the 5s.

If you use burst mode on the iPhone5s the camera will take a series of photos and display the best of the bunch. You can always change the selection if you disagree. In our example of a burst mode photograph using the iPhone 5s you can see that the camera has done a good job picking the best snap.

Here we attempted to take a photo of a cat, we picked the best images from a bunch, and generally each iPhone did a pretty good job, but when examined closely we could see that the cat's whiskers and fur were a lot more defined in the iPhone 5s photograph.

iPhone photo comparisons: Panoramas

Our final comparison was to compare the panorama (or Pano) mode on the different iPhones. We were interested to see how they coped stitching the scenery together. One of the new capabilities of the iPhone 5s is its ability to adjust to the lighting as you pan around, this is perfectly demonstrated by the panorama we took of the staircase. We expected the efforts of the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c to be pretty similar so we were surprised by how blown out the windows are in the image from the iPhone 5c. This is another example where we will do more testing.

Our final photo is a panorama of a landscape. All the phones did a good job of stitching the images together but we did notice that the sky at the left hand side was more blown out in the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 images.

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Tags iPadsmartphonestabletsAppleiPhonehardware systemsconsumer electronics

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