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Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera. This is a simple fact that even Apple’s competition hasn’t tried to dispute. With the announcement of the new iPhone 5S and a beefier camera, it’s probable that there is less chance of that fact changing any time soon.

I was honored to be invited by my old friend Leo Laporte to be a guest on his popular This Week in Tech (TWIT) show yesterday to discuss and critique the iPhone 5S announcement. We did the show live and like the rest of you, got bit by bit, the details of the new phone.

Like any Apple event there is/was lots of hype, but after the show, I made some calls, talked to some friends at Apple and got some of the details that weren’t reported in the keynote.

In this post I am ONLY going to discuss the iPhone 5S as a camera phone. I am not going to opine on anything else. If you are an Apple hater lower your blood pressure and stop reading now. Move along, nothing to see here.

Now for those who have stayed with me. Here’s the news from Apple that I think is important and my reaction to it.

Let’s look at the camera phone specs in the 5S.

1. Eight megapixels with 1.5µ pixels

This is my favorite bit of news. Apple didn’t make a larger sensor (15% larger to be exact) just to cram it full of MORE (meaningless) megapixels. Instead, it made the pixel sites larger than they were on the iPhone 5 which translates to better quality images, especially in low-light. Yes there are camera phones with larger pixel sites but the back end processors don’t seem to do much with the extra data. So if Apple applies its usual level of engineering genius to this new sensor combined with a 64-bit processor, there’s every reason to believe that the camera will perform very well. The iPhone 5 is already about as good as it gets (opinions vary but it’s at least in the ball park) but with this new sensor, and looking at the sample images from Apple’s keynote, I am very hopeful.

2. ƒ/2.2 aperture

This is a nice fast lens, but not such a wide aperture that you will have trouble getting things in focus. Apple bridged the gap here between having the widest/fastest lens and one that is more functional.

3. Sapphire crystal lens cover

Not a big deal – lots of phones have this, but it does make it harder to scratch the lens.

4. True Tone flash

I have no idea how this actually works since I haven’t tested it. In theory it’s a great idea, although you could accomplish color balance in software probably just as well. Apple says the camera uses software algorithms to assess the color temperature of the scene and creates the right balance of light from the different colored LED flashes on the iPhone 5S to give you the best result in mixed lighting.

5. Backside illumination sensor

For those of you who are of the religion of low-light this is great news. Combined with larger sensor sites, this backside illuminated sensor should provide some of the best low-light images ever made with an iPhone. Present in current iPhone but said to be reworked on the new sensor.

6. Five-element lens

No change from iPhone 5.

7. Hybrid IR filter

No change from iPhone 5 other than claimed performance enhancements based on new A7 processor.

8. Autofocus/Tap to focus

Apple claims the autofocus is much faster now. With the ARM processor packing 64-bit power it’s highly probable this claim is valid, but I need to test it myself to make sure. On paper it’s very believable. All the backend stuff needed to make a faster AF on the camera is absolutely there.

9. Face detection

No change from iPhone 5 other than claimed performance enhancements based on new A7 processor.

10. Panorama

No change from iPhone 5 other than claimed performance enhancements based on new A7 processor. (UPDATE: There is now autoexposure throughout the panorama.)

11. Burst mode

The new burst mode is 10fps and comes with software that will suggest which of the frames is the “best.” Not sure I’d ever use that feature and burst mode has been a software hack available on most camera phones for a while, but it’s nice to see it come out officially from Apple.

12. Photo geotagging

No change from iPhone 5 other than claimed performance enhancements based on new A7 processor.

13. Better sharing

The new iPhone supports Air Drop and iPhoto-style groupings. Photo streams are also auto updated.

14. More fun stuff/Misc

There’s an Instagram-like 1:1 format with lots of filters. The new iPhone 5S also has matrix metering and auto-image stabilization. The new iPhone 5S supports OpenGL ES 3.0, enabling visual effect.

That’s a long list. And at this point in time it’s data provided by Apple. I have no idea how the thing actually works so I am not recommending the camera. I AM saying that on paper, it looks like a winner. The real test comes when I get mine on September 20. I’ll put it through its paces and report back. In the mean time, if you want to see a gallery of images made with the new high-end iPhone Apple has a gallery of iPhone 5S images here.


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Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. like you’re post :) butt i would never buy a i-phone unless it has a good camera on board with at least 10 megapixels like the Sony E8 smartphone

  2. Does the 5C have the identical camera but processing speed limits features like burst mode and slomo? I wish Apple had included a time lapse feature. Is there a good alternative for this?

  3. […] stabilization. The new iPhone 5S supports OpenGL ES 3.0, enabling visual effect. Credit goes to Photofocus for the iPhone 5s camera […]

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