iPhone 5S camera : here is what's new

iphone 5S camera
the iphone 5S camera

Unless you were out in an other galaxy for the last two weeks, you know that Apple has unveiled a couple of new iPhones : the iPhone 5C (basically an iPhone 5 with a colorful plastic casing) and the high-end innovative and powerful iPhone 5S (learn more about the iPhone 5S innovations)

Here, we are talking photography and today, let’s talk about “iPhonography” because the camera is among the main areas of progress of this new generation. let’s see what’s new on the iPhone 5S camera that I’ll test on Friday with an iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5 vs iPhone 4S image quality comparison.


IPhone 5S : The ultimate iPhone for iphotographers ?


I will not repeat to you how important the quality of today smartphone cameras are : every brands fights about the quality of the photos taken by their flagship smartphone. At HTC , they advertise on the ultrapixels technology with fairly attractive sensor sensitivity in low light conditions, while Nokia have pushed the sensor to 41 megapixels and they made fun of the picture quality of the iPhone 5 in theirs ads …

The iPhone photo quality had made an impressive qualitative leap with the transition from the iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S generation two years ago . I waited impatiently that Apple would unveil its new iPhone and after having tested the latest Nokia Windows Phone, the HTC One and the Galaxy S4, I must say that I expect a lo from the iPhone 5S. On paper, and from what I saw in Apple’s keynote, my expectation could be fulfilled by the iPhone 5S and I can not wait to have it in hands to test it…

iphone 5s camera
Better, brighter, sharper images with the iPhone 5S ? Yes, probably !

So what’s new, “camerawise” on the iPhone 5S


New faster f/2.2 lens

Apple has developed a new lens for the camera of the iPhone 5S , which has improved, slightly, with a max aperture of f/2.2 . While the progress is modest compared to the f/2.4 of the iPhone 5 camera …  it’s going in the right direction. This small lens is based on an optical formula five elements.


New sensor with larger photodiodes

The surface of the iPhone 5S sensor offers more generous photodiodes in size than the previous one with a pixel pitch of 1.5 micron per pixels. This allows, as reminded Phil Schiller during the keynote, to collect a little more light , to lower the noise (or rather to improve the signal / noise ratio) , and to increase the dynamic image. On the later  point, technically, the dynamic range of a sensor is not related to its size. However, the shots shown by Apple looked very impressive with regards of their dynamic range , but my guess is that it would rather be due to the photo processing software than to the iPhone 5S camera’s hardware .


iPhone 5S software

We know that when you take a photo, your camera camera, like a smartphone, automatically adjusts the exposure , sharpness, with the focus and white balance. The iPhone 5S adds to this a localized adaptation of the dynamic range of the sensor to the different areas of the image according to the pattern of it. Apple is also talked about a so called matrix autofocus system without really giving any precise technical specs nor performance idea. So i I will test it when I get the iPhone 5S. Finally, a smart system taking consecutive shots analyzes all images and suggests the sharpest photos.


New dual LED “true tone” flash

So the rumor was true : the iPhone 5S will come with a dual LED flash. But its purpose is not to increase its power . Pretty smart, the iPhone 5S has a  LED flash set to a pure to cold white , maybe a little cooler than daylight. The second LED flash is calibrated to a much warmer color temperature  with amber tones. The iPhone 5S can modulate the intensity of each LED to build a customized light source with variable color temperature which should match the type of light in your scene . That is progress ! Really well thought out. If it works as advertised, it should dramatically improve the photos color and especially skin tones.

iphone 5C camera
The dual LED flash of the iPhone 5S will mix light sources to adapt the flash color temperature to the ambiant light of the scene.


Automatic Image Stabilization

What lies beneath this technology is still a little fuzzy, but if I understand we are talking digital image stabilization and not optical image stabilization as one could have expected if we gave credit to some rumors which emerged on the web. If the subject moves , the iPhone 5S will detect it and then take a series of photos in burst and will blend all sharpest areas of each photo in order to to achieve a clear image. Another new feature to test …


10 fps burst shooting and slow motion video

Powerful, with its A7 processor , the iPhone 5S is tough enough to ensure burst capture continuously at the crazy rate of 10 frames per second. This frame rate was until recently reserved to professional digital SLRs costing over $5,000. It is now available in a multifunction idevice a few millimeters thick … Admirable. Apple has not communicated in the keynote on the duration of the burst at 10 fps and the live demo was approx. 2 seconds long which is already much higher than the average compact digital cameras with such capabilities. Smart again, Apple has improved the usability of this new 10 fps shooting mode with an image analysis system that will look closely at the exposure, the sharpness of the image , the presence of faces, smiles or eyes closed, to pick the best shot.
Also allowed by the bulk power of the A7 processor of the iPhone 5S, it can now shoot videos in “slow-motion ” at 120 frames per second (for a 4x slow-mo effect). In slow motion 120 fps, the iPhone 5S records in 720p vs 1080p in normal mode. You can choose the part of the video which will be played at normal speed and the part on which you want to add the slow-motion effect.

Panoramic photo in progress

Panorama capture has also been improved and the iPhone 5S can capture them in a comfortable 28-megapixel definition. But more importantly, what I have learned and applauded with both hands, myself being a fan of panoramic photography : this new iPhone finally adjusts the exposure while you pan the image to avoid too dark areas and burnt highlights.

As you can see, the iPhone 5S camera brings many improvements over the previous iphone 5 camera (which was not impressive and less good in some ways than the iPhone 4S one), and I could bet that they had a secret goal while engineering the iPhone 5S camera which would be designing the best smartphone camera. Stay tuned on Friday for the iPhone 5S camera review !

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