Smartphone photography with the new Apple iPhone 5

Posted By on September 22, 2012

The Apple iPhone 5 camera makes for a substantial improvement over my previous smartphone’s camera and so I was anxious to experiment with image quality and play with a few of the hyped features. Since I’m upgrading from the nearly “extinct” Palm Pre, running a rooted webOS install, any modern smartphone camera would have been an improvement. The tiny 8-megapixel phone camera in the iPhone 5 (and 1.2-megapixel front) may be ho-hum for iPhone 4s owners or high-end Android phone users, but for me it was a real leap forward. (inside the iPhone 5)

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In my opinion, too much is made of the number of megapixels; it make far more sense to pay attention to the lens, optics and how focus and pixels are handled in the phone. Supposedly the Apple A6 chip and efficiency in how quick the iPhone loads the app are advancements for everyday people and how they will use their picture taking gadgets. It seems sensible to keep the images sizes down if speed and storage space are of paramount concern. So far so good … that logic registers with me.

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Untouched photo through our back window from the iPhone 5  – only resized

My first photo was a tweet on Friday, but I gave a little more thought to how I’ll be using the camera as I started experimenting this weekend. Below is my first iPhone panorama HDR photo … obviously shrunk for the blog since the original image exceeds 13 megs – uploaded to Flickr. (but you can still click the inline photo below for a larger 1200 pixel wide image)

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In everyday shooting, I doubt if the HDR or panorama features are ones that most people will use. Point and shoot speed, convenience of operation and automatic corrective lighting adjustments are the kinds features we really need – Photo Sep 22, 10 16 05 AMalong with the downloading uploading and sharing of the photos.

I tested the smaller 1.2-megapixel front facing camera with a challenging lighting situation – bright lighting directly behind the subject – just to see what the camera would do (image right). The untouched/as taken photo was substantially washed out, but I doubt my higher quality DSLR camera in program mode would have done a much better job considering the lighting.

iPhone5_asscanner_crophalfsA couple other things I use a cellphone camera for are macro photos. I often take close up images and archive documents or articles … in fact am working on a smart-app for iPhone and Android to archive camera-phone “scans” in a freeform “stack or cards” type database similar to the way many of us used a rolodex or index cards – quickdex.com. (more on that in the future) My Palm Pre was really lousy for this and I knew my next phone would be one with vastly better macro capability. Besides taking a “leaf photo” (below), I snapped and cropped an article from the newspaper included to the right (click for larger). All but the top left of this image was pass-able … I’m curious if all iPhone 5s have optical imperfections?

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Another area where the iPhone 5 excels now is in shooting video. The phone seems snappy and easy to operate … except for handling the diminutive sized phone! I found it difficult to keep my fingers behind the camera and steady the solid little block of aluminum and glass. What stood out most to me is the crispness of the retina display of the iPhone … and I can see that before long I’m going to want that kind of display on my notebook computer and iPad. Very nice.

All in all the camera on the new iPhone 5 is impressive. The facial recognition and autofocus feature work great and the initial images look good. I can see that leaving our Kodak Playsport Zx5 behind is going to be easy to do … and that we’ll be questioning wanting to lug my DSLR and camera bag of accessories around to family functions or while touring on vacation. For simple “capture the moment” photos and video, the iPhone 5 is going to be hard to beat.

A quick test of the front facing video camera and audio below.

And here’s one using the rear facing camera.

Comments

  • Bill Bennett

    So should I buy the new iPhone? Great video!

  • Darrel Witzel

    Hey Rich, I have a previous version of the iPhone and can tell you that there is a huge difference in the low light photos and low light video. If photography is your thing then the new iPhone 5 is the way to go.

    •  Yes the low-light ASA is amazing on the iPhone. One of the best features. It is like night and day compared to the camera on my Palm Pre. Definitely a move up in that department.

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