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Conclusion - Pros:

  • Excellent resolution at low ISO sensitivity settings in good light
  • Reliable metering and white balance in daylight
  • Supremely easy to use Camera App
  • Hardware shutter button (volume keys)
  • Bright, contrasty, very high-resolution LCD screen
  • Excellent built-in HDR and Panorama modes
  • Effective touch-to-focus/AE and AF/AE lock options

Conclusion - Cons:

  • Relatively poor flash performance in low light - camera-shake is a real risk
  • Yellowish results under warm artificial light
  • Occasional moire issues with very fine detail (fabric, straight lines, etc.)
  • Lens 'purple haze' flare isn't as big a problem as some have made out, but it can be an issue
  • Occasionally slow, hesitant AF (but accuracy is generally very high)

Overall Conclusion

As we mentioned in the introduction to this review, the iPhone in its various iterations, has become (quite unexpectedly) one of the most popular digital cameras ever invented. We've come a long way since the craptacular 2MP obscuroscopes offered by the early models, to the point where the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 actually offer genuinely useful image quality that in favourable conditions, is hard to tell apart from the output from 'proper' cameras.

When manufacturers employ pixel-binning to achieve higher ISO settings we don't normally celebrate the fact, but in the case of the iPhone 5, it gives you greater flexibility in poor light (i.e., you might actually get a picture now, where you just wouldn't with the iPhone 4S) and the drop in quality is unnoticeable when the images are used for sharing/web display. Overall, the iPhone 5 offers the mobile photographer speed, responsiveness, and a nice range of well thought-out features.

Right now our perfect cellphone camera would offer the ergonomic finesse of the iPhone 5, and the image quality (and PureView zoom) of the Nokia 808 PureView but as a complete package, the iPhone 5 is one of the most satisfying phone cameras out there. Our wish list for future iterations includes more manual control - specifically over white balance, but we'd also like to see 'slide-to-apply' exposure compensation rather than having to rely on AF/AE lock. 

The Final Word

The iPhone 5 is a fine mobile device, with an excellent camera. In qualititative terms it's not the best camera out there, and nor is it the best camera on a smartphone (the Nokia 808 has that honor, for now) but it offers satisfying image quality, some neat functions like auto panorama and HDR mode, and - crucially - it is supremely easy to use. It isn't much better than the iPhone 4S, as far as its photographic performance is concerned, but it isn't any worse (notwithstanding a somewhat more noticeable propensity towards lens flare).

What we like:

  • Supremely easy to use
  • Excellent detail at low ISO settings in good light 
  • Generally reliable metering/white balance
  • Touch-to-focus and AF/AE lock give good control over focus and exposure when required
  • Effective HDR mode makes a good job of balancing tones in tricky (static) scenes
  • Excellent Panorama mode
  • Quick and intuitive image navigation, zoom, editing and sharing

What we don't like:

  • Luminance noise visible in areas of plain tone even at ISO 50
  • Lens prone to flare when bright lights are positioned at or just outside the edge of the frame
  • Face detection a little hyperactive (sometimes finds faces that aren't there)
  • High ISO output (ISO 1250-3200) uses pixel-binning, which sacrifices resolution for sensitivity
 
DXOMark Mobile Score
72

DXOMark Image Quality Assessment

The iPhone 5's camera achieves a very good Photo Mobile
Score of 74 which is the same as the iPhone 4S. It offers very good color and exposure in most lighting conditions and accurate - if slow - autofocus. There is some loss of detail and large grain noise in low light and strong flare in some pictures. Video performance is good in bright light but image quality and stabilization isn't great indoors.
. For more detailed analysis, visit www.dxomark.com.

Photo Mobile Score 74   Video Mobile Score 70
Exposure and Contrast 88   Exposure and Contrast 81
Color 80   Color 92
Autofocus 72   Autofocus 49
Texture 67   Texture 78
Noise 60   Noise 47
Photo Artifacts 81   Video Artifacts 82
Flash 70   Stabilization 54
8.0

The Final Word

The iPhone 5 combines ease of use with excellent image quality that rivals the best of its conventional competition (ignoring the innovative Nokia 808 PureView for a moment). Anyone upgrading from the iPhone 4S will not see a huge difference in image quality, but the leap from earlier generation models is profound. The iPhone 5's camera is one of the best around, but manual control over white balance and exposure (via exposure compensation) would be the cherry on the cake. 

Sample Gallery

There are 39 images in our Apple iPhone 5 samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. 

Apple iPhone 5 Review Samples
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Comments

Total comments: 16
armanius

Maybe I missed it, but there's no discussion about the horrible distortion at the top and bottom edges (in portrait ).

0 upvotes
sjkro

Why are so many pictures up-side-down?

2 upvotes
vsk_suresh

There is a Fix for the Purple Haze, Just rotate the phone upside down and shoot it as normal, the purple haze is gone. :-) I tried it and and wanted to let all of you know...

0 upvotes
cph71

a little tip I read somewhere, is that you can use the control on the headphones to trigger the shoot, thus minimizing camera shake.

1 upvote
keeponkeepingon

"For all DxOMark Mobile data presented on connect.dpreview.com we're showing only the '8MP equivalent' values, which gives us a level playing field for comparison between phone cameras with different megapixel values"

Wow. Just wow.

If you did that for normal cameras imagine the uproar......

Why not just report the best each camera can do?

0 upvotes
reeds

Excellent review. It's great to see serious attention on the cameras that most of us use most of the time.

The Nokia Pureview comparison is fair but for the future I'm more interested in comparisons to phones that are closer in size and weight.

The Nokia 808 is more than twice the volume of the iPhone 5 and about 2 oz/57g heavier than the iPhone 5. (Illustrated here: http://www.sizeall.com/compare/Apple-iPhone-5-Nokia-808-PureView-US-quarter-25-cents-coin/314 )

That's like carrying a second phone and 10 US quarters to get the better camera.

What's the best camera phone in same size and weight class?

0 upvotes
keeponkeepingon

"The Nokia 808 is more than twice the volume". No it's not. Your link does not work but I plugged the two phones in. Height and width are the exact same shape, it's a bit thicker with a bump for the camera sticking out that is a lot thicker. To get twice the volume you must be calculating the volume of a box it would fit in. But it's not a box, It's like a slightly thicker iphone with a bump sticking out and given the variation in phone shapes I would consider it in the same class.

1 upvote
reeds

You're right, my first rough estimate was overzealous. Here are the exact values:

The Nokia 808 is 73.2% larger and 50.8% heavier than an Apple iPhone 5 based on both company's published specs. (The 808 is 95.50cc vs iPhone 5's 55.12cc. The 808 is 169g vs iPhone 5's 112g.)

That seems like a big difference to me based on my experience with other devices. However, I have not held them in my hands so I value your opinion. Do you think these specs suggest they are in a somewhat different category? That is, the 808 comparison is interesting but other devices closer in size/weight should be included in the future?

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Hector1980

I've always been a big fan of dpreview, so it's great that now you decided to start testing smartphones.

Are you going to test apps, too? I'm a big fan of this one:

http://jag.gr/645pro/

And it would be great to have a dpreview-caliber review about it.

0 upvotes
vlad0

I've been taking pics with my iPhone 5 for the past week.. it does very well for it's sensor size, but when I put it up against my Nokia 808.. things don't look so good, especially at night..

Here is my little test from couple of days ago:

skydrive gallery: http://sdrv.ms/QOzrHB

4 upvotes
Reg Natarajan

Great gallery. Nothing beats seeing back to back comparison results, and you're right, the Nokia is vastly better.

0 upvotes
cluening

Thanks for the samples. The 808 sure bests the other 2 cams. But the N8 also does quite well, it can be PP'd still very well. Just the contrasts are a bit low, thats it.

0 upvotes
reeds

Great gallery! The last two images really drive home the difference.

1 upvote
Biggus

hmm, I don't see that the iPhone 5 image is that much better than the One X or the S3. It may just about have slightly better resolution, but not in the parts where it's overly bright in the highlights in comparison, indeed in some places, it's the worst of the 4. I'd also say the colour is as much on the warm side as the others are on the cool.

Looks to be a rather biased review tbh.

In my own order of preference, looking at the overall image, I'd choose in the following order...

S3 - most balanced, but less cool than the iPhone is warm
iPhone5 - too warm
808 - soft/suffering from haze
One X - very warm, too dark in the shadows

0 upvotes
Barney Britton

We also incorporate DXO's test data when drawing our conclusions. And we'll have an S3 review online very soon so you can take a more detailed look at how both cameras compare.

1 upvote
cluening

What you consider as haze and softness on the 808 is just the very defensive approach on in-camera tweaking. As I found out with the N8, this haze and softness can easily give perfect pictures in PP.
A lot of headroom.
Cant do with Apple phone cams, as I tried.
Might be the same with the S3, already showing lots of sharpening artifacts, so dead end.

1 upvote
Total comments: 16
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