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6 things iPhone photographers want from Apple

Colorful, cheap iPhones are great and all, but will Apple improve its iPhone camera?

In the time since Apple released the iPhone 5, mobile photography has greatly improved. Samsung, Nokia, HTC and Sony have collectively raised the bar on smartphone camera hardware, leaving iPhone photographers glancing enviously at phones with physical zoom lenses, 41-megapixel sensors, so-called ultrapixels and detachable lens hardware

While Apple's mobile app marketplace may still be the leader in photography apps, its camera hardware has some catching up to do. What can Apple do to appease the mobile photographer who may consider switching mobile platforms for a different camera? Will Apple rise to the challenge at its media event tomorrow?

I, like many people, am in the market for a new smartphone. My cellular contract is up and I am ready to replace my old iPhone 4S with the latest and greatest smartphone camera. But for once, I'm not sure if it's going to be Apple. What would make me buy another iPhone? Let's take a look.

1. Wider aperture for better low-light photos

The fixed-lens of the iPhone 5 offers an aperture of f/2.4, while newer phones such as the Galaxy S4 and Lumia 1020 have an aperture of f/2.2, and the HTC One and Lumia 920 offer an even wider f/2.0. If Apple wants to lure in late-night and low-light snappers, it's going to have to go wider.

Will it happen? Maybe. When Apple released the iPhone 4S, it opened the camera's aperture from f/2.8 to f/2.4. It's not unrealistic to expect Apple to go for a lower f-stop.

This photo allegedly shows the so-called iPhone 5S' dual flash. A second, yellower LED light sits below the standard white LED.

2. A better, brighter and warmer flash

While smartphone camera lenses and sensors have greatly improved recently, flashes are still giving mobile photographers the blues. The iPhone, in particular, seems to be a step behind in the flash game. Its tiny LED light may light up the scene 8-or-so feet in front of your phone, but it also makes everything look like its in an aquarium. 

Other smartphone manufacturers have developed ways to light up the night. Samsung's Galaxy S4 Zoom and Nokia's Lumia 1020 (and the 808, for that matter) have a super-bright xenon flash. Meanwhile, the latest Acer smartphone has a ring flash around the camera lens.

Will it happen? Probably. All of the leaked photos we've seen of the next iPhone's camera have a dual LED flash with one white LED and one yellow. What is unclear is how Apple will incorporate the new hardware into the camera software. Will it the yellow flash be used at all times or only for photos where a face is detected to warm up skin tones? Is the yellow flash just a ploy to get people to stop posting badly-lit photos of sushi to Instagram? We will soon find out ...

Another alleged photo of the iPhone 5S camera, this time with a single flash. Was the first photo leak a fluke?

3. A bigger sensor

Megapixels are great and all, but image clarity still largely depends on sensor size. Most smartphones feature a tiny 1/3" sensor, but some manufacturers are going bigger and seeing great results.

Sony's brand new 20.7MP Xperia Z1 smartphone has a 1/2.3" sensor — the same as most compact cameras — and the Nokia Lumia 1020 packs 41 megapixels on its 1/1.5" sensor. If Apple really wants to compete in the smartphone camera game, it needs to step up to the plate with a bigger sensor.

Will it happen? A girl can dream, can't she? But unless Apple completely changes the size and placement of its camera hardware, we aren't going to see a bigger sensor on the next iPhone.

4. More megapixels

If I can't have a bigger sensor (and let's face it, I most likely won't), then I'll settle for a few more megapixels. Most experts are expecting the next iPhone camera to come with at least 13MP to match the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3 and LG G2.

Will it happen? If history repeats itself, we can expect some more megapixels. Apple went from 5MP on the iPhone 4 to 8MP on the 4S. On extrapolation alone, we can look for at least three more megapixels in the next iPhone camera sensor, though we can always hope for more.

5. Longer battery life

The iPhone 5's big screen is great and all, but keeping the larger phone alive all day can be nearly impossible if you are actively using it (especially for photography). To get the most out of the new iPhone, we need better battery life without having to purchase extra accessories. 

Will it happen? Maybe on this iPhone, but definitely in the future. Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 has a new chip that will improve the device's battery life by up to 30 percent. New hardware technology combined with power-saving software has allowed Apple to increase performance without sacrificing battery life before, but as Apple proved with the latest MacBook Air, longer battery life alone is a huge selling point.

iOS 7 allows for square-format image capture—an Instagrammer's dream.

6. Surprise photo features on iOS 7

We already know a lot about the next version of Apple's mobile operating system. We know that it will allow for square format capture, come with nine different retro filters, and feature a new automatic categorization system for photo organization. These are welcome improvements, but I want a little more. 

While some other features would be lovely, I just really want to be able to pick different focal and exposure points in the native camera application. Is that too much to ask? Even Flickr now has this feature standard in its free app. C'mon, Apple, give us this.

And if you really want to get fancy, how about an iOS equivalent to Nokia's Pro Camera app?

Will it happen? Hopefully. Apple loves to add just "one more thing" in its announcements. When iOS 6 was released last year, Apple waited until the fall to reveal the panorama feature, even though developers had the new operating system since June. Way back in 2010, Apple waited until the first update of iOS 4 to release its HDR photography feature.

For Apple's sake, I hope that it surprises me with some photography feature that I didn't even know I wanted, because that new Sony phone and Lumia 1020 are looking awful pretty right now. And I know I can't be the only iPhone user to think so.


Total comments: 66

#7. Kevlar case for those wartime photos
#8. Built-in soft filter for wedding and bridal shoots.


All hardware oriented. Which suggests even the writer of this article does little to nothing with iPhone photography.

Apples photo suite is a complete mess. Aperture, as nice as it is, needs a feature update and a major speed improvement. Platform dependent apps like iPhoto iOS. Platform dependent products like iCloud Journals. A complete organizational mess. Take two shots back to back and send them to PhotoStream, one shows up at the end and the other a month back. The sort order in most of the iOS apps is a mystery.


I suspect we'll get an Aperture X in the not-too-distant future which will fix some things at least. I agree that workflow etc. is a mess right now.


iPhone photographer = oxymoron :-)


Ansel Adams said:

Amateurs worry about equipment.
Professional worry about money.
Masters worry about light.

Give a 'master' an iPhone and they'll take better pictures than an amateur with a dSLR.


Ansel Adams was under the incorrect belief that Amateurs are not necessarily as good as Pro's. I do agree with his sentiment though.

Edited 15 seconds after posting
ABM Barry

6 things iPhone Photo snappers want from apple.
1/ Their money back!
2/ Their money back!
3/ Their money back!
4/ Their money back!
5/ Their money back!
6/ Their money back!


Exposure compensation please!


You won't have, sorry - no signs of proper exposure control in the iOS7 API.

Also see for a complete discussion.


3840x2160 = UHD is enough for pictures = 8.3 Mpx
Yes, the sensor could be 1/2.3"

Optical Image stabilization is new tech
now Apple looks old :-(
LG G2 and HTC One has OIS already and more is coming..

Pro Camera software in the Lumia 1020 with manual controls and real-time feedback is something that Apple should do.

When we lost Jobs - we lost the innovation :-(
Have to wait another year to see if Apple can catch up on anything...


Good luck on the waiting...

Meanwhile Nokia releases new phones every second month now. And Android releases new phones every second week!

iPhone just have no chance of getting back in the Tech race if they keep on releasing phones once a year...


"iPhone just have no chance of getting back in the Tech race if they keep on releasing phones once a year..."

They could, assuming they'd put absolutely revolutionary stuff in their phones:

- 4K video recording
- stereo audio recording, preferably with something like high-dynamic range (Nokia 92x, 808, 1020)
- 1080p60/120 (and, accordingly, high-speed lower-res modes)
- manual control

I don't even mention high-Mpixel sensors as I know they;d require a camera bump, which Apple will never do. After all, for Apple, design has always been much more important than substance...


The "S" models are Just upgraded iPhones but iPhone 6 should be the real game changer.
Although Apple didn't consider bigger than 4" screens a year ago, they are working on them.
We will see huge iPhones next year. Bigger screens mean more space for batteries and bigger sensor and stereo speakers...
I am happy with the iPhone 5 daytime quality. Night shooting is still unacceptable without manual controls.
There are apps for night shooting but it can't be hand held... Lets hope for a f1.8 lens and 13mp with warming flash. That would be sweet!


Apple never asked a costumer what they should put in a phone. It is still the most sold phone when looking for the model. And that is for each and every model from Apple. I don't think an other camera will change that. And within one month we can see what the new iPhone does in sales figures. We can see if there is an other phone model with all the called specs, that even comes close to this figures.


A costumer would know what to put on a phone, not in it. And an other thing... this figures.

Edited 2 times; latest 7 minutes since posting

Yeah, People in New York already the day Before the announcement lined up to get the new whateverPhone... :-)

Realise that many buy iPhone becuse its a safe bet. It works and you get a lots of apps. Apple just need to change colors on the Phones every year now and raise the modelnumber (iPhone6, Iphone 7...) and it will sell.

Wheter that makes it the best Phone... is a completely different matter :-)


Also: image stabilization.

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1.- Image stabilization
2.- Image stabilization
3.- Image stabilization
4.- Image stabilization
5.- EXP LOCK control as on Awsome! app

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Going for a bigger aperture hurts focal depth. Given the primary purpose of an iPhone camera, I hope they don't go too far into that route, unless they also introduce adjustable aperture (doubtful).

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Joe Ogiba

Anytime i read about more megapixels I get a nosebleed.
Seems I just manage to absorb the idea that more is not better and then...the cold war on this issue heats up for smart phones.

Take a fully charged smart phone camera indoors...say a kid's birthday for example. Shoot 25-flash, 25- no flash pictures, doesn't matter and see how many a blury and how much battery life is left. Build a rating system on these numbers and maybe i will have a chance of understanding which camera is better....


Um...selectable white balance is 1st on my list. Next would be better low light performance. Finally, wishing, I would like 2 lenses built-in: a 24/28 equiv. and an 50/75 equiv. with F/1.4.


Honestly if the Sony was on AT&T I would have already given up my iPhone. Play with the Sony in the mall and you will see how far behind Apple is at this point.

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Mightn't hurt if they refreshed the godawful Photos App. Managing it by syncing a folder through iTunes (which doesn't even have a Photo section) is beyond annoying.

Let's just drag and drop between our iPads and PC's like God intended.

Or if you can't wait for Apple - who'll never fix it - manage your photos with iTools. Google it.

By (unknown member) (Sep 9, 2013)

Personally the camera on my iPhone is nothing but a toy which I use to snap the occasional record image or as a visual note taking tool.

It's perfectly adequate for that.

I'll accept better battery life as a general benefit though.

I'd also like to see the metal side plates knurled for grip - the phone is all too easy to drop and has a smoothness than seems to beg to fall out of your hand.


Probably, 2.0 aperture, 13mp, and better flash. That's it. If people are just going to add filters on their photos, why would Apple bother?
A larger sensor would appear on a bigger iPhone though since it will provide more space than Apple will need.


I'm kind of surprised that nobody has mentioned generation (or access to) of RAW image files.


Please, do you even know what you're talking about? More megapixels?? First you need to achieve quality in those megapixels. Rising megapixels is the last think needed. 8 megapixels is enough for most pros in any camera. There are more important specs

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Other manufacturer such as Samsung, HTC, Nokia and others must read this kind of article and user comments and then improve their next cameras based on user comments. and many people will be happy and buy the products

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Wye Photography

Much, much better dynamic range for me please!

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1. Sensor size bigger than pin head to compete with decent compacts and Nokia PureView cameras.
2. Better ergonomics, handgrips not a slippery brick
3. EVF
4. Optical Zoom so miserable iPhonographers won't settle for plastic translucent filters
5. Manual controls and not lousy app-controlled controls
6. Filter thread to attach real filters and not the lousy instagram and other hipsta-filters.

If the IQ is a par with a 200$ travelzoom cam then you are good to go.

Kabe Luna

So many things could be better... AWB, control software (i.e., provision for easy and extensive manual control), color fidelity... More pixels are pointless when so many other more significant aspects of image quality are left unattended.


No. More. Megapixels.

It's a total gimmick. Most people only share their iPhone images electronically anyway, and shrink their images down to under 1MP. In addition, these sensors are so dang small, the individual photosites are laughably small.

Just give me better image quality (which you can do, by not having such ridiculously small photosites)

8MP, heck even 4MP is more than plenty for anything you need to do with an iPhone.


Battery life, battery life, BATTERY LIFE!


You can look at all the marketing speak around 'ultra-pixels' and the like, but aside from the Lumia 1020's PureView (which is really excellent), and maybe the Xperia Z1 (barely), none of the newer hardware, on either the Android side or Windows Phone side are actually better than the iPhone 5's camera.

Rumors are pointing to an f/2.0 lens, so that'll be nice...I'd like to see a slightly larger sensor and a little more robust camera app. Otherwise, I'm pretty happy with the 5's camera. I don't use it for serious photography, but it's nice in a pinch when I just need a snapshot.

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I beg to disagree!

After taking a lot of shots with my Lumia 920 alongside friends with iPhone5, there is no way that it can compare! Both tak day shots ok, but the important night shots out with friends and partying make a World of difference. When people compare my shots to the friends iPhone5 shots in the bar - everyone starts asking about the Phone with the great camera - and they are not talking about the iPhone! :-)


-Faster lens (f2)
-bigger sensor
-brighter flash
-better battery life.

-please no more megapixels

By (unknown member) (Sep 9, 2013)

How about an Apple camera with a phone built in? At what point do they realize that perhaps the phone is the secondary function rather than the primary? No earpiece or microphone, just bluetooth or a headphone jack....heck, ship it with a bluetooth headset. Give me a G1 X with the entire back side one big touch screen and a built in phone. Sold.

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Please no more megapixels. Bigger files with no real world value.


No value...

So the "zoom" feature in Lumia 1020 has no real value... :-)

Strange becuase when you show that to ordinary people they find it very valuable and want to go buy the Phone with 41 Mpixel!


Bigger sensor yes, but who needs more Mpx? For what? It's a phone!!!


There will be no bigger sensor in the 5S.


"Bigger sensor yes, but who needs more Mpx? For what? It's a phone!!!"

BTW, when properly engineered & manufactured, you can produce significantly better images (much better resolution, considerably less noise) with a 13 Mpixel sensor than that of the iPhone 5. See for example the LG G2 and the S4 results.

That is, switching to the latest 13 Mpixel sensor also used by those two phones, IMHO, will result in considerably better IQ here too.

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Joe Mayer

Does it matter? It will always be a teeny sensor on a device that was purpose built for something else anyway (talking on the phone though I rarely see anyone doing that anymore).

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I'd like an iPhone with Key Lime Pie 5.0 ;-)


Yu mean KitKat? ;-)


I mean a *real* OS :-P

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I wish I could open the camera from the lock screen, take a picture, and then send it to someone without having to go back to the home screen and open photos. If you go to the camera app from the home screen this can be done, but not from the lock screen.

Nigel Wilkins

Oh yes, never noticed that before. I guess I wouldn't benefit from it then :-)

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You know that you just described how it works on a Windows Phone... right?

Really, if you are serious about photos... its time to leave Apples Instagram cameras behind and get a great mobile camera from Nokia!


None of the above. Manual mode and control of aperture, ISO and shutterspeed. That and nothing else.


Won't happen in iOS7 (based on the API calls), unless Apple indeed comes up with its own app. Which is, as I've pointed out below, is highly unlikely.

Nigel Wilkins

Isn't aperture fixed on most or all phone cameras? I agree it would be nice to have.


"Isn't aperture fixed on most or all phone cameras? I agree it would be nice to have."

Yup, it's fixed even on the 808 / 1020, let alone cameras with significantly smaller optics. (The former, however, has a built-in ND filter.)

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"iPhone Photographers" as a group should get over themselves and actually buy functional adjustable cameras. Phone cameras are a convenience for spur of the moment needs. They were never and should not be expected to supplant a 2.8 L lens on a DSLR with a FF 24MP sensor. 2.0 on a piece of glass 3mm across is not my idea of mechanical excellence. The obsession over this is comedy.


Why are you crying? People who deride X way of doing things because they love their Y way of doing things should get over themselves and keep doing what they love without tearing down others for their preferences.

I will never buy a DSLR. Why? because I would never want to lug it around and would therefore never use it. I use a Canon S100 and it takes great pics for its size but I still bemoan having to bring it in addition to my phone camera. For most people, the most convenient photo taking device is the one they use most and the better pictures it takes, the better. I am a photographer who uses his iPhone at times and the better pictures I can get out of it, The happier I'll be.

You can continue to be angry or annoyed about this or just let it go and take your pictures your way while the photographic world changes around you.

Aaron Tsuru

Many of us do. In fact, I've got way too many "functional adjustable cameras" as you call them. Yet, call me weird, I would still love more capabilities from the camera I (literally) always have with me.

Crazy, right?


DenWil, agreed. I don't know why people are so outraged that their PHONE isn't the perfect camera. Yes you may always have the phone with you, but that's because your ultimate priority is "communicating". If your ultimate priority is "photos", you'd carry a camera. I wish my phone had a scuba app because there are a lot of times I'd like to go diving and all I've got with me is a phone - why should I have to get an actual scuba tank?

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Get off your high horse, dude. Elitist is an ugly look.

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Nigel Wilkins

"They were never and should not be expected to supplant a 2.8 L lens on a DSLR with a FF 24MP sensor"

Why would you buy a 24 mp DSLR & adapt a Canon lens to fit? Is it even possible?

Do you carry your DSLR everywhere? I doubt it. If you do, you're very odd.

I have & use full frame, APS C & point & shoot cameras, all suit different occasions. I also have an iPhone 4, which still gets used when opportunity presents itself. Why wouldn't I want the best quality possible?

Do you get medium format quality from your small FF DSLR? Why bother with it if you can't? I suspect it suits your needs & budget better.


"Do you carry your DSLR everywhere? I doubt it. If you do, you're very odd."

Not as odd as someone whom asks a wrench to do the work of a hammer?

Since you're going through the all the same motions of purposely taking a decent photo, and if you actually care about IQ, speed and all the other little things a more proper tool will provide (ahem, a DSLR), then maybe the likes of DenWil might actually be onto something. You think? Just saying.


I would like a mode that passes an electrical shock to the user whenever they try to record a video in portrait orientation.


I agree, however without the ability to change focal length, sometimes portrait is the only way you can fit your subject in the frame.


Got to think outside the box sometimes. In movie making we do vertical framing within a horizontal frame by using doorways, lighting, etc ...


"And if you really want to get fancy, how about an iOS equivalent to Nokia's Pro Camera app?"

While Apple MAY introduce an app on their own (a separate one, to keep the stock Camera client as simple as possible), writing such an app remains impossible for third party developers.

I've very thoroughly examined the camera API's of iOS7 and found out that it still doesn't allow for almost any kind of (common) manual operation like direct, dialed-in shutter time / ISO / focus / exposure compensation.

That is, while they MAY introduce something excellent, the propability of it is around 1-2%. The only hope we can have is that neither HDR nor Panorama is accessible to third-party developers (they're stock Camera app exclusives), which MAY mean the lack of API support doesn't mean they won't be supported in the final OS version, most probably, on the 5S.

(See my iOS7 API reports at if interested.)

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Total comments: 66
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