By John Seiley
I’ve been using Apple iPhone 5s for several months, all the while experimenting extensively with its camera. I’ve realized that it is not just a great phone camera. It can compete with any dedicated camera because of what I like to call “The Three Cs.” It is remarkably Convenient, Capable, and Connected. Let’s break it down.
A phone camera is the one you’re most likely to have with you at any time. The compact size and featherweight of iPhone 5s additionally aids usage, making it is easier to aim and shoot than a camera with more bulk. Also, there aren’t as many technicalities to manage when you can simply tap to focus and pinch to zoom.
iPhone 5s’ iSight camera is an 8-megapixel f2.2 aperture shooter. Compared to more “speced-out” cameras on paper, that may seem underwhelming. Yet experience proves that Apple has leveraged its unique combination of hardware and software “working harmoniously together” to produce something that is far more powerful than mere specifications would suggest. I have found it to be an incredibly versatile camera.
Not many people think of apps and an internet connection as a feature of a camera, but in this case, that’s exactly what they are. These things will take you so much further than a dedicated camera. You can do incredible things with the native camera app and photo apps from the App Store, either improving the outcome of your shot or adding an extra artistic touch. And then you can, at a moment’s notice, share it on any number of social networks.
These “Three Cs” expain why the 5s has a huge advantage over other cameras. I think the best way to demonstrate my conclusion is to simply show you some shots that have been captured and edited entirely on the 5s.
Any phone camera does best with lots of light, since the size of the aperture is so small. I took this on a sunny, nearly cloudless day in La Jolla, CA. Notice how clear the picture is, even after being cropped. Notice how accurate the colors are. Although they are similar in color, the contrast between the sky and sea is preserved. Also, the very subtle gradation just above the horizon line comes through in the final shot.
Another shot I took in La Jolla. This one has a lot more detail because of the subject. Notice in the foreground the strip of rock just beyond the grass. This area could have very easily been blown out because of its reflection of the sunlight. Instead, the beiges are preserved with moderate highlights. Now look beyond at the cliff face and mansion. See all the tiny details that are present. You can even pick out individual stairs, rows of shrubs, and palm fronds if you try. And then in the distance, the balanced texture of the sea and clouds. Another example of the best condition for taking pictures with the 5s.
Here’s an indoor shot. This also has natural light, like the last two, but less of it. On the wall, the sunlight almost looks as if it has come through a prism. Although it is the highlight of the picture, it is not overexposed, and you can even make out the individual slots of glass. Outside there is full sunlight, yet there are highlights and shadows in the greenery. Back inside, the wall’s overall color is incredibly even. The bedspread takes on an interesting character, with the pillow almost pure white and the comforter appearing a shade of purple. This is one of my favorite photos.
Something phone cameras really excel at is macro shots. However, even these can be handled poorly depending on the phone. This is a close-up from the Rose Garden in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Something I love is the subtle blur on the exterior pedals transitioning to a sharp center in the bloom. The detail at the center is so precise with the wrinkle and gradation of the petals. Overall, this is again a very balanced image although it was taken in full afternoon sun.
Here’s another shot that transitions from a sharp focal point to a blurred background. This was taken indoors with limited light coming through a screen door. Look how detailed the cotton tie is – you can make out individual weaves, and individual strands on the weaves. The blur is a little more dramatic here, achieving a great sense of perspective. Even though this was shot with limited light, the solid red of the tie and socks stand out.
If you can’t tell, I love macro shots, and one of my favorite subjects is food. This is the same steak raw and then cooked and served. The detail is astounding. The texture. You can see individual hairs on the oregano garnish. These photos were cropped and filtered with the native camera app on iPhone.
Despite the small aperture on the 5s, it can capture a whole room pretty well. This was taken at night, with a total of three old fashioned lightbulbs lighting the space. There is a little more of a grainy texture to this photo in places because of the dramatic reduction in light. Overall though, this is again a very balanced image. It is also very accurate. The color of my wall paint is called “Swiss Coffee,” and that’s exactly what it looks like. The texture and reflectivity of the leather armchair is even apparent.
This photo demonstrates a few things. I convinced my mom to pose in low light in order to demonstrate TrueTone Flash by telling her it would preserve her natural appearance. I think the outcome is a success. The dual tone of the flash definitely helps with skin tones. Something else I did with this photo is use a popular “big lens” app from the App Store to blur the background. I did this on iPhone, and you can see the limitations of this method, but it definitely emphasizes the subject.
I’m so proud of this one. The minute I saw this scene I knew I had to capture it on camera. The only one I had with me was the 5s. I was worried that it couldn’t handle the darkness of the scene. I needn’t worry. This particular shot convinced me that I could rely on my iPhone in any situation. There is an absence of grain everywhere except for some slight texture in the tiles around the fountain. Through the iPhone’s remarkable processing, the warm color of the real scene comes through miraculously in the final shot, and is enhanced with a subtle filter right from the native camera app. I’m so happy with the outcome that I’m entering it in a local photo competition.
I hope you can see from these pictures how reliable the iSight camera on iPhone 5s is. Because of its convenience, capability and connectivity, it is the best camera I’ve ever used.