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Camera shootout: iPhone 5 vs iPhone 4S

Apple’s latest iPhone boasts an updated 8MP camera over its predecessor, but the question is how much better is it really? You have to take into account that the iPhone 5 is thinner, which always complicates matters on the camera front.

We’ve shot several photos with both the iPhone 5 and the 4S and we’ve picked the ones that have the same shutter speed and ISO to give each phone an equal chance.

One of the first things we noticed when we compared photos from the two phones is that the new iPhone 5 camera is slightly wider than the one in the 4S – 4.13mm vs. 4.28mm (or about 34mm vs. 35mm in 35mm terms). It’s a minor difference and shouldn’t affect your shooting habits.

The first pair of photos is of a building with a fine texture on its walls, which usually makes spotting the difference in resolved detail pretty easy. When it comes to the two iPhones, however, it is not.

The roughness of the wall is slightly more apparent in the iPhone 5 photo and the yellow and orange colors are slightly more accurate, but you really need to be looking at 100% to spot the difference


iPhone 4S • iPhone 5 • 100% crop

Then we picked a photo of a building in the sun and focused on the part of it that’s in the shade. Here the iPhone 5 demonstrates better contrast and a slightly lower amount of noise, plus slightly better sharpness.


iPhone 4S • iPhone 5 • 100% crop

The next image is of a petrol station’s banner in the sun. Here the images are almost too close to call, but the iPhone 5 shows slightly better color rendering and a bit less noise in the shadow area.


iPhone 4S • iPhone 5 • 100% crop

Finally, a photo that is mostly blue sky and blue windows (blue parts of images typically have more noise in the photos than the other two primary colors). Once again we see better contrast and lower noise in the iPhone 5 photo over the 4S one, though differences are pretty minor.


iPhone 4S • iPhone 5 • 100% crop

The iPhone 5 camera module had to be 18% smaller than the one in the 4S to fit into the thinner phone, so just not losing image quality would have been quite acceptable. Apple has actually managed to squeeze out slightly better photos, which is commendable.

Still, if you have an iPhone 4S, you have nothing to be jealous of – both it and the iPhone 5 have some of the best mobile cameras on the market right now.

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