Steve's Conclusion

By

Steve's SnapShot
    iPhone 5c 275 wide.jpg
  • 8-megapixel BSI (backside illuminated) CMOS image sensor
  • F/2.4 aperture
  • Full 1080p HD Video (@ 30fps)
    • 3x Live Video Digital Zooming
  • 4.0-inch Widescreen Multi Touch Display
    • 1136x640 resolution
    • 326ppi
  • Hybrid IR filter
  • Autofocus
  • Tap to Focus
  • LED Flash
  • Face Detection (up to 10 Faces)
  • Panorama
  • iOS 7
  • Secondary FaceTime HD Camera
    • 1.2-megapixel BSI image image sensor
    • 720p HD Video
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, DC-HSDPA, HSPA+, 3G, 2G and LTE
  • Lightning Connector (for data transfer and recharging)
  • Headphone jack
  • Camera App
  • Photos App
Pros
  • Main iSight camera in iPhone 5c is very easy to use
  • 8MP of resolution is a nice amount in a smartphone camera
  • Panorama mode is extremely strong with the 5c
  • Image quality is good with this device's camera versus other smartphones
  • Apple iOS 7 works well with this device
  • Improves 1.2MP secondary camera (FaceTime camera) versus iPhone 5
  • Can shoot full HD video
  • Can capture still images at the same time as shooting video
  • Several body color choices
  • Battery life is good, allows for full day of operation
  • Smartphone is easy to use and works well
Cons
  • Not enough options for controlling 5c's camera manually
  • Exposure accuracy could be better in photos
  • Low light photography results tend to have some noise and could be of a better quality
  • Touchscreen could have more resolution and could be larger
  • No optical zoom option for camera
  • No microSD memory card storage option
  • Not a lot of differences from iPhone 5
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured from complete shutdown = 36.8 seconds
  • Power up to first image captured from sleep mode = 3.2 seconds
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/o flash = 0.5 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 3.4 seconds
  • Continuous shot = 10 photos in 3.6 seconds at 8MP
All tests were taken using internal memory, Auto mode, default image quality, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at factory defaults unless noted otherwise. No image review mode is available.
Bottom Line
The Apple iPhone 5c is a very easy to use smartphone with a great iOS 7 interface, and this device's built-in iSight 8MP camera is extremely easy to use as well. The iPhone 5c's camera doesn't provide much in the way of manual control over your photographs through the unit's settings, which will disappoint some more experienced photographers. Image quality with the 5c is good compared to other smartphone cameras, but it can't quite match the image quality that you'd find with a beginner-level brand-name point-n-shoot model, in large part because you have so little control over the camera's settings. As long as you're planning to only share your iPhone 5c's photographs over the web and with social networking sites, this unit will provide adequate results.
Pick This Up If...
You're looking for a good smartphone and an easy-to-use smartphone camera that can produce results that are better than what you'd find with your average smartphone camera.
While there are a lot of things to like about the Apple iPhone 5c, whether its iSight camera is one of those things will depend on your perspective.

This smartphone's camera is a simplistic model that will make it easy to shoot basic photographs. Almost anyone should be able to pick up the 5c and begin using it to shoot photos immediately, even those who have little to no experience using digital cameras or shooting photos.

Apple chose not to give 5c photographers any significant manual controls over the device's camera, which means you can't tweak the camera's settings to yield higher quality images. This omission is going to make those looking to replace a point-n-shoot digital camera with this smartphone camera a little leery. Even the most basic point-n-shoot cameras offer a few manual controls after all.

Still the iPhone 5c's photographic options are fun to use and will provide adequate photography results in most cases, especially versus other smartphone cameras.

While this review will focus on the iPhone 5c's built-in 8-megapixel camera, called the iSight camera, the iPhone 5c smartphone is extremely easy to use with plenty of great features. It's available from four different cellular carriers with a suggested price of $199 for the model with 32GB of internal memory and $99 for the 16GB model (when purchased alongside a cellular contract). 

The iSight camera in the 5c is the same camera hardware contained in the Apple iPhone 5. The camera's resolution and f/2.4 lens are the same in both models of smartphones.

The smartphone's camera interface, which is the same throughout all iOS 7 Apple cameras, is extremely easy to use. All of the buttons and icons are self-explanatory. 

And because Apple only included the most important aspects of operating the camera on the screen, you won't be looking at a bunch of confusing icons. Those who own the iPhone 5c should be able to pick up the iSight camera and begin using it successfully immediately. The on-screen shutter button is large enough to operate easily, even when you're in a hurry. 

The downside to this simple interface is that Apple chose not to include any significant manual control options with the 5c's camera. You cannot control the white balance or adjust the shutter speed or ISO with this model. It's a fully automatic camera. 

You can apply one of eight filters to your photos for a special effect option. You also can touch the screen to set the focus point and the exposure for a particular area of the scene, but that's about it for options for manually adjusting your photos.

This lack of an ability to adjust the camera's settings to match the scene in any meaningful way may explain why the image quality with the iSight camera is a bit below average compared to most digital cameras, depending on the shooting conditions. If you're using a beginner-level point-n-shoot camera from an off-brand manufacturer, the iPhone 5c would have better image quality, but most point-n-shoot cameras from well-known manufacturers can outperform the 5c in terms of image quality. And then you have the obvious disadvantage built into all smartphone cameras versus digital cameras: No optical zoom capability.

When shooting outdoors in sunlight the 5c generally creates realistic colors and the focus is typically accurate. However the smartphone's iSight camera does struggle with exposure at times, especially in situations with bright sunlight overhead and highly contrasted scenes. 

When shooting 1080p HD video with the iSight camera, you'll notice many of the same exposure problems as you have with still images in highly contrasted scenes. Otherwise movie quality is a little above average with the 5c versus other smartphones and a little below average versus most point-n-shoot digital cameras. As with still image recording, there are almost no manual control options with video recording. 

One handy option Apple included with the 5c allows you to capture still images while recording a video, and there's a 3x digital zoom setting when shooting video.

I was a little disappointed with the 5c's inability to create pin-sharp images. The sharpness of the iSight's camera isn't terrible, but it's not as consistently sharp as what you'll see with an good point-n-shoot camera either. Some of the sharpness problems with this smartphone's camera occur because of camera shake in low light images. As with many smartphone cameras, it's difficult to hold the iPhone 5c steady enough to shoot photos without a slight blur from a slight movement of the device. It's just a little awkward to hold the smartphone and press an on-screen button without slightly moving the device. There's no tripod mount on the 5c.

You may not notice these slightly blurred results when sharing the photos on the Web and looking at them at normal size on a computer screen, but you will notice this issue if you attempt to magnify the images.

There's an LED flash located near the iSight lens on the back of the smartphone body, and it does a good job of illuminating a scene, especially when compared to what's available with other smartphone cameras. However you will notice washed out areas in the scene when you're using the LED flash too closely to your subject. Low light photos shot without the LED flash tend to have some unwanted noise.

One of the best aspects of the 5c's iSight camera is its ability to easily create panoramic photos. The on-screen directions are easy to follow, and it's almost impossible to make a serious mistake when creating a panoramic photo. The iPhone 5c's panoramic photos are shot at a high resolution, and the image quality of a panoramic photo is as good as with any other type of photo you'd shoot with this model ... often better. The process by which the iPhone 5c stitches together the images to automatically create the panoramic photo is extremely impressive. If you own this device and you aren't shooting panoramic photos, you're missing the 5c's best feature.

Apple redesigned the Playback feature with the iOS 7 smartphones versus previous versions, providing more extensive options for organizing the images and videos that you've recorded. I found this redesign made a lot of sense and was pretty easy to use. However when I showed this Playback mode design to someone who was used to the older iOS design, she didn't like it at first glance, so Apple veterans may need some time working with this Playback mode design to appreciate it. You also can perform some basic editing on your still images through the smartphone's Playback mode.

Apple included a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera with the iPhone 5c. This unit is really only useful for snapping a quick photo that you want to share on the web on social networking sites. However this front-facing camera, called FaceTime, is an improvement over the front-facing camera included with past versions of the iPhone. You also can use the FaceTime camera for video calling, as it can record video in up to 720p HD resolution.

One potential problem with the location of the lenses on the camera body is you may find yourself blocking the lens with your finger on occasion as you're naturally holding the unit. You'll have to be careful when holding the 5c while using the iSight or FaceTime cameras.

The iPhone 5c has a basic body design. It's a very thin smartphone, measuring only 0.35 inches in thickness. It's constructed of a polycarbonate exterior over a steel frame (which also serves as the smartphone's antenna). It's a device that feels pretty sturdy in your hand, even if the pastel colors don't make this unit look like a tough smartphone. The back of the 5c's body is available in green, blue, yellow, pink, or white. The color choices match what has been available with Apple iPods. 

The front of the camera is dominated by the 4.0-inch touchscreen. While the screen works well and looks nice, it would have been good if Apple had included more resolution with this smartphone's screen than the 1136x640 resolution it carries. Some smartphones are now including full HD quality screens, which are great for a variety of tasks, including watching the full HD videos you shoot with the smartphone's camera, so it's unfortunate Apple didn't include a sharper screen with the 5c.

Bottom Line - The 8-megapixel iSight camera included with the Apple iPhone 5c smartphone is as close to an average model as you'll find. Its image quality is a little above average when compared to other smartphone cameras, but its images aren't quite as good as what you'd find from a basic point-n-shoot digital camera. If you're just planning to use the iPhone 5c to shoot photos to share on the Web or at social networking sites, you'll be pleased with the results. However if you want to use the iPhone 5c to shoot photographs that you want to print or view at large sizes, you're going to find some problems with slight blur and with exposure accuracy. Apple also didn't give the 5c's cameras any significant manual control options, which makes it difficult to overcome some of the flaws this camera has. The iPhone's 5c cameras are designed to be fully automatic models that are extremely easy to use. If photographers were able to adjust the iPhone 5c's manual control settings for the cameras even slightly, they might be able to achieve greater photography results. I did like the camera interface, the Playback mode interface, and the overall smartphone interface for the 5c, which features iOS 7. The iPhone 5c's ability to create high-quality panoramic photos is very impressive, and likely is the camera's best feature. Apple definitely did a great job here, making this device very easy to use and giving it a strong organizational design. Finally, I would like to have seen Apple give the 5c a full HD touchscreen. This smartphone's touchscreen is -- not surprisingly -- about average. 

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

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