A Closer Look at the New iPhone 5S and 5C iSight Cameras

Apple announced two new iPhones yesterday to replace its current generation model. The iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C will be available next week in stores and online. Though it's a bit odd to write about phones here at Steve's Digicams, smarthones are quickly replacing the need for smaller point-and-shoot digicams. And, since the iPhone is one of the world's best-selling smartphones, its iSight camera is therefore one of the world's most-used cameras.

So how do Apple's new iPhones compare to or improve upon previous models? Let's find out.

Apple's iPhone 5C doesn't offer a dramatic hardware improvement over the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S. It's the same 8-megapixel BSI (backside illumination) image sensor, F/2.4 aperture, and LED flash with the ability to record Full 1080p HD video at 30 frames-per-second.

But if you look closer, there are a few new features, including a sapphire crystal lens cover to protect the camera's five-element lens, 3x Live Video Zooming (pinch in just like with still photos), Face Detection for up to 10 faces, and the ability to take a still photo while recording video. Further, the secondary FaceTime HD camera boasts a new 1.2-megapixel backside illumination (BSI) image sensor with larger pixels that is, like the previous sensor, capable of recording 720p HD video.

Also, since the iPhone 5C will come with iOS 7 pre-installed, users will find a revised Camera App that includes an option to shoot in the square format (for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) as well as add one of eight live filters before or after taking a picture.

Pre-order your iPhone 5C starting September 13 (2013), or pick one up starting September 20. Available in white, red, yellow, blue, and green, the 16GB model costs $99 with a two year contract, and the 32GB version costs $199.

The iPhone 5S is Apple's new flagship smartphone and features a number of hardware as well as software upgrades. Here's what promised to make this iSight camera the best one yet.

8 MP BSI Image Sensor and F/2.2 Aperture

iPhone_5S_camera.pngWhile some brands are in a megapixel arms race (looking at you, Nokia), the truth is the more pixels you cram into a small image sensor, the more likely you are to experience unwanted noise and image degradation.

The new iSight keeps its megapixel count at 8, but its BSI image sensor is actually 15% larger than the one found in the iPhone 5 and 5C. The pixels themselves are bigger, at 1.5 microns. Another improvement is the F/2.2 aperture hidden behind a sapphire crystal lens cover.

10 FPS Continuous Burst Mode

Thanks to the more powerful A7 chip and a new image signal processor (ISP), the iPhone 5S not only autofocuses 2x faster, but its Burst Mode can capture photos at up to 10 photos-per-second at full resolution. The iPhone then analyses your shots and suggests which ones you might like best. This type of speed and performance is more common in high-end point-and-shoot cameras and mid-level DSLRs.

True Tone Flash
While the iPhone 5C still has the same LED flash as the iPhone 5 and 4S, the new iPhone's flash is not one, but two LEDs. The True Tone flash consists of one white and one amber LED that, when working with the camera's software, pick from 1000 different color combinations adjust "flash intensity and color temperature" to light subjects in a more natural way.

Auto Image Stabilization

There's nothing worse than taking a picture of a perfect moment... only to realize you ruined the picture because you weren't able to keep your hand still. The new iPhone 5S includes Auto Image Stabilization that actually takes four separate photos, then combines the best parts of each to reduce noise and blur.

Full 1080p HD Video Recording and Slow-motion

The iPhone's been recording Full 1080p HD video at 30 frames-per-second since the iPhone 4S, but this new iPhones add in 3x Live Video Zoom -- pinch in like you would on a still photo -- as well as the ability to take still photos while recording video.

Yes, the iPhone 5C can do those tricks too, but exclusive the 5S: 120 frames-per-second Slow-motion Video. The resolution may only be 720p HD, but this true slow motion -- slow motion not just created digitally -- is pretty darn impressive regardless.

Panorama Photos Improved

Automatically-stitched panoramas are nothing new to digicams or smartphones. In general, previous iPhones have taken pretty great shots too. But they were often limited by the iSight's inability to deal with photos that include bright AND dark areas. The iPhone 5S includes Dynamic Auto Exposure to ensure your entire panorama is properly exposed. Not only that, but it does all of this at 30 frames-per-second, which is 50% faster than the iPhone 5.

FaceTime HD Camera

Like the iPhone 5C, the iPhone 5S' secondary FaceTime HD is improved as well. The overall 1.2MP still image and 720p HD video specs are the same, but there's a new BSI image sensor with larger pixels, which should boost this camera's ability to deal with overly bright and extra dark images.

New iOS 7 Apps
The new iPhone will debut alongside a brand new operating system for 2013. Among its many new and revised features, iOS 7 includes revised Camera and Photos apps. You can learn more about iOS 7 here, but for our purposes...

The Camera App makes it easier to choose between shooting formats like still, video, slow-mot, panorama, and square -- where the iSight automatically crops shots to the square format for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. You can also access 8 Apple filters -- Mono, Tonal, Noir, Fade, Chrome, Process Transfer, Instant -- to add to your pictures before OR after you take them. And, if you mess up and don't like how it looks? Simply remove it.

The Photos App "smart groups" your pictures into Moments, Collections, and Years. Let's say you take a vacation to Hawaii, that's a Collection. Inside this Collection, Moments are made up of specific locations like the Beach, the Hotel, the Restaurant, etc. Finally, in Year View, you can see every photo you've taken over the last year in one colorful mosaic.

iPhone 5S Sample Images
Pre-order your iPhone 5S starting September 13 (2013), or pick one up September 20. Available in silver, gold, and space gray, the 16GB version costs $199, the 32GB goes for $299 for 32GB, and the 64GB model will set you back $399. These prices require a two-year contract.

Source / images: Apple