Apple iPhone 5s camera leaps two years ahead of entire camera industry – all cameras, not just smartphone cameras

“The camera in the iPhone 5S basically moved the needle two years ahead of the entire camera industry,” Patrick Rhone writes for Minimal Mac. “Not just smart phone cameras — all cameras. There is a well known photography adage that states ‘the best camera is the one that’s with you.’ Well, if you have an iPhone 5S that statement will remain true no matter what other camera you may have available. This is largely because the new 64-bit processor means that they have all the raw processing power they need to be able to execute features and techniques that not even the most expensive professional SLR cameras can deliver.”

“And, what is interesting and absolutely marvelous about what Apple is doing here is that, when approaching how to make the best camera available today (and, I feel the need to stress, not just the best phone camera), they knew that did not mean specs,” Rhone writes. “That it was not about who had the most megapixels, or biggest lens, or largest sensor. They know that none of that, at the end of the day matters. What mattered, in fact, was the one thing that, in a race to equate more megapixels with “better”, even most of the camera industry had too long overlooked. Apple focussed solely on how they could use that massive and fast 64bit processor combined with industry first features and ideas to do one thing — give you the best looking photos. And, if you can get that right when you take the photo, you don’t need a bunch of software to ‘fix it in post.’ It’s all about capture.”

Rhone writes, “Disruption. Apple just put the point-and-shoot camera industry (and some of the ‘prosumer’ dSLR one) out of business.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
iPhone 5s supply to be severely constrained; sales start at 12:01am PDT online, 8am local at Apple Retail Stores – September 13, 2013
Hands on with the new 64-bit A7-powered iPhone 5s with new M7, camera features & Touch ID – September 12, 2013
Apple grants Burberry early access to iPhone 5s for fashion show photography – September 12, 2013


  1. I know…thats one of the best and groundbreaking feature of the iPhone 5S. Yet the numbskulls at CNET/ZDNET say “its all marketing hype” even on the 64bit and Motion M7 additions. All a Marketing Hype!!! Just amazing the rational of these Haters!

      1. Just like they used to only care about MHz in computer processors.

        The difference is they’ll start SEEING the better quality now — it’s pretty easy to compare the quality of photos and the features available in a camera, and many, many reviews will put the iPhone 5s against the Galaxy S4, Lumia Gigantapixellensthingy, etc.

  2. Imagine Apple camera software and iOS on a “full frame” sensor DSLR camera with an A7-64bit processor and either Nikon or Cannon glass all linked up through iCloud/iPhoto to your Mac, iPhone and iPad. This would completely destroy the “prosumer” market. There would be Apple and either Nikon or Cannon in this space, the other would need to concentrate on only the high end. This could be $2-5 Billion a year for Apple.

    1. Go to CNET and read the reviewer article. The dork clearly doesn’t understand the significance of the A7 chip couple with what you can do with the Camera….instead he’s more focused on 8 megapixels and bigger picture, theoretics results.

  3. I agree with everything in the article (and godammit, this is making me want an iPhone 5S when I thought I could hold out for another year).

    But just to play devil’s advocate…

    There is one thing that you can’t get on a phone camera that you can with a point-and-shoot: true zoom, i.e. a telephoto lens that extends to zoom the picture, rather than a digital zoom which just discards the edges, reducing resolution in the part you zoomed.

    That being said, my iPhone camera is enough for me and my wife practically never uses her point-and-shoot with real zoom, taking all her pictures with her iPhone. So for us at least, zoom isn’t a must-have feature.

    (One more comment. It’s a shame that the advanced camera on the iPhone 5S will be wasted on so many duck-faced selfies.)


        1. Valid, bitch! This SLR lens and image sensor connects to the iPhone, and the iPhone handles tasks that it’s better at such as controls and viewfinder. In principle, this type of system can use the iPhone’s 64bit processor to handle real time analysis, color correction, image stabilization, and any other process that benefits from raw processing power. Features like this can be improved and added with updates to the iPhone app.

          1. I’m saying it’s not valid because it’s NOT AN IPHONE ADVANTAGE if an Android phone can also use this same attachment for its optical zoom capabilities.

            The other stuff about 64-bit realtime analysis may or may not be true, but irrelevant to the original point that 99.9% of phone cameras can’t do optical zoom. You don’t get to redefine the goalposts that LordRobin set in his comment.

          2. It’s not a lens.

            The article title says “lens”, and the article then goes on to call it what it actually is — a camera that, as mossman pointed out, uses the phone as viewfinder and for some controls.

            What might be possible in the future “in principle” isn’t really relevant to a discussion of what IS – today.

            Is the “bitch” REALLY necessary?

            1. That part was totally unnecessary – I sometimes need to remind that I’m not Jesse Pinkman.

              Anyway, an important point I took from the article was the iPhone’s lens and image sensor aren’t particularly impressive on their own, and it’s really the 64bit processor that leads to better pictures. The iPhone’s hardware is so advanced, it’s not even feasible standalone will catch up anytime soon in features because they can’t match it in raw computational power. Well, if that CPU really is what makes the iPhone 5S a great camera, an iPhone 5S with a high end external telephoto lens would knock the socks off any other any standalone camera or smart phone camera.

            2. Then you mis-read the article. The image sensor IS impressive, because instead of relying on the old trick of simply adding more and smaller pixels, Apple enlarged the pixels to take a better photo with the same number of megapixels. It isn’t just the 64-bit processor, but it is the A7 that makes the other improvements possible.

          3. It’s NOT valid, because the Sony lens (while cool) does not make use of the iPhone 5s’ image sensor, A7 and all of Apple’s software goodies for photo taking. The photo is taken by the lens and transmitted to the iPhone, where you can edit it in Sony’s software or other software. Not the same thing.

        1. While cool, the vast majority of people will never carry around binoculars or scope and an adapter just to get a zoom function.

          Someday Apple will construct a quality zoom lens into the iPhone, but there are significant physical limitations for how thin that can be.

          1. Very true. I don’t carry them with me on an every day basis, either. However, that said, we are driving 180 miles round trip into Denali National Park this weekend and I plan on using this zoom ‘work-around’ extensively to photograph Griz, Wolf, Moose, Caribou, and hopefully many other critters.

    1. On top of optical zoom I’ll add optical image stabilization, though I will wait for tests to see how effective the software-based stabilization effects work.

      One area where digital stabilization will still have issues is lower-light shots, where the shutter has to be held open longer for each image, so even combining or choosing from several “burst” shots might still result in blurred images if there’s any movement during the shots.

      1. I’ll add that if the True Tone LED flash works as advertised, the low-light concerns might disappear as I’d actually be willing to use the flash again. On my iPhone 5 the flash usually resulted in washed out pictures and frequent white-eye, so I simply avoided it.

        1. Low light issues will never disappear, because such a small flash has a very limited range (only a few feet). Once you get beyond the range of the flash, you have low light problems again.

          1. What I meant was that because of the pre-iPhone 5s flash’s oft-terrible (IMHO) results, I’ve been shooting photos without flash when I can, so low-light performance is a bigger factor.

            So, *IF* the 5s flash fixes the issues (white eye being my biggest gripe, far more than white/tone balance which the 5s specifically addresses), then I’ll be more willing to use the flash again, making low-light performance less of a concern for me.

    2. Tell that to photographers who use a 50 prime. You DO have a telephoto lens with full manual operation and fine grained control. They’re called feet. Good photographers aren’t afraid of moving closer to their subject. While a telephoto lens is good for nature photography, there’s something to be said about a photographer who knows how to move closer to his subject… especially when most of his subjects are people.

      1. Well, yeah, but… what if you’re standing on a bridge? 😀

        Seriously, I agree with you in most cases, but when I was trying to take picture of this gorgeous heron, and the only options were to zoom the picture or jump into the canal to wade after the bird, I wished I had better zoom.


  4. Rhone needs to learn a little about physics. It doesn’t matter how great the DSP in the camera is, a tiny lens will have significant diffraction issues compared to the 72mm diameter lenses you’re likely to encounter in a DSLR. In addition F/2 on a tiny sensor is noting like F/2 on a full-sized camera.

    Most people are happy with snapshots and the new iPhone will help them get better snapshots. But I have 64-bit photo processing now. It’s called a Mac, and coupled with Photoshop I can do a huge amount to improve a photograph.

    So Rhone needs to stop hyperventilating phone cameras. There really is a place for cameras large and small, and there are significant differences that no amount of processing will overcome.

    1. I agree. This is hyperventilating and going over-the-top. The iPhone 5S gives great Consumer Photography results. It’s not meant to be a professional level camera. The nifty color temperature fakery is indeed fakery. But it’s incredibly innovative and apparently painstakingly calibrated fakery that only, and I mean ONLY, Apple could invent.

      Meanwhile, if you’re a professional photographer, you know how to do it better than using an iPhone 5S, or you’d better!

  5. It is kind like the Mhz wars. Every one in the PC industry was fighting to have the most Mhz with out providing an actual advantage to the user Until Steve Jobs bring us the “Performance per Watt” units.
    The same way, the Clone industry is fighting to have the most Mpixels with out bringing an actual benefit to the customer and worse than that, you end up filling your very little phone memory with a bunch of crap photos. Until apple bring us the Performance Per Pixel 🙂

    1. This all meshes with what I used to call “magic number syndrome” decades ago when I worked in the audio business. Too many are desperate for a single number that reflects the total “goodness” or desirability of a product whose full complexity eludes them, but the number they focus on is usually meaningless in itself – watts per channel in audio, horsepower in a car, megapixels in a camera, etc.

  6. It is wonderful to hear how great the camera is in the iPhone 5s. I wholeheartedly agree that point-and-shoot cameras are on their way out. Camera phones are always available and now they are as good or better than P&S cameras in terms of quality. But Rhone seems to overlook the fact that the iPhone form factor lacks the much larger sensors and interchangeable lenses of DSLRs. If you want to capture a lot of light and the capability to zoom by 10X or 20X, then even the iPhone 5s is not a sufficient substitute (yet!).

    But Apple continues to push the technology envelope. It will be fun to see how the iPhone design evolves by 2020.

  7. Anybody here have professional knowledge AND isn’t biased? I think the 5S will be fantastic — and I also think there is no substitute for a great hunk of high precision glass. 64-bit processing doesn’t change that.
    Anybody know?

    1. I personally own a DSLR and record video with it as well. Canon 60D with 2 lenses. Its all about what you have with the DSLR compared to what you have with the iphone.

      Things a DSLR has, but iphone 5S doesn’t:
      1. High Quality interchangable lenses that fit right onto the sensor.
      2. Easy access to focus ring and ability to change shutter, iris, and ISO on the fly and precisely.
      3. Full frame sensor on higher end models.
      And thats all I can think of honestly….but these are 3 BIG things!

      What the iphone 5S now has that the DSLR’s have had
      1. Continuous shooting (burst mode).
      2. Lower aperture set at 2.2 (although you can go lower with certain lenses on a DSLR, but these are few and far between)

      What the iphone 5S has that DSLR’s dont have!
      1. 120 FPS record mode at 720p resolution (my favorite feature!)
      2. A two-tone flash that can adequately white balance a scene and not give you strange colors when you take photos with a flash
      3. Wirelessly upload your photos right after you shoot a shot.
      4. photo geotagging and video geotagging.
      5. panorama pictures

      God knows i am missing certain things as well. I tried to keep the list to what comes out of the box and not extras. You can certainly buy wifi cards for cameras that will upload over wifi…but that is no way better than the phone.

      You can also buy interchangeable lenses for the phone, but they are in no way better than the ones you can buy for a DSLR.

      1. I just got the 70D which has revolutionary dual phase focusing on each pixel. No orher camera has this, including 5S. Also WiFi so you can upload immediately to smartphone.

        1. True dat paul. I know POS and DSLR’s are starting to add what have been standard on phones, but it never can get all the features that a smartphone can have. like some will take panoramas but some others don’t. and some can wifi, but some don’t. and some can geotag, but some don’t. The iphone usually has all the capabilities you want, and then on top of that not just wifi uploading, but 4G uploading…which is vastly just as important. I like what the GoPro has done with their new update. You can now view photos and videos on your iPhone without having to put them on a computer. You can also upload videos from the gopro to your iphone…which is pretty stellar.

    2. First and biggest thing is the lens. Photography is all about light. The old adage is true – no matter what you spend on a dslr, it’s limit is the lens.

      Most of the lenses I use on Nikon are between $1000-$3000 each. You cannot expect an image from a $3000 lens with a 77mm diameter at 2.8 to look the same as from a 5mm iPhone lens. This is one area the spec is just that with iPhone. F2.2 is a lot better than f2.4 but really it’s not the same as even f4in a larger dslr lens. The image sensor should be a seperate point but ill lump it here – a full frame 35mm sensor picks up a lot of light / information compared to iPhone!

      Second, complete control over the image, exposure (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) and color are vital in the pro world. iPhone doesn’t even have the ability to adjust exposure real time other than picking somewhere on the screen. That works in some cases, but not in sunsets or where there is large differences between bright n dark. Kitcam is the only app I’ve seen that could adjust exposure manually – which I use all the time – but not available anymore on the App Store.

      Third dslrs shoot in RAW (NEF). Much larger files, but much larger dynamic range so you can pull back details from over/under exposed regions. This is vital unless you get the lighting exactly right. I take wedding photos in full sun, often on the beach and jpegs just don’t cut a pro image.

      Fourth is the speed and ability of auto focus – a serious concern for sports / nature.

      Fifth is flash. An external flash is vital while outdoors in full sun for weddings for a pro image. The two tone flash on iPhone is amazing – the potential is huge – but only for a few feet and at night. Outside that it will be useless. Without an external flash you’re limited to always in lighiting like ‘the kick’ for iPhone. I’m not knocking it – I think it’s the best iPhone accessory you can buy to increase your photo ability, but it’s not a flash. On a wedding shoot I burn through 2-3 sets of batteries in my flashes and I’m only a one man shooter – for evn better photos I would use another two ppl dedicated to lighting (but most can’t see the difference is worth paying for).

      Six is storage and backup. I may use 32Gig on one shoot – including backup. 16gig gets stored in secure pouches desperate from the camera so even if the camera is lost / destroyed / stolen, customer hasn’t lost their irreplaceable photos.

      Seven is water effect – my dslrs are useable in torrential rain, while even though I have a w/proof case (ballistic hydra) on iphone, one drop of water on the screen and you loose precise (or total) control.

      Eight is manual focus control

      Nine is battery life. One battery in an dslr should easily last 2000-4000 shots or a full shoot. iPhone can’t come close

      Ten is where I’ll stop. The screen illumination making photos at night / astronomy impossible

      Obviously some of these things will mean nothing to some at times, but for me they clearly desperate the iPhone from pro use. Is the 5s camera good? No doubt about it – in fact that would be the only reason I buy it. Can it be used for pro results – yes in some situations of course. But if I’m heading to a wedding where I’m earning money the iPhone will only come off my belt a handful if times as a supplement.

      I take around 1000 photos a month on my iPhone for personal use, sharing, previews, inspirational posters and more and more lower end product shots. In these situations it has advantages over the large file sizes, long complicated workflow and large size to take around with obvious security issues.

      If you want the best camera you can in your phone, get the iPhone 5s because it is amazing, but for pro use it doesn’t compare in many areas including the 10 above.

  8. Putting the point and shoot market out of business. Yeah, ok. I can see that. It has been happening for sometime, and honestly it is cool to see that happen. But the DSLR market, specifically the prosumer market, a bit of a stretch there…

  9. As much as I want to believe this. I find it difficult to imagine, that an iPhone can outperform an DSLR or even Micro 4/3… I can’t wait to find out. But lens changes, zoom, aperture adjustments are really important, to prosumers.

    However I could feel comfortable saying, instead of spending $50 to $300 for a POS (Point and Shoot, not Piece of ****) camera, spend $199 – $700 for an iPhone, even if you don’t ever use it as a phone.

    Remember, photography is simply another feature / application for a phone, that does so much else.

    1. This is all true. The 5s has got to be giving heartburn to the point and shoot departments at the camera companies.

      But for now, the SLR cameras are still safe. The ability to adjust the depth of field, adjust the focal length, utilize optical image stabilization, optical zoom, and do creative exposures is a huge deal for serious photographers. Since most of those things can only be achieved mechanically, I don’t think Apple will be able to figure this out any time soon, on account of the tiny size that that they have to work with in their camera.

  10. Someone here the other day was demonstrating his expertise by complaining that the new iPhone camera was still not as good as the one in the Lumia. I’m not sure how one would know that without doing an “all else being equal” side-by-side comparison of the two cameras, but I get the funny feeling that it was because one of the Lumia camera spec numbers was higher than the corresponding spec number for the iPhone 5s camera.

    Some people seem not to understand that reducing noise is far more important to the quality of a digital picture than obsessing over resolution, but there is a mindset out there that treats spec numbers in a way that makes them look as if they’re suffering from penis envy.

    The dual flash mode in the 5s is a fascinating innovation, if it works, and it probably does. Apples is not gimmicky. And that’s weird, because all sorts of very smart people have been relentlessly instructing the rest of us that innovation is dead at Apple. (For example, the very obvious fact that the fingerprint scanners were actually all taken from used Dell computers and just crammed inside the 5s.)

    That said, I don’t think I will get the 5s because it is missing one very very important and cool feature: The ability to wave your hand over the phone to answer a call when you have barbecue sauce on your fingers.

      1. Use a knuckle?

        But what I really want is a phone that grimy nerds will feign interest in while I’m waiting for my plane at the airport.

        Also, I need a 5 inch screen so I can impress all the women at singles bars. They love cheap guys.

  11. No.

    It’s not about megapixels or processing. It’s about sensor size and optics. A camera phone or point and shoot will never rival a DSLR for those two reasons.

    The 5a camera may be awesome, but it will never compete with a DSLR.

  12. So Apple has yet again up-ended an entire industry. So it’s not just Samsung and Microsoft/Nokia that are left scrambling for a response, but also Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, and the rest.

  13. I’ll reserve judgment until I have a chance to actually play with a 5S, instead of reading about it. I have a Canon P&S that takes phenomenal pictures, *far* better than anything I’ve been able to capture with my 4S. While I haven’t played with a 5, the pics I’ve seen from some friends and family members who have one aren’t as good as what I can get out of my P&S, though definitely better than what I’ve seen come out of a 4S.
    And then there are the situations where I use a DSLR- long range pictures at a zoo, air show action shots, etc., where having the long lens just offers too great an advantage over whatever digital zooming a phone camera can offer.
    I think for “of the moment” type shots, the phone cameras will eventually kill the P&S market. I don’t see them replacing DSLR’s anytime soon.
    But hey, I’m somewhat finicky with my pictures. I like to take pictures that look good on a 30″ Cinema display connected to my MacBook Pro or on a 56″ HD TV, not just something that looks okay on Facebook.

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