A look at the technology inside Apple’s amazing new iPhone 5s camera

“When it comes to taking pictures on the go, it’s hard to beat the convenience of a smartphone: It’s lighter than a bulky SLR camera, and, unlike your typical point-and-shoot, it’s in your pocket even when the idea of playing photographer is furthest from your mind,” Marco Tabini reports for Macworld.

“This fact hasn’t escaped the folks at Apple, who have worked hard over the last few years to turn the iPhone into the world’s most widely-used camera by iterating through an increasingly sophisticated combination of hardware and software,” Tabini reports. “This tradition continues with the iPhone 5s, which features some amazing new camera technology under the hood.”

Tabini reports, “The real magic of the camera of the iPhone 5s is hidden away from its lens, tucked in a specialized portion of the A7 CPU called the Image Signal Processor (ISP). That’s the hardware responsible for taking the raw input from the sensor and turning it into actual pictures. Rather than relying on third-party hardware, Apple introduced its own ISP with the debut of the iPhone 4s, and the company has been refining the chip’s capabilities ever since.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple iPhone 5s camera leaps two years ahead of entire camera industry – all cameras, not just smartphone cameras – September 13, 2013
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. The 21st Century is way to focused on “shiny”, and “high tech”. We had simple things in the 80s and 90s…and we survived! This teeny bopper generation is so stupid because of this. I’d rather have a NeXTCube circa 1994, than a colorful teeny-bopper toy “computer”. Tablets were made because some people thought that computers needed to let you look at cat pictures and Family Guy episodes. REAL computing was done on a workstation like the amazing NeXTSTATION line of workstations. If you are too young to remember the “dial-up” sound when logging on…I feel bad for you. 🙁 The 90s really were the best.

      1. The 50s were the best. Our phone bill was $5.50 a month.

        The phone companies of today are raking it in from most users/losers in the USA, who’s phone bills are more than $100 per month. Ridiculous!

    1. Dear 80’s & 90’s Fan:

      Yeah, I remember when “real work” was done using three pieces of bamboo and a hunk of glass…called a slide rule. That technology help to send men to the moon, along with punch cards fed into a mainframe computer. That is real computing! Real work got done.

      Then along came those generation X’s and Y’s with their video games and big box computers who can’t even use a slide rule (actually they don’t even know what it is).

      I really feel sorry for that younger generation that didn’t get to spend hours at the keyboard of a card punching machine typing very slowly to avoid syntax errors. And you never got to actually SEE the computer unless you were in the data processing center. Only feed in the cards and get back a printout.

      My how I long to return to those days! NOT!

      PS: About “real work”: I looked up the word “work” in the dictionary and it said nothing about it requiring a keyboard or a workstation computer.

      a 60’s & 70’s Fan

        1. Agree with SJ, thanks for the reminder of the quote.

          All the same, the slide rule and the things that got done with it were pretty good things. But that was the day when transistors came one at a time, the circuits that you could build with them ran really slow and the displays associated with them were a row of individual LEDs that you could interpret. Compare that to an iPhone with billions of transistors and a display capable of Augmented Reality display of all sorts of data. Plus it can make a phone call from just about anywhere without a really cord. And take pictures. And do video calls.

          We get too soon old and too late smart. I want overs.

    2. We know you loved the NextStations, but can you please stop repeating it? We knew the first 100 times you said it. Besides, NeXT almost KILLED Apple…until they bought them. Why are you nostalgic for the decade that Apple almost died in? Yes, I agree that the movies, and music were cool, but Apple pretty much being DCW was NOT cool. Be glad they accomplished so much in the new century.

    3. I think it’s more likely that you simply don’t understand this century’s technology. It’s a whole lot faster and can accomplish far more than what you’re capable of imagining and you’re afraid of that very fact.

      Sorry, but the reality of it is that there are plenty of us here who remember just exactly how bad the 90s and “dial-up” were. Don’t feel bad for us.

      We’ve moved on.

    4. 80’s & 90’s,

      Iris starting to appear time that you are attempting to pick up where zunetang left off. If so, I appreciate your efforts even if they are requiring more… Focus. I at first took your statements as a genuine if not Luddite opinion. This last post, however, appears to contain some veiled wit. While not of the same caliber as zunetang’s offerings it is still a nice attempt at such a post. I, for one, will now look forward to your posts and hope that you are able to hone your presentation and content so as to be mentioned in the same breath as zunetang. We need a little wittiness around here.

      If on the other hand you serious, God help you. It’s time to let go of that 10lb brick and handset you call a cell phone and embrace some convenience. Microsoft no longer has the stranglehold it once had on progress and it is good…

    5. Having used computers extensively during the 1990s, I disagree with everything you just said. I do not believe that you made any reasonable argument to support the idea that the 1990s were the best. The workstations on which the “REAL” computing was done can now be done by a decent laptop. If you prefer the workstation model, fine. But there was not actual connection between that and “a colorful teenybopper toy ‘computer’.” What are you even talking about?

    6. 89s90sFan, you are an idiot, hopelessly wedded to a fuzzy, rose-coloured view of a past that needs to stay exactly where it is, for those who actually lived, and worked through it. I clearly remember using CorelDraw on a boring beige box, with 286/66 processor, around 8Mb RAM, and a 40Mb HDD, drawing a logo, and having to go and get a coffee, then sit for five minutes while the screen refreshed.
      Nobody used fancy workstations, unless they were in highly specialised industries, like sophisticated photo re-touching pre-Photoshop, where the workstation cost £250,000!
      I suggest you retreat to your playroom, with your abacus, and your Etch-a-Sketch, and let the grown-ups use real computers.
      You’re just another stupid troll, wasting everyone’s time by being an asshole.

  2. The 5s has amazingly clear and crisp images, even when the images are used as desktop photos on my 27 inch iMac, and the slow motion function works beautifully. Apple has made a phone that allows millions of us to be more creative with it’s camera and with the free software on IOS7. Thank You Tim and Company!

  3. Been using macs since 84, and began on Compuserve before AOL with my new and shiny 7200 baud modem. Building a program was fun and so useful back then. Yes, CLI is still alive and well even now. Where do you think all these Apps come from? It may not be the same, but all functions are still there!

  4. This is the first I have heard about the Image Signal Processor (ISP) in the new Apple designed A7 chip. Lots of ads about the many colored iPhones on TV. Nothing about the real powerhouse that people are buying, the iPhone 5S. Who is making the choices about what to advertise, how to advertise it and where to advertise it.

    Cutting edge innovations but not in the advertising department.

  5. “Rather than relying on third-party hardware, Apple introduced its own ISP with the debut of the iPhone 4s, and the company has been refining the chip’s capabilities ever since.”


    Apple bringing in house more chip design, battery tech, the ISP, etc is the reason why they will keep separating from the other smartphone manufacturers in terms of device quality.

    I also like their focus on improving the camera in the important areas and not just fighting a megapixel war.

  6. I’ve been pretty happy with the camera in my iPhone 4 with the option of using HDR. I wouldn’t mind playing with the one in the new phone, but probably won’t upgrade.

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