Consumer Reports on the iPhone 5 Camera’s Low-Light Capabilities

Consumer Reports:

The claimed improvements of the iPhone 5 in handling low-light shots were not apparent in our tests. In overall quality, both still and video images shot in low light on the iPhone 5 were of comparable quality to those shot on the iPhone 4S, though they did appear a little “ccoler” [sic], with a bluish hue. The shutter delay for both iPhones seemed all but instantaneous.

I’m baffled how they arrived at this conclusion, given that I’ve found the iPhone 5 camera to be not just a little better than the 4S in low light, but remarkably better. The only explanation I can think of is that whoever conducted these tests wasn’t using the built-in Camera app on the iPhone 5, and instead used a third-party camera app. In my experience, the iPhone 5’s new low-light capabilities are at least partially software-driven — low-light shots taken with third-party apps don’t seem any better than on the iPhone 4S.

I just now took a few sample shots of a toy gun on the floor in the hallway outside my office, and put them on Flickr. The only light source is the fading evening daylight from a south-facing window. I posted three photos taken with an iPhone 5: one using the built-in Camera app, and two taken with third party apps (Camera Plus Pro and VSCO Cam). I included one taken with the built-in Camera app on an iPhone 4S.

Looking at the EXIF data, the big difference is that the photo shot with the built-in Camera app on the iPhone 5 had an ISO speed of 2500; the other three all maxed out at 800. It appears the iPhone 5 can go up to ISO 3200. That’s the two-stop difference Apple is promoting.

Thursday, 27 September 2012