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iPhone 4s, 5 and 5s Camera test Comparison

By Joseph Cha on October 15th 2013

Camera phones have come a long way. The iPhone 5s’ camera boasts a lot of improvements, but is it really better than previous generations?

From Apple’s website:

iPhone 5s features a state-of-the-art sensor that increases the area available for pixels by 15 percent, and yet it still fits inside the incredibly thin iPhone. The pixels are larger, too — 1.5 microns, to be exact. We also bumped up the size of the camera aperture. Now it’s at ƒ/2.2 to let in even more light. All in all, the iSight camera on iPhone 5s features an impressive 33 percent increase in light sensitivity. And that means you get amazing-looking photos every time.

There are a lot of numbers and strange words being thrown around in that statement, so we decided to do a side by side comparison to see if the 5s camera is really that good. We compared the iPhone 5s with the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4s.

The first test we did was in a well lit setting.

iPhone 4s Well Lit


iPhone 5 Well Lit


iPhone 5s Well Lit


Seeing these three photos side by side it’s clear that the 4s looks washed out, and the 5 and 5s look nearly identical (although the 5s is slightly brighter). Now lets see how these cameras take photos with the light off.

iPhone 4s Dark


iPhone 5 Dark


iPhone 5s Dark


It’s clear that the iPhone 4s is far too underexposed and the iPhone 5 is very noisy and grainy. The iPhone 5s has a great exposure, and you can even see some of the details in the reflection of the table. Now we’re going to take a photo in the same dark room, but this time with the flash on.

iPhone 4s Flash


iPhone 5 Flash


iPhone 5s Flash


Looking at the photos with flash, the iPhone 5s’ flash looks the most well balanced in terms of exposure and color. There are no outstanding highlights or bright areas caused by the flash, and you can see the details in the blacks and in the reflection in the table.

Overall it’s safe to say that the iPhone 5s has one of the best cameras I’ve ever seen on a phone. If you’re upgrading to a iPhone 5s and you want great picture quality, you’re not going to be disappointed.


I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Lala

    Do repeat the test when iOS 7.1 is available with ‘AUTO+HDR’ on, in earlier version of iOS it’s either AUTO or HDR.

    There shl’d be a dramatic difference, I wonder how much the software can tune than, moreover the difference between 5 & 5s

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  2. khan

    hi there……good effort , am just wondering this was about d result of camera n what about the other features,i was abt to buy the 4s as my bujet is very low but now an dicey should i go for 5 …..plz hlp me

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  3. incendiary

    the chicago times will be happy to find this out. lol

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  4. Kim

    Great comparison. Just for kicks you should have included an older iPhone model. My iPhone 4 takes shocking shots compared to those.

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    • Joseph

      we actually have an iphone 4 in the studio, but it wasn’t available during this test =(

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