iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus vs iPhone 5S – Camera Specs Comparison

September 10, 2014

iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 5S rear facing cameras

In this article I want to get you more familiar with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus rear-facing (iSight) and front-facing (FaceTime) cameras and learn more about their core hardware specs and features.  I’ll also compare the iPhone 6 / 6 Plus cameras versus the iPhone 5S. I have to admit that I personally was expecting more from Apple compared to what I’ve seen. That said, Apple did improve the camera upon the iPhone 5S in many positive ways.

Before we talk about the differences between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5S cameras in-depth, let’s first take a look at the rear camera specs first.

iPhone 6 / iPhone 6 PlusiPhone 5S
Rear Camera Sensor1/3.0" (4.89 x 3.67 mm)
8 megapixels
3264x2448 pixel resolution
1.5 micron pixels
1/3.0" (4.89 x 3.67 mm)
8 megapixels
3264x2448 pixel resolution
1.5 micron pixels
Lens29mm equivalent
f/2.2 maximum aperture

Five-element lens
Hybrid IR filter
Sapphire crystal lens cover
29.7mm equivalent
f/2.2 maximum aperture

Five-element lens
Hybrid IR filter
Sapphire crystal lens cover

* iPhone 5 rear camera has 31mm equivalent focal length
Burst Mode10 fps + AF10 fps + AF
TimelapseYesNo (available via update to iOS 8 or a dedicated app)
Optical Image StabilizationiPhone 6 Plus: Yes (using a built-in gyroscope)
iPhone 6: No
Face DetectionYes Improved! (faster and more accurate)Yes
Video StabilizationYes Improved! (built-in cinematic video stabilization)Yes, basic
AutofocusYes Improved!

Has a new built-in cinematic video stabilization that further stabilizes video shooting while moving (e.g. shooting while walking)

Hybrid AF - Added on-sensor phase-detection AF sensors ("Focus Pixels") with contrast-detection AF, which dramatically improve AF speed, especially when shooting moving subjects, even in burst mode.
Basic video stabilization

Contrast detection AF only
FlashDual LED True Tone FlashDual LED True Tone Flash

(two LED lights with different color tones, one warm, other cold - mix the two to get a true-to-life color rendering under various type of lighting that have different color temperatures)
Video1080p 60 fps / 30 fps
720p 120fps / 240fps (slow-mo)

+ Continuous AF in video (Taking advantage of the phase-detection pixels)

+ an option to apply slow-mo to portion of the video and output as a new or apply to a portion of an existing video.
1080p 30 fps
720p 120fps (slow-mo)

No continuous AF during video recording

We can clearly see from the above iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus vs iPhone 5S comparison table that the iPhone 6 camera as been vastly improved.  The iPhone 6 / iPhone 6 Plus sensor size mentioned as 1/2.6″, which is slightly larger than it’s predecessor, although it’s not in the official specs and I am still investigating this spec. That said, the pixel size is 1.5µ, same on both the 6 and the 5S. The good news is that iPhone 6 / iPhone 6 plus uses a newly designed sensor, and we know that because of the on-sensor phase-detection pixels (“Focus Pixels” as Apple calls it).

The “Focus Pixels” refer to the on-chip phase-detection pixels, which dramatically improve the autofocus performance when shooting moving subjects for both stills and videos. So the camera can take advantage of the contrast-detect AF and the information from the phase-detect pixels to give you faster AF performance and less out of focus seeking results. This also works in burst mode, although the base burst speed stayed the same (10 fps).

Other improvements include a Full HD 60 fps video recording (smoother playback, better for video editing), 240 fps slow-mo (doubles that of the iPhone 5S), improved Face-detection, and optical image stabilization on the iPhone 6 Plus (first on any iPhone device), improved digital image stabilization (“Cinematic video stabilization”).

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus also feature a new Apple-designed image signal processor with next-gen local tone mapping and noise reduction algorithms, that further enhance the image quality, for sharper and better looking photos. The local tone mapping is used to enhance the dynamic range of the image  by mapping one set of color to another, giving the image a more vibrant and more life-like visuals in certain parts of the photos. The noise reduction algorithms has been improved to better combat image noise when shooting at higher ISO sensitivities. The result is even better looking low-light images with much less image noise compared to the iPhone 5S and previous iPhone models that uses an older generation processor.

The FaceTime front-facing camera was also improved and now feature f/2.2 aperture, which is 0.2511 stops faster (1/3 stops in on-thirds stops, rounded up) than the iPhone 5S iSight camera and it has a sensor with 1.5 micron pixels. All in all, it captures 81 percent more light compared to its predecessor. IT has improved Face Detection and Blink detection and 10 fps burst for taking the perfect selfie.

The front-facing camera also gets the same exposure control as the rear-facing camera, so you have the option to get a brighter and darker output that fits the artistic needs of a particular image. You can also use the new 3/10 second timer and the camera will take a series of photos in burst to make sure you get your perfect selfie or group shot.

I also didn’t mention yet the Apple Watch, which you can use as a viewfinder with your iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (also compatible with older models starting iPhone 5 and above with the latest version of iOS 8). The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has a slight protrusion for the camera at the back. I assume that it impossible for Apple to make the outer part flat considering the optics and sensor layout, and therefore there is a slight bump at the rear. Some of you might find it disturbing, other won’t.

All in all, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will take better pictures in low-light, will give you better HDR stills and videos, will focus faster and more accurately for stills and videos, the OIS on the 6 Plus is super useful and will enhance the camera low-light capture when shooting with slow shutter speeds and the super slow 240 fps will be fun to use and 1080p 60 fps video recording will give you smooth and lifelike video playback.

It’s not a revolutionary camera, but a very nice update that will certainly allow you to take better looking photos. The added processing power and larger screen will further enhance the user experience and how your interact with your phone when viewing and editing photos and videos. The iPhone 6 Plus now feature Full HD resolution (185 percent more pixels than the iPhone 6) and both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus displays are brighter and have better contrast — which means better outdoor visibility and better viewing experience overall.

The battery life was also improved, allowing even higher usage, especially with the iPhone 6 Plus that has 2915 mAh battery (1810 mAh for the iPhone 6) which allows up to 14 hours of video watching time, compare to 10 on the iPhone 5S and 11 on the iPhone 6. Another reason while heavy multimedia users might prefer the iPhone 6 Plus over the iPhone 6.

What’s your opinion, are you disappointed with the new camera update or happy with what you’ve seen? — share your opinion in the comment section below.

To be continued..

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