iPhone 5S Camera vs iPhone 5C and iPhone 5

iPhone rear facing cameras on a green defocused background

In this article I want to compare the rear-facing cameras of the iPhone 5S versus iPhone 5C (cheaper model) and the iPhone 5.  For some people the camera plays a significant role when buying a new phone. Most people do of course take advantage of the camera to snap photos and videos, but some do it more frequently than others.

Not all people pay a close attention to the fine details. After all, if you are just planning to share photos on Facebook, it really doesn’t make too much difference — at least that’s what most people think. The truth is that different cameras might provide a completely different experience for the photographers. Two of the most obvious and visible ones in photos are low-light performance and the field of view (focal length of the lens).

So for example, you might go out to a birthday party in a dimmed-light bar in your neighborhood. When everyone share their photos online, you suddenly realize that your photos are not well lit as those of your friends. This is mostly the result of using a lens that is slower than the lens on your friend’s Smartphone. There are other reasons for that, but the important fact is that different cameras result in different performance, and have a direct effect of how your image will look like compared to other phone cameras.

iPhone 5S vs 5C vs 5 – Technical Specs Comparison

Before we continue discussing the differences between the iPhone 5S camera, iPhone 5C camera and the iPhone 5 camera — we better start off looking at the technical specification first. This way it will be easier for me to explain the differences and the effect they have on the final image, including any limitations that they pose to the photographer/phone user.

[table id=113 /]

The iPhone 5C uses the same rear-facing camera as the iPhone 5.  With the iPhone 5S, Apple focused improving the camera’s hardware specs. The first thing Apple did was to use a larger sensor. The iPhone 5S now features a 1/3″ Back-illuminated sensor, which is 15% larger than the one found on the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5. This means that now you get 1.5 micron pixels, slightly larger than those of the 5C and 5. This should result in an improvement in low-light performance, as each pixel can gather more light.

1/3-inch vs 1/3.2-inch sensor size comparison of the iPhone 5S
1/3-inch vs 1/3.2-inch sensor size comparison. iPhone 5S offers slightly larger sensor (enlarged)
1.4 microns vs 1.5 microns pixel size comparison
1.4 microns vs 1.5 micron pixel size comparison (enlarged)


There wasn’t any talk about the sensor architecture, but I believe that the new sensor has some circuitry technology improvements. The iPhone 5S therefore uses the same sensor size as the HTC One UltraPixel camera. However, the HTC One UltraPixel camera features a lower 4MP resolution, which leads to much larger 2 micron pixels. So if you are just comparing pixel sizes, the HTC One has much larger pixels.

Furthermore, the iPhone 5S itself carries a newly developed 64-bit architecture A7 processor. This new processor is 40 times faster than the one found on the original iPhone, and two times faster than the A6. This leads to improve data computation speed and boost the phone’s graphic performance. This of course leads to other improvements that relate to the camera’s performance.

First of all, the iPhone 5S can shoot at 10fps in burst mode (continuous shooting).  Second, it allows the camera the ability to capture 720p120 HD slow-motion videos. The videos are captured with 120 frames per second, and output at 30 fps.  It also means better dynamic range, better highlight and shadows and more detailed image and less image noise.


The iPhone 5S as a new AUTO image stabilization, an improved digital image stabilization over the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5. The new image stabilization, automatically take 4 quick photos (instead of just one) and merged them into a single image that look sharper. This is an excellent feature to improve blurriness in images, but this is not a lens-based optical image stabilization nor a sensor-shift optical image stabilization.

Talking about low-light performance, the new Apple iPhone 5S has dual-led flash system, compare to only one LED on the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5. Each LEd is assigned with different color temperature to allow more accurate and natural image when shooting in different lighting conditions and with different light sources. When you take a low-light shot, it fires both the white and amber LED flashes at the same time (with different intensities) to create a natural-looking image. There is not need to make this in post processing, so there is no impact on image quality.

I think that this is a problem with most phone cameras, photos taken with a flash just look very unnatural. The new LED-flash on the iPhone 5S comes to solve this problem.

The iPhone 5S also feature a ‘Photo Burst Mode’ which allows you to capture photos up to 10 frames per second.  With the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5 you can use an app, but it will give you around 3 to 5 fps, which is probably the phone’s technical hardware limitation, although I didn’t find any detailed information about the exact burst number for the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5. This will help you shoot fast moving subjects and get the one that look best. Sometimes when you shoot a single image, you can occasionally capture the subject no at the right positioned that you want to. This new burst mode solves this issue.

My personal favorite feature is the 720p 120 fps slow motion video capture. After you’ve taken the video, you can later decide which part of the video you want to show in slo-mo and which part in regular 30 fps — this done in post processing using the built-in video editor.

The iPhone 5S also features a new f/2.2 aperture lens. The iPhone 5S also uses a slightly larger sensor, which should result in a slightly wider field of view. F2.2 lens mean 1/3 stop advantage over the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5 in terms of light gathering capability.  This also helps the iPhone 5S to perform better in low-light conditions, and when the ambient light is just isn’t enough to get a well exposed image at a given shutter speed.


The iPhone 5C doesn’t bring anything new to the camera and inherits the iPhone 5 camera. The iPhone 5S is where things are getting more interesting. The iPhone 5S will certainly improve on low-light performance, and we can expect clearer images with less noise. I’m pretty sure that future sample images of the iPhone 5S compared to iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C will shot just that. I personally liked the 10 fps burst and slo-mo video recording, and I think that although the changes aren’t revolutionary, they will certainly give a boost to the camera’s performance, a visible difference that you’ll notice when viewing your photos.

I think that it would be more interesting to see how the iPhone 5S camera compares to the Nokia Lumia 1020 camera and the HTC One UltraPixel camera. I will write this comparison pretty soon. So I have to admit that I wasn’t that excited when I read the iPhone 5S camera specs. It’s an improvement no doubt, but nothing really revolutionary, and I was expecting Apple to come up with something better. I think that we’ll see some big improvement when the iPhone 6 is released, as those two new phones doesn’t carry big changes.

I assume that Apple understands the importance of improving its camera’s performance, and I assume that it’s working on a new technology as you read those lines.