New Apple iSight camera makes iPhone 5s clear choice over iPhone 5c

The most common question I’ve gotten since Apple’s iPhone event last Tuesday is this:

Should I buy the iPhone 5s or the iPhone 5c?


The answer is easy: the iPhone 5s.

At the iPhone event Apple touted three major advances in the iPhone 5s. The first was the 64-bit processor, which makes the phone twice as fast as the iPhone 5. And the second was the fingerprint scanner, which offers added security.


These are fine evolutions, but not the sort of thing that I think will inspire most folks to rush out the door for a new iPhone. 

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But the clear difference in my mind is the new iSight camera on the iPhone 5s. It’s a huge upgrade.

I have the iPhone 5, and while I’m enormously satisfied with it, my big wish is for a better camera.


Like most people with a smartphone, the gadget has become my default camera since it’s always with me. But as anyone with the iPhone 5 (or any other previous iPhone) knows, as much as the technology has evolved, the camera is still relatively limited when it comes to taking shots involving motion or in tricky lighting situations. 

The iPhone 5s offers several new features that represent gigantic leaps forward.

If you want to get the real technical low-down, let me point you to this breakdown by Brian Klug. I’m not a professional photographer, so I can’t geek out that much over the granular technical details. 

But as an average, mainstream user, I was immediately excited about several features of the iPhone 5s. 


The iSight camera now offers 8 megapixels on both the 5s and 5c. However, on the 5s, the individual pixels are bigger, which means the camera should do better in low-light situations. 

The 5s flash also represents a big advance. It’s what Apple is calling “True Tone” and it has two LED flashes with two different colors stacked on top of each other. 

With the True Tone flash, the phone triggers an initial flash that gauges the colors of the environment. Then the two flashes fire together in different intensities that adjust based on the light in the room. There are 1,000 flash combinations. 

Finally, there is a new setting on the iPhone 5s called “burst” that snaps 10 frames per second. Of course, this means you could quickly create hundreds of photos. With iOS 7, the software suggests the best ones and lets you quickly eliminate the others.

And by the way, this ability to capture high-quality images at high frame rates also allows the iPhone 5s to feature a neat slow-motion option for capturing video. 

I had only a limited chance to play with the new camera and these new features. But not coincidentally, a couple days after the event, Burberry announced a partnership with Apple to use the new iPhone 5s as its official camera at its runway show on Monday in London. The fashion house says the new camera on the phone is so good it will allow Burberry to shoot video and photos of the runway scene and backstage to share with fans.

You can see the promo video above that Burberry shot entirely with the iPhone 5s. 

I’ve seen lots of nifty features rolled out on other smartphones in the last year. But Apple’s approach with the iPhone 5s seems to target the biggest desire that mainstream users have: To simply take better pictures in a wider variety of settings. 

Now, the iSight camera on the iPhone 5c is similar to what’s in the iPhone 5, and it’s quite fine. 

In terms of which one to buy when they go on sale this Friday, however, I look at the decision this way. The iPhone 5c is $100 less expensive than the iPhone 5s. So it’s understandable someone on a budget might want to save that money. 

But the way these phones are built, they are lasting longer and longer. My wife still has the iPhone 4, coming up on three years, and is perfectly happy with it. It’s reasonable to expect that whatever phone you buy, it will be the phone you carry for at least the next three years. 

And over that period, it’s reasonable to estimate that you might take thousands of pictures with that camera. 

Spending that extra $100 today on a phone that lasts three years and has a far superior camera, which is one of the most essential features for most users? It just seems like a no-brainer to me. 

Indeed, I still have a hard time understanding why anyone would choose to buy the iPhone 5c. Apple is way smarter than I, so I’m sure they have a clear idea.

But frankly, I still don’t see who the target consumer is. If money is the issue, then why not get the iPhone 4s for free?

That said, if you can afford to, think long term. Spend the extra $100 on the iPhone 5s. The photos you’ll take and keep for a lifetime will be well worth it.


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