One of the key selling points of the iPhone 5s is its improved camera, putting pixel size well ahead of the raw number of pixels. Naturally, I couldn’t let such a claim simply be, so I hit the streets to put that to the test.
In order to do that, I tested the iPhone 5s against its immediate predecessor, because it’s a wildly successful camera, and the Nokia Lumia 1020, because it’s a generally excellent camera. Each shot was taken on full auto using the default camera app, because while you can use other apps and achieve different effects, the reality for most mobile shooters is that they’ll opt for simplicity every time.
One slight (and annoying) caveat here is that I don’t have a full set of Nokia Lumia 1020 shots to compare with; the Lumia 1020 I was testing with developed a hardware fault, crashed and took a number of photos with it. Skydrive had most of them, but not all by that stage. Any other errors in composition and the like are entirely mine, but should not be taken as a form of bias one way or another. There’s a blurry Lumia shot in there which I’ve kept as an example of colour, and not my ability to take a shot, for example.
A few conclusions, if I may. The iPhone 5s generally beats out the optics in the older iPhone 5 (or the newer iPhone 5c, for that matter), and that you would expect, because it should. You can still take a bad shot with a good camera, and there are some aspects of the iPhone 5s camera that are hard to show on the page, like the shooting speed or the changed camera app within iOS 7 — though that’ll shortly be on most iPhone 5 units as well.
When it comes to the Lumia 1020, it’s a slightly more mixed affair.
In the iPhone 5s’ favour, it’s capable of far more rapid shooting than the Lumia 1020 can muster, especially if you’re using Nokia’s Pro Cam app, and it does so at full resolution every time. It can keep this up — I’ve checked this — for hundreds of photos too, which is quite impressive.
The Lumia 1020 is better in low light, however, as long as it doesn’t apply that weird yellow wash that sometimes tints its photos; again you could compensate for this by taking it off full auto, but then I’ve tried to keep this as strongly in the consumer space as possible, which means less mucking around with settings and more fast photo taking. A smartphone is not simply summed up by its camera — although that’s clearly the Lumia 1020’s big selling point — and there are benefits to either unit’s camera that you should bear in mind before making a purchase decision.