Apple unveils iPhone 5s with major camera upgrade including bigger pixels, dual flash, faster frame bursts, and slow-mo video


posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 2:10 PM EST


Apple just took the wraps off its hotly anticipated iPhone 5s and the big news about this new smartphone -- along with it being offered in a somewhat controversial gold color -- is its significantly upgraded camera features. For starters, the phone is powered by a new A7 processor, which is a 64-bit chip that should make the iPhone 5s operate much faster overall.

In particular, the A7 processor should help power the live photo filters feature in the new camera app in iOS 7. The new camera app also lets you organize your images into new sections, such as by date, time and location, and you can easily zoom into a year-based view, with small icons for your photos.

While it has the same 8 megapixels of resolution as the previous model, the iPhone 5s' built-in iSight camera boasts imaging pixels that are 1.5 microns in size. According to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, the "active sensor area" of the new imaging chip is 15% larger than in the previous iPhone, allowing for the larger pixels.

"Bigger pixels make for a better picture," Schiller said, while highlighting the camera features at Apple's big iPhone 5s introduction event today at the company's headquarters in Cuptertino, CA.

The iPhone 5s' imaging chip is a backside illuminated sensor, as was used previously. The new software in iOS 7 is designed to take advantage of the newly designed sensor, with the ability to automatically set white balance, exposure and create a "dynamic local tone map" with "autofocus matrix metering" in 15 zones, Schiller said. When the camera snaps a photo, it actually captures multiple images and selects the best.

Apple has posted some full-resolution, sample photos captured with the iPhone 5s' upgraded iSight camera here.


In front of the image sensor, Apple has placed a new, Apple-designed, 5-element lens, with a maximum f/2.2 aperture. There's also a new flash called True Tone, which uses two LEDs, one cool and white and the other warm and amber. When an image is snapped, the iPhone 5s combines the two flashes to create a photo with better color balance. In particular, the dual flash feature is designed to produce more life-like skin tones.

The camera also has an auto image stabilization feature, which captures multiple shots and combines them based around light levels, to produce a sharp photo. A new 10 frames per second burst mode feature is another highlight of the iPhone 5s camera. Just hold down the shutter button in the camera app and you can shoot at 10fps for as long as you can hold it.

"This is great for action shots and fidgeting kids," Schilller said.


With the A7 processor, the iPhone 5s can analyze the burst of shots, and choose the one photo it thinks is best. You can also capture slow-motion, 720p HD video at 120fps and then select which parts of the video you want to see at normal speed and which at slow mo. As an example, Schiller showed off a clip of someone running at normal speed and then diving into the pool in slow mo.

The final headline iPhone 5s camera feature is its ability to capture a 28MP panoramic shot with auto exposure adjustment as you pan.

The iPhone 5s comes in gold, silver or "space gray," and will sell (with a cellular contract) for US$199 for the 16GB model; US $299 for the 32GB model; and US $399 for the 64GB model. The iPhone 5s goes on sale on September 20, 2013 in the U.S.