Summary

As we mentioned in the introduction to this article, the iPhone in its various iterations, has become (quite unexpectedly) one of the most popular digital cameras ever invented. We've come a long way since the craptacular 2MP obscuroscopes offered by the early models, to the point where the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 actually offer genuinely useful image quality that in favourable conditions, is hard to tell apart from the output from 'proper' cameras.

This graph shows the most popular cameras used by customers of Flickr.com, one of the world's largest photo sharing websites. This graph is generated from Flickr's analysis of the device ID embedded in images that are uploaded to the site.

It's important to note that smartphones don't always identify themselves in the EXIF data of their photographs, so some smartphone models are no doubt under-represented in this graph (which Flickr freely admits) but the popularity of the iPhone 4 and 4S among photographers is undeniable. 

This is great news for people like us who write about digital photography, because it signals a paradigm shift. This doesn't happen often, and it's very exciting when it does. Already, we're seeing mainstream camera manufacturers scrabbling to add connectivity to their products, and it's not just desperation that's making them do it. If the iPhone, and devices like it, have had a transformative effect on the industry it's because they've had a transformative effect on peoples' expectations of cameras, and photography. And the industry is doing what it always does - moving to fulfill a need.  

The iPhone 5 is a fine mobile device, with an excellent camera. In qualititative terms it's not the best camera out there, and nor is it the best camera on a smartphone (the Nokia 808 has that honor, for now) but it offers satisfying image quality, some neat functions like auto panorama and HDR mode, and - crucially - it is supremely easy to use. It isn't much better than the iPhone 4S, as far as its photographic performance is concerned, but it isn't any worse (notwithstanding a somewhat more noticeable propensity towards lens flare). When manufacturers employ pixel-binning to achieve higher ISO settings we don't normally celebrate the fact, but in the case of the iPhone 5, it gives you greater flexibility in poor light (i.e., you might actually get a picture now, where you just wouldn't with the iPhone 4S) and the drop in quality is unnoticeable when the images are used for sharing/web display. 

We'll be taking more pictures with the iPhone 5, and doing more testing in the coming weeks. Until then, we hope you enjoy this gallery of real-world samples.

Real-world Sample Images

There are 35 images in our Apple iPhone 5 samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. A reduced size image (within 1024 x 1024 bounds) is provided to be more easily viewed in your browser. As always the original untouched image is available by clicking on this reduced image.

Apple iPhone 5 Review Samples - published Oct 1, 2012