The new iPhone 5S from Apple has an 8-megapixel camera with a slightly larger sensor.

Apple revealed not one, but two iPhones today at its media event in Cupertino, California. The latest devices are aimed at two very different markets. The colorful iPhone 5C is poised to compete against cheaper smartphones while the iPhone 5S debuts Apple’s newest innovations in mobile technology, including a revamped iSight camera. However, both models are touting a fairly underwhelming spec of 8 megapixels of imaging power  — will it be enough to lure in mobile shutterbugs who may be tempted by the massively megapixel-powered 41MP Nokia Lumia 1020 or 20.7MP Sony Xperia Z1

Software features first: iOS 7

After a brief introduction by Apple CEO Tim Cook, the event started with Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, giving quick review of iOS 7's many new features. Among them are live filters and square format capture. iOS 7 is also bringing a brand new take on iOS's photo management, Camera Roll. Instead of simply organizing photos by time captured, the new Camera Roll will automatically group photos based on the time and location they were taken. 

iOS 7 will be available for free on September 18th for iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, and the fifth generation iPod Touch.

In more software news, iPhoto and iMovie for iOS are soon going to be available for free. The apps previously cost $4.99 each, but will now be included with the purchase of every new iOS device. 

The iPhone 5C

The iPhone 5C is more colorful and less expensive.

The iPhone 5C is, as Apple's Senior Vice President of Design Jony Ive described, "beautifully, unapologetically plastic," and comes in green, white, blue, red and yellow hard-coated polycarbonate with a 4-inch Retina display.

In terms of imaging, the camera on the iPhone 5C looks very similar to that on the iPhone 5. It has an 8MP sensor and f/2.4 aperture lens – just like the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S.

The iPhone 5C has a larger battery than the iPhone 5 and is powered by an A6 chip for what Apple is calling "blazing-fast" performance. A 16GB iPhone 5C will run you $99 with a two-year contract while a 32GB version cost $199.

iPhone 5S

The iPhone 5S comes in a decadent gold color.

Aside from coming in silver, gold and "space grey," the iPhone 5S doesn’t look all that different from its iPhone 5 predecessor, but inside, this device is an entirely different machine. According to Apple, the new A7 processor in the iPhone 5S is two times as fast as its predecessor with CPU and graphics tasks, making the newest iPhone's CPU performance 40x faster than the first iPhone and 56x faster on graphics.

In addition to the A7 processor, Apple has introduced an entirely new part, the M7 "coprocessor," to take advantage of all of the sensors continuously measuring data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. 

Despite the newer, faster hardware, Apple claims iPhone 5S's battery is "the same or better" than the iPhone 5 with 10 hours of 3G talk time, and 250 hours at standby. 

According to Apple, a new, faster processor, means better photos. In iOS 7, the iPhone 5S camera will perform automatic white balance and exposure to create a dynamic local tone map around the image for better highlights and shadows, using an autofocus metering matrix for sharper photos. After taking a series of photos and analyzing them in real time, it will show you the sharpest image.

The new processor also allowed Apple to introduce auto (but still digital, not optical) image stabilization. The new feature can take long exposures by combining multiple images (something that exposure control app makers have been doing for quite some time.) The iPhone 5S also has a burst mode that will take up to 10 photos a second as long as you are holding down the shutter button.

Although still coming in at 8 megapixels, Apple says the iPhone 5S offers a revamped iSight camera that will deliver a total of 33 percent better light sensitivity thanks to a larger sensor size, bigger pixels and wider five element ƒ/2.2 lens. Apple reports the new sensor has a 15 percent larger active area with pixels now measuring 1.5 microns in size. Larger pixels mean each individual pixel collects more light, so the pixel-level image quality should also be improved. This, combined with the 1/3EV brighter lens, should make for better low light photos.

The iPhone 5S features one white and one amber LED light for more true-to-life colors when using flash.

If the new sensor and lens still can't capture your dark scene, the new camera comes coupled with an extra, warmer LED flash which Apple is calling "True Tone Flash." The new flash has over 1,000 unique variations that will automatically change based on your lighting situation.

Interestingly enough, Apple made no mention of megapixels when describing the iPhone 5S camera during the event. Our best guess is that since the iPhone 5S does not have sensor-shocking specs like the Lumia 1020 or Xperia Z1, Apple wants to keep people focused on its other hardware advancements. 

See Apple's first image samples from the phone here.

Spec comparison

iPhone 5C iPhone 5S  iPhone 5
Sensor   8MP CMOS  8MP CMOS (with 1.5µ pixels)  8MP CMOS
Lens length (equivalent)   unknown  unknown  33mm
Aperture   f/2.4  f/2.2  f/2.4
 ISO  unknown unknown   50-1000 (up to 3200 by pixel-binning)
Display   4-inch, 326ppi LCD   4-inch, 326ppi LCD  4-inch, 326ppi LCD
Video   1080p  1080p  1080p
 Flash  Single LED  Dual LED "True tone flash"  Single LED
 Face Detection?  Yes  Yes  Yes
 Stills during video?  Yes  Yes  Yes
 Sapphire lens cover?  Yes  Yes   Yes 
 Burst Mode?  No   Yes  No


Apple is staggering the release of its new phones. The iPhone 5C will be available for pre-order online starting this Friday, September 13th, while the iPhone 5S will be released the following week on the 20th, but only in retail stores at this point. Contract-free, the iPhone 5S will cost $649 for 16GB, $749 for 32GB or $849 for 64GB (with contract: 16GB for $199, 32GB for $299 or 64GB for $399). The iPhone 5C is slightly more affordable at $549 out-of-contract for the 16GB version or $649 for 32GB.

When the iPhone 5 was released last year, Apple was the leader in smartphone photography, but with all of the technological advancements in mobile digital imaging this year, the field has changed dramatically. We look forward to getting the newest flagship device from Apple into our studio to see how it stacks up to today's serious smartphone competition.