iPhone 5: Iceland

A new iPhone release is always fun but as a travel photographer the most exciting aspect is new & improved abilities of the new camera. The 4S was a pretty big upgrade from the 4 and the iPhone 5 has been expected to be an even bigger jump.

Edited in Snapseed.

We had our hands on iPhone 5s just minutes after their release on Friday… hours later, we were on a flight to Iceland (where we are now) to test out it’s widely-hyped camera upgrades, including it’s all-new panorama feature,  low light capability and unbeknownst to us even it’s “dropability.”



After about 48 hours shooting here in Iceland… I can definitely say, it’s a pretty incredible upgrade.

Panorama Mode: 

I’ve found the panorama feature works insanely well… almost too good. Panoramic images are going to be the next thing and I predict an Instagram-esque service/app that can features iPhone panoramas will explode.  It makes it so fun and easy. As you can see in the image from the plane above, it hands close proximity environments very well but of course any time there are moving objects in your frame there’s going to be trouble (aka people’s faces look morphed.)

It settings like the one below, it works beautifully. This panorama was shot in about 15 seconds, just panning the camera across the landscape as if I was shooting video. The result is a surprisingly sharp, 28 megapixel image.

Panorama mode - unedited

Panorama mode - unedited

Edited in Snapseed.   

Edited in Snapseed.


Panorama Mode - unedited

Panorama Mode - unedited

Holding the iPhone 5 is a tad bit unwieldy to any previous iPhone user…  For starters, it’s lighter and just feels like a toy but secondly the taller proportion just feels strange and takes awhile to get used to (haven’t yet.)  When shooting the panoramas, the on-screen arrow makes it super easy to stay level and it shows you a live preview of your pano as you create it… a feature I have yet to see in any dSLR. I did find that holding the phone with cold, wet hands it was very difficult to keep images sharp.

Low-light Capability:

Probably the most impressive aspect of the new phone is it’s low light performance. It’s a drastic improvement from it’s predecessor, the 4S.  Noise-level are much more subtle and w/ it’s much faster lens it’s ability to focus in near dark is really wonderful.



I did find that the though the panorama feature was able to stitch together an image well in low light, the grain was significantly higher and the image all around darker than a single frame.


Fast Shutter Fire

Shooting speed has SIGNIFICANTLY increased… One of the big bummer with the iPhone 4S was the ability to shoot frames in rapid succession was very limited. With the iPhone 5 I’ve found I can hit the shutter about as fast as possible and it keeps up pretty well.  See the series of images shot very quickly below:




Late September in Iceland is not a friendly place for any electronics… this is a time that puts your gear to the test whether you like it or not.  Just in the last 2 days of shooting here, I’ve had my iPhone 5 covered in water from shooting near a waterfall and Jordan has dropped his directly in the mud. Both seem to be working fine.



World Phone

One huge bonus of traveling and shooting with the 5 is it’s “world phone” capabilities… meaning it comes carrier unlocked.  We were at Nova shop (major wireless provider here in Iceland) shortly after landing getting new SIM cards. After the staff “ooed and awed” over seeing their first iPhone 5, we had data an voice rockin’ in no time. One minor issue is the iPhone 5’s new Nano SIM but it was nothing a pair of scissors couldn’t fix. After we received our Micro SIM from the carrier, we were able to successfully cut down the Micro and fit it into the Nano SIM slot with no problems.

You might wonder why I even mention this in a review primarily geared toward the camera but I see them as one-and-the-same. The truth is that most images from many photographers, professionals and hobbyists alike, are being seen somewhere on the web minutes after being created.  The ability to easily connect your device in a foreign land is huge. It not only means easily posting images to Instagram but also staying in contact with people on the ground and navigating your course of exploration!


I used Snapseed almost exclusively for my iPhone editing. It’s super capable, easy-to-use and fun. On the iPhone 5 I found the Snapseed edits are super fast but a little unstable… not sure if it’s an iOS6 thing or something related to the iPhone 5 itself.  Whatever it is, NIK needs to push out a software update pretty quick… some of the glitches are just annoying and others apply weird pixel patterns to images when you save them rendering them unusable.




The era in which people specify “shot on iPhone” is coming to end. It doesn’t matter any more… you can no longer say “look what I did with this crippled device!”… because, well, it’s no longer crippled. In fact, it does things your big fancy SLR can’t. Apple hasn’t let us down with the capabilities of the 5 and I can’t wait to see the images you all create on this thing this next year.

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travel blog: austinmann.com/trek

video & tons of help from: jor.by


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