iPhone 5S Review: Patagonia
Last year when the iPhone 5 was released, we got a couple of them and flew to Iceland to field test it's camera against the iPhone 4S. So this year, we decided to do it again.
Now, after a full week of testing the iPhone 5S in Patagonia I'm beyond impressed with what it can do. We had our hands on two iPhone 5S's just minutes after they were released… a couple days later, we were bound for Patagonia to field to test the iPhone 5S camera against it's predecessor the iPhone 5. All the fancy new features like fingerprint scan are nice and nifty but as a travel photographer, all I really care about is what this camera can do.
We climbed mountains, hiked to glaciers, slept in the wilderness… all the while documenting it with these two awesome little camera phones… can't wait to share the results!
Ever since Apple released the panorama feature w/ the iPhone 5, shooting them has been a blast. They are easy, look great and are an invaluable tool for capturing scenes wider than the built in 30mm lens.
The iPhone 5S meters panoramas dynamically, in a single exposure. Meaning, if I'm shooting a scene with a broad range of brightness (maybe dark mountains on my left and bright sunlight sky on the right) it will actually change exposure/capture settings within the same capture (not HDR) to better accommodate.
What it's doing here is really quite remarkable. Take a look at the 5 vs 5S comparison below.
As you can see, the dynamic metering significantly impacts one's ability to accurately capture the breadth of lights & darks in a single scene. Time and time again I shot panoramas ranging across darker and lighter areas and this new feature worked beautifully.
Burst mode is an awesome new feature that allows you to easily capture up to 10 frames per second. I knew I wanted to test this but wasn't sure how… On our Patagonia adventure, we based out of El Calafate and stayed in a home with an awesome little Argentinian family. As we left, I decided to take a family picture of them and what better way to test burst mode?
Any photographer knows shooting pictures of families can always be a challenge… inevitably someone is blinking or looking way and your always left wondering… did I get a perfect shot? With burst mode, I was able to shoot 30+ images in just 3 seconds and then easily choose my favorite. This is a seriously awesome feature and works just like you might hope.
Slow motion video on this thing is no joke. At 120FPS, the iPhone 5S matches the popular GoPro in it's slow-mo capability. It's a lot of fun to play with and offers a unique effect for all sorts of different applications.
Below are a couple of examples of the iPhone 5S slo-mo. I ran these threw SlowPro, a nifty little iOS app to slow down & speed up iPhone footage.
Dynamic Processing Range
The 5S dynamic range… that is, the ability to pull detail out of the shadows & highlights in editing, is remarkably better. I'm constantly sculpting images to bring out the details I want to see… that means bringing up shadows, recovering detail in skies, sharpening where needed and more.
Below is a side-by-side example of a frame shot of the Torres Del Paine peaks.
As you can see, after I applied the curves to lighten the midtones, it revealed a lack of clarity and a blotchiness in the iPhone 5 image. But the 5S held strong with crisp edges, far more detail and trueness to color.
Speed: Shooting & Processing
Shutter lag is non-existent.
When you touch the button to fire the shutter, it fires… instantaneously. The iPhone 5 was great but there's a good half second of shutter lag in there. Also when shooting HDRs, it takes a second to capture & save the HDR frame. On the iPhone 5S there's virtually no difference in speed between HDR and non-HDR captures… they are simply immediate.
Also, processing speed in Snapseed or Filterstorm is really fun because it's so dang fast! Making a change to a big panorama can happen almost instantaneously, too. The power inside this thing just blows my mind.
Below is a gallery of side by side comparison images… The iPhone 5 image is first, 5S is second. In general, you'll see increased detail and better exposure. You'll also notice some of the 5S images are a bit flatter… less contrast. Photographers will liken this to a RAW image, which doesn't look as nice off the bat bat but has a lot more flexibility for editing on the backend.
This iPhone 5S beats out the 5 in every camera test and in many ways I prefer it to my DSLR. Sure it has its pros & cons… but for the first time ever, I didn't bring my Canon 1DX and I didn't regret it one bit. That's saying a lot.
The quiet beauty behind the iPhone 5S is what I find most powerful. The upgrades they made here aren't ones that sell phones… instead, they focused on making the pictures better, even if it's silent innovations in features no one even knows about… it's not max megapixels or other flashy specs. The results are amazing and at the end of the day, people are going to really like the pictures coming from their iPhone 5S… and that's really all that matters!