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How does the iPhone 5 camera compare to previous iPhone cameras?
See our previous comparison for the iPhone 4S and our updated comparison of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s.

Photo comparisons from all iPhone version cameras taken with Camera+ (First generation iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S, and the new iPhone 5) in three situations showing both the original photo and a detailed view (zoomed to 100%) of each photo:
  1. A well lit macro setting to test detail and quality of the cameras
  2. A skyline shot to test sharpness and saturation
  3. A candle lit low light macro photo to test noise.

It's clear from the detail shots that the iPhone 5 produces sharper photos with more accurate white balance, contrast, and saturation.
Macro comparison
Macro - Original iPhone
Macro - iPhone 3G
Macro - iPhone 3GS
Macro - iPhone 4
Macro - iPhone 4S
Macro - iPhone 5
Skyline comparison
Skyline - Original iPhone
Skyline - iPhone 3G
Skyline - iPhone 3GS
Skyline - iPhone 4
Skyline - iPhone 4S
Skyline - iPhone 5
Low light macro comparison
Low light macro - Original iPhone
Low light macro - iPhone 3G
Low light macro - iPhone 3GS
Low light macro - iPhone 4
Low light macro - iPhone 4S
Low light macro - iPhone 5
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  • requieminadream  Sep 28, 2012  

    Wow, love that skyline shot. Amazing detail!

  • Phil  Sep 28, 2012  

    Can you provide EXIF information for each comparison photos? I am particularly curious about low light iPhone 5 performance, which has expanded ISO range (up to 3200). And is it true that ISO speed beyond 800 is not available to third party apps like Camera+?

  • kormos endre  Sep 28, 2012  

    A few "Reference shots" with a better DSLR would have been great, too.

  • Cali Mag  Sep 28, 2012  

    5 looks great but I had forgot how much of a game changer the camera in the 3GS was

  • Jack  Sep 28, 2012  

    How problematic is the Jimmy Hendrix "Purple Haze" surprise filter? I still believe the iPhone 5 is a myth myself, can't find a single one in my area!

  • Amit  Sep 28, 2012  

    Amazing comparison. iPhone 5 is clearly sharper.

  • Devan Hammack  Sep 28, 2012

  • Nitin Alabur  Sep 28, 2012  

    Honestly, if you are looking at not missing a shot, iPhone5 is a must. With the phone in standby/locked screen, compare the time it takes you to take the first pic. You'll see a huge difference between 4S and 5! Also burst mode is much better in 5. HDR processing takes lesser time. (every aspect, 5 is better)

  • Max D. Zellmer  Sep 28, 2012  

    Thank you very much for this!

  • Jeremy  Sep 28, 2012  

    Great article. Love all of the comparisons and that you included the detail shot too!

  • Richie  Sep 28, 2012  

    Great to see all the iterations! Good stuff, thanks :o)

  • Michael H Reed  Sep 28, 2012  

    Incredible how they have advanced, thanks and great article.

  • Aero Pics  Sep 28, 2012  

    Very helpful comparison - thank you for this. It seems to me highlights are still blowing out a bit even - or perhaps more so - in the iPhone 5.

  • DJ SAAD 3DJZ  Sep 28, 2012  

    4s & 5 are more close to each other ;) Nice features Though!

  • Sam Figueroa  Sep 28, 2012  

    Thanks for this post. very cool resource.

  • Alessandro Zotta  Sep 28, 2012  

    The last picture is so yellow! :/

  • Mark  Sep 28, 2012  

    Iphone 5 + Lisa Pictures = <3 !!!

  • Michael Richardson  Sep 28, 2012  

    Now provide comparison shots to the Galaxy S3 and HTC Rezound to really bring it home. Great job though. Interesting how the 5 is actually a regression in a couple areas. Low-light seems to be the biggest (and maybe the only substantial) improvement. Since the 4, the differences have been marginal at best otherwise.

  • Barbara Gentry  Sep 28, 2012  

    Thank you for taking the time to do this comparison, I am in the market for iPhone 5 mid Oct 2012, helps me make that final decision Cheers, Barbara Gentry

  • JamesMandy  Sep 28, 2012  

    it has a major flaw however, if you point the iphone 5 at the a bright light source, you get a purple haze on some angles. :(

  • Hwisteen Park  Sep 28, 2012  

    When can we get this lovely iPhone5 in South Korea?

  • iphone_lover  Sep 28, 2012  

    how can all the pictures taken with diff phones have the same cloud positioning.. they must have moved..

  • Nathan  Sep 29, 2012  

    @iphone_lover...check the positioning again. They very clearly moved.

  • PS007  Sep 29, 2012  

    Better white balance, slightly sharper lens but same noise

  • M^2  Sep 29, 2012  

    Very Good Comparison. However I do feel IPhone 5 Images look better.

  • ionica  Sep 29, 2012  


  • Jason  Sep 29, 2012  

    Sony is currently the sensor maker for the iPhone 5. Interestingly enough.

  • محمد  Sep 29, 2012  

    كلوا تبن ندري انه افضل شيء لا تزعجونا

  • Denevans  Sep 29, 2012  

    Very useful. Thanks Lisa!

  • Vladimir Campos  Sep 29, 2012  

    Www, very nice!

  • Rashed Hamed  Oct 1, 2012  

    Woooowwwww nice

  • humaid  Oct 1, 2012  

    Ahaaa iPhone 4S good

  • StuFF mc  Oct 1, 2012  

    It's amazing how revolutionary the 3GS was....

  • Malaka Jayawardene  Oct 1, 2012  

    Excellent work of comparison! 5 stands out from the rest it seems! I couldn't help but notice that iPhone 4 had better natural colors (not details) coming closer to the 5 than the 4S.. Correct me if I'm wrong..

  • Bob Robert Fatone  Oct 2, 2012  

    wow . . impressive, big differences in quality - nicely put-together article and images - thanx.

  • Bob Robert Fatone  Oct 2, 2012  

    wow . . impressive, big differences in image quality - much better than most would expect - a nicely put together compilation/article and photo images - thanx.

  • olcayto onder  Oct 2, 2012  

    I have canon 5d mark lll but for daily photo I am going to use 4s...

  • Lekh Nath Poudel  Oct 10, 2012  

    Thank you so much for your brilliant Work !!!!!

  • IonBuck  Jan 8, 2013  

    Is it just me or the iPhone 5 produced more noise than the 4s in the skyline shot (in the sky)? Too many pixels squeezed into a small sensor?

  • Boinng  Apr 20, 2013  

    Re all the "the 3GS was a revolutionary game changer" comments - really what the 3GS was, was simply the first iPhone with autofocus. The previous two were fixed focus, which is why they're hopeless at macro and any detail shot is going to show them up. It has to be said, the iPhone appears to have come such a long way mostly because the camera in the first two was so bad - even at the time it was seriously below par and far behind its rivals (autofocus was long standard on smartphones when the first iPhone came out).

  • Arthur  Apr 30, 2013  

    Original and 3G iPhone cameras totally sucked, later they slowly caught up with the competition or in reality the competition downgraded to match them (Samsung downgraded the camera to 5 MP for it's Galaxy S in order to match the one in iPhone 4, even though it had it's flagshipps packed with awesome 8 mp cameras for 2 years before Galaxy S...) - I know, marketing sucks...

  • topnee  May 8, 2013  

    wow you have all the iphone and it still work. Awesome

  • Crisolaiji  May 10, 2013  

    Take it or leave it!!! i5 is really GREAT!!!

  • Gwizz  May 10, 2013  

    The guitar tuner photo on the first to iPhones just seem out of focus. Look at the tuners in the background, they are sharper than the one in the foreground. That does not seem to be a fair comparison.

  • MrVidelog  May 10, 2013  

    Great! Amazing comparison. iPhone 5 is clearly sharper.

  • Marco  May 10, 2013  

    Are you sure you didn't mix up the 2G and 3G in the skyline comparison? In the comparison shot (where you see al six photos together), the 3G is clearly sharper than the 2G. However, in the detailed skyline camera shot, the 2G seems to be a lot sharper than the 3G shot. So it seems to me you have mixed them up.

  • John  May 10, 2013  


  • Tinny  May 10, 2013  

    Maybe the skyline of original iphone and 3g are swapped? Original seems better than 3g

  • Ahmed Taiseer  May 10, 2013  

    iPhone 5 for sure :)

  • Ahmad  May 10, 2013  

    Thanks for this And i now want iphone5 camera vs new galaxy s4 camera pics

  • Patrick  May 11, 2013  

    I think, the 4S delivers the best results - I often noticed that on my own devices. Especially when you look closely on the low light macro pictures...

  • Ben  May 13, 2013  

    All macros, especially the guitar one are not usable because the iPhone & iPhone 3G require a larger distance than all following iPhones. You can only use these photos to compare the distance required for a sharp macro but then you had to move each iPhone to the correct position, which you did not. Just check the guitar photos taken with iPhone and iPhone 3G. Both have focused at the right side of the guitar (back) while all other iPhones focused at the left side (front). Thanks for the comparsion but this is not a very good one. Additionally if you check the Skyline comparsion and the actual photos you took, you can see that you mixed up at least the detail images of the iPhone and iPhone 3G.

  • Chris  May 13, 2013  


  • Danilo  May 13, 2013  

    Great comparison work Lisa ! Great work Apple, thinking that the (Sony ?) sensor costed appox 20 dollars .....

  • _lars  May 14, 2013  

    The comparison is unfair to the older iphones. Some of the macro photos are simply out of focus.

  • Gary Berkowitz  May 14, 2013  

    Remarcable quality and acurate color. Nice test.

  • Gusti R. Madya  May 14, 2013  

    That's why I love my iphone 5 :)

  • Eduardo Mendoza  May 14, 2013  

    How about comparing the iPhone 5 vs An Xperia ZL and a Nikon Coolpix P7700?

  • GB  May 15, 2013  

    wonder what next !

  • Rozan Sam  May 15, 2013  

    Those are some really wonderful comparison, really great post. I have been using your app I and truly love it. Do you happen to have any good idea about the free iPad app Loopster which also does wonders to videos,

  • bobParker  May 15, 2013  

    Great study. I only wish ... because it was so well done, to see it compared to all other phones. You don't need sleep do you?

  • Kathy  May 15, 2013  

    An eye opener. Thanks!!!

  • Nina  May 17, 2013  

    I loved the skyline photos that my original iPhone took - what kind of lens is it that creates that look? The 5 might be more 'perfect' but there's something sexy about the original. Thanks

  • Rogério R  May 20, 2013  

    Ok, the iPhone 5 images is good, but if you want take an amazing photo in every light situation and quality, the Nokia Lumia 925 or 928 is the best.

  • Hiro  May 21, 2013  

    When I had a 3GS in Japan, some of the Japanese phone camera had 16M pixel. iPhone's real invention is not a camera itself.

  • charlotte tibbs  May 22, 2013  

    progress! good, some things get better with time, huh!

  • Stevy  May 23, 2013  

    Thank you for sharing, but i think normal hand shoots are much worse :) Even with my digital camera with a much bigger lense isn't able to shoot such pictures.

  • Rehan Memon  Jul 5, 2013  

    But We Can Not Compare This With Sony Experia Z It Has 31.1 MP

  • Abdullah Alsubhi  Jul 9, 2013  

    Amazing :)

  • Neo  Feb 18, 2015  

    Thank you Lisa! That sure helped and amazing creativity :-)

  • Thiwanka  Aug 28, 2015  

    Thanks dude

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