Camera Quality: Better In Low Light; Purple Flare "Normal"
Like the iPhone 4S before it, the iPhone 5 continues employing an 8 MP sensor. Apple claims a number of improvements, though, such as the ability to take pictures 40% faster (though it isn't immediately clear which of the camera subsystem's specifications was improved to enable this).
How significant is the faster camera? In the video below, we show you how the iPhone 4S, One X, and Galaxy S III compare. If you spam the capture button on any of them, you're going to generate a lot of pictures, and none of them seem to slow down. Moreover, if you're moving, even on the iPhone 5, it's possible to snap shots before the camera has a chance to focus.
In our opinion, then, the real-world value of Apple's marketing claim is pretty weak. We'd be much more interested in a solution able to refocus 40% faster, increasing the liklihood of snapping shots in quick succession that actually look good. To that end, we have to call out HTC's One X, which offers a continuous shooting mode able to capture in-focus images, quickly, even if you're on the move.
Speed aside, the iPhone 5’s camera does handle low-light situations much better than its predecessor. If you take a picture at night, the subject should turn out better-defined. We were able to reproduce the purple flare that develops when you're facing a strong source of light, however. Depending on your shot, it ranges from mildly annoying to completely disruptive. In the middle of the day in California, the sun's glare is pretty darned obvious. In the shot below, we're only looking at the effect in the early afternoon, so it's less intense.
iPhone 4S: Rear-Facing 8 MP Camera
iPhone 5: Rear-Facing 8 MP Camera