A Rear- and Front-Facing Camera Comparison of iPhone 4, 4s and 5

My iPhone 5 arrived yesterday to much surprised rejoicing. It wasn’t slated to arrive until Thursday, but I wasn’t complaining. After I set up the phone using my iCloud, I did what I always do first: I started messing with the cameras.

I found it incredibly hard not to upgrade and get the 4s when I was eligible this past March. However, we had just purchased our new home and I was being fiscally responsible. My husband upgraded to the 4s just a couple of months ago, and the difference between the camera on the 4 and the 4s made me extremely jealous. But still, I waited.

And I’m greatly pleased.

I’m also pleased that the weather has been rather dull, cloudy and raining for the past two days. Why? Testing the iPhone 5 camera in dimly lit situations really lets me see what this camera is capable of, and how it compares to the older models.

As we all know, the front camera on the iPhone is exponentially crappier than the main, rear-facing camera. I’ve never read a good explanation as to why this happens, but it’s just the truth. A marked improvement can be seen on the front-facing camera if you take it in just the right light, at just the right angle. Trying to take one on a cloudy day? In the shade? Twilight? Inside at night? Good luck! Hope you like lotsa pixels! Any improvement over the grainy, crappy front-facing camera on my 4 was going to make me happy.

But the improvement is quite evident. Since we now have a 4, 4s and iPhone 5 in the house, I thought I would take a photo with each front-facing camera in our dimly lit living room to show a full comparison of the improvements.

iPhone Front Camera Collage
Left to Right: iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, front-facing camera.

These photos were taken in the same place, facing the same direction, all within seconds of each other. As the sun was not out at all on this day, there were no cases of “well, the sun must have come out from behind the clouds to light this one differently.” No inside lights were on or were turned on during these photos.


And so, I’m not sure why the iPhone 4 bursts the brightness and turns everything blue. The iPhone 4s is markedly, beyond words, better than the 4, but there’s a blur, some obviously pixelization and a red tone to the photo. The iPhone 5 photo is crisper and truer to color, though my son is obviously “over it.”

And so I can conclude that the iPhone 5 performs much better in dimly lit situations when it comes to the front-facing camera.

But what about the rear-facing camera?

iPhone Rear Camera Collage
Left to Right: iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, rear-facing camera.

Again, I’m not sure why the iPhone 4 made my son purple, but it sure did. There’s obviously something going on with a boost of the ISO to make up for the low-light that is messing with the white balance. But man, I promise you that he is not turning violet, Violet. Next, there’s obviously a huge difference from the iPhone 4 to the 4s, giving us better colors and a crisper image. Finally, I went with the first shot I took from my iPhone 5 because… well, it’s not perfect. While this image might actually show his true skin tone (oh-so-pale), the image itself is less bright than the 4s. Does that mean the 5 is actually the better, truer image? Probably. But the boost, however orange, in the 4s makes up a bit more for the dim light situation. Of course, the 5 is crisper and of a better quality, so I’ll take the 5, edit it a bit in the Photoshop Express app and call it a day.

Edited in Photoshop Express

I’m deeply pleased with the camera on the iPhone 5, especially since I went from the 4 to the 5 without a stop on the S-train. While other reviews are complaining that the differences between the 4s and the 5 aren’t “big enough,” I haven’t seen one that compares the low-light photos like I have here. Everyone knows that the iPhone can take fine photos in decent lighting. The low-light comparison makes the purchase worth it, in my opinion. There is a change, it is an improvement, and whether or not it’s “worth it” for you to purchase will be up to you.

By the way, my favorite iOs 6 feature is Do Not Disturb. Read why.


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5 Replies to “A Rear- and Front-Facing Camera Comparison of iPhone 4, 4s and 5”

    1. If I knew what box it was packed in (from the move), I could have done a comparison from 3GS on up. You know, if I wanted afraid a shard of glass would cut me while I pressed the camera button. HA!

  1. Great post. I went from a Droid2 to the 4S and have been very happy with it. I wasn’t really considering jumping to the 5, so I’m glad to read that the difference isn’t too drastic.

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