iPhone 5 Vs the iPhone 4s: With Photos in mind.

photo by @WineSagasu
photo by @WineSagasu

There are no images of the iPhone 5 in this blog post. I imagine you have seen one by now and know what it looks like. This is certainly not the normal phone review due to some interesting realisations that forced me to change the way I look at comparing the iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5.

Last week I was in Turkey speaking at the European Wine Bloggers Conference and delivering a couple of workshops. Disclaimer: I know nothing about wine. Although I feel like I now know a little bit more. The conference and following excursions were amazing. Taking us into the birthplace of wine. If you blog about, or just enjoy wine and communications you have to get your self to an EWBC event. It was a conference like none other.

One of the workshops I was running was called ‘Getting more from your photos – tips and tricks for getting better images from your mobile device, compact camera or SLR‘.

A few years ago I took the Apple path. There really wasn’t anything to compete with the iPhone back then and now it feels like I am so far down that road it’s too much of a hassle to switch to anything else.

Unedited view from a plane window

As I knew I was going to be singing the praises of photography with mobile devices, I felt I really needed to get the latest and greatest that was available to me. My iPhone 4s is still going strong but the subtle differences in processor speed and the lens glass had me feeling I needed to invest in the iPhone5.

Ordering an unlocked black 64gb iPhone 5 through the Apple store was harder than it should have been. I put my name down on the site hoping for an email that evening but nothing came my way. On the day before my flight I tweeted how hard it was for me to exchange cash for a phone and @VodafoneUK came to the rescue with the offer of a loan phone. [Full disclosure: As well as loaning me a phone they are also sponsoring my data for this year] They told me a white iPhone 5 32gig was on it’s way and would arrive at my home the morning before my flight.

Unedited shot of passenger leaving a plane in Turkey

It did. A box arrived with a shiny new device and it’s expensive newly designed charging cable. I left the headphones wrapped in plastic. As I think many do.

It took a couple hours to get the device app-ed up and ready to go and before I knew it, I was slipping through airport security equipped with both my iPhone 4s and 5.

I started using the two cameras side by side and initially I was really impressed by how much better the images looked on the 5 compared to the 4s. I wanted to show pixel by pixel comparisons on the blog but it soon became apparent that the difference to actual image quality was hardly noticeable. Disappointingly, the difference I was impressed with was the screen quality when viewing on the the better iPhone5 screen. When I placed the phones side by side the colours on the 5 seem richer and warmer than the 4s.

I soon realised I was more interested in how the new phone would affect my workflow and so concentrated on the hardware. All the images in this blog apart from the first of me talking are from the iPhone 5. Some edited with Snapseed.

Photo taken through the window of a moving car and adjusted in Snapseed.

First lets look at some of the physical differences.

The iPhone 5 is taller and thinner but no wider. Of course this renders all my powered cases useless but it still slots nicely into my Scottevest 7.0 which itself is like a large case you can wear. Handling is also lighter thanks to the 5 having an aluminum back instead of the heavier more fragile glass.

The sim slot is now smaller to cater for the fiddly nano sim and the headphone socket has been moved to the base as the new smaller Apple connector has free’d up some space down below.

The 5 is also equipped with 3 microphones taking audio from all round the phone and designed specifically to enhance the voice from any background noise.

The camera on the 5 also has a sapphire crystal lens cover. Much harder than the previous lens and incredibly scratch resistant.

The 4s has a duel core 800Mhz processor and the 5 now has the duel 1Ghz processor that is reported to also be more power efficient as well as faster.

The larger 1136 x 640 screen resolution is a weird ratio but certainly makes for easier photo editing and although larger to view, the phone somehow feels smaller in the hand compared to the 4s.

I am liking the larger shutter button on the screen of the standard camera app and am not one for taking photos with the volume button as I feel lightly touching the screen reduces camera shake.

A chair at a Turkish vinyard

I use a lot of camera apps but have noticed that the HDR function now makes much more sense as the camera on the 5 is so much faster and will take photos as fast as you can hit the shutter. This means that there is less of a delay when taking the multiple exposures needed for HDR so providing the camera and subject is relatively still when shooting, HDR will give you much better latitude in your exposure.

As regards to low light senarios. Any improvement in the 5 appeared to me to be a slight reduction in grain and slightly more realistic colours. Not one for using flash I hear good things but didn’t get a chance to test this.

Editing and adding filters is much less painful as the processor handles the similar sized 8 megapixel images much better on the 5.

The greatest improvement for me when it comes to photography is in fact the results you get from the front facing camera. I was much happier using the front facing camera when uploading small video blogs.

So, to summerise my likes when it comes to the iPhone 5..


Extra row of icons

Improved screen quality

Take photos whilst shooting video

Faster operation and photo processing

Slightly less noise in low light images

Tougher lens

Greatly improved front facing camera

A fisherman on a market in Turkey. Edited with Snapseed

I didn’t add ‘better photos’ to the above list for a reason. The hardware may assist you in getting better photos, but to the untrained eye I don’t think the difference is noticeable when looking at two images, from the two different devices, on the same screen.

If all the likes you see listed impress you, perhaps it’s time for an upgrade.

The cynic in me though feels though that once again Apple has kept back some improvements for the 5s.

That said, I am instinctively reaching for the 5 over the 4s as my workflow is quicker and taking photos on the iPhone 5 certainly feels better.


(Thanks to EWBC for asking me to participate in their amazing conference and to @VodafoneUK for the loan of the iPhone5.)





  1. David Hughes says

    Interesting. I’m sticking with my 4S for now as I now the scratcability of the iPhone 5 will bother me.

    I’d love to know what photo apps you use.