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Specs and Info about the iPhone's Digital Camera

Megapixels measure a camera’s resolution, or picture sharpness, which is particularly important to folks who want to blow up prints well beyond snapshot size. The iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel camera. The camera on the iPhone 4s, 5, 5c, and 5s jumps to 8 megapixels. If you’ve been shopping for a digital camera of any type, you’re aware that megapixels are marketed like chocolate chips: The more of them, the better. But that may not always be true (for cameras, not cookies). Although the number of megapixels matters, so do a bevy of other factors, including lens quality and shutter lag.

According to Apple, the 1/3-inch sensor in the 4s can capture 73 percent more light than its predecessor, to produce stunning 8-x-10-inch or smaller prints. And to reduce distortion, the iPhone 4s has five custom lens elements versus the four lens elements in the iPhone 4. In addition, the larger f/2.4 aperture lets more light in than its immediate predecessor. The 4s also has face detection, which helps the camera figure out whether you’re shooting a portrait or taking a picture of a whole bunch of folks at once. Such optical improvements mean that the camera in the 4s rivals many decent stand-alone point-and-shoot models.

The iPhone 5 includes a dynamic low-light mode that can detect dim surroundings. Apple states that the iPhone 5 can also examine surrounding pixels and deduce when pixels may be out of place, such as an image of the sky with a single green pixel in a sea of blue pixels. The camera in the 5c is equally solid. But the grand prize winner here is the vaunted iSight camera in the new 5s. It sports extra-large pixels (1.5 microns) that, coupled with an f/2.2 aperture, let in about a third more light compared to the prior generation, according to Apple.

This all sounds great in theory, but the bottom line is whether or not you will be satisfied with the images you shoot. Most of you will be more than satisfied most of the time, especially if you use the most recent model. Still, keep your expectations in check and don’t expect to produce poster-size images.

Few camera phones hold a candle to the iPhone when it comes to showing off images. Apple’s iPhones of recent vintage exploit something marketers call retina display, leading to really sharp characters. The backlit 3.5-inch displays on the iPhone 4 and 4s boast 960-x-640 pixels. The 4-inch iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s offers 1136-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi (pixels per inch).

Apple has left some room for quibbling, though. Many rival smartphones, especially models in the Google-backed Android camp, a competitor to iOS, now flirt with and sometimes exceed 5-inch displays. Not everyone will appreciate the trade-offs associated with the larger devices in terms of bulk, battery life, and screens that don’t always measure up in quality. But to be fair, many of those ginormous displays are lovely too.

But enough about that — you’re going to be very happy taking pictures with the 4-inch display on the newer iPhones, and love the way most of the images look.

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