iPhone 5 camera promises better resolution, better low-light performance

Apple's iPhone 5 camera gets some enhanced software

Apple's new iPhone 5 sports a better, faster camera with enhanced still and video capabilities and improved low-light performance.

While the camera is still 8 megapixels, like the previous 4S model, its resolution is now 3264-by-2448 on a retina display, offering backside illumination, a hybrid IR filter, a five-element lens, and a fast f/2.4 aperture. A new dynamic low-light mode can sense dim light and boost the aperture by two stops.

A new optical system includes precision lens alignment, which Apple says is measured down to the micron level. For the first time, a sapphire crystal lens cover helps protect the camera's lens to make images clearer and sharper. The ability to take macro and close-up photos has also improved.

A new image signal processor is built into the iPhone 5's new A6 chip, and Apple says that the camera is 40 percent faster than its predecessor. Spatial noise reduction removes noise via a smart filter that looks at images and performs noise reduction and figures out which areas should be of uniform color or texture. That improves low-light performance, overall.

On the software side, there's now a panorama capability for up to 28-megapixel panos. The process, as demonstrated in the keynote, is easy. Just tap, hold the phone vertically, and sweep the scene you want to capture. Software tells you what pace to move it at, on the fly. The software is designed to compensate for camera movement and some jerky motion.

The new Shared Photo Streams feature lets you gather images to share with share images with friends and family via iCloud or via the Web and accepts comments and Likes.

The iPhone 5 features improvements in video as well. Alongside the 1080p HD video, there's also improved video stabilization, face detection for up to ten faces, plus you can shoot still photos while recording video.

The front-facing camera is now FaceTime HD 720p with backside illumination. FaceTime over cellular which promises better quality conversations.

Article updated at 11:42 a.m. to add details about Shared Photo Streams feature.

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