Apple reinvents the iPhone iSight camera with the 5s model

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Apple wants what you want: better pictures. And with that, it has debuted some brand new technologies for the new iPhone 5s model's iSight camera.

Built on the iPhone 5's 8-megapixel camera, the iPhone 5s camera features a new, five-element Apple-designed lens that carries a larger f/2.2 aperture, accompanied by a new sensor with a 15 percent larger active area. And because it's all in the pixels—and because larger pixels capture more light for better images—the pixels on this sensor measure 1.5 microns, larger than iPhone 5's and larger than other smartphones', according to Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, who did the camera presentation.

These new camera features are designed to work with the new iOS 7, scheduled for release next week, and takes advantage of the new OS to promote the advanced image capabilities of the iPhone's 64-bit A7 system-on-a-chip processor.

But there's more. Before you shoot, the iPhone now tends to such hobbyist concerns as auto white balance and auto exposure, creating a dynamic local tone map around the image to achieve better highlights and shadows. Autofocus matrix metering results in increased sharpness. The phone offers built-in image stabilization by taking multiple photos in a shot, and analyzing them in real time for sharpness, to determine the final shot it serves up.

All of these image characteristics are of major concern to iPhoneographers who, like many smartphone users, carry the phone as their primary camera at all times.

Apple's Phil Schiller demos the new iPhone 5s iSight camera.

A new True Tone Flash tops off the features. When you take a flash picture, the usual problem is that the ambient light varies in color temperature—fluorescent is cooler and bluer; incandescent is yellower. The new flash in iPhone 5S solves such problems with two LEDs, one a cooler white one and another a warmer one. Over 1000 unique variations of the two give you the appropriate color flash for wherever you're shooting, Schiller said.

With the new burst mode, the camera shoots 10 frames per second for as long as you hold down the shutter. In two seconds, for example, it will take 20 photos. The phone analyzes these shots in real time, presenting what it determines might be your favorite shot, but you can select any of the other shots you want.

Finally, for video aficionados, the camera lets you shoot scenes with slow motion and captures HD video at 720p at 120fps. It even lets you adjust exposure as you shoot your panorama.

The front side has a new FaceTime HD camera that's even better in low-light, with bigger pixels and better backside illumination, and is interoperable with FaceTime audio.

New iOS 7 Photos interface

With iOS 7 comes a new version of the iPhone camera roll. Its new icon underscores the many updates in the new app. You can swipe between different cameras such as square camera camera, and pano alongside live filters that you can apply before you take your shot.

Instead of a flat Camera Roll, photos are automatically grouped into moments, collections, and years. For example, under Photos, tap on a year, and it springs out to collections of images shot at a specific place and time. Tap to enlarge that view and then select the image you want to open. Swipe to see each image in the collection in sequence.

New iOS 7 photo organization

The albums view shows you the familiar camera roll, while Panoramas and videos are automatically separated into their own albums.

Sharing also got easier in iOS 7: Tap to bring up the Share sheet, and then survey the usual options. However, if you want to share with the people around you, you can now share via AirDrop with secure P2P Wi-Fi.

Finally, there's iCloud Shared Streams (Shared Photo Streams) that will let multiple people contribute photos to a collection. They can add images and video into the stream, and you'll also be able to see what friends and family have posted recently in the Shared Streams’ new Activity view.

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