The iPhone 5 is not only equipped with an iSight camera with an f/2.4 lens that takes great 8 megapixel pictures, but also records incredible 1080p HD video as well. The FaceTime camera has also been improved and will finally record 720p HD video. Of all the improvements to video recording with the iPhone 5, however, the ability to take photos while simultaneously shooting video is definitely the cherry on top.
To see examples of the iPhone 5's cameras in action, check out the video above! Then follow along for my full review of the iPhone 5 video cameras.
Video recording with the iPhone 5
One of the noticeable changes you'll see when recording video with the iPhone 5 is that the UI has been adjusted to take advantage of the screen's 16:9 aspect ratio. The video you're recording will completely fill the screen and all your controls will appear as transparent buttons so that you can see everything that's being recorded. While recording video, there are only 3 items on the screen, the record button, the elapsed time, and a new button for taking pictures.
Simultaneously recording video and taking photos with the iPhone 5
One of the special features of the iPhone 5 is the ability to take photos while simultaneously shooting 1080p HD video. To do so, simply tap the camera icon while recording video. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the camera shutter was very fast even when recording video at the same time. As is demonstrated in the video, it's super easy to rapidly take photos while recording video.
Sound too good to be true? Well, there is a minor catch. The resolution of the photos you take while recording video will be less than those taken in photo mode. Specifically, photos taken with the still camera are 3264x 2448px (4:3 ratio), but the photos captured while recording video are 1920x1080px (16:9 ratio).
Personally, I have opted out of recording video in the past because I didn't want to miss out on a great photo, but now that I can take photos while recording video, that'll never happen again. I'm not concerned with the loss of resolution because the photos I'll be taking while recording video are meant for memories and sharing online, so 1920px wide is good enough. I'd rather have lower-resolution photos while recording video than no photos while recording video.
Front facing camera quality of the iPhone 5
Although the main iSight camera on the iPhone 5 didn't receive any big upgrades in quality, the front-facing camera has greatly improved. For the first time, the iPhone's FaceTime camera now records in 720p HD video. It's definitely not as good as the rear-facing iSight camera, but compared to it's predecessor, the new FaceTime camera does a phenomenal job. In the past, I've just recorded myself with the rear-facing camera even though I couldn't see myself just because I hated the poor quality of the front-facing camera. Not anymore. If I need to record myself talking to the camera, I'll use the front-facing camera from here on out.
Low-light video recording with the iPhone 5
A big weakness of every iPhone's video camera has been the quality of video that was recorded in low-light scenarios. Unfortunately, but as expected, this continues to be a weakness with the iPhone 5. Although special situations, like the clip of the burning candle, can produce stunning results, everyday poor indoor lighting will result in low-quality, grainy videos. You can still capture memories, but the quality won't be anything to brag about.
The bottom line
The iPhone 5 may not have received a huge boost in quality over the iPhone 4S, but since the iPhone 4S does a great job at recording 1080p HD video, that's ok. The beauty is that the same great quality is delivered in a much thinner package. Additionally, the larger screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio improves upon the video recording experience. Although the rear-facing iSight camera didn't receive significant improvements over the iPhone 4S, including in low-light, there's no denying that the front-facing FaceTime camera on the iPhone 5 blows the iPhone 4S away. Of all the changes, however, my absolute favorite is the ability to take photos while recording video.
The iPhone 5 is simply the best portable video camera I've ever owned.