Here's how the new iPod touch camera compares to Apple's best!

The new iPod touch 6 has an 8 megapixel iSight camera, much bigger and better than 5 megapixel shooter on the previous generation iPod touch 5. It's also backed by the Image Signal Processor (ISP) in the mighty Apple A8 system-on-a-chip. It remains ƒ/2.4, however, and very small and very thin. So, how well does this new iSight work? We took it out for a shoot and put it up against the last iPod touch, and the 8mp, Apple A8-powered iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6 to find out!

Apple, the camera company

Apple makes the most popular cameras in the world—most of them in the form of iPhones. That same emphasis increasingly permeates the company's other mobile devices as well, first the iPad Air 2, and now the new iPod touch 6.

What makes Apple devices so popular is that they don't just take good everyday photos, they're connected. They run iOS, which means they have access to all the photo sharing and editing apps on the App Store. The iPod touch especially is incredibly easy to fit in a pocket and hold in your hand while composing a shot, and every bit as easy to iMessage, to Instagram, to Waterlogue, to turn into a Photos book, or to do with what you will.

This year's iPod touch 6 should get better, cleaner results than the previous iPod touch 5. That's due to both the increased megapixel count and the huge leap from Apple A5 to Apple A8 processors. That includes the Image Signal Processor (ISP) that reads the data off the sensor, analyzes it, and does all sorts of calculations to make sure the resulting photo is as well balanced, exposed, and focused as possible.

The iPad 2 has an Apple A8X rather than an A8, but the difference there is in GPU so, all other things being equal, it should produce the same results. The iPhone 6 has the same megapixel count and Apple A8 processor, but a better ƒ/2.2 aperture and a bigger 1.5µ pixel size. That should make a difference in low light.

To test them out, I shot multiple sample photos with HDR on, flash off, with the built-in Camera app to see if reality meets expectations.

Still photography

Here's a still, overcast, in order: iPod touch 6 (top left), iPod touch 5 (top right), iPad Air 2 (bottom left), iPhone 6 (bottom right):

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 iPod touch 6iPod touch 5iPad Air 2iPhone 6
Focal length3.3mm3.3mm3.3mm4.15mm
Exposure time1/301/241/301/30

Macro photography

Here are sample macros, overcast, in order: iPod touch 6 (top left), iPod touch 5 (top right), iPad Air 2 (bottom left), iPhone 6 (bottom right):

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 iPod touch 6iPod touch 5iPad Air 2iPhone 6
Focal length3.3mm3.3mm3.3mm4.15mm
Exposure time1/151/151/151/17

Low light photography

Here are sample low-lights, indoors, in order: iPod touch 6 (top left), iPod touch 5 (top right), iPad Air 2 (bottom left), iPhone 6 (bottom right):

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 iPod touch 6iPod touch 5iPad Air 2iPhone 6
Focal length3.3mm3.3mm3.3mm4.15mm
Exposure time1/151/151/151/15

Panoramic photography

Here are sample panoramas, overcast, in order: iPod touch 6 (top left), iPod touch 5 (top right), iPad Air 2 (bottom left), iPhone 6 (bottom right):

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 iPod touch 6iPod touch 5iPad Air 2iPhone 6
Focal length3.3mm3.3mm3.3mm4.15mm

The bottom line

Much like 2012 when Leanna Lofte shot our iPod touch 5 vs. iPhone 5 camera tests things played out as expected. The iPod touch 6 is clearly better than the iPod touch 5, about the same as the iPad Air 2, and just behind the iPhone 6.

With good light and the tools available in modern photo editing software, however, unless you intend to shoot a lot of lowlight, any of the 8mp, Apple A8-powered connected cameras will serve you well.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Thanks for this story. I was interested in the differences. I didn't really understand the order. Is it clockwise?
  • Ditto. Also wondering which order it is.
  • Yup, it's clockwise.
  • It depends on what device you're looking at it with. If it's a square, it's top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right. If it's a stack, it's top to bottom. Responsive!
  • I imagine you're a busy guy, thanks for jumping into the comments. You guys are awesome, I appreciate the work you do. Sent from the iMore App
  • So it's somewhere around iPhone 5s quality, give or take? That's not too bad.
  • I thought Sony made their cameras...
  • Sony supplies them the camera sensor, but the software (image processing algorithms) is their own. If you have a good sensor but crappy software (hint : Sony Xperia), it won't give you satisfactory result. That's why, even with 20.7mp sensor on Xperia, the iPhone camera still outperforms them in terms of colour reproduction and sometimes, details. Software plays an important role as hardware.
  • Thank you for your response and insight. Much appreciated.
  • Yup, and Apple makes it's own Image Signal Processor (ISP) as part of the Apple A-series chipsets. They're amazingly good ISP, which do a lot to take the sensor data and covert it into properly balanced (for example) photos.
  • Photos don't display in the iOS mobile apps. Sent from the iMore App
  • Works fine for me. Do you have too many apps running?
  • Rene can you answer what order was this pictures displayed??
  • Why rush to put out an article if you're not going to deliver on its intended purpose? I'm looking to get the new iPod touch but this review does very little to help me judge the camera. You've not mentioned the order of the images, there are no 100% crops. Apple the camera company? Really? Those are Sony's sensors in there.
  • Right, but Apple made the optics and image processing algorithms. If you had a Nikon DSLR with a Sony sensor you'd still call it a Nikon camera since Nikon made the body and it takes Nikon lenses. Agree on the 100% crops and I'd also be interested in how the noise levels compare, although I suspect this wouldn't be as much of a concern for the use case for these cameras due to resolution downsampling.
  • Agreed, if that was the case, but the optics are also fabbed by Sony. Yes, it's their underlying software that processes the raw images but to say Apple is a camera company is wrong. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm are camera companies that make their own sensors, glass, housings, etc. I'd arguably say that the iPhone has a great and popular camera, but Apple did not make that camera nor is it a camera company. It's very misleading and distorts the facts. Yup, I'm keen on checking what the noise level is like also versus the competition, but at that price point it's almost a no-brainer.
  • I'll add some full size crops.
  • Apple isn't a sensor company but they're absolutely a camera company. Apple is using Sony sensors, but everything after the data leaves the sensor is Apple, including the ISP, is Apple. The camera is what you hold in your hands and take pictures with, and that's Apple. By way of parallel, Qualcomm makes the wireless chips (and in many cases the systems-on-a-chip) in many modern smartphones, but they're still HTC phones, for example. Anything else would sound, and would be, ridiculous.
  • Qualcomm has ISP in their SoC. HTC makes their own ISP. Apple is not a camera company. Your rationale makes no sense, Renée. Still not worth debating as its not that big of a detail. This camera is pretty worthless in low light, though, which is about the only thing worth looking at these days as even worse sensors can give respectable results in daylight/lit settings.
  • Nikon buys its ISP hardware from others and most of its sensors. Olympus and Fujifilm are now using Sony sensors. Under your definition only Canon and (shudder) Samsung would qualify as proper camera companies. When Kodak et al made film (sensors) it, Polaroid, Agfa, and Fujifilm were the only real camera companies.
  • By your logic, Ford isn't a car company. They don't make the steel, the electronics the glass, the tires or, really, very much of any of the car, themselves, they just assemble the end product and slap their name on it.
  • I doubt Apple make the optics (ie; lenses) in-house. They're probably sourced from one of the OEM lens specialists like Kantatsu, Hoya, Largan, etc.
  • Apple doesn't "make" anything in that as far as I know they don't own any factories, everything is outsourced, tightly controlled and intensely scrutinized for process and quality.
  • So conclusion means is a good cheap 199$ point and shoot camera with Apple appstore capable. Posted via the iMore App by OnePlus One
  • Yup!
  • A $199 P&S would blow this device away... five times over for imaging and video performance/quality. Not sure you realize what kind of camera you can get for that much money. Really, these devices are not replacements for real cameras. They're just convenient and good enough for people who don't care much about image quality and largely share online to places that destroy the quality anyways. I have one of these nit blows even my iPhone 6 Plus out of thebwater for image and video quality.
  • I had a $199 Sony point and shoot a few years ago. It was terrible; the image quality was about the same, but everything else about the experience was awful. It was much worse — both in experience and image quality — than the $500 Sony I'd bought a decade previously. It was so bad I picked up a Nikon 5100 to complement my iPhone, and put the Sony point-and-shoot away forever. But at the moment, I'm quite happy using my iPhone when I need a quick casual shot and my Nikon 5100 when I need something better. (And even when using my Nikon, I try to repeat shots with my iPhone so I have good geotag information.) Granted, that was a few years ago. I'm sure the image quality has improved somewhat. I'm less sure the rest of the experience has improved. Still, my recommendation is to never buy a $200 or less Sony. It's just a waste of money.
  • No matter how badly you lie, it won't convince anyone of what's obvious. It's not hard to go into a store, pop your own SD Card into their cameras, and take sample images along with an iPhone (which is superior to any iPod Touch) and compare them. $199 cameras today are as good as $500 cameras were a decade ago. Even some of the pictures from my camera I had in 2004 are superior to any smartphone I've ever owned, and it was a 3.x MP camera with no OIS. The $200 P&S Cameras that companies like Sony, Nikon, Samsung, Canon, and others are selling blow any smartphone away in Image and Video Quality. There isn't even a comparison. Phones and PMPs (evne Tablets) are good enough when you're sharing on Facebook, Instagram, and other places where the image quality is going to be absolutely destroyed by extra processing and compression, anyways. If that's the market you're in, then yea... Don't bother with the P&S (but on that, why even bother with the iPod Touch for its camera?). However, no, the Sony $199 P&S cameras will outgun practically any smartphone on the market, including all of Apple's. There are only perhaps 1 or 2 smartphone on the markets (very niche devices) that can compete with the image quality of that class of P&S, and anything better than it will blow even those smartphones out of the water. The reason why so many people opt for smart devices over P&S is because they are good enough for the web services were they share their images, they're convenient because the apps reside on the "camera" itself and the camera is often "always connected," and they're convenient in that you only have to carry one "ultra portable" device. It has never been because the phones have superior image quality, as you can get much better images out of a $200 good brand P&S. Additionally, Sony isn't the only company producing good P&S in that price class, so you aren't really accomplishing anything by focusing on them. Samsung, Nikon, Canon, Sony, and others all compete with each other in that market. And they're practically all superior to any smartphone in that price range. Really, you don't get to the point where a phone is better than a P&S until you dip into the $69-99 Wal-Mart no-name brand digital camera market.
  • The sample photos aren't showing up for me. I'm using version 3.3.0 of the app on iOS 8.4 on an iPhone 6 Plus. Sent from the iMore App
  • I've alerted our tech team. Not sure what's going on there but we'll endeavor to find out asap.
  • I think the order of the photos is quite explanatory. Thanks for the article. I have a 6 plus but I'm going to pick up an iPod touch next weekend as I want a smaller device for the gym and when I'm resting in bed. Sent from the iMore App
  • I wish Apple actually made a camera (yes, I know they will never do it). When I go looking for a "for reals" camera with zoom capability and a proper lens, the thing that stands out the most is how sucky the software is and indeed, the whole experience of using it. Everything they have in the iPhone 6, with the same camera software, but with a decent lens on the front and the ability to zoom in on things would simply be the best camera in the world IMO. (before anyone replies with it, yes I know about Olloclip as well and that's not what I mean either).
  • An iCamera is not a bad idea at all.
  • They used to. Look up the QuickTake
  • Haha! I remember those things.
  • I don't see them making this either, but I do have hope that eventually their iPhone will improve to that point.
  • The iPhone 6 macro photo looks terrible to me, was it focused properly? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • None of the macro photos look very good to my eyes, but I agree the iPhone 6 one looks worse than it should… especially compared to the iPad photo. For all I know that's real, though; I don't have an iPhone 6.
  • Thanks Rene. I've ordered the new iPod. I shoot a lot of video with my 6 Plus so it will be great to have a second camera for shoots and for doing time lapse over hours while my 6 Plus is busy elsewhere. Perfect for me. Get a red one Thursday.
  • Rene - I wonder if you would consider adding a specific test to these kind of reviews. iOS has some nice barcode recognition capabilities. Scanning barcodes with different cameras (using the same test app) and timing the process under constant lighting conditions might be a nice objective measure. For example, a recent project I worked on would have been a great fit for an iPod except the camera was just too slow to focus and pick out the barcode with enough resolution. The difference when testing with a 5S and a 6 was measurable and meaningful.
  • I've written barcode readers using iOS's toolkits, and I've found the iPhone 5 remarkable at scanning quickly. I actually ended up adding a slight delay to my app so users could tell it had worked. I've never tried with a 5S or 6, though. It might be better at some of the more dense non-QR barcodes, which my iPhone 5 sometimes struggled with in low light. The iPod touch 5, though, was almost completely useless. You're totally right about that. :)
  • Just saying there are so many complainers. I assumed it was clockwise and I was right. just by looking at the quality of the pics you can tell.
  • I am not able to see any of the photos either, Air I... :( good write up though, know we have a definitive answer. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have to agree with the comment that I found elsewhere about this very photo-camera comparison! "Hey, gang! In some cases, the IPT 6 looks better than the iPhone; in some the IPT 5 looks the best. The most dramatic difference is the low light one–however, I just saved the IPT 6 photo and used the lightness control in the iOS Photos app. It ends up looking just as good, just as lit up! Apple seems to be throttling back that exposure feature on the IPT 6 camera and 3rd party apps will step in!" I can confirm that it works! While we'd rather have the good low light performance out of the box without any post-tweaking, it means that the IPT is still quite viable! Another look at the two photos, IPT 6 tweaked and iPhone 6, revealed some subtle difference, but still, comparable!
  • Oh, one other thing... The photos do NOT show up in Reader View, but otherwise show up just fine on my iPad Mini.
  • Stumbled across is again when looking for an iPad Mini 4 vs. IPT 6 comparison. Noticed something else... The IPT 6's low light photo is clearly better than the 5 *and* the Air 2!! It's macro looked th best, while the Still Photography shots all looked the same. Not sure, therefore, whether stating that the IPT 6 is comparable to the Air 2 is right; it looks better!