Someone winning a photography award with an iPhone 5s shows you don't need the latest and greatest to take great shots

Apple iPhone 5s
Apple iPhone 5s (Image credit: iMore)

Every year we get to see the best photos taken with an iPhone thanks to the iPhone Photography Awards (IPPA) and 2021 is no different. The IPPA released its winners for this year yesterday, and they're all stunning photos. But what's most noticeable is the fact that few of the winners were taken on the latest hardware. In fact, one was taken on an iPhone 5s.

Yes, an iPhone 5s. From 2013. And the resulting image is stunning. You'd definitely have believed me if I'd told you it was taken on an iPhone 12 Pro, that's for sure.

See what I mean?

Children Diego Moreno

Children Diego Moreno (Image credit: Diego Moreno)

I find that pretty amazing, really. In fact, very few of the winners were using anything even close to the best iPhone for photography — iPhone 12 Pro Max.

What might surprise you is that of 54 winning shots, only seven were taking on the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro Max, which proves you don't need the best iPhone available to take stunning photos, one was even taken on an iPhone 5s!

Flicking through the winners we see a few iPhone X devices. An iPhone 7 produced a stunner and some iPhone XR shots look great, too. But let's just remind ourselves of the camera that's in that iPhone 5s, for a moment.

Over to 2013 Rene Ritchie:

For general photography, the iPhone 5s camera performs excellently, as expected. It's the same 8 megapixel count as last year's iPhone 5, but the new image signal processor (ISP) in the Apple A7 chipset manages to balance tone and saturation better, and produce truer color. The shutter speed is also impressive. Where before you'd take the picture then wait to see how high you could count before the animation finished and your photo was saved, now you take a picture, the screen flashes, and it's saved. It's so fast I sometimes don't even realize it's happened and I end up taking the shot again. Much of that is thanks to iOS 7's new interface, but part of it is the A7 chipset. For example, it makes focus faster. Apple claims 2x. It's hard to measure, but it's appreciable. That whole chain from "I want to take a photo" to the photo being taken, that race-to-shoot, feels better every step along the way.

Oh, so the humble iPhone 5s actually has the same camera hardware as the iPhone 5. From 2012. That's nine years ago!

We've always known that iPhones have taken great photos but seeing such old cameras doing such great things, when put up against something like iPhone 12 Pro Max, is mesmerizing. Apple surely never expected an iPhone 5s to be winning photography awards in 2021 and I'm sure it'd love iPhone 12 cameras to do the same in 2029. Will they? We'll have to wait nine years to find out — but the fact that's even something we're talking about potentially happening is insane.

But I wouldn't want to bet against it!

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.