I’ve reluctantly retired my iPhone 5. I say reluctantly because it was a great phone, at least in terms of its size, usefulness, and usability. What caused me to retire it was one too many hardware problems. I’ll spare you the litany of woes. Suffice it to say that I’d had it with its unreliability.
iPhone 5, left, next to the phone I had before it, a Palm Pre
But my goodness, was its camera ever useful. That’s what I am writing about here — the iPhone 5 as a camera. I shot thousands of photos with it, because it was the camera that was always on me, and it was a perfectly competent point and shoot camera that occasionally delivered brilliance.
I got my iPhone 5 on the morning it was released in 2012. The first photo I took with it? A selfie, of course. I still have that shirt.
It was a great selfie tool.
Actually, I shot people with it more often than with any other camera I’ve ever owned.
The iPhone 5 did surprisingly well in low light. I loved using the it to capture sunrises and sunsets, and I wasn’t afraid to use it indoors without flash.
The iPhone 5 did reasonable close-up work.
It was also a great road-trip companion. I shoot mostly my Canon PowerShot S95 while I’m on the road, but the iPhone 5 had two great uses: if I wasn’t sure I’d remember exactly where I took a shot, the iPhone 5 would do that for me, because it geotagged each photo. And it was great for letting me update Facebook or text friends with what I was seeing, from the scene.
But mostly I used my iPhone 5 to say, “I’m here, doing this, right now.” It was a whole new use of a camera to me: a way to casually record a moment, and if I wanted, to communicate it wordlessly and immediately to anyone I know. This led me to take all sorts of shots I never would have otherwise — shots that, years on, invoke memories I might otherwise have lost.
My iPhone 5 captured most scenes with great sharpness and color. Sometimes, when I shot a scene with my wonderful Canon S95 and followed it with an iPhone 5 shot to grab geolocation, I liked the iPhone shot better! And focusing by touching the screen is brilliant and works flawlessly.
But the iPhone 5 isn’t perfect. Highlights blow out with it all the time, as you can see in many of these photos. And it can be hard to hold steady. Firing the shutter is accomplished by either an on-screen button or by pressing one of the physical volume buttons on the phone, and none of these is placed conveniently. And the Apple software that automatically uploads shots to my computer doesn’t always work.
I’ve used this camera less and less lately because the lens had become dinged and scratched, and those marks showed in all my shots. When I had yet another hardware problem with it recently, I threw in the towel and upgraded to an iPhone 6S. It was stupefyingly expensive — my desktop computer cost as much. But I vastly prefer iOS over Android, and I’m taken with the cameras Apple makes. But memo to Apple: my new iPhone had better be a paragon of reliability, or I’ll defect to Android and never look back.