I'd been waiting for a nice day to get out and test the video capabilities of the iPhone 5s for a while. I finally had a chance to get out and capture some scenes and see what it could do.
I'll cut to the chase, the results are a mixed bag. Video is hampered by a low bitrate and some obvious compression artifacts that come from that. But as a point and shoot for "Ma and Pa Kent" who just want a recording of their grandson at the beach during summer vacation, there's nothing wrong with what the iPhone 5s offers.
You only have to look back 5 years ago to see just how far video capabilities in smartphones really have come. 1080p video & even 120 fps slow motion (albeit only at 720p) really is here and it can easily fit in your pocket, and not cost you thousands of dollars.
From what I can find out online, the regular video record setting is 1080 30p at 17Mbps. Slo-mo is 720 120p at 30Mbps. Those are both awfully low bitrates. For hidef video, usually anything under 24Mbps has some noticable compression artifacts and the video taken by the iPhone 5s is no different. The slow motion video suffers the most and when you do the math, you can see why. If you break down the bitrate for the slow motion video (120fps) to an average of 30fps, it only averages out to 7.5Mbps, which is awfully low. (30Mpbs ÷ 4 = 7.5Mpbs) Again, though, for the average Joe out there just shooting for fun, it should be good enough. It would've been nice for Apple to have given us some quality options to bump up the bitrates, but that's not likely to happen until at least the iPhone 6 or 7.
The colors are nice, and for the most part, the camera on the iPhone 5s did a decent job with contrast. The camera does tend to expose things a touch too hot for me, even when you lock the exposure/focus. When grading the footage, I was surprised that I could get some detail out of areas that I thought were blown out. For some of the darker areas, like under the bridge and under the roof, it was the opposite. Where I thought I'd have no problems with the video, that was where the low bitrate reared its ugly head and showed up with a ton of compression artifacts.
The last thing I was disappointed with was the CMOS sensor. The iPhone 5s can suffer pretty badly with rolling shutter issues. That wasn't a suprise that it'd be there, but what was a suprise was just how little it took to get it to show up. I've seen worse, but I've seen a lot better.
All said and done, for a smartphone, it's pretty amazing and will do a good job of capturing the moment in a small convienent package. The iPhone 5s fits in a pocket, will start recording pretty quickly, can be used pretty easily, and has enough features in it to make it a semi decent point and shoot camera. The slo-mo is the icing on the cake, because it wasn't long ago that people used to dream of affordable slow motion cameras. Sure, it's only 120fps, but you can put that on a 24P timeline, and you can get 20% of the original speed. Not bad for a little camera that costs under 1000 bones. I wish the bitrate was higher and that 120fps was actually 240fps(the iPhone has more than enough horsepower to accomodate both of those requests.), but other than those two things, it held up pretty well for me.
Filmed March 31st, 2014
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