Review: iPhone 5s – video magic

There is nothing that does a better job telling a story than great videos of your birding adventures. But as we all know there is a huge difference between the quality of digiscoped videos. In this review, we are putting the new 5s to the test and showing you its capabilities and some tricks so you can make the best videos possible. In each section below remember to set the videos from auto to full 1080p so you can see some of the differences we are talking about!

When viewing these videos, before you play them make sure you click the gear in the bottom right hand side of the video and select 1080p, otherwise you won;t be able to tell the subtle differences

When viewing these videos, before you play them make sure you click the gear in the bottom right hand side of the video and select the highest resolution available, either 720p for slo-mo or 1080p for 5s regular video mode, like shown above. If you don’t it will be very hard to see the subtle differences.

Whats behind the great videos?

OK, before we get into the actual results, a brief explanation of some of the new features we were anxious to test. The new 5s makes it easy to get great result for the average user thanks to some added features to make the camera a bit smarter. Video is clean and crisp thanks to the combination of larger sensor, the pixels are larger and it has a 15% larger sensor area. Also with the addition of the dedicated image processor in the A7 chip, the iSight camera automatically creates a dynamic local map that makes the camera less likely to overexpose or underexpose images. The auto focus also is great, with a 15-zone matrix metering for the best possible exposure.

Slow motion video

Slow motion video is recorded at 720p, the lower resolution HD. Even though it is the lower of the two HD settings, make no mistake this setting can get some awesome videos. In addition, the slow motion at this resolution is a huge addition to the 5s, and a setting we were having a lot of fun with when we first got our phones. Recording in “slo-mo” mode allows recording at 120 frames per second, but when played back at normal speed it appears like it’s in slow motion. This is a great feature to really see action that happens way to fast for us to process. One other fact is you are recording 4X as many frames, which means more detail is captured in a given time-frame. Normal videos are only 30 frames per second, so the 120 frames per second the 5s is capable of is great for getting those minute field marks that the hummingbird you are recording shows only briefly. Below we have some examples of some things that are possible with this setting. Last video of the Bobolinks compliments of David La Puma from Leica Sport Optics.

The videos will all play in sequence, or you can select from the playlist button in the upper left.

Standard video

The regular video function records at full 1080p which is the highest HD video resolution. Video shot in 1080p is quite amazing, if you have birds very close you can get some television quality footage! Additionally, this setting is better than slo-mo if the subject is distant, but more about that later in the post. Here is an example of 1080p video shot with the 5s.

Using the right video mode

Sometimes you think your in Slo-mo and by mistake it did not slide all the way there. A good trick is to look for the 120FPS to lower right of red button.

Sometimes you think you are in Slo-mo and by mistake it did not slide all the way there. A good trick is to look for the 120FPS to the lower right of red button.

Other than recording in the wrong mode accidentally, and yes, it’s easier to do than you think with the new slider, there are some other major pitfalls about using the wrong mode in the wrong situation. As you saw above, “slo-mo” mode can produce some stunning videos. In fact, it’s so addicting to use, you want to use it all the time. But in some cases, that could be the wrong move. Pretend for a minute you are trying to document a rarity. It’s seemingly a mile out on a mudflat, and you need to use full zoom on both your scope and your phone to get any kind of documentation. Of course you think slow motion video would be perfect to review later, and that it should be better to see things slowed down, and hopefully you can get some more detail in the process. Well, in this case that would be the wrong move. Here is why. Remember “slo-mo” mode only shoots in 720p. Yes, that is fairly good HD quality, BUT at a distance, with the shimmer, optical zoom degradation, etc, you really need the extra sharpness that 1080p will give you. Take a look at the below videos, shot to simulate these shooting conditions. Both were shot using one of the very best scopes on the market, (Leica APO-Televid 82) so we can take the scope out of the equation. The video on the left was shot with the normal mode @ 1080p, and the video on the right in “slo-mo” @ 720p. Both videos were shot at 50x on the scope and maximum zoom in the 5s. Also, to be able to better compare videos, we are playing both at actual real-time speed.

In the first video notice how the grass behind the Bald Eagle is sharper and the detail of the eagle compared to the video on the right which at this distance and zoom, is degraded.

In the next video, notice the finer detail of the background vegetation and the much better detail of the Sora. Imagine if this was a bird you really needed documentation of, the right video in “slo-mo” mode would not cut it, the left video shot at 1080p would.

We really want to hear how you have been using your new 5s to take videos, please drop us some comments below and tell us how you are using it!