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iPhone 5 Jewelry Photography versus iPhone 4S

Here we’ll show you some examples and tips for iPhone 5 jewelry photography with comparison shots with the iPhone 4S. We’re using a ‘focus stacking’ technique aided by the Camera+ App for pin sharp results.


Annual Jewelry Photography Shoot

The day before my annual jewelry photography shoot, on behalf of a client, I took possession of my new iPhone 5. I thought to myself, why not take it along and see if I can sneak in some snaps with the iPhone 5 and perhaps some comparison shots with my iPhone 4S. The shoot involves travel by air and car to a remote thatched roof cottage we hire in deepest rural England. I always travel light with my Canon EOS 5D MKII, EF 100mm Macro lens, a couple of LED light banks and my Modahaus TS400 and TS216 Tabletop Studios all contained in a small suitcase and a shoulder bag. My client provides a good sturdy tripod thankfully. We have a very brief window for the shoot before the pieces are whisked away elsewhere.

Kit for the iPhone 5 Jewelry Photography Shoot

  • iPhone 5 black 64GB
  • iPhone 4S black 64GB
  • Camera + App
  • NO tripod*
  • 2 x 500 LED light banks and stands
  • Modahaus Tabletop Studio Pro TS400
  • Modahaus Tabletop Studio Pro TS216
  • Modahaus Steady Stand SS200

The Brief

The brief reveals we have over 30 pieces to shoot including necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings and vintage & rare watches. Now we’ve arrived at the location I have 1.5 days to set up studio and shoot the lot. The images will be used in a printed catalogue and online. I’ll be using a ‘focus stacking’ technique with my DSLR and I’m going to experiment with that technique using the iPhone 5 and 4S using Camera+ App. * The reason I’m not using a tripod with the iPhone’s is, as yet I don’t have one to fit the iPhone 5 and I want the comparisons with the iPhone 4S to be on a level playing field. I literally had to sneak in these shots in-between the DSLR shots when my client was away making coffee or taking calls. So let’s have a look!

iPhone 5 Jewelry Photography

I have to say I think this years jewelry is really lively stuff! This necklace and bracelet set consists of colored sapphires and white diamonds set in rose gold. As I didn’t have a tripod for the iPhone’s, I steadied the iPhone 5 on the tabletop surface. ‘Focus stacking’ involves shooting a piece in several steps of focus depth. For this shot above I had 1 shot focussed on the front of the necklace and one focussed on the front of the bracelet. I then blended them together in photoshop. The process is quite simple and I’ll have a new post on how to focus stack in Photoshop published in a few days. Be sure to connect with us for updates 😉 . Normally with my DSLR I’d focus at 4 or more different levels into the image but in this case I settled for two levels due to time and absence of a tripod. You really shouldn’t attempt this without a tripod. With Camera+ you can independently set your focus and exposure points which is essential for focus stacking. You can also lock your focus and exposure points with Camera+ which means you can employ some manual exposure techniques with the iPhone as shown in this post. Whilst I was on this shoot Camera+ came out with a mega update including Camera+ for iPad. Can’t wait to give it a spin!

iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 Jewelry Photography Comparison 1

Again I used a 2 level focus stack on the two images above and shot without the aid of a tripod. Once these images have been crunched down to a manageable size for online viewing, I’d say there is very little between the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 image quality which is what I’d expect. All the above images show about 60% of the full frame. Viewing the uncompressed images I can see the iPhone 5 has an apparently wider color gamut that helped differentiate the different colored sapphires in this piece. You may still see that in the crunched images above but it is marginal. We used the Modahaus Tabletop Studio Pro TS400 for the necklace shots.

iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 Jewelry Photography Comparison 2

We didn’t use focus stacking with these ring shots or the following images and the rings were cropped down to about a tenth of the full frame. The reason for this was the speed I had to sneak these images into the shoot. The further you are away from the piece with the iPhone’s, the greater the depth of focus. If we filled the frame with the rings then we would use focus stacking. We used the Steady Stand SS200 for the overhead shots and simply placed the rings on an elevated platform. Again I could see a greater depth of color with the iPhone 5 in the uncompressed images. This is still evident in the ruby and the amethyst above.

iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 Jewelry Photography Comparison 3


In the Patek Philippe watch at the top in the uncompressed images there was slightly richer shadows evident in the strap and better tonal graduation in the highlight to mid tones with the iPhone 5. The same better highlight to mid tones were evident in the IWC watch directly above. What is still very evident in the IWC (compressed for web) image above is the richer colors in the watch strap with the iPhone 5. I’m pretty certain this is down to the iPhone 5’s ability to handle sRGB color space which is a big step in the right direction. We used the Modahaus Tabletop Studio Pro TS216 for the rings and watches shots.

iPhone 5 Jewelry Photography Conclusion

I think the cameras on the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 are great for all sorts of product photography. The iPhone 5 jewelry photography performance is a worthwhile improvement on the iPhone 4S. With the right accessories and Apps iPhones are a very user friendly tool and handy for many other tasks like making phone calls and helping keep us organized 🙂 . Top on my to do list is to get wise with the lens attachments out there, if there are any suitable for iPhone 5 jewelry photography. (Help would be much appreciated) I know there are many wide angle and macro lens attachments but what we really need is a macro lens with a narrower field of view so we can get in close to rings without distortion and cropping out nine tenths of the frame. I’ll have that post on ‘Focus Stacking in Photoshop’ published in a few days – it’s really straightforward. If there’s an App for iPad out there that could handle focus stacking for our iPhone 5 jewelry photography, I’d love to hear about it!

Cheers, Lex


Breaking News

Modahaus are now shipping the Steady Stand SS200 and SS300 with a custom iPhone 5 anti reflection plate. Also, for US Letter and A4 document scanning the SS300 is the one!

Modahaus Tabletop Studios are bundled with 6 polymer backdrops. Translucent red, white and blue plus opaque white, mid gray and jet black. Checkout Steady Stand/Tabletop Studio bundles and save 15% on individual product prices. And remember we also offer Free Shipping Worldwide!

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