Smartphone cameras are getting better all the time and Apple has a particular reputation for producing great cameras for their iPhone range.

But is the iPhone 5’s camera so good that you don’t need your digital compact any more?
We thought it would be interesting to put it up against a traditional digital camera to see how it measures up.

Zoom

OK, here’s the first and most obvious win for the traditional camera – it has an optical zoom.

The iPhone relies on a digital zoom but, of course, the further you ‘zoom’ the more the image quality is degraded.

Portability

Ever slipped a compact camera into your back pocket? Well, perhaps, but you’ll know it’s there and you’ll have an unsightly bulge on display.

Smartphones are so thin and so light, and the iPhone 5 especially so, that for slipping into your pocket for capturing some shots of your friends on a night out you can’t really beat them.

Speed

Switch your camera on and there’s always a delay – a bit of whirring as the optical lens pops out and a bit of time before the digital display bursts into life. If you’re trying to take a spontaneous snap, you may have lost your moment even before you camera’s fired up.

Compare that with the iPhone 5 – just a quick swipe across the camera symbol and you’re ready to go.

And it’s not just the speed with which your camera’s operational – it’s the speed with which you can take pictures too. The iPhone 5 camera’s even faster than its predecessor the iPhone 4S – there seems to be no lag between tapping the shutter and taking a picture - so it’s ideal for taking a burst and then selecting the best shot.

Image Quality

Surely here the iPhone 5 can’t measure up against a device that was made purely to take photographs?

Well, to be honest, it measures up well. In the right light (and that’s good lighting conditions) the iPhone 5’s images are just as good as those from many compact cameras.

There’s no image stabilisation, however, which is where the ‘thin and light’ aspects of the iPhone 5 can become a disadvantage – keeping it still enough to take pin sharp pictures, particularly in low light conditions, can be a challenge. However, it must be said the ‘low light’ photography is an area where the iPhone 5’s camera has been noticeably improved on that of the iPhone 4S.

There are also reports of ‘purple flaring’ on shots taken in bright light – although all cameras can struggle to take good shots in these conditions.

Manual Mode

This is an area where most smartphone cameras fail to measure up – the ability to exert a bit of manual control to take account of varying conditions – especially if you know your shutter speed from your ISO and aperture.

The iPhone 5 does offer AE and AF lock through – press and hold the point of focus and it will lock the focus position and exposure level wherever the camera is then moved. Of course, this feature comes as standard on most digital cameras.

As does a panorama mode, which the iPhone 5 has too, although it relies on a steady hand and the stitching together of the images can be a little erratic at times.

Sharing

This is the ultimate advantage of the iPhone 5, or any smartphone – the ability to tweet, post or email a straight away. And iOS 6 has made social media integration even slicker to make sharing pictures with friends and family even easier.

However, the iPhone 5 has no SD, or micro SD, so you’re relying on the phone’s memory. With the 64GB version, you’re probably not going to have a problem but for lower memory versions, a regular clear out of apps or pictures might be necessary.

Time to put the digital camera on eBay? Yes, if you’re just after high quality point and shoot snaps for when you’re out and about.

If you’re the type who’s forever fiddling with your zoom and manual features to take the best image possible, then we’d suggest hanging on to the digital camera for a while yet.