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Super Shootout: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs HTC One vs Apple iPhone 5 vs Nokia Lumia 920

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2013 is still young but has been an interesting year so far in terms of mobile image capture. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a number of devices, all of them running the Android operating system and boasting 13MP camera modules, were announced. This includes the Sony Xperia Z, the ZTE Grand S, Huawei Ascend D2 and Lenovo K900. In March Samsung followed with their new flagship device, the Galaxy S4.

While Samsung is betting on a 13MP horse, HTC, the second largest manufacturer of Android devices, is going the opposite way, equipping its HTC One top-end phone with an unusually low resolution 4MP sensor with large photosites (which HTC calls "ultrapixels") and optical image stabilization (OIS) which, in theory, should result in improved low light capabilities.

However, Google's Android OS is of course not your only option if you are currently in the market for a smartphone with good imaging capabilities. Apple's iPhone 5 and the Nokia Lumia 920 have been on the market for a while and successors are no doubt in the pipeline, but for now these devices are more than valid options for iOS and Windows Phone users, respectively.

Arguably the most interesting new Android devices, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One are finally available for purchase - and crucially at last in our office - so we put them head-to-head with the established competition from Apple and Nokia. Here is an overview of our competitors in this shootout and their key photographic specifications:

PhoneSensorApertureOptical IS Focal length*Aspect ratio
 Samsung Galaxy S4  13MP CMOS  F2.2  no  31mm  4:3
 HTC One  4MP CMOS  F2.0  yes  28mm  16:9
 Apple iPhone 5  8MP CMOS  F2.4  no  33mm  4:3
 Nokia Lumia 920  8MP CMOS  F2.0  yes  26mm  16:9

*35mm equivalent

For the purpose of this shootout we have taken sample images in a variety of "real-life" situations and in our controlled studio environment. This article comprises of four pages with the following content:

Landscape

This shot was taken in bright sunlight with all cameras in Auto ISO and White Balance modes. The phones were mounted on a tripod using an iStabilizer smartphone holder and all images where shot from the same position.

Samsung Galaxy S4, ISO 50
Apple iPhone 5, ISO 50
HTC One, ISO 107
Nokia Lumia 920, ISO 100

Looking at the four samples above there are some obvious differences in terms of contrast and saturation. The Samsung, HTC and Nokia all produce very saturated and contrasty images, with the Nokia almost going slightly over the top. The iPhone captures a more natural image, with less saturated colors and visibly lower contrast.

Samsung Galaxy S4, 100% crop
Apple iPhone 5, 100% crop
HTC One, 100% crop
Nokia Lumia 920, 100% crop

Looking at the 100% crops, the difference in pixel count between the cameras becomes very obvious. The HTC One looks the sharpest at a pixel-level but this is due to a combination of the low pixel count and pretty strong sharpening. However, with its 13MP sensor the Samsung, at least in good light, simply captures more detail.

All the cameras here struggle with low-contrast detail, even at low ISOs and in good light. This is very visible on all the trees and foliage in the scene. However, the Nokia's mix of heavy noise reduction and sharpening looks worse than the rest up close. The Apple and Samsung arguably offer the best balance between noise reduction and sharpening here. The S4's sharpening is still quite strong but in good light its 13MP CMOS captures the most detail in this comparison (by a whisker).

Portrait (Shade)

This outdoor portrait was shot hand-held in the shade, with consistent camera-subject distance. Again, all cameras were set to Auto ISO and White Balance and as you can below, the light was bright enough for all devices to select base ISO (or close to it in the case of the HTC One).

 Samsung Galaxy S4, ISO 50
Apple iPhone 5, ISO 50
HTC One, ISO 102
 Nokia Lumia 920, ISO 100

In these portraits we can see the same differences in saturation and contrast as in the landscape shot above, but there is also some exposure variance. The HTC has produced a darker image than the rest while the iPhone's image is the brightest. In this light situation Auto White Balance has produced a slightly blue cast on all images.

 Samsung Galaxy S4, 100% crop
Apple iPhone 5, 100% crop
HTC One, 100% crop
Nokia Lumia 920, 100% crop

Despite all devices keeping the sensitivity low in this low contrast situation, all images suffer from a loss of fine detail through noise reduction. The sharpening on both the Nokia and HTC is very strong, resulting in a punchy but slightly unnatural look. Again, the iPhone and Samsung show a better balance of noise reduction and sharpening, but ultimately the Samsung captures slightly more image information than the Apple device.

Portrait (Sunlight)

This is another portrait shot, taken hand-held in bright sunlight, to see how the cameras deal with skin tones in contrasty lighting conditions. Again, all cameras were set to Auto modes.

 Samsung Galaxy S4, ISO 50
Apple iPhone 5, ISO 50
HTC One, ISO 114
 Nokia Lumia 920, ISO 100

Again, the HTC captures a slightly darker image than the iPhone with the Samsung and Nokia falling in between, but overall exposure is within acceptable limits on all devices.

Samsung Galaxy S4, 100% crop
Apple iPhone 5, 100% crop
HTC One, 100% crop
Nokia Lumia 920, 100% crop

All cameras struggle with the bright highlights caused by the reflection of the sun on the subject's skin. On the Samsung, Apple and Nokia the red channel is clipping, resulting in blown out areas on the skin. The Apple iPhone is the worst offender here. The HTC One, on the other hand, is the only camera here to capture most of the highlight detail which indicates that its large photosites can capture an additional amount of highlight range over the higher resolution competition.

Comments

Total comments: 148
12
Canadaloon
By Canadaloon (6 months ago)

Please note that the Samsung Galaxy S4 has Optical IS! I checked the manual, contacted Samsung, and checked the www.gsmarena.com website. Strangely enough, on www.gsmarena.com their "Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC One: Army of two" review makes the same mistake. It's like once a reviewer makes a statement it spreads like its a fact.

Love your reviews. I'll be upgrading in the next week or two and I'm having a hard time deciding between the Samsung Galaxy S4. the HTC One and the Sony Xperia ZL. 3 great phones, but I can only pick one :-(

0 upvotes
Hlorri
By Hlorri (3 months ago)

Not quite accurate. The S4 has _digital_ image stabilization, presumably only in video mode. This means that it analyzes the image data outside of the "visible" part of the frame in order to include the appropriate "window" in each and every frame captured..
This is different from OIS, where specialized "gyro" like sensors adjust the image tilt.

1 upvote
robbo d
By robbo d (10 months ago)

Great review Dpr and pretty much shows they are all very close. I have an HTC sensation which produces reasonable images but is now old tech and find my even older Pentax X90 still out performs other than app generated effects.

The next Generation Samsung smart cam and Nokia EOS must almost be with Dpr for preview by now, so be interesting to see the leap in IQ

0 upvotes
Burhan
By Burhan (11 months ago)

Finally, a proper review of these camera phones; answering questions that people really want answers for and saving the marketing chatter at bay.

No surprise that it was dpreview that brings some sense to these reviews. Thank you, thank you.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (11 months ago)

Thank you, we love this kind of feedback (obviously we appreciate any kind of feedback) :-)

1 upvote
mcantu
By mcantu (11 months ago)

how about adding 4x6 or 5x7 prints at 300dpi to the tests? there was a site that did this in their reviews (cant remember which atm) and it was really helpful in gauging image quality without the pixel peeping...

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (11 months ago)

I don't think too many users print their smartphone images but you can of course always download the original images and print them at the size you want them.

2 upvotes
lipiakter
By lipiakter (11 months ago)

Great features! that s way I am planning to have one ;it keeps amazing me with these features , I will then buy the best case for it that I saw in the below link : http://www.squidoo.com/samsung-galaxy-s4-cases-2

0 upvotes
Lekguan
By Lekguan (11 months ago)

Wow, the most informed, detailed and objective current-gen camera phone comparison on the net. Great job. Would be great if in the low light section, the low light mode was included for comparison as well. Please do more of these camera phone comparisons! :)

3 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (11 months ago)

Thanks, that's what we like to hear :-) Yes, will do more of those as we get more devices in and we are looking to improve the format as we go along, so many thanks for your suggestion :-)

0 upvotes
mcantu
By mcantu (11 months ago)

most compact/subcompact cameras with optical image stabilization require that it be turned off when mounted to a tripod for the best image quality. is this also the case with phone cameras that have OIS?

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (11 months ago)

not as far as we can tell. On the Nokia you cannot switch it off anyway but on both the Nokia and HTC (the two phones that have IS in this comparison) it doesn't have any effect when shooting on a tripod.

0 upvotes
gs85739az
By gs85739az (11 months ago)

Thanks for the great review of 4 top end/ top tech camera-cell phones!

It's obvious, that camera-cell phones will be a much bigger part of DPR, thanks again!

As technology rolls, so will DPR.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (11 months ago)

we would like to think so :-)

0 upvotes
CyberAngel
By CyberAngel (11 months ago)

How did you manage to get such bad images. I do better with a Nokia 95.
Well, at least it was a real life scenario and I'm hoping that dpreview will do more comparisons and I'd love to have each phone camera tested exactly like the real cameras and that one can then choose to compare them like you do here:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/studiocomparefullscreen.asp#baseDir=%2Freviews_data&cameraDataSubdir=boxshot&indexFileName=boxshotindex.xml&presetsFileName=boxshotpresets.xml&showDescriptions=false&headerTitle=Studio%20scene&headerSubTitle=Standard%20studio%20scene%20comparison&masterCamera=nokia_pureview808&masterSample=2012-07-20-0457&slotsCount=4&slot0Camera=nokia_pureview808&slot0Sample=2012-07-20-0457&slot0DisableCameraSelection=true&slot0DisableSampleSelection=true&slot0LinkWithMaster=true&slot1Camera=nokia_pureview808&slot1Sample=2012-07-26-0596&slot2Camera=nikon_d800&slot2Sample=dsc_8318&slot3Camera=nikon_v1&slot3Sample=dsc_0304&x=0.001756440281030445&y=0.004189944134078212

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (11 months ago)

You have noticed that there are studio comparisons on pages 3 and 4 of this article, right?

1 upvote
Dave729
By Dave729 (11 months ago)

I can't talk about all four, but I can tell you why I chose and am very happy with the Nokia 920 -- the stabilization.

LIke many of us, as we get older, our hands shake more. WIth my iPhone 4s (which I've read as having equal or perhaps a better output than the 5), I was having more and more issues with motion blur. Pictures as high as 1/60 were blurred and everything under about 1/30 was unusable.

After reading initial reviews last fall, I got a 920 and am VERY pleased with the quality of the photos. I generally prefer no-flash available light photography, and the 920 fits the bill. Existing light down to 1/8, blur-free, and with my shakes, that's impressive.

Issues? Colors can be fooled sometimes, and for contrasty scenes, placement of the focus point is really important. Flash can be iffy from an exposure aspect. Lots and I mean LOTS of accidental pictures due to the screen going all the way to the edge.

But for ME, it is without a doubt the best phone camera.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
3 upvotes
Burhan
By Burhan (11 months ago)

Dave, you forgot to mention the biggest plus of the Nokia - it has a proper, hardware, TWO STEP shutter button. This alone helps with the image stability. I don't know why all these so-called camera phones don't include this feature.

3 upvotes
IEBA1
By IEBA1 (11 months ago)

I love this comparison. For those who value quality images, and will have the phone with them all the time, this sort of comparison is WAY WAY more valuable than individual reviews.

Of all the apps on my phone, I have several FOLDERS of imaging apps. The picture-taking ability is critical.
They can all make calls, and get mail, browse the web. But how well they take pictures DIFFERENTIATES these phones.

I really hope there's a part-2 where you compare VIDEO prowess. Bright, dark, motion in bright & dark, and lastly, if exposed to preserve highlights, can detail be recovered in the darks, or does the camera's video compression obliterate the details.

Thanks again and I look forward to more comparison articles.

3 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (11 months ago)

Glad to see you find this type of comparison useful. Some other readers mentioned they were interested in a video comparison, so we will definitely look into that.

3 upvotes
siberstorm27
By siberstorm27 (Apr 29, 2013)

Hello. I'm trying to choose my next smartphone and I want to take great pictures with it, mostly indoor shots. However, I have shaky hands and a lot of my images tend to blur. I also don't want to constantly take multiple pictures to get a useable one or have to mess with and experiment with settings. They are all time consuming and the best moments don't wait around for you to frame your shot with the best adjusted settings. Which one of these phones takes the best photos the first time around and is the most consistent and well-rounded on auto mode?

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 30, 2013)

All the shots in the article were taken in Auto mode, so that gives you a good idea of how the phones perform in that mode.

In terms of best auto mode performance in low light (and flash) I think the HTC One would be the one to look at. Apart from the camera it is also a lovely phone. You have to live with the low resolution though (which is not a problem if you use your photos mainly for sharing and social media etc).

0 upvotes
siberstorm27
By siberstorm27 (Apr 30, 2013)

Thank you for the reply. I am very happy that there are professional level responses to comment questions. It is also great to see camera analysis for smartphones on a more professional scale. Most phone sites take very bad pictures, have no scientific method at all, and are heavy biased towards whatever fanbase they cater to. I find it very interesting that the flame wars and fervor between smartphone brands doesn't have an equivalent in the dedicated camera world. I haven't found any Canon vs Nikon vs Sony fanboys yet! It's probably the more technical and niche nature of photography. Smartphones are pretty pedestrian.

I'll probably get the Lumia 920. It has the best OIS of the bunch so that should translate to better shaky shots? And it is the cheapest among the four.

3 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 30, 2013)

Well, yes the Lumia should be available at a discount by now as it's been out for a while and the Windows Phone OS is nice if you're not invested in the Google or iOS eco-systems. Just be aware that you won;t have the same selection of apps as on the other systems.

And thank you for your kind words. Your comment about the fanboys made me smile a little. You might find one or two of those if you dive deep enough into our forums :-)

0 upvotes
IEBA1
By IEBA1 (11 months ago)

I think there are also phones with a real flash. This "strobe" will freeze the action much better than any LED will.

1 upvote
Burhan
By Burhan (11 months ago)

If my memory serves me correctly, only the pureview Nokias have a proper flash; all others are LED due to the race to make the thinnest possible phone.

0 upvotes
Ahender
By Ahender (Apr 29, 2013)

I look forward to more reviews like these.

Rarely do I take a picture with my phone, but my 14-year-old daughter takes quite a few.

When I buy her next smart phone, image quality will be the number one priority.

That way, when she asks me to print a photo, I will not have to take the time to make it printable, even at 4x6.

1 upvote
Photog74
By Photog74 (Apr 29, 2013)

Good article, but I don't really understand why you took all of the test images on auto ISO - in your normal camera reviews, you shoot all the controlled test shots at user-selected ISO settings, so why didn't you follow this practice in this shootout? Even my old ZTE Blade allows you to pick the desired ISO speed manually.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 29, 2013)

the iPhone for example doesn't allow you to set ISO manually (at least not in the default camera app). The idea here really is to show what the phone would do in a certain situation in Auto mode as this is the way it would be used by absolutely most people. Even in the phones that allow manual ISO you usually have no indication of shutter speed which sort of makes it almost pointless.

1 upvote
dpfan32
By dpfan32 (Apr 29, 2013)

I'm quite sure that my iPhone 5 makes way more contrasty photos than this one used in this review!

0 upvotes
Lilianna
By Lilianna (Apr 28, 2013)

Sorry was not yet fully awake for my first comment.
Nicely done tests and we thank you all for doing them.
Yes at the pixel level these do not perform as well as a high-end compact.
In "normal" viewing however they all do quite well.
I have been leaning towards the One, I like the OS and interface, plus, despite my loving my 808, MP are not the be-all-end-all.
Some of my favorite phone shots I did with a 3.2mp Samsung Sidekick 4g.
OIS and fast lens are very attractive, I wish my HTC One S had the former!
That said the night Skyline shot from the HTC is really nice....

0 upvotes
Lilianna
By Lilianna (Apr 28, 2013)

Nothing here make me want to get rid of my 808PV
I do very much like the HTC One as a Phone though.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (Apr 27, 2013)

Battle of the mediocre phones. Why don't you put Nokia 808 so we can see pleasant detail here?

3 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 27, 2013)

Because those are the phones that people are looking into buying now. You can always look at our 808 review form last year if you want to see more detail.

1 upvote
robogobo
By robogobo (Apr 26, 2013)

The review keeps saying the S4 shows more detail, but all I'm seeing is over sharpening on top of too much NR. Not impressed at all. I'd much prefer the iPhone's natural look.

1 upvote
costinul_ala
By costinul_ala (11 months ago)

i frankly find the iphone as the big disappointment here. Considering the overall gap of features and higher price tag .

3 upvotes
vlad0
By vlad0 (Apr 26, 2013)

The 808 needs to always be in those comps.. just for good measure.

6 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (Apr 26, 2013)

it is also ~80% thicker than GS4 and iPhone 5.

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
BokehGlass
By BokehGlass (11 months ago)

@joe6pack
Nokia 808 is a phone, right? Than show the general public why the 808 is the champion. This is like inviting the top 4 of 5 tennis players to Wimbledon and left out the current champ, Serena Williams.

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (Apr 26, 2013)

Wow, the close up of the faces really reveal the differences. HTC renders the face full of color blotches, green and purple - you would think decently sized pixels and base ISO would allow it to avoid noise. Obviously broken demosaicing algorithm here. Nokia's rendition looks purple, like the person who has died of CO inhalation. Samsung exhibits smoothing to the point of making the skin look like plastic, but the colors are still much better than the previous too. And Apple has some luma noise, but still looks the most natural.
In terms of landscape color rendition, I like the Samsung more than Apple, but Apple looks more natural again. Somewhere in between would be the best. Maybe there are settings to dial down saturation on Samsung or make Apple pictures just a little but more vivid?

0 upvotes
olympushasfallen
By olympushasfallen (Apr 26, 2013)

Another camera comparison, if anyone's interested:

http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&sl=auto&tl=destination_language&u=http://www.mobile-review.com/articles/2013/blind-comparison-result.shtml

0 upvotes
pretol
By pretol (Apr 26, 2013)

The reviewers keep doing this per-pixel quality, which is irrelevant! the pictures need to be compared per-actual-scene. When I zoom in for detail, I don't care about number of pixels, I care about the actual detail on the object being photographed..

It's the same "oh per-pixel quality is much better on HTC one", who gives a rat's ass when CLEARLY detail is MUCH worse on it. Taking this to extreme, you can replace the whole image with a single super-sensitive pixel with very sharp edges. You'll have amazing per-pixel quality with amazing iso, but alas... only one pixel.

5 upvotes
IEBA1
By IEBA1 (11 months ago)

When you zoom in for detail, what do you think provides the detail you're zoom in on- the pixels.

Otherwise we'd all still be shooting 640x480.

0 upvotes
vetsmelter
By vetsmelter (Apr 26, 2013)

Why we are so undemanding and settle for these "mediocre at best" camera's?
Don't get me wrong, I like to see reviews of new phones like HTC One, but...
By accepting iPhone as the reference, DPreview is deliberately maintaining the status quo of mobile phone camera development.
I know that the 2012 Nokia 808 isn't supposed to exist yet and that "8Mpix is all you ever need in a smartphone" but Believe me, throw in the 808 camera and all the rest looks dated.

Android, iOS nor WP have anything substantial to offer apart from smooth web surfing due to multicore processors.

So that brings it down to the camera and I wouldn't be posting here if the camera spec wasn't a primary criteria in my choice of smartphone.
I'd rather see the 808 included next time so that 2014 may see thicker smartphones with better camera's.

http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/features/item/17055_The_big_shootout_Nokia_808_vs_.php

http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/features/item/17127_How_to_make_jaws_drop_in_20_se.php

10 upvotes
pretol
By pretol (Apr 26, 2013)

iPhone has a decent camera, it's definitely on the "better" side of the phone cameras. 808 would be too big of shoes to fill for the rest of the phones.

0 upvotes
brdeveloper
By brdeveloper (11 months ago)

Agreed. DPReview is not helping customers on getting better cameras. This review shows mediocre performances at best. 2010's N8 is still better in most quesites compared to these cameras.

My 2008's Panasonic LX3 still tops all of these models. Ok, it's a premium compact, but, hey, it's a 2008 camera which has a sensor practically the same size as N8 (smaller than 808's one).

0 upvotes
KP6Five
By KP6Five (Apr 25, 2013)

Looking at the pictures... I doubt the test was done with the HTC One having the new OTA 1.29.401.12. The difference in the pictures are unreal. The detail is right on. The best camera on a phone that I have ever used and I had every premium phone Sprint has put out over the last 13 years. Awesome phone!

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

see a few comments further down on firmware information

0 upvotes
EricHiss
By EricHiss (Apr 25, 2013)

All of these phones take fine pictures during the daylight, but for many people the low light performance is important - either you get a shot of your kids birthday party or your friends in the bar or you don't and here the only one that seems to do the job is the Nokia 920. IMHO the Nokia is the winner in these tests.

3 upvotes
wakaba
By wakaba (Apr 25, 2013)

So all are crap but pretty close to p&s. That is death to p&s.

With Nokia and WP you get skydrive photo backup, integration and sharing is topnotch. Sharepoint works really well.

Nokia fullsize:

https://xsfxeq.sn2.livefilestore.com/y1pl0UnyF5Q6-ff8QWX45rpxW6xq1pllMdZRmTZU2z0gBA4c6tFX0RwQAgDkN_DjFAwxir0i2QHKi7Ir4-OR4_FlmrwnOL5vVTY/WP_20130422_002.jpg?psid=1

The car is really that bright - difficult to shoot. Think 920 did a good job.

2 upvotes
vetsmelter
By vetsmelter (Apr 26, 2013)

Dear wakaba, I suppose you are aware that the link asks for Microsoft credentials?
I have a Microsoft account but I don't feel like identifying myself for just watching the sample.
It is better to use a photo sharing website that does not prioritize proliferation of its "ecosystem" stretching from PC OS to Tablet to Cloud storage services.
My 2 Eurocents.

1 upvote
costinul_ala
By costinul_ala (11 months ago)

sounds like you are trolling ... you can choose to share without pass with pass, without editing right or with .... it is the best service of the kind. Consider the apps and cross platform availability

2 upvotes
pedroboe100
By pedroboe100 (Apr 25, 2013)

Why no Nexus 4?

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

we have to limit the number of phones in these comparisons to keep it workable. The Galaxy S4 and HTC are no doubt the hottest phones right now and we wanted to include an iOS and Windows Phone device as well. I do love the Nexus 4 though, it's my personal device :-)

0 upvotes
pedroboe100
By pedroboe100 (Apr 25, 2013)

Oh, now you play with my feelings...

1 upvote
SergioMO
By SergioMO (Apr 25, 2013)

Really nice job Lars ! My Samsung Glaxy S3 with the improves, is doing a good job ! The next one (S4) with CameraPro APK and ProCapture APK will be Fantastic ! Just adjust ISO, shutter speed etc.

1 upvote
ppage
By ppage (Apr 25, 2013)

It's too bad the new Blackberry wasn't included in this review; it's TimeShift camera setting looks very interesting and no other smartphone has a similar function. I would have been interested to know how the Blackberry's camera compares to these others.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

The time-shift feature is neat but this shootout is focused on image quality rather than features. You can read our full review and see sample images of the Blackberry Z10 here: http://connect.dpreview.com/post/4900429777/blackberry-z10-camera-review

1 upvote
Polarfox2
By Polarfox2 (Apr 25, 2013)

I understand that recently there was a firmware upgrade for the Lumia 920 that changed camera characteristics quite drastically. Which firmware was used in this review?

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

We only got the OTA update early this morning (Thursday), so it wasn't used for this comparison. However, according to the Nokia website it only has an effect on flash exposure in bright light: http://discussions.nokia.com/t5/Software-Updates/Update-released-for-Nokia-Lumia-920-820-and-620/td-p/1841710

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Polarfox2
By Polarfox2 (Apr 28, 2013)

I see. I just got the impression that photo quality was affected by the latest software update:

http://www.windowsphonedaily.com/2013/03/gdr2-firmware-update-leak-nokia-lumia-920-other-storage-camera-fix.html

But I am not even sure if the mentioned changes came with the 1308 version or if they will launch in a later release...

2 upvotes
doubledeej
By doubledeej (10 months ago)

The firmware update release for the Lumia 920 in December made dramatic improvements in the performance of the camera, especially with image sharpness and clarity. Since it seems this review was done with the initial firmware, maybe there ought to be a note that picture quality is likely to be much better with up-to-date firmware. Especially since that firmware was actually available at the time the comparison was written, and it just wasn't used here.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
mitrii57
By mitrii57 (Apr 25, 2013)

The crucial use of camera in smartphone for me is the documents copying, like in CamScanner. I.e. bw A4 documents, handheld in available light in the room, without flash.

Comment edited 15 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

True, I do that a lot but I don't care about image quality as long as I can read the text.

0 upvotes
D300SandV1shooter
By D300SandV1shooter (Apr 28, 2013)

Then just look for 'espionage' in a camera review's 'Good for' list. :-)

1 upvote
SimenO1
By SimenO1 (Apr 25, 2013)

I wish dpreview would compare similary scaled photos. 100% 1:1 pixelmapping is NOT the same scale since each photo have different pixel counts.

7 upvotes
IEBA1
By IEBA1 (11 months ago)

I disagree. Seeing the images represented 1:1 on the screen means this is what it would look like on my computer screen. I don't want to see how it would look interpolated so all the images match size- because then we will all question the interpolation used and how it's not a true representation of the actual camera results.

0 upvotes
crankerchick
By crankerchick (Apr 25, 2013)

This review is good for the majority if users who never take the camera out of auto mode. The strength of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One, however, for certain environments, is the scene modes. Ditto for the iPhone 5 and HDR mode. These were pointed out in the review and are or will be addressed in individual reviews. It just makes it hard to truly compared the phones without it.
Also agree, that an action shot should be included.

In all, though, much appreciated review.

The next iPhone, if the cycle prevails, will see a camera update this gear, so it should get interesting. For capturing the moment in situations where I'm otherwise camera-less, smart phones get the job done. Think I would choose the iPhone or GS4 if I were buying today.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

As you point out the majority of users never use the scene modes. We look into those in detail in the individual reviews. That said, most scene modes only slightly change tonality and/or saturation. Night modes can make more of a difference though.

1 upvote
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (Apr 25, 2013)

The capability of the optical/ image stabilisation ( or the lack of it) should have been tested too, since people take the majority of their images handheld.

That could have been done fairly using some sort of device to move all the cameras the same way while taking the shots. The easiest way to do this could have been to mount the cameras on a car and drive the same track at the same speed and taking a lot of shots, then comparing them. Could you please do this?

6 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

Yes, I'll do that in my lunch break today:-)

There are always more things we would have liked to look at but you have to strike a balance between content/tests and how much time you can spend on a test. This is meant to be a quick overview/comparison of image quality. We will look more closely at IS on the individual reviews.

That said, most of the real-life shots were taken hand-held, so that gives you an idea how well IS works on those phones that have it.

1 upvote
IEBA1
By IEBA1 (11 months ago)

and can you do a skydiving comparison when you're done at the race track?

3 upvotes
Jostian
By Jostian (Apr 25, 2013)

Wonder why they didn't add in the Nokia 808, which is easily the best cameraphone out there (ok it has a dead OS), it easily matches high end compacts in terms of IQ, but still, would have been interesting to see the differences within this group. Sometimes dpreview miss things like this, its always useful/interesting to compare new cameraphones to the best out there, in this case the Nokia 808, why not include it....

4 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (Apr 25, 2013)

Is that phone even in production anymore? Where I live only some obscure web shop has it even listed, presumably they over-estimated demand and got stuck with excess stock...

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

as you point out yourself...it's running a dead OS...and you would probably struggle to find one to buy anywhere. I think those are two very valid reasons to not include it in the comparison :-)

2 upvotes
vlad0
By vlad0 (Apr 26, 2013)

The OS is not dead.. its in zombie mode, and it works perfectly fine.

Comment edited 39 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
CyberAngel
By CyberAngel (11 months ago)

A year old phone is already a zombie? Wow!
Hard to find? Lars Rehm: Really? Did you even try?
Try Amazon! Search for Nokia 808

1 upvote
KaitoKid
By KaitoKid (Apr 25, 2013)

I am not sure if the firmwares of all phones were updated to the latest version? For example, Nokia did improve the picture quality in the latest firmware for Lumia 920.

2 upvotes
mart1234
By mart1234 (Apr 25, 2013)

This shootout feels incomplete without comparing automatic HDR modes on the landscape page. Auto HDR works extemely well on the Iphone. That fact deserves attention IMO.

0 upvotes
thx1138
By thx1138 (Apr 25, 2013)

Just amazed at how bad these cameras are and they are the state of the art, Apple excepted. It's pretty sad to see P&S sales plummeting for this slop as it's not even close. Good enough for the crap posted on Facebook I guess. I see my smart phone camera as as use in case of emergency.

10 upvotes
Cartagena Photo
By Cartagena Photo (Apr 25, 2013)

I think you are a bit to harsh in your comment. Files from theese camera phones especially the S4 easily prints as big as A4, which is as big as most people need, or will look great on a HD TV. So thay are quite usefull as a second camera. I maybe should mention that i normally use a 24 MP DSLR.

Kind regards

David Cartagena

2 upvotes
gl2k
By gl2k (Apr 25, 2013)

Well, it depends. If all you do is watching the images on your phone they are more (!) than good enough. I know quite a few people who watch their images mainly on the phone they were taken with.
However when watching them on a FullHD TV the image literally melts away. Skin texture is almost non existent and night shots are a complete mess.

2 upvotes
Cartagena Photo
By Cartagena Photo (Apr 25, 2013)

That could also be how the TV render the photos because the TV has to downscale them to fit the 1920 x 1080 resolution.
My Sony Xperia Arc S 8 MP looks fine on our Sony HX TV.

Kind regards

David

0 upvotes
W5JCK
By W5JCK (Apr 25, 2013)

Of course they are crap. The most important part of a camera system is the lens. There will never be a good lens that fits into these thin smartphones, therefore the IQ will always look like crap. No way in hell a smartphone photo will ever compare to a decent P&S much less a dSLR. These cameras are novelties designed for low grade social networking images. I cannot understand why DPReview keeps wasting our time with them.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

totally up to you if you want to "waste your time" reading and commenting on this article, we don't make you do it, do we? ;-)

5 upvotes
Spunjji
By Spunjji (Apr 26, 2013)

Thanks for framing your opinion as fact, that's always appreciated and doesn't make you at all sound smug or self-important. ;)

0 upvotes
ConanFuji
By ConanFuji (Apr 25, 2013)

Nice work, Lars.

6 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

Thank you! Always nice to read the one positive comment on an article :-)

3 upvotes
Alphoid
By Alphoid (Apr 25, 2013)

Good first pass at a review. Things that are clear missing:
* Proper specification table. At the very least, this should include sensor size, min/max ISO, modes available (PASM), and RAW support.
* Action shot. The core reason to use a telephone and not a camera is because it is with you. Do I get blur?
* Comparison at identical and reasonable sizes (e.g. 4 real megapixels -- the resolution of a 27-30" monitor so the most you'll practically use, or even lower). Sinc scale all images to 2-4MP, and allow us to view with that as an option.
* Low-light shot where you're limited by handshake.
* Low-light shot where the 250x188 crop is effected by low-light (as you'd post on the web).
* Some semblance of a test of the optical image stabilization. Without IS included in the test, the Samsung clearly wins. With IS, HTC might win.

In an ideal case, I could also view the images double-blind. You scale to ~3MP. I rank by quality. I find out which came from where later.

5 upvotes
meanwhile
By meanwhile (Apr 25, 2013)

Sounds good, go for it.

0 upvotes
Alphoid
By Alphoid (Apr 25, 2013)

The copyright at the bottom says "All Rights Reserved" (approximately). I'm not sure if dpreview would go for me modifying their review...

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (Apr 25, 2013)

iPhone and Lumia are more than 6 months old at this point so S4 with next gen camera unit taking the top spot is no surprise. I guess the next iPhone will leapfrog S4 to take the top spot and S5 will leapfrog next iPhone again. If Nokia actually release their cameraphone it might be the best for a while. HTC is running out of time and marketing budget. I never expected the Ultrapixel to work and indeed it didn't.

1 upvote
SammyToronto
By SammyToronto (Apr 25, 2013)

Thanks for the comparison; I'm thinking of replacing my current phone and this came in handy since camera quality is among the top priorities for me (and I'm sure many others) when deciding on a phone.

On another note, too bad the Nokia N8 is too old to be reviewed; it had by far the best camera on any cellphone that I've owned and would probably have won this comparison. It was practically on par with a good point and shoot camera and it had a powerful xenon flash, which is a rarity in cellphones. Unfortunately, I had to move on to an Android phone (the Sony Ericsson Arc S) since the Symbian operating system on the N8 is a relic, but I do miss the N8's camera. The Arc has a more than decent camera, probably on par with the phones in this comparison, but it's no N8.

Comment edited 13 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
brdeveloper
By brdeveloper (11 months ago)

Agreed. Just read the GSMArena's S4 review and N8 still tops in image quality. S4 camera is a barely decent improvement over SIII but it still lags behind the old Nokia phone. N8 doesn't have those aggressive halos and noise reduction as seen on S4. I miss the N8 camera too. Now I have a Galaxy Note but I have used a Panasonic LX3 for taking decent pictures.

2 upvotes
aidan obsidian
By aidan obsidian (Apr 25, 2013)

anyone else notice the htc one is 28mm and appears to be wider than the nokia's 26mm???

0 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Apr 25, 2013)

Interesting results. Thanks for the test... just makes me appreciate my old prosumer 'relics' that much more! :P

1 upvote
Debankur Mukherjee
By Debankur Mukherjee (Apr 25, 2013)

Nice review but include the Sony Xperia Z in the comparison.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

We would have loved to include the Xperia Z but so far we have been unsuccessful in getting a sample unit from Sony. We have however published out IQ analysis based on data from our partners DxO: http://connect.dpreview.com/post/3663034632/dxomark-mobile-report-sony-xperia-z10

3 upvotes
eveningaccessories
By eveningaccessories (Apr 25, 2013)

Great post. These pictures really show the difference in cameras. I wish I had seen something like this when I bought my digital camers. Thank you so much.

1 upvote
MonkRX
By MonkRX (Apr 25, 2013)

Thanks for the studio test scene pictures, dpreview. Glad to see them again.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Apr 25, 2013)

Nice shoot out and I appreciate the change of crops for the first comparison (left side with the trees seems overly soft on some of these, possibly a lens issue).

Interesting to see the auto ISO behavior too.

I wonder how much difference the scene settings make for the S4 in terms of contrast ans possibly even NR as I think the image would benefit if both were lowered a bit. Is there going to be a full review for the S4 soon?

Comment edited 26 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

There is of course going to be a full review of the S4, hopefully within the next few weeks. HTC One is next in the pipeline though.

1 upvote
WaltFrench
By WaltFrench (Apr 25, 2013)

I was a bit surprised by the evaluation of these photos. First, the 100% view that included the trees, looked quite artificial on the One, although it clearly had more detail. The trees looked like an undistinguished smush of green in the Sammy view, whereas the iPhone & Nokia seemed much more natural. In other words, totally different take on the shots.

Repositioning the HTC and Nokia images caused me to wonder why the Nokia & HTC cameras so suddenly took on different characteristics. Disconcerting, and needless.

Finally, let me vote that the very different pixel counts and focal lengths made it much more difficult to interpret the differences due to the 100% and same position rules. In real life, a photog wouldn't post or print a much bigger photo just because of more pixels, and would move closer or farther to get the desired view (when possible). I'd much prefer to see the same part of the subject to get a sense of how a closeup looks, even if it meant not having 1:1 images here.

2 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 25, 2013)

As always we provide all full-resolution images for download here which allows you to make your own assessment of the images. Like many things image quality can be subjective and if you scroll further down the comments you'll see that a few people will disagree with you, but then again, look at the images and make your own judgement, that's what they're there for.

We had to reposition the images for layout reasons, sorry about that. We usually try and avoid doing that after publishing (as you might imagine).

Re focal length: The studio test samples are framed to match the scene, i.e. the cameras were moved to achieve the exact same framing. The real life scenes weren't, so you get both.

0 upvotes
WaltFrench
By WaltFrench (Apr 25, 2013)

Odd... the specific shot I was commenting on, a park of trees in front of a gray bldg with red trim, seems to have disappeared from being the second group of photos on the first page.

Anyhow, perhaps you'd comment on the closeup of your model's eye (“Portrait; Sunlight”). I thought the HTC closeup made it look like she had serious skin troubles; it looked like the Samsung sharpened her pores to make them look like shaving stubble.

I can't quite tell how visible that'd be in say, a 5X7 or 4X6, but with just a bit of cropping, I'd guess pretty obviously.

Do these uglifications really show in the images?

1 upvote
Total comments: 148
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