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REVIEW: Camera shoot-out between HTC One, Huawei Ascend P6, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Nokia Lumia 925
Posted by Arne Hess - on Tuesday, 23.07.13 - 17:51:11 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 10828x
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No question, doesn't matter if a smartphone has LTE, a 720p or 1080p HD touchscreen or Android, iOS or Windows Phone, one of the best - if not the best - features of is  the camera. The camera is always with you, the camera is virtually always ready to take a photo and it even allows to record - in most cases - HD videos. No wonder that the smartphone camera has mostly replaced the point and shoot cameras since the best camera is always the one which is with you. Now it comes to the question how good such a smartphone camera is and for a spontaneous shot, which is then shared via Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, most smartphone cameras a good enough anyway. Nevertheless, manufacturer are often advertizing their high-end phones with special camera optics and features and the question stays: how good are these high-end smartphone cameras?

Last week, I took the time to have a photo shoot-out with 4 high-end smartphone cameras which were the HTC One, the Huawei Ascend P6, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Android phones and the Nokia Lumia 925 Windows Phone.

  • 4 megapixel UltraPixel autofocus camera
  • 1/3" BSI sensor with dedicated HTC ImageChip 2
  • F2.0 aperture and 28 mm lens
  • 2-axis Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
  • 8 megapixel autofocus camera
  • BSI sensor
  • F2.0 aperture
  • No Optical Image Stabilization
  • 13 megapixel autofocus camera
  • 1/3.1" BSI sensor
  • F2.2 aperture and 28 mm lens
  • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
  • 8.7 megapixel autofocus camera
  • 1/3" BSI CMOS sensor
  • Zeiss Tessar f/2.0 and 26 mm lens
  • 2-axis Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)

In the test, all photos were shot with the camera's full resolution which means that not all smartphones provided a 16:9 resolution. With 13 megapixel, the Samsung is only able to do 4:3 photos; only the camera's 9.6 megapixel resolution is able to provide 16:9 results. Same for the Huawei Ascend P6 where the 8 megapixel resolution provides 4:3 photos while only the 6 megapixel resolution is able to provide 16:9 photos.

Preparation
All tested smartphone cameras offer countless options of scene modes and other ways to fine tune shots - like HDR. For this test, I only used the original device camera software with standard settings, since this is the way how smartphone cameras are used most of the time (just recently also proved by you - the readers of the::unwired - with our smartphone survey). Furthermore, all devices were mounted on a tripod to make the photos as comparable as possible. Therefore, the HTC One and the Nokia Lumia 925 weren't able to play to their strenght both devices have, thanks to the optical image stabilization.

Close-up under Studio Conditions

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

Macro under Studio Conditions

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

Neither with the close-up, nor with the macro shots, there are any noticeable differences between the four cameras and all four provide clear and detail-rich photos. The most noticeable difference might be the depth of focus.

Landscape in the Sun

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

Landscape in sun photos are similar. No real differences except that the HTC One shot seems to be a little bit darker, while the Nokia Lumia 925 and Huawei Ascend P6 seems to be brighter and more brilliant.

Landscape with Backlight

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

Contrary to the previous set of pictures, photos with backlight seems to be darker with the Lumia 925 and Ascend P6 while the One and Galaxy S4 seem to be a little bit brighter and brilliant. While both phones provide more details of the house, the clouds are blurred and slightly overexposed.

Close-up

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

All four camera phones provide rich color contours, and details. Also the clouds aren't overexposed. However, the trees seem to look fresher with the Lumia 925 and P6; as well as the statue looks a little bit brighter.

Flowers Close-up

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

The flowers close-up hardly provides any noticeable differences which is pretty much in line with the close-ups under studio conditions. However, the Galaxy S4 photos feels to be slightly brighter which results in a loss of details in the textures.

Flowers Macro

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

Same for the flowers macro shots. No real and noticeable differences between the four camera phones and all four phones provide rich colors.

Action Shot

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

All four camera phones can be perfectly used for action shots. Non of them had a problem to catch the surfer. However, the white water in the sun seems to be a little bit overexposed with the One, Galaxy S4 and Ascend P6 while the Lumia 925 seems to provide slightly better details.

Evening Shot without Flash

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

All four phones can be easily used for evening shots, right after the sunset. No flash is needed. However, the One's Galaxy S4's and Ascend P6's sky is again slightly overexposed while the Lumia 925 offers a more natural color.

Night Shot without Flash

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

Really dramatic are the differences in the night, with a typical street scene where the street lanterns are the only light source. While the HTC One and Nokia Lumia 925 are offering more than reasonable results only, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is way too dark. It actually shows the scene how it looked. However, it's still able to differentiate between the sky and the roof. The Huawei Ascend P6 tries it best to be a little bit brighter but this goes on cost of granularity.

Night Close-up without Flash

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 925

Samsung Galaxy S4

Huawei Ascend P6

Same for the close-up of a parking car. With the One and Lumia 925, the car is really red and the photos offer details of the wheels and even show details of the break disk. The Ascend P6 tries to follow-up but again with more granularity. The Galaxy S4 has virtually given up.

Final Conclusion

Except for the night shots, the differences between all four smartphones aren't dramatic - at least not with the thumbnails above or the web optimized enlarged versions. Differences in the details can be only found in the original sized photos but also these differences aren't to dramatic at all. Colors are natural, details are feature rich and crisp.

Therefore I would say that this shoot-out has no looser but for sure two winners: the HTC One and the Nokia Lumia 925. All together, both phones provide the best results under all circumstances; from macro to close-up to landscape to action to night shots. No wonder, since both devices feature the biggest sensor pixel size. While the Lumia 925 has a sensor pixel size of 1.4 µm, the HTC One has even 2.0 µm which means the sensor gets more light. That's way more important than any megapixel, especially under difficult light circumstances since you can see that a 13 megapixel device provides the darkest results while a device with "only" four megapixel provides the brightest results; together with Nokia Lumia 925 which seems to feature the most well-balanced camera of all four smartphones.

In any case, you can't do anything wrong with the four tested smartphones if you want to use them as your point and shoot cameras. However, if you are like me and prefer to to low-light photos without flash, you better verify that the smartphone is as good in the night as it is under perfect light conditions. In this case, the clear recommendations are the HTC One (Android) and the Nokia Lumia 925 (Windows Phone).

Lust but not least - and this isn't related to the photo results above - I have to admit that the dedicated hardware shutter key of Windows Phone (and in this case of the Nokia Lumia 925, but the same applies for the HTC 8X/8S, Samsung Ativ S and Huawei W1) is one of the best photo features a camera phone can have! I wish manufacturers would bring it back to their Android phones as well.

Cheers ~ Arne


 

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Comments
Posted by TKIP on 24.07.13 - 14:47:39

Wow, I'm really shocked how bad Samsung's 13 MP camera is in the night while it looks fairly good in the sun. But as much as I'm shocked, as much I'm also amazed how good a 4 MP camera can be! Great comparison, thanks for sharing!

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