The iPhone 5’s arrival has meant that we can finally get down to one of the last camera comparisons of the year. The current set of contenders include the HTC One X, the Nokia 808 PureView, the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Sony Xperia T. All have been set to shoot 8-megapixel images except for the Xperia T which uses Sony’s 13-megapixel EXMOR RS sensor. While we tried long and hard to give you full resolution images to decide for yourselves, but were unable to upload them all to the site as a gallery, instead, click through on the grids in each section to get a closer look.
Now that the specifics have been covered, there’s really very little to say beyond - let the camera comparison commence.
Landscape 1 - Could you get anymore London?
Not only do we have a bright red telephone box in the foreground, we also have Charring Cross Road in the background complete with the Palace theatre and a production of Singing in the Rain. We picked this shot for a couple of reasons. Firstly, to identify how the red box is conveyed in picture. Secondly, to see if there’s any background blur to complement the sharp foreground and finally to gauge overall quality and exposure in this well lit scene.
Kicking off with the victor and it’s undoubtedly the Nokia 808 PureView. Not only does it deliver the most foreground detail of the bunch, even when compared to the 13-megapixel Sony Xperia T, but it also delivers some slight blur in the background, making the telephone box absolutely pop. While colour isn’t as saturated as the other phones, its reds bear more realistic tones.
The iPhone 5 comes in second and the Samsung Galaxy S3 places third. In terms of detail, these two phones are pretty neck and neck, though the Samsung Galaxy S3 packs a wider angle lens and a more yellow heavy colour calibration. It’s the richer colours of the iPhone that edge it ahead.
Landscape 2 - We just got more London.
Yes indeed, moving onto Leicester Square station and this shot gives us some shimmery sunset lighting, no areas of sky in the picture to blow out the exposure and a lot of blues, blacks and reds to see how they handle multi-faceted darks.
Thanks to its narrower angle pulling in good detail, great colour management and stupendous exposure, the iPhone 5 wins this round hands down. Aside from pleasing levels of saturation, the shot isn’t at all blown out as it is on the Nokia 808 PureView and HTC One X, and it packs better dynamic range than that found on the Samsung Galaxy S3’s photo. Blacks are handled beautifully and there are no hard edges around the typography.
Second it’s the Nokia 808 PureView. Yes, the shot is overexposed, but it’s wide angle and detail levels really do work in its favour. Look at the Kirby alarm above the red ‘S’ or the ‘Fire exit’ sign - legible eh? Next up it’s the Sony Xperia T. While the 13-megapixel camera is proving disappointing in terms of sheer detail despite the additional resolution, the image looks more rounded than the competition. Also, in the tonally all over the place scene, dynamic range is pretty strong.
High contrast - Oxford Street
Well would you look at where we are, stood slap bang in the middle of the road on London’s iconic shop filled high-street. This picture should push our camera phones to the limits of dynamic range and detail. Some phones will expose darker elements well and blow out the sky, others will get more detail in the clouds and less in the concrete but which phone produces the best shot overall?
The Nokia 808 PureView does. It packs lower contrast levels than the likes of the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3, but it’s the phone that pulls the fullest range of darks through to lights. Admittedly a little overexposed, what really sets it apart is the detail level and the subtleties it picks up when zooming in that other phones lack.
The iPhone 5 is a shoe-in for second place. It might not be the most true to life shot, but boy does it saturate and serene the image nicely. For users who won’t want to post process their shots, it’s arguably the best of the bunch with good range and pleasing colouration. Joint in third place are the Sony Xperia T and Samsung Galaxy S3. Exposure is a little dark in both, however all in all, the shots looks atmospheric with the T delivering more ambience and the S3 a wider angle and more dimension.
Macro - Mini
Sticking with a theme, we’ve got a Mini Cooper topped with a Union Jack for our Macro shot. Being about 4 by 1 ½ inches though, this Mini cooper needed a serious close-up to showcase its detail, and fortunately, our smartphones are more than up to the challenge.
Possibly the toughest round in this comparison, all the phones have real strengths. The HTC One X delivers the most dynamism, allowing us to get nice and close to the subject, the iPhone is beautifully saturated and delivers strong detail. The PureView shot looks like it was taken on an SLR. It’s packing the perfect blend of rich detail and blur, with the lens delivering the least distored perspective. As with the iPhone, the S3 is sharp and beautifully saturated and the Sony Xperia T let us go right up close to the Mini and still stay in focus.
It would however be a cop out to call this round a draw across the board, so we won’t. In first place is theNokia 808 PureView. The wide angle, the image’s clean, moderated perspective all come together to make it look altogether less distorted than the competition.
In second place is the Sony Xperia T. It was without a doubt the easiest to focus and allowed us so close to the car we were convinced the final image wouldn’t show the bumper in focus - but it did. In third place is the HTC One X. The f/2 lens really does come into its own with a popping image, great depth and strong foreground detail.
Low light - It’s a Mini adventure
Turn down the lights, set some colourful characters on a couch and you get the penultimate round of our camera comparison. Unlike pretty much all the others however, this round is a doddle to judge.
In first place is the Nokia 808 PureView. The best detail, the best colouration, the best atmosphere, unlike the iPhone which artificially lights up the room, it pays respect to the dark and pulls through incredible amounts of information from within them - and all with hardly any noise.
Second place goes to the HTC One X. While its f/2 lens was its weakness in the outdoor scenes as it tended to let in too much light and overexpose, indoors it comes into its own with an overall well balanced shot. The Samsung Galaxy S3 and Sony Xperia T come in second. While the T is noisier, it produces good detail and more information than the S3.
Final round - Flash
Once the lights go all the way out and we’re left to depend on our phone’s flashes, most camera phone users despair and give up - but no. We have with us some absolute corkers capable of lighting up a room, let alone a couch bearing three toys.
The very best of the bunch is unsurprisingly the Nokia 808 PureView. A Xenon flash is worth its weight in gold when you’re trying to take a low-light photo and you just need to glance over the results to see how incredible detail is on the subjects. Once done marvelling, check out the big picture where you’ll find a good, even blanket of exposure across the shot.
In second place is the Sony Xperia T. It looks like Sony well and truly took heed of our gripes - and those of many others no doubt - regarding the Xperia S and its lacklustre flash. While the image taken on the T is still a little soft in terms of detail, it’s even and colours look natural. In third it’s the Samsung Galaxy S3. Samsung have long produced stellar flash units for their cameras, and the S3 is no exception. The only area it falls down though is in being too strong. Maybe in the future we can hope for a variable flash level?
Pooling in the scores and the winner of our latest, London inspired camera comparison is the Nokia 808 PureView. Given the 41-megapixel sensor behind those 8-megapixel images though, this is hardly a shock to the system. What’s perhaps more interesting is that we have a tie for second place - iPhone 5 comes and the Sony Xperia T. While the iPhone 5 is easier to use and wins in outdoor environments, the Xperia T’s camera like UI coupled with a touch screen makes using it a pleasure. The macro capability and improved flash over the Xperia S also really help it. In third place is the Samsung Galaxy S3, a good contender across the board, pictures are lively and deliver great levels of detail.
The next time we pool together this many phones, traipse around London or whatever city we’re in and take multiple shots of the same thing will probably be when the Nokia Lumia 920 is released with its optical image stabilisation. But in the meantime - congratulations to Nokia for their PureView and to our contenders - all great camera phones in their own right.