With the likes of the Apple iPhone 4S, Nokia N8, Samsung Galaxy S2 and Sony Xperia S, camera phones have gone from strength to strength recently. That said, there’s plenty of room for another camera phone to jump into the arena and duke it out. We’ve held heated face-offs before with the HTC Sensation XL, Samsung Galaxy S2, Nokia N8 and the Sony Xperia S all getting the crowns at one point, however now we have the One, the One X to be precise and it’s time to see how good its 8-megapixel back and side illuminated sensor really is.
Outdoor 1 – The Horse
Kicking things off, we’re getting all high-contrast with a life-sized metal horse in a shopping centre. It’s a tough shot, the dark foreground subject is contrasted acutely against the sharp sky. Does the camera focus on getting foreground detail? Does the camera prioritise a well exposed overall shot?
If we were in a real-world situation shooting landscape scenery, we’d opt for the latter, an overall well-balanced shot and the iPhone 4S would have won. That said, we had a subject, we intentionally tapped its face and we wanted it to be well exposed as demonstrated by the Canon Powershot S100. We’re going to argue that when most people tap something, they will want the camera to prioritise it.
So while the iPhone delivered the most balanced overall shot in terms of retaining detail in the sky, which shot best showed off the horse? The Nokia N8 did.
The horse looks like the subject of the image. It’s in focus, detailing is evident and there are clouds in the sky as well. The shot isn’t as sharp as some others, and we would have loved to see a bit more contrast, but given the balance of back and foreground, it’s our pick.
The Sony Xperia S and HTC One X fall just behind in that order. With higher contrast the scuffed face of the horse is brought to light with both these cameras, however we feel the Sony Xperia S managed to deliver more detail than the competition.
Round 1: 3 points: Nokia N8, 2 points: Sony Xperia S, 1 point: HTX One X
Outdoor 2 – Village Green
Colours, flowers, grass, it’s nature’s colour palette and our tool to identify in good lighting, which camera reigns supreme in terms of bright colour accuracy. As can be seen in the final picture taken on the Canon S100, the yellow flowers were an orangey mustard yellow rather than a bright primary.
Looking at the yellows, both the iPhone 4S and the HTC One X deliver the right stuff. That said, their reds are too deep. The Xperia S delivers the most accurate rouges and greens – this is one confusing round. A lot will come down to personal preference. We’re not fans of how the iPhone 4S over-contrasted the shot, though many will like how this makes the plants stand out. The HTC One X over-saturates the greens while the Sony Xperia S’s yellows are too shiny.
With these three being our top, this round therefore has to be a draw between the iPhone 4S, HTC One X and the Sony Xperia S.
Round 2: 2 points: HTC One X, 2 points: iPhone 4S, 2 points: Sony Xperia S
Outdoor 3 – Church
The church shot delivered another high contrast shot to really push these camera phones to the limits. In contrast to the horse shot, this time we’ve tried to get a little more sky in the shot than dark. What you end up with is a very different result.
The winner of this round is the Apple iPhone 4S. With the most accurate colours and easily the best contrast, the shot looks great with detailing also ranking well.
The Nokia N8 comes second with a well balanced, albeit ever so slightly washed out shot placing it in second place. In 3rd place is the Sony Xperia S, with arguably a more realistic image, however, one lacking in the contrast and punch of that of the iPhone 4S. Aside from colour accuracy, the results on these three also look considerably more vibrant than the Samsung Galaxy S2, HTC One X and Nokia N8.
Round 3: 3 points: iPhone 4S, 2 points: Nokia N8, 1 point: Sony Xperia S
Outdoor macro – The Brick
We tested the macro capabilities of all these phones on a muddy red brick within the shopping centre. The processes were the same with a tap to focus where possible and a framing, half-pressing and reframing where not. While the Canon S100 didn’t manage to focus in auto mode (we would have had to use manual), it still gives an idea of the right coloration.
The winner of this round is the Sony Xperia S. Detail wise, it looks crisp and on-point, and despite not having much to gauge white balance against, it’s hit the nail on the head with its earthy brown.
Detail wise, the HTC One X was the winner and quickest to focus. It delivers a stonking amount of information letting us go right up close into the wall, showing off every pore and crevice. That said, the colours are off, the brick looks under-saturated and dull. This being a macro round however, the One X comes in second.
In contrast, the iPhone 4S has delivered good colours, but didn’t focus quite as easily up close, and didn’t retain the amount of detail we would have hoped for placing it third.
Round 4: 3 points: Xperia S, 2 points: HTC One X, 1 point: iPhone 4S
Indoor – Laundry
Indoor shots. They’re a pain for many phones, noise appears in darks and colours look washed out. While the Samsung Galaxy S2 falls short in this round, for the remaining handsets it’s anyone’s game with all producing impressive shots.
The most impressive is that of the HTC One X in terms of detail, noise handling and ease of focus – just look at the curtain and you’ll see what we mean. It saturated the shot a touch too much and pink hued things, however still produces our least noisy image of the bunch.
In terms of indoor detail, the Sony Xperia S comes in a close second with detail on the plans and crossbar (the area tapped) looking clean.
Colour-wise, the iPhone 4S and Nokia N8 are on the money. That said, the iPhone 4S didn’t quite focus and wasn’t as on the money in terms of staving off noise, placing the Nokia N8 third.
Round 5: 3 Points: HTC One X, 2 Points: Sony Xperia S, 1 Point: Nokia N8
Indoor Macro: Nuts
Laundry drying, we pop out for a coffee and some roasted nuts. As standard in most comparisons we do involving the Nokia N8, we have to give a disclaimer. The Nokia N8 is a pain to focus up close on a subject – it has to be forced into macro and the focal distance is considerably further than the competition. That said, we did it and the results look ok.
Going right up close on the letters though, it becomes clear which camera offers the sharpest shot – the Sony Xperia S. Thanks to the 12-megapixel sensor, it’s picked up the marbling of the ink on the plastic and halo around the lettering beautifully.
Second sits the Samsung Galaxy S2 with its first ranking of the round-up. It delivers a crisp shot and attractive amounts of background blur. In third place is the HTC One X. With fantastic detailing, it also offers an attractive, well contrasted overall image with attractive colours and depth.
Round 6: 3 points: Sony Xperia S, 2 points: Samsung Galaxy S2, 1 point: HTC One X
Indoor 2 – Midnight snack
Laundry done, finishing up some work and we snap our mobile office and midnight snack below. With mediocre lighting, it’s noise handling and exposure accuracy we’re looking for.
And once again, the indoor champion emerges. With fantastic detailing despite the lighting and the general subject looking accurate, the undeniable winner is the HTC One X. It also produced the lowest noise and best overall exposure, click through on the picture to see just what a competent indoor shooter the One X is.
Next up is the Nokia N8, again on the basis of noise handling and in third place is the iPhone 4S which unnecessarily brightened up the image but was still competitive in terms of noise.
Round 7: 3 points: HTC One X, 2 points: Nokia N8, 1 point: iPhone 4S
The final round and we hardly move a muscle. With the simple flick, we turn off the lights, turn on the flash and snap away in pitch black.
Xenon has had a habit of winning past flash rounds and once again, it’s prevailed for the Nokia N8. Topping the table it lit up the room, evenly illuminated the scene and stole the show. Second up, the HTC One X. With multiple levels of flash, the One X is the best of the LEDs on the scene. Finally it’s the iPhone 4S in third despite some pretty intense grain.
Round 8: 3 points: Nokia N8, 2 points: HTC One X, 1 point: iPhone 4S
In sheer attestation to the quality of mobile cameras today, this was the hardest roundup we’ve ever done. We threw in the Canon S100 as a benchmark, and in complete auto mode even that went off track at times. What we are left with nevertheless is a winner and if you’ve yet to do the sums, in this suburban phone camera roundup with a total of 14 points, it’s:
The HTC One X. The best indoor shooter, the best LED flash and our favourite touch user interface of the bunch topped the table. Not perfect, there were a few colour issues but anyone rocking one will be capable of taking some pretty cracking pictures with the lowest amounts of noise on a mobile. Check out our full review for a whole load of additional pictures shot on the HTC One X and a sample of them below:
Second by just one point is the Sony Xperia S. Given the inclusion of a physical camera button, it is the best choice for anyone who isn’t sold on touch UI and also feels most like a camera. Picture quality is also up there with the highest levels of details out of any of the cameras in the bunch. As with the One X, you can see more pictures taken on this 12-megapixel snapper in the full review.
Finally in 3rd place is old-faithful with 11 points, the Nokia N8. Picking the iPhone 4S to the post, Nokia’s 12-megapixel snapper has a great camera sensor which handles low light incredibly. That said, where it steals the show is when you turn on the flash thanks to its Xenon power.
That’s another camera phone comparison rounding up the latest and greatest out there. You can download full resolution versions of all the images with a simple click so get involved, click away and leave a comment in the box below.