Apart from being a phone, the second most important feature of a smartphone for me is the camera. As I have written previously, the most time I had spent on researching available phones went into reading camera reviews. Since I was committed to about 80% to the Nokia Lumia 925 I was most interested on how this phone compared to my then current iPhone 4S. Unfortunately there haven’t been any reviews comparing those two devices. Most of them used the iPhone 5 or 5s as an opponent, which already had a better camera than my highly praised 4s.
I’m an athletic person and like biking or other forms of physical activity, so I grabbed my bike and went for a ride. With me: three smartphones (who doesn’t have three?), some food and drink and cloudy weather. The premise was to compare the Nokia and Apple devices but since I still have the Galaxy S2 around I thought “why not, let’s compare them all”.
What follows is a slew of images with a short comment after each set of shots on how I think the cameras handled the task. The order of each set of images is as follows:
- Lumia 925
- iPhone 4S
- iPhone 4S HDR
- Galaxy S2
Since the iPhone provides an easy way to take HDR images I used this as the default. This generates the standard image and an additional HDR version without any hassle. The Lumia supports taking multiple pictures with different exposures as well (you can even set the number of how many different shots to take and how much difference in exposure to apply to each shot) but it doesn’t stitch them together automatically like the iPhone does. Apart from that I used the default settings on every phone. I didn’t play around with white balance or ISO (which the Apple device doesn’t allow to change) but instead let the camera software pick what it thought was the right thing.
Spec-wise all I can give you is around 8 megapixels for each camera. The Lumia one, I think, has the highest resolution with 8.7 MP. All in all they’re all in the same ballpark.
Here’s the first set of images.
The iPhone certainly produces the more saturated images. The Lumia seems to provide more balance which allows to see more of the darker areas (the trees on the left). But somehow I feel that the pictures from the iPhone and Galaxy S2 are a bit sharper, but only when looking at the grass on the bottom left. It looks like there’s more detail there.
Again, the iPhone’s images have a bit more contrast and saturation where it looks like the Lumia shows more shades of colors, which then let’s the image appear a bit more blurry.
The core characteristics are still the same but this time I actually think the Lumia shows more details. The look into the forest isn’t as dark and shows more than the other phones. However, the iPhone and S2 pictures jump the eye more.
In this close-up neither one shows the correct colors. The S2, I think, is closest but still exaggerated. The Lumia’s image looks pretty bleak with too much blue hues.
In this particular image I really prefer the result of the Lumia Camera. The colors just feel pleasant. Even in the sky some details can be seen. The iPhone and Galaxy show equally little detail in the sky but the S2 picture looks very crisp. Overall, the iPhone loses this one.
This shows a similar outcome as the very first picture. Both the iPhone and S2 generate a more vivid image but the increased contrast results in almost black colors in the forest on the left whereas the Lumia still shows some details. Overall though, the Nokia camera looks boring in comparison. But I think I have taken the Nokia picture when clouds covered the sun. There are no shadows of the crops in the field on the left, which takes away some of the intensity and dynamics.
Stay with me, now follow the last 4 sets of images. All of them are indoor shots, with the first three showing flashy colored items in different lighting conditions. The last one is a hand drawing of my living room on a piece of graph paper.
Let’s start with the smurf. This image has been taken in a very well sun-lit room.
The most accurate shot comes from the Lumia’s camera. It is even as sharp as the picture taken with the Galaxy S2. Both iPhone images seem a little bit blurry. What none of the cameras show is that the wall is actually not white, as one would clearly think when looking at the image created by the S2.
This is where the Nokia camera shines. I have lowered the blind to about half and the image still shows good colors and details. The iPhone produces very noisy images and the Galaxy seems to have taken a night shot. This one clearly goes to Nokia.
Same result with the blind almost all the way down. The actual condition was somewhere halfway between the Lumia shot and the other ones. However, the image from the Lumia still shows the scene. Forget about the other cameras. The funny shadow on the left of the smurf’s head is actually correct. It looks like some weird error but it really was as depicted.
This one certainly goes to the Galaxy camera. The image is as sharp as expected. The other cameras couldn’t produce an equally crisp output.
What’s my verdict? Well, my goal was to not get a worse camera than the iPhone had and from looking at the pictures, I think the Lumia does very well. Colors aren’t as prominent as on the other phones, but they seem to be more balanced. One drawback though, when comparing the Lumia to other phones it somehow seems as if other cameras can produce sharper and crisper pictures. In this comparison, with a rather level playing field (around 8 megapixels), it is not that obvious and can vary from image to image, but that gut feeling is there. Where Nokia’s camera can shine though, is in low light conditions. I can’t wait to see the results of pictures taken at a concert at night.
Verdict: I’m quite happy and have no reason to be sad about giving my iPhone away. In the end, if I really care I could edit the photos and increase saturation and contrast and get the same result color-wise as with the iPhone.