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Camera Comparison: Five 8-megapixel Smartphones

By Ng Chong Seng & Sidney Wong - 3 Nov 2011

Five 8-megapixel Cameraphones Compared!

Camera Comparison: Five 8-megapixel Smartphones

Since its launch, the iPhone 4S has gotten rave reviews for its camera's image quality. But what if you want a great camera phone that isn't an iPhone? We happened to have five of the latest eight-megapixel cameraphones in the lab, so we thought why not get our hands dirty and do a quick comparison? And that was what we did. We also threw the five-megapixel iPhone 4 in for good measure, which would also benefit those upgrading to check out if the camera quality is really much better on the newer 4S model. Here is the list of phones tested:-

Do you own any of these smartphones?

  Apple iPhone 4 Apple iPhone 4S HTC Sensation XE Nokia N9 Samsung Galaxy S II Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S
Aperture F2.8 F2.4 F2.8 F2.2  F2.7  F2.4

Other than ensuring that we got the subject centered as accurately as possible (a difficult task since the cameras have different focal lengths and their lenses are mounted at different places), we left all the camera settings at their defaults. The reason is simple: we wanted to apply a method that aligns closely to how most non-technical users would take their photos: that is, take the phone out from the pocket, activate the camera app, point, and shoot. Therefore, the aim of the following tests isn't so much as to determine a winner, but to show you how each camera would react under different (but common) scenarios.

(*The images shown here are crops of the originals; you can click on each of the image to see the full resolution version.)




Apple iPhone 4 - 1/529s, f/2.8, ISO 80, Pattern metering
Apple iPhone 4S - 1/750s, f/2.4, ISO 64, Pattern metering
HTC Sensation XE - ISO 75
Nokia N9 - 1/1000s, f/2.2, ISO 100, Average metering
Samsung Galaxy S II - 1/320s, f/2.7, ISO 32, Centerweighted-average metering
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S - 1/640s, f/2.4, ISO 80, Centerweighted-average metering



Admittedly, this wasn't an easy scene even for real cameras, much less cameraphones: we had an overcast sky (though this provided a great opportunity for a dramatic shot), subjects in the background, middle ground and foreground. The flower in the foreground could prove tricky for any camera's AF system; the intention was to focus at infinity.

Of the six cameras, the Apple iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S II, and Nokia N9 performed the best: we liked how they tried to balance the exposure to give us details at each layer (the iPhone 4S arguably did the best job here). The Galaxy S II looked the sharpest, but its metering choice probably caused it to have a slightly brighter exposure (notice the sky?). The N9 has the widest field of view (due to its 28mm equivalent focal length) - that's a handy lens if you need to cram more into the frame. Both iPhones have a 35mm equivalent focal length somewhere between 30-32mm. For sensors these small (think half your pinkie fingernail size), one would be hard pressed to notice any difference in depth of field between the images. However, the benefit of having a fast lens (such as the F2.2 lens on the N9) is so that you could get a faster shutter speed, which in turn minimizes the possibility of getting a blurred image due to handshake. For the HTC Sensation XE, we couldn't glimpse any shooting info from the EXIF data other than ISO.

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