Samsung Galaxy S4 is the most powerful Android smartphone of the South Korean company, and it is delighting the users with a 13 megapixel camera that comes with loads of features, like HDR mode for stills and full HD video recording, autofocus support and touch-focus, LED flash, and image stabilization system.
But how does the Samsung Galaxy S4’s camera performs when compared to its rivals: the new HTC One, Sony Xperia Z, Apple’s iPhone 5, and the impressive Nokia Lumia 920 and its PureView camera.
The guys at Gizmodo got their hands on the five aforementioned smartphones and tested their cameras. In order to evaluate the camera performance of the devices they will be tested in four common scenarios, that are following the camera’s abilities when it comes to macro and wide angle photos, using natural light, and photos in low light conditions with or without the LED flash activated.
But before kicking off the Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 vs HTC One vs Lumia 920 vs Sony Xperia Z camera battle let’s take a look at the technical specifications of the smartphones that will fight today.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is powered by either an octo-core Exynos 5 Octa SoC or Snapdragon 600 SoC depending on the market the smartphone is sold on. It also comes with 2 GB of RAM, 16/32/64 GB of internal storage, 5-inch full HD display with Super AMOLED technology and a 13 megapixel camera.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 connectivity features include NFC, LTE, HSPA+, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi in all standards, microUSB and IR blaster. The terminal is running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box
The iPhone 5 is the biggest rival of the Samsung Galaxy S4 being powered by Apple’s iOS 6. It comes with a dual-core 1.2 GHz Apple A6 processor with PowerVR SGX 543MP3 GPU, 1 GB of RAM, and 16/32/64 GB of internal storage. The iPhone 5 comes with 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, and Apple’s proprietary lightning port for USB connections.
The iOS-powered smartpone comes with an impressive 8 megapixel camera and a 4-inch LED-backlit IPS LCD display with a resolution of 640 x 1136 pixels.
HTC One on the other hand boasts a quad-core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600 processor (the same on the Galaxy S4 but clocked 200 MHz lower), 1 GB of RAM, and 32 or 64 GB of storage, without microSD card slot. Besides 4G, WiFi, HSPA+, Bluetooth, NFC, infrared port, and microUSB 2.0, the HTC One also comes with a 4.7-inch Super LCD3 display with full HD resolution.
Running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, the HTC One has the lowest resolution camera in the comparison: a 4 megapixel UltraPixel sensor.
Nokia Lumia 920 is the only Windows Phone 8-powered and it sports an amazing 8.7 megapixel PureView Camera. Lumia 920 also comes with a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor clocked at 1.5 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a 4.5-inch IPS LCD display with HD resolution.
The connectivity features are also worthy of a modern smartphone and the battery is a 2,000 mAh unit.
Least, but not last, the Sony Xperia Z comes with a 5-inch full HD TFT display, but it also brings a Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset wit four Krait 200 cores clocked at 1.5 GHz, Adreno 320 GPU, and 2 GB of RAM. It has 16 GB of internal flash storage expandable via microSD cards and is IP57 certified, being water and dust proof.
With a 13 megapixel camera mounted on the back, the Sony Xperia Z is 7.9 mm thin and weighs 146 grams.
Enough with the technical specifications, let’s watch the Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 vs HTC One vs Lumia 920 vs Sony Xperia Z camera battle.
Used for close-up photos, without direct sunlight, but in daylight conditions, Samsung Galaxy S4 manages to snap images with a competitive quality level, the results being very close to those of the Sony Xperia Z and iPhone 5 models. Lumia 920 disappoints by using a less realistic color palette while the HTC One is not performing well when it comes to reproducing details, showing that the 4 megapixel sensor has a lower resolution than its competitors.
Anyway, the camera mounted on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a bit inferior to the one installed on the iPhone 5, which managed to capture the most details.
Low-light without flash
In this test is evaluated the performance of the camera when used in low light conditions without the flash light turned on. All the smartphones had the camera set on Auto model, considering that the is is the setting is the most frequently used, as the average user won’t bother to activate the Night Mode. Anyway, the iPhone 5 is the only one that doesn’t come have the Night Mode feature.
Unfortunately, both Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z failed this test, the pictures taken being too dark. Although it performed somewhat better, the camera installed on the iPhone 5 takes pictures with too much background noise, compromising the details. With a not very clear image, but well exposed and with less noise, the camera of HTC One passed this test with a respectable result.
The winner is the Nokia Lumia 920 model, as its low light without flash photos are well exposed, without to much background noise and with a satisfying level of detail.
Low-light with flash
Although it may seem easier to pass compared to the previous test, taking low light photos with flash turns out to be a trap for all the phones tested by Gizmodo, including the Galaxy S4 model. Except for HTC One, all models tested showed a tendency to overexpose the image, resulting in an overall artificial and unpleasant look.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Nokia Lumia 920 have the advantage of capturing a lot of details, but because the LED flash is placed to far from the optic sensor makes the photos take with the Samsung Galaxy S4 to have long shadows and resulting in a not quite pleasant look.
The camera installed on the iPhone 5 is advantaged by the fairly better placed flash, but the color reproduction is not what you’d call accurate.
The winner of the low light with flash test is the HTC One.
Both Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One take well exposed photos and with the white balance adjusted accordingly, but the Samsung smartphone is more about details. iPhone 5 takes photos at a quality that is close to the one of the Galaxy S4, but the details are a reproduced slightly distorted.
The pictures taken with Sony Xperia Z are suffering because of the lack of exposure, which makes the photos seem darker.
The winner of the daylight lanscape test is the Nokia Lumia 920, its pictures being well balanced in terms of exposure time, color reproduction, and details.
Even though the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a smartphone with solid camera performance, which is capable of providing a lot of details in most situations, its modest results in low light conditions make it pale in front of the Nokia Lumia 920 or HTC One.
The modest results in low light conditions and the tendency to underexpose the photos are pushing the Xperia Z on the last place of the fight.
Launched more than half a year ago, the iPhone 5 is starting to show its limits, but, as a whole the results of the 8 megapixel camera are pleasing.
HTC One and Nokia Lumia 920 are the best options for the users that want the best cameras on their smartphones, being capable of snapping satisfying photos in almost any situation. Still, the two devices are not perfect. The HTC One photos are sometimes slightly underexposed and with visible noise, while Lumia 920 has some problems when it comes to color balance.