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Smartphone camera comparison: you choose the winner (Results)

Posted: , by Ray S.

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Smartphone camera comparison: you choose the winner (Results)
Judging the quality of the camera on a smartphone is no easy task – you got to step in our shoes over the course of last two weeks when we gave you outdoor and indoor blind tests of three high-end smartphones and a digital camera, and finally the results are in. You already know the terms of the polls – we stripped down all data about the images to get rid of bias and judge solely the quality. The devices we chose aren't necessarily the best cameraphones out there, but our goal here was to give you an impression about the photo capture quality on some of the most popular ones.

We picked some of the hottest phones out there: the Samsung Galaxy S II (appearing as Device 4 in the outdoor test and Device A indoors), the iPhone 4 (dubbed Device 2 and Device D), and the HTC Sensation (known as Device 1 and Device B). The digital camera we used was the Canon PowerShot SD870 IS (Device 3 and Device C), an 8.0-megapixel point-and-shooter released in 2007.

Galaxy S II
iPhone 4
Sensation
PowerShot SD870 IS

Galaxy S II

iPhone 4

Sensation

PowerShot SD870 IS



Outdoor test results:

Overall picture quality test
100% crop detail test

Overall picture quality test

100% crop detail test



The first question we wanted to answer was: “Can a contemporary high-end smartphone perform on par with a common point-and-shoot camera?” The results give a negative answer – the digicam swiped competition away in outdoor tests, but the advantage was most obvious indoors with artificial light or nearly no light at all. We'd like to give props to our user emmarbee who was the only one who managed to approximate the used devices in the first test.

With that said, though, there are three smartphones left fighting for the second spot. In our outdoor test, you ranked the iPhone 4 first among them with a combined total of 1975 votes. The HTC Sensation was a close runner-up, while the Samsung Galaxy S II ended up last.

You can check out the images from our outdoor test again here.


Indoor test results:

Overall picture quality test
100% crop detail test

Overall picture quality test

100% crop detail test



When it comes to our indoor blind test, things looked very differently. An unanimous decision pin-pointed the digital camera as the best performer again, but this time nearly equally eloquent was the people's vote against the iPhone 4. The handset failed to capture adequate images in some of the cases with colors looking unnatural when the LED flash fired. Although the HTC Sensation easily grabbed the second place here, there was a close fight in the strictly detail-centric department, where it managed to slightly edge the Galaxy S II.

With a nearly forensic fever, jiezel91 rationalized about the devices we've used in the second test and deserved a special mention for the way they reached the conclusion that device C is a digital camera. This is just one example of your brilliant analysis, and we were particularly happy with your comments, so we extend our humble thanks to all of you who chimed in the discussion.

You can check out the images from our indoor test again here.

Conclusion:

So, it turns out most of you did find the iPhone 4 a better cameraphone compared to Android powerhouses such as the Galaxy S II and Sensation in the daylight test. Not once have there been negative comments with regards to how the iPhone performs, but it has now come out on top of this comparison, thanks to your votes.

We give credit where it's due. That's why we should note the excellence demonstrated by the Sensation when it comes to shots taken in low-lit, indoor conditions. HTC's offering proved that it's a much better solution for such scenarios, compared to the iPhone 4 and Galaxy S II. Actually, if we have to average all the results from the outdoor and indoor tests, it appears that the HTC Sensation performs best from all three phones, being a relatively close runner-up outdoors, and an undisputed leader indoors.

Finally, it has become clear from your votes that even one of the hottest smartphones out there are still pretty far from being as capable as dedicated point-and-shoots are. We can compromise to an extent of course, that's why some of us are already willing to leave their cameras at home, but if we have to judge pure quality, it's evident that cell phone manufacturers still have a long road ahead of them.

126 Comments
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posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:06 17

1. xenover (Posts: 174; Member since: 27 May 2011)


Great...here comes the Apple fanboy army... -.-

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 07:09 16

36. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


nah.

Great idea though. The only thing I take issue is with us voting on the canon. Yea, i voted for it too, it was by far the best. But since we were only picking 1 winner and not putting them in order, that doesnt mean that the other phones are in order of best to worst. On the inside test camera#4 was horrid though, so it being last is well deserved.. lol

My point being, if the canon was the control and not part of the vote, would the other cell cameras have come out in the same order or would it have changed? The digital camera sucked up 3/4ths of the votes.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 08:05 12

39. vishu9 (Posts: 252; Member since: 03 Mar 2011)


lol...one of the rare occasions i agree with what u r saying, about the canon..

Although I still feel there should have been Nokia N8 included in this test as it is absolutely the best phone-cam in the market and i would have loved to see how it fares against the SGS2!

and i don't see a freakin point in why the iP4 was even put to comparison with the other good cams LOL

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 12:31 1

68. iwebdroidberry7 (Posts: 230; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


What? But the SGS2 doesn't have the better camera is any category so why is the iPhone less of a match than it?

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 16:29 1

81. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


While I would have liked to see the N8 in the comparison too, this comparison was for the "major phones", not just phones marketed as awesome cameras. Otherwise the Sony Xperia whatchamacallit should have been in the comparison too.

iwebdroid,
the SGS2 didnt lose to the iphone. they all lost to the digital camera (who didnt see that comming). Since there was no way to say who was 2nd best this is all just votes for which pic they thought was "best". So there isnt really a 2nd,3rd, and 4th place with the way they had it set up. There was first.. and everyone else.

Honestly, I think some people were just random voting or voting for the phone they "thought" was their favorite phone. The camera was a huge difference between the others.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 08:35 5

44. ayephoner (Posts: 850; Member since: 09 Jun 2009)


i do think the test is quite flawed. it should include a nokia and a sony device and have some way to rank the photos. maybe they can redo it when the new iphone launches.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 09:07 5

52. DLang1234 (unregistered)


What they need to do to accurately create a test is to take a very high end DSLR and snap the pic and say, this is what the scene looks like through a DSLR (colors are neutral).

1)Which of these camera phones presents the closest most accurate image to the DSLR.
2) Which of these images looks the best to you? ( this may not always be the most accurate image, some people like having oversaturation. I do a bit, but not much).

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 13:00

71. megadirk (Posts: 33; Member since: 28 Jul 2011)


I agree completely, this would be a much more accurate way of determining which camera is best. They did give it a good shot the first go around though.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 16:19 1

80. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


exactly.. at least its a step in the right direction :)

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 13:16 1

72. BobbyTaba (Posts: 316; Member since: 11 Aug 2010)


I looked at all the pictures again the galaxy s2 was closest in colors to the canon then the iphone was 3rd then the sensation

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:10 9

2. AhmadAlsayegh (Posts: 293; Member since: 18 Jul 2011)


I can believe that the HTC sensation had the best camera among smart phones!
you should have had an N8 in the comparison

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:25 1

9. Junaidp (unregistered)


Its not htc sensation,its the conon mobile.the percentage of the votes are displayed at the top not at the bottom

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:55 1

15. rmutafov (Posts: 2; Member since: 07 Jun 2011)


well.. it is. AhmadAlsayegh said it had the best camera among "smart phones", and as far as i know the Canon is not a phone ;)

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 12:59 3

70. Stuntman (unregistered)


I agree that the N8 should have been included in the comparison. If you are going to compare the camera on phones, you should have included a phone whose camera is one of the big selling points. I was hoping the N8 would be one of the phones because I really wanted to see how well it compares with other phones.

posted on 06 Aug 2011, 19:27

127. G (unregistered)


What?!?! Where is the Desire HD/ Inspire 4G.. that camera & software kicks ass

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:12 8

3. metro (unregistered)


i would have liked to see the n8 as a fourth phone in this vote.
but this was a great idea to compare these devices, though i didnt expect my sgs2 to do poorly as in this test.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:57 3

16. rfdg (unregistered)


me too. Also the Xperia arc. I don't understand the choice of devices here to be honest...

I'd taken Xperia arc, Galaxy S2, Nokia N8 and the compact digital cam. Maybe the iPhone4 as a fifth contender, but frankly the iPhones camera is nothing more than average.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 10:39 2

57. ngo2dd (Posts: 896; Member since: 08 Jul 2011)


The iphone camera is really damn good. why would include the S2 when it was last outdoor and second to last in the indoor?

posted on 06 Aug 2011, 20:42

129. devil (Posts: 8; Member since: 10 Apr 2008)


everything of iPhone is good. even the camera! cause it's iPhone! the only thing remain which u didn't say it's even good from compact & DSLR camera!!

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:13 5

4. lazarus101 (unregistered)


i'm sorry to say, but these results are bulls**t.
Anyone with good vision would've chosen the Canon camera as the winner in both tests, it was very clear to me which of the four is not a smartphone camera. So those who voted for any of the smartphones really need to change their glasses. The results would've had some relevance if you had to chose the best two cameras.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 05:39 1

19. Dark4o90 (Posts: 205; Member since: 20 Feb 2011)


except for the indoors. it looks awful.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:17 6

5. Ardjet (unregistered)


Quite a surprise.... i expected the best one to be the Nokia N8.
Too bad there was no Sony Ericsson included in the test either. Only dual-core Androids....

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:17 7

6. jiezel91 (Posts: 67; Member since: 28 Jul 2011)


Wow. I can't believe I got a special mention from Phonearena! Well thanks for that! And this time around, I registered. ;)

But then again, I was wrong to think that there was an N8 on the test. Still, I correctly predicted that Camera C is the digicam.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:20 4

7. kamen (Posts: 93; Member since: 18 Jul 2011)


Guys, that test was THE BEST! Congratulations. Also thumbs up for swapping the devices between tests. I only wish an N8 was here :)

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:23 7

8. RaP (unregistered)


I thing test was OK... but we there are few things to learn from this....

1) compare only phone cameras or dedicated cameras
or/and
2) let the viewers to chose 1st, 2nd and 3rd (3/2/1 points)
and
3) more photos/more crops are needed

anyway, thanks a lot for test which was very original

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:10 3

25. Mobile-X-Pert (Posts: 565; Member since: 20 Dec 2010)


Tha's true. If they would've let the people chose 1st,2nd and 3rd, it would've been better.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:39 2

11. danman7200 (unregistered)


wow, ok the results are totally unexpected. I'm very cautious though over the fairness of the test. I've seen countless other examples where the Iphone and sensation photos are much below the quality of the Galaxy S2.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:45

14. dblue45 (Posts: 77; Member since: 26 Aug 2009)


But these are practical tests, mate :)

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 08:58 2

47. district11 (Posts: 125; Member since: 17 Apr 2011)


This is not practical test. In this test you only choose a winner.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:43 3

12. dblue45 (Posts: 77; Member since: 26 Aug 2009)


Waow! HTC Sensation indeed is a flagship! x)

Thanks for the amazing test Phonearena! Would have been better though, if it had Nokia N8 in it... Nevertheless, it was great and looking forward to more of such tests :)

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