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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: 173; Member since: 27 May 2011)


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

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 07:09 16

36. remixfa (Posts: 13942; 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: 251; 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: 13942; 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: 837; 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: 13942; 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: 254; 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: 787; 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: 65; 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: 85; 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: 108; 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 :)

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 04:44 4

13. jiezel91 (Posts: 65; Member since: 28 Jul 2011)


To be honest, throughout the test, I thought Device 4 and Device D is a HTC device (particularly Sensation) since most people regard HTC phones as particularly weak in the camera department. But then again, I was in for a shock that HTC Sensation came out generally well over Samsung Galaxy S II.

Still, I have to admit the fact that I miss seeing some phones here. Phones like Nokia N8, Sony Ericsson Satio, Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, Samsung M8910 Pixon 12, Motorola Milestone XT720, LG Optimus 2X should have been here.
While overwhelming as a number, more devices mean tougher choices for each visitor which would result to a much better representation of what the general public thinks.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 05:01 3

17. nara (unregistered)


i dont understand what is iphone doing here in between 8 megapixel shooters.

Does apple pays phonearena for this kind of stuff. Iphone produces highly saturated colours its not even better than the original galaxy s.

They should include Arc and n8.
This is totally biased competition.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 05:36 4

18. T (unregistered)


I loved this test & followed with great interest! Thank you for doing this.

What I'd like to add here, had I not voted "C" for most of the shots I would then have most often chosen the one that was Samsung... so that tells me, my vote didn't really count in the end results. I don't feel the results are truly accurate due to this fact.

I can clearly see that I would be happy with the general performance of Samsung :))

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 05:41 4

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


The only one picture i think iphone is the best is the macro shot of the yellow flower then if look at the end of both comparisons where are compared all pictures one to another you'll see that the iphone's is the worst camera!!!!! even my n82 is better

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 05:48 2

21. district11 (Posts: 108; Member since: 17 Apr 2011)


People are blind...

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 05:52 5

22. Quist (unregistered)


Nice effort, but unfortunately you invalidated your own test by putting the point-and-shoot in the running (a demonstrably better camera by far) and then only asking respondents which one of the four was best. This means that you've just confirmed that the large majority of the respondents aren't blind, but invalidates any comment on the runner up.

However, if you had thrown the point-and-shoot in the mix, but then asked people to choose their 1st and 2nd choices, then comments on the other three could have been made with validity.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:06 3

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


Why wasn't the N8 in this comparison, I know it was declared the best cameraphone of 2010 but still, it should've been in the comparison.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:10

24. Eingild (Posts: 203; Member since: 19 Apr 2011)


Omg! The Nokia N8 was written off completely on this comparison?! I know it's a rubbish smartphone, but it is still a smartphone and definitely one heck of a cameraphone. Sigh* I guess there's no helping it. The digital camera is not even qualified for this test since technically speaking, it is not.. I repeat, It is "NOT" a smartphone.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:23

26. pyradark (unregistered)


SE Arc should be there...to kick those powerful phone.....!!!

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:29 3

27. koss (unregistered)


The results are this way becouse:

1: Photo were downsized from 8MP (5MP) to only 1024 x 768 that means a 0.78 MP so is a loss of significant details in pictures.

2:At 100% crops with same phone with other settings such EV, ISO, exposure, white balance, contrast, sharpness, color you can make very different photos and if you show that picture to anyone they will say is made with different phones so setting in camera plays a crucial roll to the overall quality of photos taken. In samsung phones there are plenty of settings. Pictures took here are lack of contrast, sharpness and color. Also the white balance is improper. I bet if you play with settings you can make much better pictures.(samsung)

I consider this blind test is not a actual conclusion of quality of mobile phones. Is much rather an overview of phones camera quality.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:37 7

28. JS15278 (Posts: 13; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)


what a surpise they didn't use the nokia n8 becase then the winner would be the n8 and this is something that we don't want (nokia must die) i am sorry but the hate for nokia is something that you can't hide

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:39 4

29. Gregg63 (unregistered)


"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. "

No. 23-30% thought it was better than the other Android phones and better than the Canon camera. Learn2statistic.

And lazarus101 is right. The results show that most people voting could not recognize the Canon camera's obviously superior quality. Including the Canon in the test removed every person who has any idea about picture quality from the cell phone comparison.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:49 3

30. cam (unregistered)


Great to see that the best camera is actually... a camera :)

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:58 2

31. dan_md (Posts: 66; Member since: 19 Oct 2010)


Poorly done test. No N8 included? You must be kidding me. If the N8 was included, it may have been neck to neck with the digital camera...

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:58 3

32. N8userboy (unregistered)


Its really stupid to have camera shoot off without Nokia N8...really...or maybe it's just without question the best camera phone and beacuse of that is not chosen for the comparison :) I think that Galaxy S2 its only making good videos ... Sensation is make good pic's but s**tty videos ... And iphone is make decent of both :)) But still N8 is the winner for me =)

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 10:45 1

58. ngo2dd (Posts: 787; Member since: 08 Jul 2011)


Really let throw in a lot of those japanese camera phone witha 14 mp and 16 mp in to the mix and less how great your N8 is? Fanboies are so blind to their what is best.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 11:02 1

60. vivek.ray (Posts: 22; Member since: 08 Apr 2011)


just let us know if u had used any jap-phone by chance having 16MP camera , also quote its model and pics . if u haven't then stop livin in virtual world of calling people fanboys.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 12:14 1

67. N8userboy (unregistered)


Actually I`m only saying that N8 camera is the best :) And there is no argument about it =)) Its not only the 12 MP you know...

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 13:48 1

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


Alright go get your japanese phone and I'm gonna bring my N8 along with the ''Camera pro app'' to take raw pictures at a 100% of the sensor. You won't even believe how great those pictures will come out. It's not all about megapixels, It's the sensor and lens what count. In fact the N8's sensor is so big not it only uses an 80-85% of it's capacity. But there is an app called ''Camera pro'' that allows you to use the sensor at 100%, but increases the size of the picture.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 06:59

33. danman7200 (unregistered)


If pictures were not downsized do you think the results would be different?

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 07:00 2

34. Sniggly (Posts: 7122; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


Lol. Well, good job Apple.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 07:01 1

35. Sniggly (Posts: 7122; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


And better job, Sensation.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 07:31 1

37. TonyBlue (unregistered)


I'm really surprised by this. I have a SGS2 and have found the camera and video to be excellent. I've compared it to my sons iPhone 4 and the results are different to the ones on here. Never mind. Still luv my S2.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 07:49 3

38. silvercat13 (unregistered)


The following statement would be true if Nokia N8 was not existing:

"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"

As the Nokia N8 does exist and has been ignored in the comparison, this conclusion and the whole article is ultimately a collection of misinformation and incompetence.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 08:06

40. rigor (unregistered)


all of which goes to show that NO camera phone will ever really replace a good digicam....not yet anyway....

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 08:10 5

41. vishu9 (Posts: 251; Member since: 03 Mar 2011)


"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"

- LOL, if only there was an N8 in the outdoors test :)

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 08:15 7

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


Gsmarena.com did a blind test like this a while ago, with the Samsung pixon 12, Nokia N8 and a 10.1 mpx Sony digital camera. Guess what? The Nokia N8 put the Sony digital camera into shame!!!

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 09:04 4

50. rex1213 (Posts: 77; Member since: 29 Jul 2011)


I wonder who was that idiot who gave Mobile-X-Pert a thumb down when everything he/she said is right.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 08:27 4

43. YowtaiLo (unregistered)


Dumb test.
First of all it didn't even include N8 which is the known best phone camera out there....
Second is the stupid system that only allow you to pick the best one.. Maybe try asking people to rank them next time... of course most people pick the Digi Cam and test result is useless.

posted on 29 Jul 2011, 08:46 2

45. bla bla (unregistered)


I just wish u had like the best phone of each major phone manufacturer to compare the camera... its like this was made for the iphone 4 to win among the smartphones...
by the way I always heard that HTC cameras are crap why they put them here?

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