Blind Camera Comparison: vote for the smartphone camera you like best

Blind Camera Comparison: vote for the smartphone camera you like best
The poll is now closed. See the results at the bottom of this post.

Last time we did a blind camera comparison – a camera comparison where we let our readers decide which phone should be crowned best – was in January. Back then, six high-end smartphones were competing for our audience's attention, and once the votes were all in, the iPhone 5s emerged victorious, followed by the Sony Xperia Z1 and the LG G2. And now, the stakes are even higher, with nine highly-acclaimed smartphone cameras competing for the top spot.

In the slideshows below you'll see six different scenes shot with these nine high-end smartphones. Nope, we're not going to tell you which phones we've used. After all, we're calling it a blind camera comparison for a reason. In fact, we're not going to give you much in terms of hints. Also, we've removed all EXIF data from the images so don't even bother checking. Furthermore, we've intentionally scaled down all photos to a resolution of 2400 by 1350 pixels in order to keep the game fair for all handsets.

Before you dig down into the sample photos, allow us to remind you that the goal of this blind camera comparison is not to guess which phones we've used. Just vote for the phone which you think has taken the best photos. The poll is down below all samples. With that out of the way, let the voting begin! 

Which phone's photos do you like the most?

Nokia Lumia 1520 (Phone 1)
LG G2 (Phone 7)
Sony Xperia Z1S (Phone 3)
Samsung Galaxy S4 (Phone 9)
Apple iPhone 5s (Phone 4)
HTC One (M8) (Phone 5)
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (Phone 6)
HTC One (2013) (Phone 2)
Google Nexus 5 (Phone 8)



1. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Easy to recognize lumia in low light, Lol no.5 is lumia.

2. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Maybe no.7

6. TechFreak

Posts: 15; Member since: Mar 22, 2013

Best night photo is No1 and i think its HTC One

9. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Yeah I think so too. Because number 1 is superb in low light but horrible in good light lol.

35. Beijendorf unregistered

I actually thought Phone 1 was the all-around best phone in terms of smooth clarity while giving accurate colours and a decent dynamic range. It was sharp, but not artificially over-sharpened like most of the others. It had vivid yet life-like colours; not to the extent that it felt pastel like many others. It felt like it gave natural colours in low-light environments too. And you could actually read the number plates on the cars, which many of the other cameras seemed to blur out due to lack of light. I'm guessing it's either an iPhone, Lumia or an HTC One. Either way, it's a great all-around camera so I'm excited to see what device I'm liking.

53. neops

Posts: 297; Member since: Jan 28, 2014

Outside better is 3 (except scene 3 that got direct sunlight). Night shot 7 Kitchen 5 Toys 9

90. NOKIA808

Posts: 7; Member since: Mar 29, 2014

phone 1 is either a sony ( z1. z1c, z2) or NOKIA 808 ! But it is highly unlikely to use 808 for a comparison in phonearena. But the photos of 1 clearly matches with the snaps i used to get in my 808 in terms of details, natural colours and the darkened areas in some pictures.( taken in 8 MP mode ). If its not 808 i am really excited about replacing my hTc desire u with phone no.1.

46. Hyperreal

Posts: 361; Member since: Oct 08, 2013

how no 1 is horrible? in good light they all look similar, maybe some of them look better but all in all they all seem similar. On the other side in low light only few look good, the rest is horrible, full of noise.

68. jnx_r

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 27, 2014

For the comparison on 27th Mar 2014, its evident from the low light pics that #1 & #3 are better than the others. They should've shot it on a tripod. There is some motion blur in #3 but its still not detracting the detail. The noise in #1 is similar to #3. Its a tough call, personally I'd go with #3 because of the fine noise. Then there is the issue of focus in phone #3 Theatre scene 3. Phone #6 has missed the focus in the low light scene. Angle of view is different in each scene. Should have keep some point of reference to indicate central alignment. Why is the image from phone #1 blurred in scene one? The focus is of each phone is set on different areas in the rubik's cube & the kitchen scene. If you wanted a bias free comparison, then you had to have done it with a tripod and at least ensure that the angle of view is the same and the focus is achieved on the same subject. All the posted shots are difficult to compare from the given conditions. They don't tell you why the subject is or isn't in focus. -------- All that aside, except for a couple of phones, all phones perform pretty similarly, which is absurd. There must be at least some sort of nuances which are clearly missing from the above lot of images. If there's a Lumia 1020 or Nokia 808 among these phones and we can't find it easily, then it says something about the comparison methods.

84. chebner

Posts: 249; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

I agree 1 and 3 are the best but I think 1 edges it out on most pictures. The one picture that was an absolute no brainer was the night photo; 1 had the least amt of noise, the best focus, and no visible motion blur. The compositions need to be closer to identical, this would have resulted in a better comparison. However with varying sensor sizes and focal lengths this would be virtually impossible. In most camera comparisons they should be tripod mounted, however for this type of comparison and cameras being compared hand held I think is best. No one is ever going to mount these on a tripod and in low light you want to see which cameras can take the best pic with the least amount of motion blur. For night photos of a city street, you can't take the picture with a car coming toward the camera. The bright headlights will screw with the exposure metering and the picture will end up under exposed. Camera 1 is a perfect example of this. Without the car coming at the camera the exposure most likely would have been much brighter like some of the others. I did however think Camera 1 had the best night shot. Even as dark as the exposure was there was still good detail in the dark portions of the picture and minimal noise.

85. jnx_r

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 27, 2014

I agree that you need to know about how the camera fares in your hand, but going handheld will introduce a different amount of movement each time, so it becomes biased towards the one with the least movement. We really do not need to know how 'they' think it fares in their standards of real world conditions. We need to know the best that the camera can do. And I think their methods aren't revealing anything substantial to me. I won't take the results from this test seriously. ----- Apart from that, I'd like to add that camera #3 has more detail in the same night shot, even though there seems to be considerable amount of motion blur. Not only that, the amount of noise is negligible, and very fine grained and consistent. Shadow detail is astonishing, as you can still see the lines on the building's shadows, even with the blur, and the color of the sky is also a single tone throughout. This denotes that it has more dynamic range than the others which might be because of a lower ISO + longer exposure or a bigger sensor. Notice how you can see the wires even in the shadowed top left hand corner of the image and the details even in the top part of the tree to the left. Camera #1 on the other hand has removed a lot of details from the shot even though it seems like it has kept more still than the others during the shot. Look at the tree to the left, its completely washed out towards the top half. The car's illumination isn't helping it one bit. Then the same wires which are present in the other cameras are absent in here. So in fact its got even lower detail than some of the other cameras. One could argue that phone #4 and #8 are similar in detail. Then there is the issue of noise which isn't as consistent as phone #3 maybe because it was shot at a higher ISO. ----------- Hence I stand by my statement that phone #3 has the best night shot amongst all of them. Maybe due to a bigger sensor or it could be because the camera chose a lower shutter speed as it had OIS or maybe that's just the way it shoots. Further, I'd say that the characteristics of the image from phone #1 denote that it has the ability to shoot at a higher ISO than the others which is also a good thing. But I'd personally go with #3. There are still too many unknowns, as it is not very easy to discern consistent differences in every shot. The nuances are all smudged with their 'real world circumstances', that I'd not take the results of this test very seriously.

93. chebner

Posts: 249; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

I looked closer and can see the wires you talk about in the upper left for camera #3. Camera 1 and three are extremely close in the night shot but I would probably agree there's probably a little more detail in camera 3. I would say they are equally good in the noise department. But I still can't get past the motion blur in #3. If these were real cameras I would say put them on a tri-pod and which ever has the best night shot with the most detail and an acceptable level of noise is the best in low light situations. But these are phones. The percentage of people that will put these things on a tri-pod I'm sure is less than 1%, and probably not close to 1%. They are going to take all their pics hand held so less motion blur is a huge advantage. Who cares how much more detail there is if it's hidden by motion blur? As a pure camera, 3 might have the best night shot, but as a camera-phone, my vote goes to #1. If I want a good detailed night shot, I'll put my D600 on my tripod. Ultimately, what makes the comparison between the two so tough is the oncoming car in the pic from camera 1. Without that car the pic would have turned out vastly different. Better or worse there's no way to know.

94. jnx_r

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 27, 2014

You really need to ignore the motion blur and look past it. I am well aware that not everyone is going to use their phones on a tripod, but that's not the point. It isn't clear from these shots, just how much movement has been introduced by hand for each phone, mind you each phone could be subject to a a different amount of movement. What if phone#1 was subject to 500um of movement laterally, and phone#2 was subject to 2-3mm of movement, and in multiple axes? This is where the test becomes biased towards the phone with the least amount of movement. Hit/miss rates would help a little but its still going to follow the same biased nature unless you take a large no of shots. A single handheld shot gives not much information to us. If you already have a D600, you'd know this for a fact that a longer exposure time is also going to end up blurring the shot. We have no clue what the exposure is. So with these unknowns, its very safe to say that the night shots tell you very little about their relative low light performance and behaviour. A tripod on the other hand removes a few of the unknowns making it easier for us to compare. ----- There is something else which caught my attention about phone#1. It seems to have gone for an higher exposure than all the other camera's even though the car's headlight is pointing somewhat in the direction of the phone. Even with more light in the scene, the phone chose a brighter exposure. I can't argue that its a bad thing, but in comparison to the other phones, phone#1's behaviour of going for a higher ISO setting for the amount of light which was available, has resulted in reduced dynamic range. I'd probably assume that phone#1 exposes the shots more than the other phones in similar low light conditions or maybe it has the capability to go for higher ISO settings than the others. ------ Another area where they screwed this test bigtime is the macro shot. Each phone has focused at a different distance. Each phone is pointed at a different angle. The macro test would have given a very good analysis of the phone's sensor. But the way they took the test gives us very little if anything. Even so, I'll give you my thoughts. The main thing which can be discerned from the marco shots is the sensor size/aperture. This information is available in the bokeh of each shot. Comparing the bokeh, you can see that phone#1 seems to have the a very large depth of field. The only 2 cameras which excel in this area is phone#3 and #7. But closer inspection and taking into account the closer focus distance of phone#7, we can safely conclude that phone#3 is the one with the smallest depth of field. This is also evident in some of the landscape shots of phone#3, some part of the image, is in the bokeh region. If I had to guess, I would say that phone#3 has amongst the larger apertures or sensor sizes amongst all the phones compared here. ---- We need someone to redo this correctly so that we can figure things out for ourselves.

99. chebner

Posts: 249; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

When it comes to the night shot I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree. For a smartphone camera the lack of motion blur and absence of excessive noise are what sets camera 1 apart in the night shot. The achilles heel of smartphone cameras has always been poor low light and night photography. The small sensors have excessive noise and severe loss of detail at higher ISOs so their ISO settings don't go very high which results in longer exposure times in low light situations which leads to motion blur when shooting hand held and even then they are still normally under exposed. With camera 1 there is minimal motion blur and virtually no noise. This tells me Camera 1 has good high ISO performance resulting in a faster shutter speed, OIS, or a combination of the two. Additionally the level of detail is still relatively high, which means the noise reduction algorithm is very good. I’ll admit there are a few areas of the picture where camera 3 has a little more detail visible but they are in the very darkest parts of the picture. But camera 1 has the headlights coming at it which is going to result in some crushed shadows with most cameras, smartphone or otherwise, so it’s very possible there would be more shadow detail in Camera 1 if the car hadn’t have been coming toward it. It would be very interesting to see what camera 1 would have looked like without the car coming at it. It’s quite possible camera 1 would have been brighter or more evenly exposed as you suggest. But as long as there was still no motion blur, and the noise and detail levels were unchanged I would still say Camera 1 has the best night shot. I’ll admit that in order for me to come to my conclusions I am assuming that the person taking the pictures was conscious of motion blur and therefore holding all the cameras as still as possible. This may be a bad assumption but I’m giving the tester the benefit of the doubt. When it comes to exposure I think Camera 3 is under exposed, especially when you consider there’s no car coming at it. In full auto mode (again an assumption) and without a car coming down the street I would expect overall exposure to be similar to 2,4,5,7&9. I would only expect low exposure like camera 3 and 8 in full manual mode, with appropriate settings. In the end, without knowing all the technical details of the photos the only thing we have to go by is the pictures themselves. I am assuming the person taking the photos was attempting to get the best possible results with each camera, obviously failing in the shots with the cars coming down the streets. ------------------------------------------- I completely agree on your comments about the macro shot. All of them have different focus points, if they’re focused at all. They also all have varying depths of field. But the depth of field issue isn’t a simple one to standardize with camera phones. There are multiple sensor sizes to de

92. badtoy1986

Posts: 2; Member since: Mar 29, 2014

I completely agree with you about the lack of focus, angle, height and specified subject. It would also be nice to know if these were all taken in Auto or what. You can't get a good comparison if they all take a different picture with auto focus instead of a set focus point. In many of the pictures its too hard at 100% crop to compare detail with two different devices since some have blurred items at different focal lengths than the others.

89. NOKIA808

Posts: 7; Member since: Mar 29, 2014

If its a hTc i will never post here again !

98. jnx_r

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 27, 2014

Dang, its the Lumia 1020. I think the OIS has given it the edge in the night shot. I'm really impressed that the G2 and Z1S are so close behind. Even the votes aren't very far off.

56. steedsofwar unregistered

Number 5 is definitely the G2. I voted for 7. But it was so hard between 3, 6, 7 and 9. The poll proves that these smartphones are very similar in what they are capable of and differences are completely negligible. The price of some handsets do not reflect this. Fanboys don't admit this neither. I actually own the G2 but I voted number 7. I have no idea what device that is.

83. CabeloCrespo

Posts: 3; Member since: Aug 19, 2013

I've used G2 for 2 months.And i think number 7 is G2 because of noise reduction and high iso level at night photo sample.

3. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

So difficult to vote because my Intel i7 and 100 megabyte internet has trouble to load these pictures...

5. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Lol what you need now. Even better than this.

7. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Yeah I need a super computer and something similar to internet from the future.

10. jellmoo

Posts: 2620; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Okay, so it's not just me? I have no idea why, but PA loads absolutely terribly for me these days. Every other site is fine, but this one takes forever for images to load.

14. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Yeah I have that problem on every article with those picture viewers.

18. Ashoaib

Posts: 3297; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Same here

21. mayur007

Posts: 593; Member since: Apr 10, 2012

yes it is, pa site site is heavy for no reason gsmarena is way better light and fast

40. lukkiristi unregistered

Same here. And here I was thinking it was my connection.

77. sniperdroid

Posts: 146; Member since: May 23, 2013

Had the same problem too.

80. chebner

Posts: 249; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

Good, I'm not the only one. I was beginning to think I had some malware issues that don't show up when scanned. For the past week or so PA has been very slow for me. All PA pages are slower than normal but these pages with the picture viewers are much slower; clicking on the "View as a single page" doesn't always help either. In fact when I click on that link the browser will often crash. What browser are you guys using? I use chrome on phone and PC.

39. LoveHater

Posts: 234; Member since: Oct 09, 2013

I have to literally wait for 7-8 minutes to properly load PA,especially the pic section,,, I am @ 10Mb/s

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