Smartphone camera comparison: you choose the winner

Smartphone camera comparison: you choose the winner
Picking the best camera among today's high-end smartphone is no easy task – sheer megapixels matter, but so does the sensor, the type of flash used and tens of other factors. While those are all relatively objective factors, there is one thing that swings decisions even more than the pure quality – call it bias, affection or fanboyism – afficionados of a certain brand will often overlook the negatives and claim their favorite product is the best out there, period.

That's why we've decided to strip down bias to the lowest level possible: we give you a blind test. But it's not just of smartphones as we're well aware that today's cutting edge handsets do well in challenging some basic digital cameras. That's why below you'll find images shot on three high-end smartphones and a point-and-shoot camera, all taken at select locations and the closest to identical conditions we could get. 

The shots aim to present typical situations when you use a camera: for shooting a landscape, moving objects, people or shooting against sunlight. In all of the cases, we have used automatic settings – no scene selections, no exposure adjustments or any other adjustments that might have changed the final image.

The first set of images has been downsized to a common resolution for viewing images online, so you can get to see the whole picture more easily and try walking in our shoes by judging which picture has the most appealing and realistic colors, which strikes the right balance when it comes to exposure, which features the best dynamic range and so on. 

1 - Photo 1 - Portrait

1

2 - Photo 1 - Portrait

2

3 - Photo 1 - Portrait

3

4 - Photo 1 - Portrait

4

Photo 2 - Full-body shot
Photo 2 - Full-body shot
Photo 2 - Full-body shot
Photo 2 - Full-body shot
Photo 3 - Landscape
Photo 3 - Landscape
Photo 3 - Landscape
Photo 3 - Landscape
Photo 4 - Against the light
Photo 4 - Against the light
Photo 4 - Against the light
Photo 4 - Against the light
Photo 5 - Motion
Photo 5 - Motion
Photo 5 - Motion
Photo 5 - Motion
1 - Photo 6 - Macro

1

2 - Photo 6 - Macro

2

3 - Photo 6 - Macro

3

4 - Photo 6 - Macro

4


Which shoots the best pictures?

Device #1
20.39%
Device #2
22.86%
Device #3
45.56%
Device #4
11.19%
Device #1: HTC Sensation | Device #2: Apple iPhone 4 | Device #3: Canon PowerShot SD870 IS | Device #4: Samsung Galaxy S II

The second set of images represents 100% crops from the original pictures on the three smartphones and the point-and-shoot camera. This allows you to get a better look at the finest details in a picture and better evaluate how much noise might have gotten in, whether some artifacts have made their way into the shot and how sharp/soft the image is. Each of the cropped images comes from one of the original pictures, but this time you can focus on the amount of detail and pick the best camera in those terms. 

From Photo 1 - 100% crops

From Photo 1

From Photo 2 - 100% crops

From Photo 2

From Photo 3 - 100% crops

From Photo 3

From Photo 6 - 100% crops

From Photo 6


Which has the best detail?

Device #1
18.86%
Device #2
29.93%
Device #3
44.49%
Device #4
6.71%
Device #1: HTC Sensation | Device #2: Apple iPhone 4 | Device #3: Canon PowerShot SD870 IS | Device #4: Samsung Galaxy S II

Both polls expire on Monday, July 25th, but don't wait until the last moment to cast your votes. We'll publish the results the same day and that's when a second set of images - this time taken indoors - will follow and help us issue a final verdict about which is the best cameraphone among those we've used and does it have the guts to compete with even a digital camera. Don't hesitate to also comment and share your opinions about a close runner-up to your favorite set of images, rank the pictures or just better explain your choice.

UPDATE: Our Smartphone Camera Comparison is now over and we've revealed which the participating handsets are. First here ranks our Canon PowerShot SD870 IS point-and-shoot, followed by the Apple iPhone 4, HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II.

FEATURED VIDEO

124 Comments

1. snowgator

Posts: 3614; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

Very cool way to do this. My wife is big on the camera aspect of the smartphone. Very interested in the results.

2. mrvid

Posts: 77; Member since: Oct 02, 2008

My wife and I went to the zoo a few weeks ago, most people were using their cell phones to take pictures, not regular cameras anymore.

3. santaclaus

Posts: 52; Member since: Jul 20, 2011

sorry for any wrong comment, i think that 1. Digital camera 2. HTC Sensation 3. Nokia N8 4. Samsung Galaxy S II

17. bubba78

Posts: 57; Member since: May 23, 2011

I would be SHOCKED if on of the 4 tested wasn't an iPhone.

66. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

im pretty sure #1 is an iphone, it doesnt have the widescreen like some of the others do.

82. emmarbee

Posts: 13; Member since: Jun 25, 2011

haa haa haa. @santaclaus. Do you really think phonearena missed out iphone in this shootout? Either the first one or second one iPhone. 3rd - definitely digi cam and 4th - SGS II Sensation / iPhone in first and second position

100. TommyP unregistered

I'm pretty sure when they said it was a smartphone shootout they wouldn't include a digital camera

101. TommyP unregistered

nevermind..just saw the article sentence 1 is a point and shoot..sorry

4. santaclaus

Posts: 52; Member since: Jul 20, 2011

I am very particular in choosing in a good camera smartphone. So this test would probably help me to pick the cream de la cream amongst smartphones ^^... Would be good to add in Sony Xperia Duo in some day in the test because it says that it has 12MP camera.

40. vishu9

Posts: 252; Member since: Mar 03, 2011

its no doubt the winner's gonna be N8,...so u might as well pick it up now...that is if u can bear with Symbian...its nothing unbearable, but just that other OSs are more refined in user experience...otherwise I've been in love with my N8 and it's camera since day 1! :)

50. ChiX017 unregistered

No doubt N8 is d best but software......not so much

5. chunk1x

Posts: 248; Member since: Jun 25, 2011

No.1 is galaxy s2 and No.3 N8

6. belon1986

Posts: 3; Member since: Dec 15, 2010

1. IPHONE 4 2 Sony Ericson Xperia arc 3 Nokia N8 4. Samsung Galaxy S II

9. santaclaus

Posts: 52; Member since: Jul 20, 2011

there is a camera tested too. not all are cameraphones.

11. chunk1x

Posts: 248; Member since: Jun 25, 2011

iPhone 4 would stick out since it doesn't have the best lenses which results is softer detail, purple fringing and software that tends to be over saturated pics. Believe me iPhone 4 is above average camera performance but not as good as this four. I made a mistake No.1, is a point and shoot camera since the clarity is much better that it is only possible with over sized optical lenses.

45. 530gemini

Posts: 2198; Member since: Sep 09, 2010

@chunk. Please read the title of the article. It says "smartphone". Now why did you say that camera number one is a point and shoot camera when this is about smartphones? Lol. Also, how much would you bet that the iphone4 is not one of the contenders here? Lol. I can't wait to see the results and slap it to your red face :) I think this is between the N8, sgs, ip4, and xperia.

53. Slammer

Posts: 1515; Member since: Jun 03, 2010

---"That's why below you'll find images shot on three high-end smartphones and a point-and-shoot camera"--- The above is from the author of this test. John B.

57. chunk1x

Posts: 248; Member since: Jun 25, 2011

Read the article carefully.

108. kamen

Posts: 103; Member since: Jul 18, 2011

I also at first thought that No 1 is a digital camera. On the flowers picture it is seen that with 3 and 4 the background loses focus in pretty much the same way which means a close F-number value (=smartphone with most phones being around F3). 1 and 2 are confusing me, though - they seem to have similar higher F-numbers because of the loss of focus. On the close-ups No 1 seems to have more aggressive noise-suppression. And since most of the digicams does not have such aggressive algorithms (except Sony) I now start to think of No 2 as a digital camera. Well, No 3 is my favourite too :)

26. Rooney unregistered

I agree with you the 3rd is N8 and 2nd is Arc. The Arc seem to widen the range while N8 have the natural look

65. KawaiiE unregistered

Paragraph #2 : "That's why below you'll find images shot on three high-end smartphones and a point-and-shoot camera" . You just named four smartphones.

7. belcherman unregistered

Would be nice to include indoor shots, with and without flash. Outdoor shots are only half the story when comparing photo quality.

62. Victor.H

Posts: 1026; Member since: May 27, 2011

An indoor test is coming up, stay tuned.

8. liqwidzero

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 20, 2011

#3 delivers the most natural images, while still keeping in the details and not over-contrasting the image as the first two do.

12. chunk1x

Posts: 248; Member since: Jun 25, 2011

Nokia N8

10. Guest unregistered

Please look at the zoomed images before voting.

46. 530gemini

Posts: 2198; Member since: Sep 09, 2010

@guest. I agree. I voted for #3. But after I opened the photos, I'm torn between 2 and 3. It seems like 2 and 3 are sometimes better than the other.

13. cj100570

Posts: 204; Member since: May 12, 2009

Obviously most commentators missed the point and are trying to figure which device too which pictures instead of picking out which picture looks best.

14. observer unregistered

I voted #2 for both. although Device #1 showed some nice pictures.

30. AhmadAlsayegh

Posts: 326; Member since: Jul 18, 2011

Device number 1 took too warm pictures for my taste, Voted for device 3

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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