Camera comparison: Apple iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S III vs HTC One X vs Nokia Lumia 900

Introduction and Details

After pitting four of the biggest stars in the smartphone world right now against one another in our web browsing and display comparisons, we’re once again taking the quartet on yet another worthwhile comparison to proclaim the best of the best in the camera-taking department. At the center of all the commotion, is none other than newest member of the crew, the Apple iPhone 5, which so happens to be armed with an 8-megapixel iSight camera that features an improved backside illuminated sensor and an F2.4 aperture lens. Certainly, it proved its worth in an array of shooting situations during our review of the handset, but this time, we’re delving deeper to meticulously compare its results against some its formidable competitors.

As for the devices taking aim to show their worth over Apple’s pride and joy, we have the Samsung Galaxy S III with its 8-megapixel camera with an F2.6 lens, the HTC One X outfitted with an 8-megapixel camera with F2.0 lens, and the Nokia Lumia 900’s 8-megapixel snapper with F2.2 lens. Although they all share the same megapixel count, we all know by now that it doesn’t carry much weight in terms of overall quality, but rather, there are numerous factors that are needed to come together to deliver the best shots. Without further wait folks, let’s check out how they stack up against one another!


Surprisingly enough, we have to admit that all four handsets deliver the goods in the detail department, as they’re all capable of showing enough fine details throughout the shots – and without much degradation between foreground and background subjects. However, the HTC One X seems to have just a bit of over-sharpening with its shots, which simply results in a allowing a little more substance to stand out with its details. Aside from that, it’s actually almost indiscernible to the naked eye to tell which of the four is the best as we look at the overall pictures. Therefore, it’s the HTC One X nudging out a slight finish, while the others seemingly come up in a three-way tie for second.

Color Reproduction:

Naturally, it’s one thing to look at the images on their respective displays, but it’s totally another thing as we preview them all on a computer’s display – and with that, we’re better able to compare and contrast their color reproductions. Now this is where it becomes interesting, mainly because the results are all over the spectrum, especially more when various lighting conditions affect their white balance.

Specifically, the iPhone 5 is able to adapt to a range of situations, as it’s able to produce colors that are natural in tone for the most part – albeit, it can sometimes casts colors that are warmer. Likewise, the Samsung Galaxy S III plays nicely as well by coughing up colors that are intimately close to the iPhone 5, but it’s more natural than anything else. Meanwhile, the HTC One X’s colors might look very appealing due to its noticeably warmer color tones, which usually has a yellowish hue to its shots. And unfortunately, the Nokia Lumia 900 stutters in its performance, since it has a tough time trying to adjust its white balance. In fact, colors are extremely dull with its tones.

Exposure and Dynamic Range:

Both the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III excel when it comes to exposure, seeing that there’s a fine balance throughout their shots – where there’s no under or over-exposure being noticed. However, we tend to see a hint of under-exposure with the HTC One X, which tends to make its shots darker in overall appearance, but it isn’t that bad at all. Conversely though, the Nokia Lumia 900 is afflicted with a bit more over-exposure with its results – thus, details are sometimes lost in the process.

Without a doubt, the iPhone 5 handles dynamic range the best out of the bunch because it’s able to maintain a consistent amount of balance throughout the scenery. In fact, it’s most evident in the shot of the flowers near the gazebo, where the white flowers toward the right side are still accentuated with their yellow centers. In contrast, the other three smartphones are still able to handle it decently too, but they lose out when it comes to adjusting for items that are brighter in the shots. Checking out the same set of flowers, we can clearly see that the yellow in their centers are less prominent – overtaken by the white.

Indoor Shots:

Indoors under the presence of minimum or prevalent artificial lighting, the iPhone 5 delivers the absolute best results in all shooting conditions. In low lighting, its shots are undeniably sharper looking with its brighter appearance, stronger details, and very distinct color tones. Although it’s nowhere close to the iPhone 5, the HTC One X is able to come in second place with its decent results – though, it’s noticeably darker than the iPhone 5, but it isn’t softened by the same amount of pervasive noise that’s diminishing the results of the other two handsets. And lastly, it’s rather difficult to accept the qualities of the Samsung Galaxy S III and Nokia Lumia 900, since there’s a lot of graininess, soft details, and excessive noise with them.

To tell you the truth, the flashes on all four handsets are powerful enough to lighten up the scenery. However, the Samsung Galaxy S III and Nokia Lumia 900 benefit from the fact that their flashes turn on prior to taking the shot – allowing them to focus properly in pitch darkness. Meanwhile, it can be either a tossup with the iPhone 5 and HTC One X, seeing that it can take a few snapshots before they’re able to get the correct focus level.

Night Shots:

Seriously, the new backside illuminated sensor in the iPhone 5 is able to drastically separate itself from the competition, as it once again flexes its muscles by delivering the best looking night shots – albeit, it all depends on how well you utilize its touch focus/exposure feature. Likewise, the HTC One X is able to deliver similar results, but it’s not as finely attuned to the iPhone 5’s stellar details and handling of dynamic range. As for the Samsung Galaxy S III and Nokia Lumia 900, they both exhibit more over-exposure with bright things in its nighttime shots, but there’s more inaccuracy with the Lumia 900’s color reproduction.


Another area that we can wholeheartedly agree that all four devices excel tremendously in, it has to be snapping macro shots. If we look at the images of the close up of the flowers, it’s almost indistinguishable to concretely say which of the four is the clear winner – since there’s a lot of fine details surrounding their shots. However, as we zoom in closer, the only meticulous thing we’re able to see is the slight fuzziness seen with the Samsung Galaxy S III, but it’s barely noticeable.

Ease of use and speed:

If simplicity is your thing, then you only need to look at the iPhone 5, since it’s the most dummy proof device out there for taking photos. On one hand, it’s great that it offers a simple UI that’s able to snap photos in a heartbeat, but it lacks the comprehensive set of shooting modes and manual controls found with the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X – like their useful burst shot mode to continuously snap photos consecutively. In addition, the two Android powered smartphones are fast snappers as well! Lastly, we like how there’s a physical shutter key on the Nokia Lumia 900, but it doesn’t offer the same capability of taking photos while simultaneously recording video. Still, its interface is simple enough to handle as well, while its modest settings make it a more favorable option than the iPhone 5.


Easily manhandling its competition, the iPhone 5 is undoubtedly the best smartphone out of the bunch for shooting high definition videos. Overall, its quality is filled with sharp details, smooth recording, natural colors, and a quick exposure adjustment. Meanwhile, it’s also outperforming its competition in low lighting situations as well – though, there’s a small amount of noise with it. Not too far from the iPhone 5’s pace, the Samsung Galaxy S III produces the second best results, but we do notice that its only weak spot is its ineffectiveness to reduce wind noise. Taking us by surprise, we actually favor the Nokia Lumia 900’s 720p video recording quality over the 1080p videos from the HTC One X. Specifically, HTC’s flagship is simply marred by its poor details, heavy amount of artifacting, and slow-as-molasses capture rate in low lighting situations.

Apple iPhone 5 Sample Video:

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Samsung Galaxy S III Sample Video:

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HTC One X Sample Video:

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Nokia Lumia 900 Sample Video:

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Apple iPhone 5 Night time Sample Video:

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Samsung Galaxy S III Night time Sample Video:

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HTC One X Night time Sample Video:

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Nokia Lumia 900 Night time Sample Video:

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After the smoke has cleared and the dust settled, we have a unanimous winner amongst the group. Before this comparison, it was arguable as to which of the four devices would have the upper hand when it comes to taking photos, but as we’ve seen, Apple’s latest prodigy in the iPhone 5 has proven to us that it’s unmistakably the most well-rounded when it comes to shooting photos and videos. When it’s able to adapt to various shooting conditions, and still able to deliver shots filled with plenty of attractive elements, there’s no arguing that this is the device you’ll want to nab if you’re all about quality.

Looking at the two Android smartphones in our comparison, it’s safe to say that we’re also humbled by their results – though, they don’t have the same level of precision found on the iPhone 5. Nonetheless, we appreciate them for their extensive shooting modes and manual controls, which gives us the required control to snap the best shots according to the situation. At this point, it’s become obvious that the Nokia Lumia 900 has exceeded its time in the spotlight, seeing that it has been out performed by its highly esteemed rivals.

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