Camera comparison: Nokia Lumia 925 vs Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy Note II
Having a high-quality camera on a smartphone is just a single part of the whole equation. Being able to use that camera effectively is also pretty important, and that usually depends on how well the camera interface has been organized.
The Nokia Lumia 925 is the only smartphone of the bunch offering a dedicated, 2-stage shutter button, so it feels and acts a lot like a camera when it is being used as one. The shutter key can be used not only to focus and to capture the photo, but also to launch the camera app even from the lock screen, which is really convenient. The handset is very comfortable to hold horizontally while shooting thanks to its shape, and since the camera sensor is positioned close to the phone's middle section, there is little chance of the user accidentally obscuring its field of view. While shooting portraits, however, our finger often got into the frame, which was annoying. Also, the lens will require regular wiping as the user's finger rests right on it pretty much all of the time while the phone is in use.
The camera interface on the Nokia Lumia 925 is simple and clean, but advanced features aren't absent. There are several shooting scenes and ISO controls, but getting to them requires more taps than it should. Additional features, or “camera lens” as they are called, can be downloaded and applied from the camera menu, but this whole procedure might be confusing to novice users. Nokia has added its Smart Cam application, which we described thoroughly in a previous post.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 doesn't have a shutter button, but its volume down key can be used as one. Launching its camera from the lock screen is possible by placing a shortcut on it. The user has to do that manually, however, as lock screen shortcuts are disabled on the S4 by default.
Samsung has loaded the Galaxy S4 with lots of camera scenes and modes, which are all easily accessible with the tap of a button. There are also some advanced features, such as software image stabilization and HDR videos (after the latest software update), that may be useful depending on what is being photographed.
The HTC One's has a very slim profile so it isn't as comfortable to hold while taking photos, but we don't think that's too big of a deal unless the user has severe butterfinger problems. A lock screen shortcut for launching the camera is set up by default. There is no physical shutter button, however, so one has to rely solely on the virtual one.
Browsing through the camera settings menu can be confusing at first as all of the settings are placed in a single list. There are several shooting scenes available there, along with controls for the camera's sharpness and exposure levels. Something really cool about the HTC One's camera is that it captures 120fps slow-motion video, as well as 60fps HD video. HDR videos are also an option.
The iPhone 5 doesn't have a shutter key either, but its volume down key can be used as one. Its camera can be easily launched straight from the lock screen. Even with the new iOS 7, the camera UI has retained its simplicity so even a beginner can start using it straight away. Switching between photo and video modes is done with a swipe, and a number of image filters come pre-loaded. Those who are into tweaks and settings are in for a disappointment as no manual controls are available on the iPhone 5, but at least the built-in HDR and Panorama photo modes work quite well.
Last but not least we have the Samsung Galaxy Note II, which is very similar to the S4 in terms of camera features. Its camera can be launched from the lock screen and the volume down button can serve the purpose of a shutter key. Lots of image adjustment setting are available for those who like to experiment with these, and the list of advanced camera features includes Panorama and HDR photo modes. A software image stabilizer is present as well, available both while shooting photos and videos.