Camera comparison: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs HTC One, Sony Xperia Z,  iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920 and Galaxy S III
Introduction:

Since the Samsung Galaxy S4 finally landed at our office several weeks ago, we've been having quite a lot of fun with it. First we gave it a full-blown review treatment and then we compared it to some of the smartphones it will be going toe to toe against. Yet we haven't taken an in-depth look at its camera capabilities, so that's what we'll be doing right now. In particular, we'll be comparing it against five other high-end smartphones, namely the HTC One, Sony Xperia Z, iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920, and the Samsung Galaxy S III. For reference purposes, there's also a proper digital camera involved in the comparison – a Panasonic Lumix GH2 equipped with its out-of-the-box lens kit.


Overall presentation:

We'll start by taking a look at all photos from the viewpoint of an average consumer. In other words, we're keeping things simple for this category, without focusing on the minute details (as we're saving that for the next page of the comparison). For fairness' sake, all of the photos below have been scaled down to a resolution of about 2.8 megapixels as that's sufficient for most people's needs, such as sharing the images online or printing out small-sized hard copies.

Although the lighting conditions weren't perfect – our outdoor samples were taken on an overcast afternoon, all phones managed to deliver satisfactory results. A few of them stood out, however. The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5, in particular, take photos that are very pleasing to the eye. When compared to our reference camera, it becomes evident that both phones tend to boost the exposure and color saturation a bit, but they rarely overdo it. As a result, images are livelier and better looking, without being too detached from reality. Also, both phones' photos look nice and sharp, although we'd say that the Galaxy S4 is a step ahead of the iPhone 5 when comparing overall image detail and presence of noticeable digital noise.

The Samsung Galaxy S III has always been strong in the camera department and it once again presents us with great results. In fact, it is almost as good of a performer as its successor, although its photos aren't quite as vivid. About as good of a camera as the S III, at least in this case, is the Sony Xperia Z, whose imperfections (smeared details, purplish tint around edges) aren't noticeable at lower resolutions.

The HTC One deserves credit for keeping colors as true-to-life as possible, but we noticed that its camera has a tendency to underexpose objects when shot against a relatively brighter background. Also, there's a lack of contrast in its daytime shots. The Nokia Lumia 920, on the other hand, distorts reality in the opposite way as it has its saturation dial turned way too high. That might work well in particular scenes, but others simply look unnatural.

Camera comparison: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs HTC One, Sony Xperia Z,  iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920 and Galaxy S III


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200 Comments

1. sheik

Posts: 249; Member since: Sep 12, 2012

Well.. Thats a really a close call between iPhone5 and S4 and lumia 920... I would choose S4 though...

21. AamirSIII

Posts: 187; Member since: Oct 04, 2012

why my brother's iPhone 5 does not have such powerful flash in low light as PA? i feel its not somethings have been altered with iPhone 5 low light shot! u can see the dual shadows... look close and u can see the shadow of the tree is on the wall and the shadow of the table corner is downwards...!!!

160. amansingal14

Posts: 309; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

Also Lumia got 5 points in night shot. Lumia - Night Shot - 5Points? Enough said to prove that this is BS

173. gustavoace

Posts: 187; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

and for me, S3 has the best color accuracy overall.

32. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

In some area some phone's camera take great shot, in some area some phone's camera don't take great shot.......they should take photos from all kind of weather conditions.......then we can see differences.....!!! Fair enough

122. cloud_atlas1991

Posts: 61; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

While I was browsing over the pictures I let my friends (apparently not tech geeks and photo experts) choose the best among the bunch. Funny because they were so amazed by the results of LUMIA 920, saying colors are vibrant and alive while pertaining to other photos as "boring" and "dull".

130. iushnt

Posts: 3019; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

Similar happens to my amoled screen of infuse.. Its just wvga but when comparing videos and images with ip4s, my friends who are not tech geeks always prefer my phone over ip4s..they say that ip4s look dull and boring comparatively..

184. trexnkrumpets

Posts: 45; Member since: Jan 15, 2013

Yeah, just looking at the jpeg details instead of expanding them you can pick out the 920 pictures fairly easily. (last shot the experia stands out for some reason lol)

48. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Props to Apple for being able to be competitive with the GS IV. There won't be an upgrade to the 5S until probably Sep or October, and yet, it is competitive with the GS IV. All Apple needs to do is update their 2007 UI. (Sighs)

151. illiad

Posts: 131; Member since: Feb 07, 2012

All Apple needs to do is update their 2007 UI, and increase the res to 1280 x 1080, and do an AMOLED version, etc, etc....

179. sniper1087

Posts: 537; Member since: Dec 31, 2011

no need for amoled, IPS/LCD is fine they have normal color saturation, not over saturated, super LCD 3 is where its at, anything past certain pixel density is negligible, get 400 ppi and you are set for life, your eyes cannot see any individual pixel, now if the next iphone brings a better camera with higher res, better battery life, hopefully away from this lithium ion, we need something that will last a week, new UI is needed and maybe they will offer different screen sizes. O I forgot put front facing speakers just like the HTC One.

180. Gdrye

Posts: 111; Member since: Jan 02, 2012

yes, super lcd 3 is my thing right now used to love amoled till that even super lcd 2 came along...it hurt when tim cook said "the iphone 5 has the best screen resolution out there" i was like WTF really?

138. 007akshay

Posts: 37; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

for me s4 den iphone n htc comes 2nd den followed by lumia 920 n xperia z n last but not least s3...........

165. solution2u

Posts: 1; Member since: Apr 17, 2013

Amazing !!! So I submit this review as joke of the day and I won it.

168. X55526622233

Posts: 17; Member since: Apr 14, 2013

Why hate the plastic build of GS4? isn't it that the nokia 5210 the "God of phones". is also made of plastic. THAT CAN BLOCK BULLETS!! WHY HATE SAMSUNG FOR PLASTIC BUILD? f**king samsung haters. I am a sony fanboy, but this time, I know GS4 is better than my xperia Z or my HTC one :( though I didn't see it in personal. I've read a lot of review. and I know GS4 wins against my xperia Z T____T how I love to die.

183. trexnkrumpets

Posts: 45; Member since: Jan 15, 2013

I like how you can pickout just from the small jpegs which one belongs to. The experia did a surprisingly good job on the last shot imo.

196. tashreef

Posts: 476; Member since: Nov 24, 2012

198. kunalnanda

Posts: 2; Member since: May 29, 2013

And that really tells the story. Why do I get the feeling the Lumia 920 photos in this review were, dare i say it, photo shopped to make them look worse?

2. rickywinataa

Posts: 262; Member since: Apr 05, 2012

how this translate to very average consumers: i could zoom in more without any pixelation ! no, this is not a mock or sarasm towards galaxy s4, s3's camera had always been great and i know s4 will be even better

3. brucewayne

Posts: 29; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

Yet again no 808..When you want to do acamera test OBVIOUSLY you compare it with the best out there..Not also-rans..

5. baldilocks

Posts: 1412; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

But as a phone, the 808 is an also-ran. So your point is?

6. brucewayne

Posts: 29; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

This aint comparing phones..If you didnt read properly i said comparing cameras..not phones..And now also if you dont get my point then i dont blame you..The world is full of ppl like you..

36. baldilocks

Posts: 1412; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

So you can have an opinion, but no one else can? You must be a liberal Democrat.

117. osanilevich

Posts: 287; Member since: Sep 29, 2009

I'm pretty sure the point of this comparison is to compare the cameras of phones that people will actually buy. 808 might have the best camera in the business but, unless you're a professional photographer, I doubt you'll be buying the phone anytime soon

147. jsdechavez

Posts: 783; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

I get the point. But people should see how everything fares with the best out there. xperia user here.

106. Leo_MC

Posts: 5879; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

You mean: if you place a phone call, the operator keeps it in the waiting list untill S4's calls are made?

7. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

It's not needed to put 808 in these comparisons. Everyone knows already that it has easily the best camera out there. They want to compare these cameras that are more close to each other.

9. brucewayne

Posts: 29; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

Ok..Valid point..

71. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Use My Nokia N8, still can beat those all phones from 2012 and 2013.

84. ebubekir26

Posts: 337; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

hahahha, I agree, I loved my N8 :D

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

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