Best Camera phone 2014: The Final Comparative

Best Camera phone

It’s been years since the craze of megapixels in cameras broke out, not to say that, since the beginning of digital photography, manufacturers (rather marketing departments) and users have been obsessed by the number of pixels (or photocells sensitive to light) that have the sensor of a determined camera.

And not without reason that in the early days of photography, as we know it today, the resolution is so low that little could be done at the time of printing photos if one wanted to obtain a high density of points. However, currently any compact camera has a pretty decent resolution that can make small prints at 300 DPI.

And when it seemed that everything had already passed and that, finally, manufacturers, experts and users were clear that megapixels weren’t the only thing that mattered, again we return to trip over the same stone, this time in the mobile telephone market.

And the digital convergence is this. What until recently was nothing but a mere provision—the integrated camera—with little more use than taking pictures of doubtful quality, today has become a feature that makes mobile phones a tough opponent for compact cameras.

Compact, Reflex, or Mobile Phone?

Smartphones are suggested as substitutes for traditional cameras and although the debate is served (compact, reflex, or mobile phone?), there is no doubt that in terms of connectivity and social functions, the phones are the best as manufacturers endeavor to expand the camera specifications with Wi-Fi, NFC, Android…

I’m not saying they are not desirable and notable options in a dedicated camera, but the truth is that, needing a Wi-Fi network or a mobile hotspot to share content socially, has little to do with the smartphones. And yes, there are cameras with wireless connectivity, though I do not quite have it clear and I think they are moving with functionality and compact photographic camera specifications.

And at this juncture in which one does not know if you travel with the SLR, the small compact carrier or choose to take pictures with mobile phone. Manufacturers strive to appeal with advertisements specifications and performance in their latest models: if the terminal with highest resolution works best in low light conditions, or the fastest burst mode with slow motion, which is even splash resistant submersible… You do not know which one to choose!

Which Cell Phone Has the Best Camera?

Given the above, we have thrown caution to the head and we have decided to compare smartphones by each manufacturer (and some earlier model of one of the marks) with a single purpose: to carry out laboratory tests to compare results and to find out for sure which mobile phone has the best camera.

The models analyzed are the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5S by Apple, the Nokia Lumia 920 and 1020; the HTC One X + and its big brother the One, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and finally the latest models from Sony, the Xperia Z and the new Sony Xperia Z1. If we are missing a model we hope to add it in the study soon.

We will not get into software functionalities easily expandable with apps or show what works best in certain circumstances. We will simply analyze how each deals with different tests.

Before beginning we must add a final note. Each of the terminals has been analyzed with a particular version of an operating system/ROM system and, in some cases, it may have been updated post-test to correct any detected problem or even improve various functions including the camera.

Outside the lab all pay phones in more than worthy and few can blame them when you consider that, at bottom, are mobile phones.

Without further ado, let the models be compared from all possible angles so we can determine which is camera phone is the best.

1. Specifications

A level specifications can be found sensor sizes ranging from 1/3, 2"on the iPhone 5 to 1/1, 5" in the new Lumia 1020, the largest of all. The latter is also one of the highest pixel density so that, although it has higher resolutions, the sensitive area per pixel is lower compared to other models.

The focus is fixed in all cases (between 26 mm and 33 mm) and the overall brightness of acceptable lenses, with values ​​between f2 and f2 4.

Speaking of resolution, there are models with HTC UltraPíxeles that comply with 4.09 Mpix and others like the Lumia 1020, which boasts reaching 41 Mpix and stays at 38.25 Mpix when shooting in 4:3 format.

iPhone 5 iPhone 5s Lumia 920
Terminal iPhone 5 iPhone 5s Lumia 920
Type and size of sensor

CMOS 1/3,2"

CMOS 1/3"

CMOS 1/3"

Effective resolution 7,99 MPíx 7,99 MPíx 8,7 MPíx
Image resolution

3.264 x 2.448

3.264 x 2.448

3.552 x 2.448

Focal (35mm equivalent)

33 mm

30 mm

28 mm

Opening f2,4 f2 f2
Maximum sensitivity ISO 3.200 ISO 2.500 ISO 800
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  Lumia 1020 htc One X+ htc One X
Terminal Lumia 1020 htc One X+ htc One X
Type and size of sensor PureView 1/1,5"


CMOS 1/3"

Effective resolution 38,25 Megapixel 7,99 Megapixel 4,09 Megapixel
Image resolution

7.136 x 5.360

3.264 x 2.448

2.688 x 1.520

Focal (35mm equivalent)

26 mm

28 mm

28 mm

Opening f2,2 f2 f2
Maximum sensitivity ISO 4.000 ISO 800 ISO 800
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  Samsung Galaxy S4 Sony Xperia Z Sony Xperia Z1
Terminal Samsung Galaxy S4 Sony Xperia Z Sony Xperia Z1
Type and size of sensor CMOS 1/3" Exmor RS Exmor RS 1/2,3
Effective resolution 12,78 Megapixel 12,78 Megapixel 20,66 Megapixel
Image resolution

4.128 x 3.096

4.128 x 3.096

5.248 x 3.936

Focal (35mm equivalent)

31 mm

32 mm

27 mm

Opening f2,2 f2.4 f2
Maximum sensitivity ISO 800 ISO 3.200 ISO 800
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2. Shutter speed

2.1 Delay Shooting
In this section, we can speak of terminals that exceed 0.2 second delay (Apple and Sony) and other HTC as they approach compact cameras.

For this test, we don’t take in account the focusing time, but the time it takes to obtain the picture since the shoot/screen button is pulsed/released (varies from model to model) until it’s captured.

Delay Shooting

2.2 Delay shooting with flash

As expected, in this test the delay time is higher than the delay obtained without flash. In all cases, but one, The Samsung Galaxy S4, where the delay is imperceptible.

Like in the previous case, for this test we don’t take in account the focusing time, but the time it takes to obtain the picture since the shoot/screen button is pulsed/released (varies from model to model) until it’s captured. in all cases, the fill flash is forced.

Delay flash shooting

2.3 Time between two pictures

With this test we will analyse the delay between two pictures taken manually. The burst mode is turned off and the functionality of the shot was still available in some models release button or the screen is kept pressed.

The general response is quite fast, but in the case of the Nokia Lumia 1020, that has a delay close to 3 seconds. This is in the instance of using the camera application, because if Nokia Pro-Cam is used, the processing and recording of high definition images causes the delay from one picture to another to be of 4,17 s.

Time between two pictures

2.4 Speed in burst mode

In burst mode it gets tricky. It’s true that the fastest model is the Xperia Z1 from Sony, but it’s Time shift Burst shot function, which reaches a cadence of 30 fps to a maximum of 60 pictures, does not store them in real time and you have to choose the best among them. In the cause of using the High Speed mode it stays in 9,82 fps. So then , if we stick to burst mode, all pictures will be stores in the memory with the only limitation of it’s capacity, the new iPhone 5S does not have a rival and exceeds the 10 fps minimum.

Speed in burst mode

3, Image Quality

3.1 Resolution in the centre

When calculating the resolution of a photo camera we have to pay attention to the definition both in the central parts and the corners (the loss of detail is more evident in the corners). In the present analysis and as a simple, we have simply calculated the resolution in the mid-centre of the image.

In all cases, the images are cuts of the original (there is no type of processing or intermediate resizing). To calculate the resolution we take a picture of a Jessop letter to a distance determined by the camera’s focal length longitude and we calculate the lines/cm that the sensor is able to distinguish.

Resolution in the centre

It is evident that the PureView sensor of the Nokia lumia 1020 has no rival in this aspect. The Sony Xperia Z1 is close behind and the UltraPixels of the htc One is not able to cope in front of the terminals analyzed.

Resolution in the centre

3.2 Noise ISO 100

Some months ago we taught you how to calculate the noise of a digital photography and for this reason we wont go deeper on this subject. We are simply going to point out, that just as we mentioned on that article, the sensitivity of a camera – the photo eye sensor- is fixed, unmovable and tends to correspond with the minor ISO of this.

When it is increased in the manual mode, this is not increasing the sensitivity of the sensor, it is actually amplifying the signal generated by this. The good and the bad.

For this reason, we have centered in the minimum ISO that, in general, moves between ISO 80 and ISO 160, the more ISO, the more the noise will increase and, depending on the noise reducting algorithms, it will lose more or less image definition.

Note that in some cases, such as the IPhone and the htc, it’s not possible to control the sensitivity with the camera application by default, but that the mobile itself is the one that determines automatically the ISO in function with the conditions of the scene to photograph.

Noise ISO 100

Something to point out is the high noise level obtained in the shots of the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the Xperia Z1. Again, it does not grab us by surprise. And, technically and if we consider the technology of manufacturing of each similar manufacturer, broadly, the higher the density of the pixel the noise will be more emphasized because of having less photosensitive surface per pixel.

Noise ISO 100

3.3 White Balance

Assessing the white balance is a complicated task. In all cases the shots have been taken with the white balance in automatic (in some terminals do there are no options of manual configuration) and the result depends more on how the phone’s software interprets the scene, on how the sensor captures the light.

The htc terminals obtained the best results and Nokia Lumia 1020 the worse. However, it is a parameter of the image that is easily corrected in your computer with photo-editing software.

White Balance

White Balance
3.4 Vignette

The vignette corresponds with the gradual loss of brightness from the center of the image to the edges of photography. It is an effect produced by the quality of the lenses and is more evident when shooting on open diaphragms. The mobiles are not exempt from this problem.

In the case of the Samsung Galaxy s4 is quite pronounced, while the htc, again, are on a better standing.

3.5 Distortion

The distortion is another defect produced by the quality of the lenses, in some cases there exists sets of several elements that make it difficult to control the light beam and the linear perfection of the image. Barrel, cushion or moustache, all objectives pecan to a greater or lesser extent of distorting the image. In the case of mobile there are results for all tastes.


As you can see in the above images, the Nokia 920 has the largest barrel distortion between all the models analyzed, and the iPhones, the Nokia 1020 and the htc One can presume to be the most efficient in this paragraph.


4. Conclusions

In general, all the smartphones respond correctly in field-testing. But if we focus on the results obtained in the laboratory, the differences are evident.

Based on the evidence from the laboratory, the Samsung Galaxy S4 model is the more balanced. And that is, that not all the megapixels, nor the UltraPixeles are the solution.

If we talk about speed, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is, on the whole, the fastest terminal. If we are looking for image quality, the Nokia Lumia 920 and the Sony Xperia Z are the most interesting.

And in this sense it is most surprising that the models Lumia 1020 and Xperia Z1, wich are more modern and better, receive the smallest note. The explanation is not another that, while in the section on speed they are very similar, the noise that their sensors throw is greater, thus hindering their chances in the final table.

With the two htc models we have also had a small surprise, but once again the lower resolution of the htc One in front of the One X subtracts points in the final assessment.

With this, we could say that, based on the evidence of the laboratory, the Samsung Galaxy s4 is the mobile phone with best camera, or at least the more offset. And that is, that not all the megapixels, nor the UltraPixeles are the solution.

But, we also have to take into account that the camera is not everything in a smartphone. The choice is complicated.

3 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. sami says:

    samsung s4 zoom c101 is the best,

  2. nadeem riffat says:

    Great work! Full marks!

  3. EP says:

    Well, it looks like the HTC One did pretty well here if things like lack of noise, lack of distortion, responsive shutter, lack of vignetting, and good white balance are the measure. Not sure how you get the s4 is better. Certainly it is faster with flash (flash pics suck)and can get a few more fps, but neither of those are the measure of a good camera. The resolution is where HTC is behind, but of course with only 4mp, and yet, the photo of resolution shows it is sharper, albiet less lines per cm.

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