Despite reviews, only you can decide which camera is best

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: April 25, 2013

As “upgrade day” for me gets closer by the minute, I’ve been ramping up my research for what phone would work best for me. I’ve been torn between several models for quite some time now, and it’s not getting any easier as there is still two months left before I can officially decide – plenty of time for some new device to pop up to change my opinion. However, for the moment I’m focusing in on which features I would like to have for my next “it” phone, and lately I’ve been doing a lot of research on camera qualities.

One of the most important features to me in a phone is the camera. I’ve gone from carrying my phone plus a digital camera to, for the most part, only carrying my phone with me (except on special occasions). We have certainly come a long way from the days where 2 megapixels was considered “amazing” in cell phones: we had 3.2 megapixels, 5 megapixels, and 8 megapixels. When the Nokia Lumia 920 debuted with its PureView camera technology, the smartphone camera world was fascinated at how well the pictures turned out compared to competitors. The Lumia’s camera was what initially got me to take a second look at Windows Phone at all.

But as with all mobile technology, anything “new” only has a matter of months (sometimes weeks) before it is outdone by something else, and would seem like the ever-fantastic Lumia 920 camera is moving over in favor of cameras that come in the form of 13-megapixel and UltraPixel variety.

Or is it?

I was just reading a comparison from Digital Photography Review Connect, a photography review website, regarding the camera qualities of the Samsung Galaxy S 4, the HTC One, the iPhone 5, and the Nokia Lumia 920. I find it interesting seeing the opinions of professional photographers compared to average, run-of-the-mill users like myself. I really enjoy reading about mobile camera comparisons, but before I actually read the article I like to look at the image comparisons and make conclusions for myself. It becomes abundantly clear that I am no photography professional as every time I compare my conclusions with the professionals my opinions always clash. Then again, I’m sure how people determine “good image quality” is different from user to user – kind of like how we view smartphones. One person can love Android while another lives and breathes for Windows Phone. It’s very much a personal opinion type of deal.

Without delving too much into the Connect article, the basis of the post says that each device essentially performs worse than a good compact camera, but each still has its good components – for the most part.

Conclusively, the Galaxy S 4 performs the best in well-lit situations and provides the most clarity as you blow up the photos; the HTC One is the new king when it comes to low-lit environments (taking over for the Nokia Lumia 920); and the iPhone still does an okay job but doesn’t really have anything that stands out about it. The Nokia Lumia received an iffy overall standing, something that I was very surprised to read about as my opinions on the Lumia’s camera were very different than that of the professionals who wrote the article.

I agree that the Galaxy S 4 performed very well in well-lit situations and appeared the best when cropped, and I also agree that HTC is really doing something by opting to go for better sensors rather than building into the megapixel hype (but it does show how little detail some photos can display compared to the Galaxy S 4); the low-light photos from the One really stand out compared to other cameras. As for the iPhone 5, comparatively speaking I agree that there is nothing wonderful about the camera but I am surprised that they essentially placed it over the Nokia Lumia’s camera quality. It may be a little over contrasted but I tend to favor photos with higher saturation and contrast over those that look washed out – but that’s just me. After reading several camera reviews I have come to realize that my view of a “good image” is probably skewed from my teenage days where filters, brightness, and contrast were just being discovered – and we used them all the time. I still use them. I can’t help but to favor them, so it makes sense that I favor the Lumia 920’s over-contrasted camera compared to the iPhone’s 5 more natural lighting.

I am not one to argue with a professional, and I found the review very extensive and enjoyable to read. On the professional side of things, it was probably the best mobile phone camera review I’ve ever come across. But that’s where the point of my post comes in. Each camera does have something different to offer, and if you’re planning on using your phone as a camera then it’s best to find out for yourself exactly which camera would work best for you. Are you often in a low-lit environment? Do you plan on blowing your pictures up? Do you prefer natural lighting over higher contrasted photos? All of these questions are important aspects to look for when deciding on which camera would be best for you in a mobile device.

So readers, now it’s your turn. What is the most important quality to you in a mobile phone camera? Out of all of the devices out right now, do you have a favorite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

 

Images via Digital Photography Review Connect, The Verge