NEW DELHI: Camera has become one of the most commonly used features in smartphones. And a big influencer in sales. Nokia has an enviable heritage when it comes to imaging and boasts of the best smartphone camera technology in the market right now, PureView. However, rivals HTC Butterfly, BlackBerry Z10 and Sony Xperia Z, or even Apple's iPhone 5, are not far behind and all of them boast of 8 megapixel sensor cameras on the back that capture vivid images, with a number of manual controls for photography enthusiasts.
Also read: Detailed comparison of Nokia Lumia 920, BlackBerry Z10, Sony Xperia Z and HTC Butterfly.
In order to decide which of the newly-launched top-end camera smartphones delivers the best performance, we took images taken from Nokia Lumia 920, HTC Butterfly, BlackBerry Z10 and Sony Xperia Z on a neutral screen. This is necessary since many consumers judge the image quality on the phone display itself, which can be misleading since different display panels deliver varying colours and other such details.
So here is what we found when we took images from the cameras of the Nokia Lumia 920, HTC Butterfly, BlackBerry Z10 and Sony Xperia Z.
Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia's latest flagship smartphone, Lumia 920's 8.7MP PureView camera has a lot to offer when it comes to photography. This phone's camera clicks some of the best photos among all smartphones under daylight conditions. The camera has an image stabilisation feature which lets users click stable and clear photos. However, when you examine the photographs too closely, you may notice that images are very soft and lack detailing. Nevertheless, the final images have above par colour stabilisation and contrast.
In low-light conditions, Lumia 920's camera gives maximum exposure, resulting in some phenomenal low-light shots. While we observed a slight yellowish tinge in these low-light photos, we still feel these images are better than what app that rivals offer. One thing worth noticing about this camera is that the images upon magnifying do not get distorted or show any traces of noise, be it low-light or daylight.
The user interface of the camera app of Lumia 920 is devoid of the bells and whistles. What you get is Lenses, which brings options like Panorama, Cinemagraph, Smart Shoot and Bing Vision. Cinemagraph creates GIF images by capturing images and then highlighting areas with movements. So, you can create images of your friends and places around you and add life to them. It is an app that can adds zing even to some average shots.
With Smart Shoot, the phone's camera clicks several images in a burst and you can select the one that you like the most. You can add or remove objects in the images while using Smart Shoot. Panorama mode is quite standard, but you can only move the camera from left to right and not vice versa. The Lumia 920 camera misses out on face detection, which is odd since many top-end phone cameras have this feature nowadays.
For those who thought BlackBerry was only good at enterprise features and had always neglected the camera quality, Z10 is here to prove you wrong. This phone's 8MP snapper does a surprisingly good job. Under normal daylight condition and with default camera settings, it clicks bright and sharp images with near-perfect colour saturation.
Primary colours come out to be bright and well in contrast to the background unlike Sony Xperia Z, where the background and foreground images are imbalanced. Even if the image is magnified, it does not get pixilated or distorted. You may notice that overall image appears smooth and colours are very soft.
Even though the overall image appears slightly hazy under lowlight conditions, the image balance and colours remain undisturbed and do not get distorted even upon magnifying the image.
While the camera interface of BlackBerry Z10 is quite similar to that of an Android phone, its unique features is Time Shift, its equivalent of the burst mode. With this feature, the phone captures 11 images in quick succession and you can select the best individual photo of your friends out of the total to create the best image. The phone takes images in burst mode at 6MP resolution.
Sony Xperia Z
Sony's latest smartphone Xperia Z sports a 13MP camera on the back. While you may not see the vibrant colours in photos taken by this camera on the display, which is a little washed out, the capability of the camera becomes obvious on a neutral screen.
Under daylight conditions and settings at default, the camera of Xperia Z is capable of clicking pretty decent photos. When the image is viewed and magnified, you will notice that image is smooth and not pixilated, but colour stabilisation is not up to the mark. Background objects appear to be brighter and with better colour contrast when compared to the ones in the front. Colours like yellow and red do not come out as bright as you would like them to.
Under lowlight conditions such as a room or diffused light, the images appear to be smooth and fine, though you may notice distortion upon magnifying them. Overall, Sony Xperia Z10 has a fairly good camera when compared to BlackBerry Z10 and HTC Butterfly.
Coming to camera features, Xperia Z comes with geo-tagging, face detection, HDR (high dynamic range) and touch-capture. You get two photo clicking modes - standard and superior. While the former takes 13MP images with resolution of 4128x3096p, the latter can capture 12MP pictures with size of 3920x2940p. Despite a relatively small photo size, superior mode optimises the parameters like colour saturation, contrast, exposure etc to suit the surrounding conditions, thus delivering better pictures than what you get from the standard mode.
The most expensive Android phone doesn't have a camera that justifies the steep price tag of Rs 45,500. Under normal conditions and default settings, HTC Butterfly's 8MP camera is capable of clicking decent photos. However, if you zoom even a little, then the image loses its sharpness and gets distorted and blurred. However, the colour contrast and colour stabilisation is maintained.
In photos taken from HTC Butterfly's 8MP camera, you may notice that colours appear bright only in daylight conditions. Under low-light conditions, the image and colour quality is not good and if you magnify the image you will see a lot of noise and distortion.
The camera interface of Butterfly has a host of effects, such as sepia, solarise etc, giving you effects similar to that of Instagram's. The phone also has burst mode so you can pick the best image out of the photos taken in quick succession. The phone's camera has features like touch-focus, face detection, geo-tagging, HDR, panorama and smile shutter, and a few others.
In our review, Nokia Lumia 920 was found to have the best smartphone camera in the market right now. Its low-light imaging capabilities are miles ahead of the competition and features like Cinemagraph add to the value of the package. Android users can download Fotodanz from Google Play which has similar functionality, but is not as refined.
Despite an extremely poor experience with BlackBerry snappers in the past, we feel BlackBerry Z10 has a surprisingly good camera that pleased us with good quality shots and Time Shift, a good feature for those who want to pick the best photo.
Sony Xperia Z has a pretty good snapper that takes sharp images with good amount of details, though colour saturation is not good.
HTC Butterfly's camera is good but does not compare to that of the rivals due to lack of detailing and poor colours. Both the phones have burst mode, but do not have any cool features like Cinemagraph or Time Shift that rivals boast of.
So if camera is a major consideration, our vote clearly goes to Lumia 920. In case serious enterprise communications need to be married with a high-quality snapper, BlackBerry Z10 it is. If a top notch snapper with high MP possibilities and Android environment is what you would rather prefer, consider Sony Xperia Z.
Detail comparo Nokia Lumia 920 wins smartphone camera battle - The Times of India