High school basketball video test (updated): Nokia Lumia 920 optical image stabilization shows off

High school basketball video test (updated): Nokia Lumia 920 optical image stabilization shows off

Summary: I recently tested the iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920, and HTC Droid DNA in the gym while recording my daughter's basketball games and after further viewing of all videos the choice was clear and I just returned with a new phone.


I try to spend a week or two with phones and integrate them into my daily life so I can give readers my opinion on how they perform beyond the initial new and shiny period. Real world usage scenarios are what end up driving whether or not I purchase a device and I wanted to share my recent experiences with video capture of basketball games. I was hours away from buying a new phone, yet ended up sticking with my own phone instead after comparing video I captured in the same gym.

UPDATE: After reading the opinions of readers I brought my daughter, the basketball player, into the office and we viewed all the games I shot with these different phones. It turns out that the Droid DNA had good color, but was way too jittery to watch for extended periods. The iPhone 5 was very good with clarity and color, but limited by zoom and there was the presence of artifacts as movement occurred with the phone. The Lumia 920 clearly was the best in the end and a couple of videos looked like I zoomed in too far and that messed up the quality. Zooming back out showed better results.

As a result, I just returned from the store with a red Nokia Lumia 920 that I will be using to capture video this week to confirm our conclusion that the optical image stabilization of the Lumia 920 really does rock.

My middle daughter is a fantastic athlete and excels at soccer and basketball. She wants to play in college and while the team captures official full game video that we get access to later in the season, I wanted to capture video for her to then edit into highlight films to send along to colleges during the season. I have been thinking more about dedicated video cameras and maybe that is the smarter option, but I have access to so many phones that capture 720p and 1080p video I figured I would try them out first.

I spent over a month with the Nokia Lumia 920 before sending back the eval unit and was impressed with the optical image stabilization during video capture as I was out and about. It does extremely well at preventing shake in videos, that are readily apparent when I take video with the HTC Droid DNA and other smartphones without stabilization. I was prepared to go out and purchase my own 920, but I then decided to try out the HTC Droid DNA and Apple iPhone 5. It turns out that the Droid DNA actually captures video with better color representation, but the minor shaking of my hand is picked up and bothers the heck out of me. Both of these devices zoom in and I found I had to zoom in just about 25% to better capture the action closer to Mal that looked to still maintain quality. I can easily capture still images from the video I capture on the Droid DNA, even later when I am viewing the video on the DNA or my TV via the Media Link HD device, so that is quite helpful. The iPhone 5 excels as a still digital camera even with minimal settings and options and as you can see in my short video clip below it actually does very well at video too. It doesn't support zoom during video capture, but the color representation is good, focus is great, and it doesn't appear to shake as much as the Droid DNA. I recently found 3rd party apps for the iPhone 5 that let you zoom in a bit so plan to test them in future games.

I put together a couple of very short clips that show the HTC Droid DNA, Apple iPhone 5, and Nokia Lumia 920 to let you judge it for yourself. I do have hours more video that provide more comparison content too. Keep in mind that uploading and sharing the video generally reduces the quality a bit and these are not long video clips. One issue I ran into on the Droid DNA is the limited memory capacity. I had one movie downloaded to watch on the DNA and shot action from one basketball game. I then reached maximum memory capacity while recording a second basketball game and had to jump to another device. I wish the DNA had at least 32GB and/or a microSD card slot. I do like that the DNA has integrated zoom as well as more controls than the iPhone, but the iPhone video capture is quite good as well.

High school basketball with iPhone 5, Lumia 920, and Droid DNA from Matthew Miller on Vimeo.

The Nokia Lumia 920 does a good job of video capture and the OIS is pretty amazing.  I am going to cut out my stupid commentary, I have lots of trouble keeping my mouth shut during these games, so audio quality was not judged during this particular scenario test. If it was then the Lumia 920 would lead because it actually does a great job of audio capture. I am planning to use the Droid DNA and iPhone 5 for the rest of the season. Do you use your smartphone to capture video and if so, what device does well for you?

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, HTC, iPhone, Nokia, Smartphones

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  • WOW

    The 920 is SO stable compared to the DNA
    • Yes, stabilization is excellent

      I may still go get a Lumia 920 because the stabilization really is great!
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • even though I love the quality of Nokia Lumia 920 photography

        the WP8 image compression gets my nerve. http://mobilitydigest.com/windows-phone-8-image-compression-is-annoying/
        Ram U
      • There is explanation why video stabilization on iPhone is better than on ..

        ... HTC DNA: while the latter's stabilization is purely software-based, iPhone has it based on gyroscope. So while Nokia's optical stabilization -- where sensor itself physically stabilized -- is obviously the best solution, iPhone's way is the best one could do while keeping size of the device small.
        • Software vs Hardware

          I have both the Lumia 920 and the iPhone 5 and the 920 wins outright in all categories of picture taking! The hardware OIS (optical image stabilisation) is truly fantastic but what's great about it is that it doesn't frame mosh like iPhone 5's software based technologies. You will see with your video the iPhone 5 dropping frames when panning to be able to compensate for the heavy movement. For small movements, software based OIS works pretty nicely (WP8 actually does have a bit of this built in) but will cost you frames and sometimes distort the clarity of the video. Same goes for picture taking, hardware OIS will win every time. Not only this though , the Lumia 920 camera has PROPER lens focusing with the quality Carl Zeiss lens plus the two high powered rapid flash LEDs! Great phone and great camera, definitely the best camera phone out there. BTW, if you're not liking the colours you're getting out (this is usually a user preference) go into the Lumias camera settings and play around with some of the values in there. The colour will actually be more true to life then the iPhone (or any other smartphone) but sometimes we like richer and deeper colours which are artificially created. Anyway nice comparison mate! Lumia 920 for me, anyday! Did I mention low light and high contrast capabilities for photos at night and in city/dense areas :) the list goes on!
          • Umm

            There is no such thing as Optical Image Stabilization that is software based! It would not be OIS then.

            OIS implies it is done in the lens which has me wondering if the Lumia is OIS as well and not a Sensor Shift based Mechanism as the lens internals would be at least two sealed elements thicker and would include a layer of fluid between them.
          • Fair enough

            There are software based OIS imitators :P
          • your words said it best

            so then it's OIS imitation not real OIS. saying you have a software imitation of OIS is like saying you have 100X digital zoom... yeah you can have it real easily, but all digital zoom is really doing is stretching out your picture. optical zoom is the only thing that gets you a clearer picture.
      • did you try the 808?

        I as looking at the slightly old ("old" in tech terms) Nokia 808 as wife wants a new camera and needs a new phone too. Just wondering if you dud the bball test on one.
      • why?

        Why no one from ZDnet or IT media have wrote about over year old Android phones what has better OIS technology used and compare them, but keeps 920 as exclusive and pioneer one on this area?
    • Watched it twice. Nokia 920 was vastly superior. not just stabilization but

      Color too. Droid was basically unwatchable. That's the kind of video you watch partially once, see how bad it turned out, and delete. IPhone was much worse than Nokia. I can't believe given a choice you'd ever use the iPhone for another of your daughters events ever again. These moments are few and precious. Truly amazing that the Nokia cost far less and so drastically outperform the iPhone.
      Johnny Vegas
    • Watched it twice. Nokia 920 was vastly superior. not just stabilization but

      Color too. Droid was basically unwatchable. That's the kind of video you watch partially once, see how bad it turned out, and delete. IPhone was much worse than Nokia. I can't believe given a choice you'd ever use the iPhone for another of your daughters events ever again. These moments are few and precious. Truly amazing that the Nokia cost far less and so drastically outperform the iPhone.
      Johnny Vegas
    • Kudos

      To you for encouraging your daughter and kudos to her for her athleticism and drive for excellence!
  • Nokia 920 rocks!

    The stabilization really works, plus the low light
  • My experience differs here Matt

    I always take video of Christmas lightings wherever I go. I have both iPhone 5 and Lumia 920. I have taken a lot of Christmas lighting videos using both. The video quality on 920 is superb, of course color quality especially during the dusk timing was little saturated on 920, but the video quality is amazing. I think Nokia could easily fix it with an update. The low light videos have near zero grains in the videos taken with Nokia Lumia 920. iPhone 5 video quality is not bad, but the low light video is more grainy than my HTC Titan II.
    Ram U
    • Colour

      Yeah with the stock setting you can sometime think the colours are a bit weird. Play around with some of the exposure settings and you will find what's the best for you. Hopefully there is an update to WP8 as a whole which will bring us more camera options that are software based!
    • I can't speak for the Nokia or the Droid but I can comment on the iPhone 5

      Low light video images captured on the iPhone 5 are poor.

      However, under any outdoor lighting conditions (except for extreme back lighted situations) the iPhone offers superb video or still photo results that are AT LEAST as good if not better than photos or videos captured by any previously owned point and shoot digital cameras.

      The HDR and the panoramic options render exceptional results. But I must confess to liking the Nokia video footage shown.

      Still, I enjoy the physical form factor of the iPhone 5 better than the other two phones mentioned. (That is just my personnel preference, however.)
  • Lumia

    is the best option judging by those vids..
    • It would seem obvious

      but then again, you and I don't have to write titles praising apple every time you touch a keyboard.
      The videos above certainly teach us a lesson; given a choice between the 3 phones, the iphone5 is not the best. But then it has a half eaten fruit on the back so why would you not choose it?
      Little Old Man
  • Two points

    1. You're not shooting from the same position with all of the phones
    2. You're one of those horrible parents who coaches from the stands. Shut up and let the coach do his job.