Cameras on today's smartphones are getting better all the time and in many cases people are leaving their point and shoot behind. On a recent vacation to Vegas and Hawaii my wife and I only brought along the Nokia N8 for capturing photos. I decided to test out some of the newest devices and put together an image gallery and video below from the HTC Amaze 4G, Apple iPhone 4S, Nokia N8 Symbian device, and Nokia N9 MeeGo device. There are other contenders, but these four are representative of the latest and greatest available today.
As you can see in my image gallery I captured the following photos to compare each smartphone:
|Image Gallery: Check out several sample photos taken with these four smartphones in various situations.|
I ranked each photo from 1 to 4 in a direct comparison to each phone and present the totals of my rankings in the table below with 1 being the 1st place phone so that the lowest total score is the winner in my comparison. Some were very tough to call and as you will see in the end the winner could have almost been anyone of these four phones. I went into this shootout thinking the Nokia N8 would smoke everyone and easily blow away the competition. Keep in mind though that this was a limited test of some real world situations where I take photos and some devices excel in more specific areas. Read on below to find out how my ratings shook out and take a look at the photos yourself to see if you agree.
You will find the following scene modes on the HTC Amaze 4G, along with dedicated camera and video recording buttons:
New Apple iPhone 4S owners are also impressed with the shutter speed and ability to take photo one after the other so quickly. Guess what? The HTC Amaze 4G and Nokia N9 are even FASTER than the iPhone 4S and I have NEVER seen smartphones as fast with the camera as these two phones.
Another great feature of the HTC Amaze 4G is the hardware buttons for both the camera and the video recorder that let you launch each and capture still and video from the standby/screen off state. There is also an onscreen capture button too if you prefer that method. Video capture supports 1080p on the Amaze 4G.
You will notice that the iPhone 4S camera software is the most basic of all of these device with very few options for you to change. The thing is, the majority of people don't want to mess with settings and just want to be able to point and shoot. Apple's camera software still takes decent macro shots or low light shots without any manual change in settings. You can toggle the flash on and off (no red eye mode), toggle the grid, and toggle HDR mode. That's it for any settings in the software.
To zoom you pinch and zoom on the display. To focus on something other than what the software picks up you can tap on the display to do so. You can also perform editing of your photos on the iPhone 4S.
You can capture video in 1080p high resolution on the iPhone 4S.
The camera software in the N8 has been improved over the last year and even though things such as panorama and HDR are not in the default software, that's all I am using for this comparison, you can find 3rd party apps to enable these functions. There is full 12 megapixel mode and 9 megapixel wide screen 16:9 mode. I kept it at the highest resolution for this comparison.
There are several settings in the N8 software so take some time scrolling through the menus. Modes include the following:
You will also find red-eye flash mode on the N8 and the Xenon flash really cannot be beat by any LED flash camera phone. Video is also captured 720p high resolution.
Like the Amaze 4G there is a physical capture button on the Nokia N8. You cannot launch it from a locked device though.
The Nokia N9 comes with an 8 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, f/2.2 aperture (matches that of the HTC Amaze 4G), and some amazing features detailed in the Nokia Conversations article. I thought the HTC Amaze 4G was fast at taking a shot and then being ready to take another, but the Nokia N9 even beats out that phone and the iPhone 4S.
In my first round of photos I had the N9 scored lower because I switched and used the macro mode on the device that actually took terrible macros that were not clear. I switched back to auto and found those to be some of the best macro shots so you may want to keep it in auto mode for close up shots. Settings and modes on the N9 include the following:
You will also find a red-eye flash (only the two Nokia devices have this option), different aspect ratios, face detection and much more in the settings. Nokia includes editing software on both the N9 and the N8.
Summary table and my pick for best camera phone »
I have used the N8 quite a bit for video over the past year since it has excellent zoom capability that still allow you to capture great video and see that these others have that now as well. I didn't test out the sound quality extensively on video and will need to perform more testing.
Looking at the table above, if standard non-macro shots are what you take the iPhone 4S is the winner. If you take close up shots, then the HTC Amaze 4G is the winner. The Nokia N9 is great in both of these situations though so that may be the one to get if you take photos in differing situations. As I state below, they are all quite good and you will likely be happy with any of the four.
The Nokia N8 disappointed me a bit though in this particular test, but after using it for a full year I can say it serves well as a point and shoot replacement and think maybe this selection of shots wasn't optimized for its strengths. It does poorly with macro close up shots and I had two of them in my comparison so that didn't help. That said, the Nokia N8 is still a champion at mobile photography and my little non-scientific test wasn't optimized for it. Just take a look at some of these sites to see amazing Nokia N8 photography (you can find many more online too):
All four of these are good camera phones and you will likely be satisfied with any of them. Look through the photos in my image gallery and let me know what phone you think is the best at taking photos.