Photo test: Samsung Galaxy Camera vs iPhone 5, S3, Lumia

The Samsung Galaxy Camera packs Android software into a compact digital body. Let's see how it compares to the top smart phones.

The Samsung Galaxy Camera essentially pairs one of Samsung's regular compact digital snappers with one of its Android phones, making features like in-camera photo editing and instant social sharing available over 3G. 

At nearly £400 though, it's not cheap -- especially as it doesn't also function as a phone -- so let's take a look at how it stacks up against the behemoths of the smart phone world. I pitted the Galaxy Camera against Samsung's own Galaxy S3, the delightful and super-cheap Nexus 4, Apple's iPhone 5 and the Nokia Lumia 920 .

Best for outdoor -- Galaxy Camera

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bigger lens and sensor on the Galaxy Camera resulted in the sharpest overall picture while providing natural colour tones.

There was little difference in quality between the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5, but the S3 just managed to capture the natural, cold January morning tones more accurately. The Lumia 920 meanwhile seemed to bring a soft-focus touch to the scene, while the Nexus 4's shot was both too dark and too blue.

Click all images to enlarge.

Galaxy Camera test

Galaxy S3 test

iPhone 5 test

Lumia 920 test

Nexus 4 test

Best for zoom -- Galaxy Camera

With a 21x optical zoom on board, it's again unsurprising that the Galaxy Camera came out top in this test. All the other contenders had to make do with digital zoom which simply enlarges the image, thereby reducing the quality.

None of them were great, but the iPhone provided more zoom while still retaining a fair amount of detail.

Click images to enlarge.

Galaxy Camera test

iPhone 5 test

Nexus 4 test

Galaxy S3 test

Lumia 920 test

Best for HDR -- iPhone 5

Update: A previous version of this article said the Galaxy Camera doesn't have a high dynamic range (HDR) mode as standard. Samsung got in touch to point out that it does, it's just called 'Richtone'. I got the Galaxy Camera back in and have added an HDR test for it below, and updated the comparison. The Lumia 920 definitely doesn't have HDR. I triple checked. 

The iPhone 5 captured the best-looking original image in this scene, and did an excellent job of rescuing the darker areas on the bridge, resulting in an even exposure overall. The Galaxy Camera's attempt came in a close second but it didn't quite have the same warmth to it that the iPhone's shot did.

Hover your mouse over the image to see a before HDR and after shot. Click image to see full-size HDR version.

iPhone 5

Galaxy Camera

Galaxy S3

Nexus 4

Best for low-light -- Lumia 920

Nokia proudly boasted of the Lumia 920's ability to handle low-light situations and it seems that those boasts weren't hollow. Even in the dim lighting situation I constructed it was able to capture a huge amount of light, making the scene perfectly viewable while maintaining an impressive amount of detail.

It was difficult to make a final judgement between the iPhone and Galaxy Camera. On the one hand, the iPhone's image was much brighter, however the Galaxy Camera captured a much clearer picture. It's up to you whether you'd be happy to sacrifice image quality for brightness.

The Galaxy S3's attempt was simply way too dark and the Nexus 4's noisy, discoloured image was laughable.

Lumia 920 test

iPhone 5 test test

Galaxy Camera test

Galaxy S3 test

Galaxy Camera test

Best for macro -- Galaxy Camera

The Galaxy Camera's 16.3-megapixel sensor managed to do a good job of capturing fine detail in this macro test. The closest twigs were kept in sharp focus and the detail on the bark toward the edges of the pictures wasn't compromised.

The iPhone 5 provided sharper focus than the S3, which tended to blur away from the centre focus point. The Nexus 4 sometimes struggled to achieve sharp focus, as did the Lumia 920. The latter also seemed to provide wildly differing colour casts across different photos.

Click images to see full size.

Galaxy Camera test

iPhone 5 test

Galaxy S3 test

Nexus 4 test

Lumia 920 test

Conclusion

The Galaxy Camera's optical zoom and better sensor made it the top dog in much of my testing. It's not perfect though by any means. I found the iPhone's camera was able to achieve a more even exposure across many scenes and the Lumia 920 did a much better job with low-light shots.

While the Nexus 4 didn't come out on top in any of my categories, it still deserves a kind word as it provides at least adequate photos, coupled with the smarts from the latest Android software while being roughly half the price of all others in the test.

In general, while it did produce more detailed shots, I found the Galaxy Camera didn't bring consistently better results in terms of exposure or colour balance . If you already own an iPhone 5 or a Galaxy S3, I certainly don't think it's worth buying the Galaxy Camera as well.

If, however, you have a cheap Android phone like the Huawei Ascend G300 and want a feature-packed snapper with a good zoom to go with it, the Galaxy Camera is worth a look.

 

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