Want to compare the cameras from five leading smartphones? Here are the results from our tests with the iPhone 5s, HTC One, Nokia Lumia 1020, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5.
We tested each handset on default camera settings using the automatic exposure mode. High dynamic range (HDR) mode was turned off, where applicable, to give the most accurate, real-world results.
To download the full-resolution files for yourself, click the links within each photo caption. For the Nokia Lumia 1020 photos, we have linked to the 5-megapixel version of the image, rather than the 34- or 38-megapixel file, to save your bandwidth.
Which smartphone comes out on top? That one is up to you to decide, as each camera excels in different areas.
The handsets are all ready to go. From left to right: Nokia Lumia 1020, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, Apple iPhone 5s, Apple iPhone 5.
The static studio shot has plenty of elements that can challenge smartphone cameras, such as a colour chart and areas of subtle detail. The controlled lighting under fluorescent tubes also tests the automatic white balance capability of each model.
In the example above, most of the smartphones are producing a fairly natural result. The Galaxy S4 is a little too warm in white balance, with the off-white desk turning out more of a creamy hue.
Also worth noting is the distortion that some of the lenses are showing. The HTC One shows some quite prominent barrel distortion, especially on the bottle on the left-hand side. It appears a little more squashed than the others.
To test out how each of these camera sensors render dynamic range (that is, the range of light between the darkest and brightest points), this laneway provides the perfect subject. Shot from the same vantage point, the focus for each camera was set in the middle of the laneway.
As you can see from the comparison above, the HTC One immediately struggles with highlight detail and loses most of the information along the pathway. This is where the sun is hitting it directly. The Lumia 1020 has a flatter exposure than the other handsets, but this is more useful for extracting detail and processing the image after it has been taken. Straight out of the camera, the iPhone 5s image looks great, but it is very punchy. The iPhone 5 performs in a similar way, though it is much more contrasty and gives a darker overall result.
Many smartphone cameras purposely intensify the red channel when capturing images, to make photos look more punchy and vivid than they are in real life. For this test, we focused each camera on the flower cluster at the right side of the frame.
In this challenge, all the cameras struggled to produce a scene that was truly representative of the real-world situation. The Lumia 1020 has too much blue present, causing the pot to look unrealistic, and the flowers also seem as if they have been dipped in cyan. The HTC One performs best in terms of natural colours, but there is not much detail in the full-resolution shot.
The iPhone 5s has more emphasis on the green channel than the iPhone 5 does, which makes the image look a little hyper real.
There are a few different light sources in this photo, which helps to confuse the poor image sensor. Here the Galaxy S4 comes off quite well, with an even exposure and colours that are not biased too much to any particular hue. The HTC One is very warm, while the Lumia 1020 is quite cool. Overall, the image from the iPhone 5s looks the most pleasing to the eye straight out of the camera.
In this image, the Lumia 1020 does a great job of retaining all the detail, particularly at the corners of the frame with the illuminated building signs. The other cameras tend to lose this a bit, especially the HTC One, which smudges it quite a lot. The 1020 does have the warmest result of all the photos, though. The Galaxy S4 has a sharp image, but perhaps a little too much in-camera sharpening has been applied.
The iPhone 5s does very well considering the mixed light sources and produces a pleasing image, though there is some flaring on the light sources at the right of the frame.
One of the trickiest scenes to capture because of the high level of foreground and background detail, the cameras have their work cut out for them in this final shot. The HTC One, again, blows out the highlights in the sky and the foreground so much that this detail is not recoverable. The Galaxy S4 has a nice, crisp image, though it is a bit too green, just like the iPhone 5s image. The iPhone 5 photo looks pleasing, but the winner for this one is the 1020, which has an even exposure and a good amount of detail.