Samsung Galaxy Nexus cam vs. iPhone 4S vs. HTC Vivid vs. Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

CNET takes newcomer Samsung Galaxy Nexus on a head-to-head photo test with other great camera phones.

Smartphones with great cameras are mushrooming up all over the market, delighting phone owners everywhere. Who doesn't want a fantastic smartphone camera that could replace a point-and-shoot? Easier said than done. Megapixel math is incomplete if you're not accounting for variables like light sensors, auto-focus, flash, and the camera's own rendering software.

Plus, photos are more likely to look terrific on a smaller smartphone display than on a larger laptop or TV screen. That's why we periodically grab up the best camera phones we have on us at the time and shoot a couple of indoor and outdoor shots for comparison. I limited it to four shots on four cameras to keep the length of this post manageable, but you can look here for an additional gallery of the Galaxy Nexus' shots.

This time, I took several indoor and outdoor shots with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, and the HTC Vivid. I know what you're thinking: this is hardly fair, since the Galaxy Nexus has a 5-megapixel camera and the rest have 8-megapixel lenses. True, but Samsung has also made some really high-performing 5-megapixel shooters. When the phone was first launched, we all wondered how the camera would stack up against the other greats. Well, here it is. At any rate, view this comparison as a guide rather than as the final word on camera phones.

One note on process: I transferred photos to my computer and resized each image so it will fit in your browser, but otherwise I left the photos untouched.

Flowers: These pretty petals were taken outdoors in even lighting.

Galaxy Nexus
Galaxy Nexus: Flowers Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
iPhone 4S: Flowers
iPhone 4S: Flowers Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Skyrocket: Flowers
Skyrocket: Flowers Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Vivid: Flowers
Vivid: Flowers Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Bamboo: I shot this bamboo thicket outdoors in even lighting.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Galaxy Nexus: Bamboo (Note: I had to reshoot this on a different day, but the lighting remained even. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
iPhone 4S: Bamboo
iPhone 4S: Bamboo Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Skyrocket: Bamboo
Skyrocket: Bamboo Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Vivid: Bamboo
Vivid: Bamboo Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Emily: The lovely Emily Dreyfuss of CNET's Rumor Has It podcast rocks her stylin' grampa glasses. The picture was shot indoors.

Galaxy Nexus
Galaxy Nexus: Emily Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
iPhone 4S: Emily
iPhone 4S: Emily Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Skyrocket: Emily
Skyrocket: Emily Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Vivid: Emily
Vivid: Emily Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Toys: This tricky scene was taken indoors in artificial lighting.

Galaxy Nexus
Galaxy Nexus: Toys Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
iPhone 4S
iPhone 4S: Toys Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Skyrocket: Toys
Skyrocket: Toys Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Vivid: Toys
Vivid: Toys Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Article updated at 7:25pm PT to correctly state that the Galaxy Nexus has a 5-megapixel camera.