I’m desperate for the Nokia Lumia 920 to do well. Don’t get me wrong – I love taking photos with my iPhone 5 but it’d be nice to have some serious competitors in the camera stakes. Which one is better? It’s close. And note: this is before we have applied a software update that Nokia have announced in the last few days. This update will improve the results from the Lumia 920 further, and is due to be available in ‘other markets’ (i.e. Australia) in February 2013.
Nokia Lumia 920
Maximum resolution: 8.7 megapixels (3552 x 2448 pixels)
Maximum aperture: f/2.0
Maximum ISO: 800
Apple iPhone 5
Maximum resolution: 8 megapixels (3264 x 2448 pixels)
Maximum aperture: f/2.4
Maximum ISO: 3200
No sharpening, no HDR mode, no zooming (duh), no colour correcting, no 3rd party apps used (just the built-in camera app), no flash or other lighting (other than ambient tungsten/flouro lighting), no tripods (hand-held only), no exposure overrides on the phones (they choose whatever ISO/aperture/shutter speed combination they think is best).
Note: Click on each image to see the full size original.
Example 1: Bright scene in full sun
Winner: iPhone 5.
It retained sharper detail while the Lumia 920 looked like it had a photoshop ‘smart blur’ filter applied to it (blurring parts of the image that it deems not important). This is a good feature in the mobile/photo world because on one hand the images compress really well – making for smaller file sizes (the original iPhone jpeg is 3MB, while the Lumia 920′s is 2.56MB), but on the other hand, it removes detail when it may really be needed. The iPhone 5 shot also retained sharpness much better towards the edge of the shot. This is probably due to 2 things.. 1) potentially better quality glass in the lens 2) an aperture of 2.4 – which gives you a bit more depth of field – and better sharpness towards the edge of the frame. As an aside – the default aspect ratio when shooting with the Lumia 920 is wide/16:9 which is apparent in the above comparison. From here on in the test I chose 4:3, so it was a closer comparison with the iPhone 5.
Example 2: Dim room light – inside at night
Firstly, let me say, I was amazed at how both of these phones went in this light. This is shot in our loungeroom at night. The only lighting was from one of those energy saving globes in the ceiling. I think an 11 watt one. i.e. it’s very dim. The fact that either of these phones got a shot of this quality, hand-held, amazes me.
Winner: Lumia 920.
And this is before their update which is due in Australia in a few months (mentioned at top of post). Nokia certainly have weaved some magic here with their PureView technology. In simplest terms, the phone recognises a little bit of camera shake – and counters it by shifting its lens a little in the opposite direction – effectively cancelling out the movement and making for a blur-free shot. SLR camera owners have enjoyed this type of technology in quality lenses up until now. The results above show that you can then shoot at a lower shutter speed while hand-holding the phone. The Lumia 920 used a shutter speed of 1/5th of a second! Hand-held! WTF!? The f2.0 aperture is also really showing an advantage here of being able to let more light in to the sensor. The blurring of detail present in the bright daylight shot actually helps the Lumia in this shot – effectively softening/removing noise. You can see in the 100% / actual size example that the green around the pigs eye is relatively noise free (helped by the longer shutter speed, allowing an ISO of 640). The iPhone 5 on the other hand didn’t want to shoot any slower than 1/15th, and it’s maximum aperture of f2.4 forced it’s ISO up to 800 – making for a noticeably darker shot, more noise, and much less detail in the darker areas.
By the way, the Angry Birds aren’t mine. No really – they’re my son’s. I have been known, however, to advise on ideal launch positions and the correct pronunciation of names from characters in the newly released Angry Birds Star Wars range.
Example 3: Another low light test
Winner: iPhone 5. (well, apart from the Nikon d90 DSLR)
Lighting was from 1 x 11 watt energy saver globe on the wall, and 1 x 30w halogen globe on top of the bookshelf (i.e. very little light). Again, I’m amazed at the quality of shots from both phones. The Lumia 920 suffered from some lens flare/brightness coming from the halogen light above the book case – which threw its exposure meter off and made for a more washed-out shot. In this light, the iPhone’s maximum aperture of f/2.4 was sufficient and enabled a much sharper result as shown in the 100% / actual size crop. I chose to include a shot with my Nikon d90 + 24-120mm VR lens to show that while phones have certainly come a long way, they’re still not quite as good as an DSLR in low light. And this was still handheld. The gap would widen further if you were able to rest the DSLR on something and choose a lower ISO.
Example 4: Another low light test – detail
Winner: iPhone 5. (again, apart from the Nikon d90 DSLR).
The iPhone 5 exposure and colour balance was a bit better – which resulted in better saturation. It also retained more detail in the 100% crop. The Nikon DSLR gave a much smoother result – again, only included as a reference point for what you can expect from a DSLR in the same light.
It’s close. Real close. Given that Nokia are rolling out this update which aims to improve some of the blurry detail and correct some colour issues, the iPhone 5 is certainly within it’s reach. In full bright sun, I’d still prefer the iPhone. In low light it’s a close call. If you’re in very dim light, the PureView technology is no gimmick – and will allow you to hand-hold at slower shutter speeds. The higher ISO available on the iPhone (3200 ISO) vs Lumia 920 (800 ISO) enables the iPhone to regain some of that ground in low light – and provide something useable – even if it does introduce more noise.
My pick is the iPhone 5 for now.
But I’ll do the test again as soon as we can get our hands on the software update for the Lumia 920.