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Apple iPhone 5S vs. Nokia Lumia 1020: Which camera is better?

Al Sacco | Sept. 25, 2013
Apple's brand new iPhone 5S has an enhanced iSight digital camera, but how does it stack up to Nokia's impressive 41-megapixel PureView Lumia 1020 camera? CIO.com's Al Sacco pits the two popular devices against each other in this hands-on iPhone vs. Lumia camera comparison. The results might surprise you.

Apple last week released its latest iPhones, the high-end iPhone 5S and midrange iPhone 5C. Among the most notable features is the iPhones' iSight camera. The new iPhone 5S has an 8MP camera, which is the same megapixel count as last year's iPhone 5. But Apple says the new device has "a redesigned camera sensor that allows for bigger pixels. Bigger pixels equal better photos. And better photos are precisely what inspired the advancements we made with the new iSight camera on iPhone 5s."

Apple iPhone 5S
Apple iPhone 5S

The camera is one of the most used and most valued features in today's top-of-the-line smartphones. I put Apple's latest and greatest to the test against the best Nokia has to offer: The Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone, which is among the best camera phones available today.

Apple says, "What makes the iSight camera so remarkable is how beautiful photos look without your having to do anything at all. Just aim and shoot. That's it."

So that's what I did. The following comparison is not meant to be scientific; it's meant to serve as a quick image-quality comparison. I did not use any "advanced" settings; in all cases, I used the cameras' default and "auto" settings.

Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020

I also won't get into cameras specifications beyond the following basics. If you want details or full camera specs, visit Apple's iPhone 5S page or Nokia's Lumia 1020 page.

Nokia Lumia 1020 rear-facing camera: 41MP PureView camera; Carl Zeiss Tessar lens; f/2.2 aperture; autofocus; and Xenon flash.

Apple iPhone 5S rear-facing camera: 8MP iSight camera; f/2.2 aperture; autofocus; and True Tone flash with dual LEDs.

Apple iPhone 5S vs. Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Comparison: Conclusion

Last month, I published a post very similar to this one comparing the Lumia 1020, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One cameras. It was quickly apparent that the Lumia 1020 packed the best camera - by a long shot in most cases.

So I went into this latest experiment expecting the Lumia 1020 to again come out on top. But that's just not what happened.

Most of the images I used for comparison are of comparable quality; it's not easy to look at any of them and pick a clear winner. That in itself says something about the new iPhone 5S camera.

In fact, in some cases the iPhone 5S images provide more true-to-life color representation than the Lumia 1020 photos. Take, for example, the first images of Fenway Park's brick façade - which, by the way, is the same brick face that stood in 1912 when Fenway Park first opened to the public. The color of the bricks is much more realistic in the iPhone images. And you can even see slightly more definition.

 

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