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Three-way shootout: smartphone cameras

Jenneth Orantia (via SMH) | June 5, 2013
Jenneth Orantia puts the cameras of the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One to test.

Apple iPhone 5, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4: Who comes out on top?
Apple iPhone 5, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4: Who comes out on top?

It was a wise geek that once said, "The best camera you can have is the camera you have with you". More often than not, this is the camera hanging off the back of your smartphone rather than any standalone camera you may have at home.

The cameras on the latest flagship smartphones are worthy replacements for point-and-shoot compacts. The image quality won't be better, necessarily, but this is more than made up for by conveniences such as easy sharing and not having to carry around a second device.

Choosing between one smartphone and another can often come down to which one has the better camera. While the number of megapixels can give you a general idea of the camera's quality (five megapixels is average, eight-plus megapixels is in the above-average category), real-world testing is the only way to properly judge each camera.

Apple iPhone 5
The Apple iPhone 5's camera is almost stark in its simplicity. There are no scene modes, white balance options or ISO settings in its tiny bag of tricks; the two shooting options are limited to HDR and panorama.

But this dearth of features doesn't seem to have hurt the iPhone's popularity. According to Flickr, one of the world's largest online photo sharing services, the top three cameras used by its members are the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 5.

Is it actually the superior camera? The iPhone 5 has its age going against it, with both the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4 being several months newer. This has given competitors ample opportunity to improve on the iPhone 5's eight megapixel camera, and it shows - but not as much as you might think.

Up against the Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPhone 5 didn't produce as much detail in brightly-lit conditions, which is understandable given there's a five megapixel difference between the two. The less light you feed the iPhone 5, however, the better it is out of the two phones at producing good exposures, even if it comes at the expense of noise (blotchy speckles in the image).

The iPhone 5 out-performed the HTC One for day-to-day photography, but challenging situations such as macros and dim lighting saw the HTC One come out on top. The HTC One's 'ultrapixel' sensor in particular was at lot better at making the most of available light for both indoor and night-time photography.

Samsung Galaxy S4
When it comes to features, Samsung has opted for a kitchen sink approach, stuffing the Galaxy S4 with all the options and settings you'd expect in a dedicated compact camera, as well as a few extras.

 

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