Mobile handset makers are working hard to ease off the consumers’ burden of carry more than one device. A modern day smartphone typically can be used for calling, messaging, navigation, surfing, and even tracking fitness activities. Imaging is the one department which remains immensely challenging and competitive at the same time.
We established previously that a great imaging smartphone requires great hardware coupled with fast as well as smart software. Now the handset makers are slowly integrating the fancy image filters, and manipulation features as part of the default camera app. Whether it is clicking Panorama shots or HDR images, the flagship smartphones have it all.
This week, we have five smartphones that pack a fair combination of both – camera app and great imaging hardware. Of course all these smartphones have a front facing camera but the idea is to make the best of the rear camera.
Nokia introduced its imaging flagship Lumia 1020 running Windows Phone 8 platform last year. The Lumia 1020 succeeds the previous imaging flagship 808 PureView. Nokia has used a 4.5 inch AMOLED display with 720p HD native resolution support and is made using Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for strength. Lumia 1020 is powered by a dual core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 mobile processor paired with 2 GB RAM and 32 GB on-board storage without any memory slot. Nokia has pushed the new Lumia Black update packing Windows Phone 8 Update 3 to run on this smartphone.
Nokia integrated the 41 megapixel camera at the back with 1/1.5-inch image sensor. Nokia’s own PureView imaging technology is implemented to power the 41 megapixel image sensor. This image sensor has been married with Carl Zeiss optics. The Carl Zeiss optics comprises of a six element lens – five layers of plastic aspheric lens and one layer of high precision glass. Out of the Dual LED flash at the back, one is a Xenon Flash and other is meant for auto-focus assist. Nokia has used a f/2.2 aperture that captures wider angles and allows more light to reach the image sensor. Nokia Camera app enables more manual control of the focus, white balance, exposure and more. The only option missing so far is manual f-stop control.
For better optical image stabilization, Nokia has deployed ball-bearing like cushions to reduce shake movements. The camera offers 4x lossless zoom and re-cropping technique (Zoom Reframe) with the new Nokia Camera app. The HDR has been integrated in the form of Automatic Bracketing accessible through the camera setting options. High quality images in 34 megapixel can be captured but these images are accessible only by using a computer. Usually, the images are saved in 5 megapixel quality with PureView technology implemented. As of now, the Lumia 1020 is the top imaging smartphone offer slightly saturated colour quality which is fairly acceptable for imaging hobbyist. Read our review of Lumia 1020 here.
Samsung has launched the Galaxy S5 smartphone with water and dust resistance properties in India. Samsung plans to sell the 16 GB model without 4G LTE support. The Galaxy S5 is powered by the octa-core Samsung Exynos Infinity 5422 mobile chipset paired with 2 GB RAM. The Galaxy S5 features 5.1-inch Full HD Super AMOLED touchscreen display sporting 1920×1080 pixel resolution. Powerful hardware touting Galaxy S5 also packs dual-band Wi-Fi support, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and GPS with A-GPS support. Samsung has integrated number of modern day sensors such as Barometer, Fingerprint and Heart Rate Sensor. The new TouchWiz UI on top of Android 4.4 KitKat brings support for on-screen fingerprint reading and more neater look. Samsung has integrated Infrared LED and micro USB 3.0 port. The Galaxy S5 carries the IP67 certification to make it water and dust resistant to certain extent.
In the camera department, Galaxy S5 offers 16 megapixel camera with single LED flash and bears f/2.2 aperture. Samsung has implemented a new technology to increase the dynamic range and improved the autofocus speed to 0.3 seconds. With fast autofocus one can really make best of the camera that promises real-time HDR mode. In the video recording department, the 16 megapixel image sensor easily records Ultra HD resolution video at 30 frames per second along with HDR and video stabilization features. One can always go for the Dual Shot to use both rear and front facing 2 megapixel camera for shot in shot experience. Both cameras can be used to make dual video calls as well. The Galaxy S5 integrates the S-Voice and other Samsung specific applications to be used optimally. By default, the Galaxy S5 packs 2800 mAh battery which promises greater run time with the new Ultra Power Saving Mode. Check out our initial impression of the Galaxy S5.
LG G2 LTE
LG has recently introduced the G2 LTE edition to compete with the other top devices and also has some similarities with the Nexus 5 smartphone. The G2 is loaded with 5.2-inch True HD-IPS LCD display with 1920×1080 pixel resolution and has been constructed using Corning Gorilla Glass 2 technology. LG has housed the quad-core 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 MSM8974 mobile chipset with Adreno 330 Graphics chip. LG has equipped the G2 with 2 GB RAM to run most things with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean update smoothly. For storage, the G2 offers 16 GB on the phone and memory slot to add in the microSD card slot.
LG has featured a 13 megapixel camera with autofocus and LED Flash. Slightly different design bearing G2 has the power key just below the camera. Though it is something different, the camera lens ends up with smudges when the finger searches for the power button. Also, the volume button is to be used for launching the camera app from the sleep mode. From several Android based smartphones, G2’s camera is quick in capturing images. LG has packed only one LED flash which may not be ideally enough but still does the job. Touch to focus, forced flash and other modes stay consistent even in the G2. LG has packed about 12 different shooting mode options for the user to choose from. These modes include the HDR and Panorama imaging for some really great experimental shots. The catch in getting the full 13 megapixel image quality photo is to shoot the subject in the 4:3 aspect ratio else it turns out to be 10 megapixel in 16:9 aspect ratio. The size of the handset is slightly big and is not easily usable by one hand for quick photo captures. The G2 offers very pleasant imaging in the good lighting conditions. LG has packed 3000 mAh large battery to keep the phone running for a day or more. For those who love capturing great quality photos and share them immediately should try out the 4G LTE version of the smartphone. Do note that 4G LTE network is available in select circles of India. Read our review of LG G2 here.
Apple had introduced the iPhone 5S in India two months and continued to offer previous generation iPhone models as well. The new iPhone 5S has a 4-inch Retina display based on IPS LCD panel technology supporting multi-touch and has 1136×640 pixel resolution. Apple iPhone 5S is powered with Apple A6 System on Chip and M7 motion processor. Apple has loaded iOS 7 software with backing of the 1 GB DDR3 RAM. Apple offers this model in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB storage options. Other features include dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Lightning connector to charge the device.
Apple has packed a 8 megapixel iSight camera with 1.5 micron pixels quality. The camera sports f/2.2 aperture to capture wider angles to collect more light. Apple has used a five element lens that has a Sapphire crystal lens cover. Apple has also used dual-LED True Tone flash to provide better colour temperature to the photos. This flash is meant to help the imaging enthusiasts in the low-light imaging to get better colours in the resultant photos. This sensor is larger than the one used in the iPhone 5 and also promises better low light photography results. Apple has tried to tackle the Ultra-Violet light problem with the Hybrid IR Filter.
Apple’s Camera app is taken as the standard for being super smooth and fastest one on the mobile platform. The Camera app offers tap-to focus feature along with Face Detection, Burst Mode and taking Panorama Shots. Apple has also integrates a square imaging mode with a library of live filters for the Instagram lovers. The camera is capable of recording smooth 1080p HD video with better image stabilization. One can also experiment with slow-motion video recording. Entire imaging is powered by the quad-core PowerVR G6430 graphics. Apple has packed 1560 mAh battery to keep the photography lovers go overboard with the images.
Sony Xperia Z1 is company’s current flagship smartphone with water and dust proof properties with IP55 & IP58 certification. The Xperia Z1 offers a 5-inch TRILUMINOs display with full HD 1920×1080 pixels resolution. The display is powered by X-Reality Engine for adjusting the brightness and contrast. Xperia Z1 is powered with a quad-core 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor teamed with 2 GB RAM and offers 16 GB onboard storage. Memory slot allows holding the storage to up to 64 GB using a micro SD card. Sony Xperia Z1 features the award-winning “G Lens” with a 27mm wide angle and F2.0 aperture. The 20 megapixel camera is comes with a 1/2.3 inch CMOS Exmor RS image sensor along with BIONZ for mobile image processing engine. Clearly, Sony has armed the camera section with the best technologies from the closet. It has a 2 megapixel front camera as well. PlayStation certified Sony Xperia Z1 also comes with DLNA, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, MHL, micro USB port, GLONASS, A-GPS, WiFi, and 3G connectivity options. Sony has packed 3000 mAh battery to provide over 14 hours worth talk time.
After these three smartphones, the next one that comes close is the freshly announced HTC One M8 however, we are yet to test its camera prowess entirely.