Which Camera Phone is Best?

I snapped a series of shots around the house this afternoon. Tell me which ones you believe came out better?

There’s a “Camera 1” and a “Camera 2” at play (with no post-processing done on any image). In each case, I embedded “1” above “2” on this page. I wish to refrain from telling you which camera is which – letting you judge for yourself, using these images as a guide. Other enthusiasts have run similar tests between “1” and “2” this week, like Macworld. If you want to ruin the surprise, you can always scroll to the end of this article. 🙂

Between these two popular smartphone cameras, I believe the lens (hardware) wasn’t as important as the software component. Regardless, I stuck with “auto” configuration for each phone’s default camera app for these tests. The results, as you can see below, are a mixed bag – which is a good thing for impartiality (given that I’d likely get blamed if the results skewed to my phone of choice versus yours).

As always, I’d recommend calibrating your monitors with a Huey before judging image quality. Otherwise, you can’t trust your eyes (or your screen, for that matter).

Outdoor Light, Indoors Test

It’s difficult to make a dreary Seattle day appear to have been more cheerful. There is no clear winner (to me) in this particular set.

Here, “Camera 1” is definitely more vibrant and sharper (although the sharpness could’ve been due to a different focal point in the capture).

The second image does have truer-to-life colors – but I’d also note that the cream blanket popping up to the right seems to have a slight blue hue to its overexposed area.

Phone Camera 1: Muted Colors and Saturation Test

Phone Camera 2: Muted Colors and Saturation Test

Artificial Light, Indoors Test

No doubt about it: “Camera 1” needs a little saturitalin! That’s not a real product, but how else would I correct the obvious overcompensation?

“Camera 2” was not only sharper in this setting, but more accurately reflected the colors in the room. A clear winner.

Phone Camera 1: Terracotta Wall Color Test

Phone Camera 2: Terracotta Wall Color Test

Pantry Test

It’s easy to see that “Camera 1” captured white better in my pantry (rather than erring blue, like “Camera 2” did).

Phone Camera 1: White and Color Test

Phone Camera 2: White and Color Test

Texture Test

It’s impossible to ascertain full perspective by only reviewing the thumbnails (versus the original, full-sized images), but I do believe this one is a draw for me… no pun intended.

If anything, there may be a small amount of texture in the shot from “Camera 1” – but its reds seem to have a magenta complex. “Camera 2” couldn’t get a focus – but its colors were slightly more accurate (blacks were blacker, too).

I tried a few times to capture a sharper image with “Camera 2,” but there was just something about this painting it didn’t like.

Phone Camera 1: Texture and Color Test

Phone Camera 2: Texture and Color Test

The Best Cameraphone

So, there we go – four scenes around the gnomestead on a Sunday afternoon. My final verdict? I don’t think I’ll ever have one, given that the results were mixed. Half of the time, “Camera 1” fared better – and the other half of the time, “Camera 2” fared better.

I may very well do another battery of tests involving the LED flash at some point, too.

And, if you didn’t already bother to peek at EXIF data: “Camera 1” is an iPhone 4, while “Camera 2” is an HTC EVO 4G. Hats off to both engineering teams for creating cameraphones that may render so many dedicated point-and-shoot cameras obsolete.

Unfortunately, the iPhone stomped the EVO 4G in my corresponding indoor video tests.