A tale of two tablets: Nokia Lumia 2520 vs. Samsung Galaxy NotePRO (2: Photography)

This is planned to be a three part story about my experience with two quite incomparable tablets: the 10.1 inch Nokia Lumia 2520 on Windows RT on one hand, and the 12.2 inch Samsung Galaxy NotePRO on Android 4.4 (KitKat) on the other. My first post about these two tablets was about comparing the specifications.

Since the PureViewClub is mainly about imaging, it's too tempting not to compare the cameras of these two tablets. Like I wrote in the first place, I will never understand people using their tablet to make photographs - not on holiday, let alone during concerts! But "the best camera is the one you have with you", and these devices are getting much better sensors anyway, so why not compare them for a change?

I've been using Nokia Camera on the Lumia 2520 (not the standard app), just like I do on my Lumia's. So with Nokia Camera, you can adjust the settings in detail. I'm using the standard camera application on the Galaxy NotePRO, since Samsung doesn't offer a dedicated camera application with better options.

In all shots below, all settings are on auto - I didn't "help" either camera, figuring that whoever will make a picture with his or her tablet won't be bothered with the settings at all. Most of my comparisons are done with "auto settings" anyway.

The manual settings on Samsung's standard camera are limited. At first I thought it would be interesting to share some screenshots of the settings menu, but in general, it's the same as is known from the Lumia or Galaxy smartphones, so I won't even bother - I have already more than enough shots to share.

The Lumia 2520 has a 6.7MP sensor and Carl Zeiss optics, 4 x digital zoom, sensor size is 1/3.4 inch. Camera focal length is 26 mm and minimum focus range 10 cm. Samsung's main camera has an 8MP sensor and even includes a LED flash, but has a longer focal length (see wikipedia). This means that from the same distance, you can capture less of the scene in front of your camera.

Nokia chose to put the camera in the far right top corner (if you're facing the screen that is). There may have been important reasons to do so, but it proves to be quite unpracticle - I would have preferred a top central position, like on the Galaxy NotePRO.

In all the comparisons below you will see the shots from the Nokia Lumia 2520 first and the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO second. I've been making several shots of each scene, and I always chose the result from each camera I thought was best. You won't be surprised to find all the original shots in a dedicated set on Flickr.

First two shots to show the difference in color and focal length. These inside shots were taken from the exact same distance. Click on the shot to see the original on Flickr.

1 Nokia Lumia 2520

1 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO

2 Nokia Lumia 2520

2 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO

Like we've seen on the Lumia 1020, colors are "less cold" than the competition. In these two inside shots there is no doubt in my mind I prefer the results from the Nokia Lumia 2520. Not only because I get more in my shot, also because the colors are much better.

Below you'll see another set of inside shots. This time I framed the shots to be as similar as possible. In this case, it's the difference in color that is most striking.

3 Nokia Lumia 2520

3 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO

4 Nokia Lumia 2520

4 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO

You might argue about the colors of the tulips - I can't "prove" which has the best color rendition and this seems to come down to your own preference. But I think we all know the color of broccoli, and there's no doubt in my mind the Nokia does the best job with the colors.

Now let's have a look at the detail in those two broccoli shots - here are two 640 x 360 crops from the original:

4 Nokia Lumia 2520 CROP 640 x 360 4 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO CROP 640 x 360

Although the Nokia officially has a smaller sensor, obviously the details are much better.

Next: a few outside shots from today. Again, it was a difficult day for similar shots: bright sunshine, darks clouds and lots of wind - so alll very Dutch weather, but at least it was dry! :-).

I did my best to wait for the exact same light in all situations., but still the differences are remarkable. Again, all these shots were made without moving an inch, so from the exact same distance. I will share the few crops I made directly under the resized shots as well.

8 Nokia Lumia 2520

8 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO

I really like the shot coming from the Galaxy NotePRo in this case - it really does the bright white color of the building justice! But let's have a look at the two 640 x 360 crops I made from the center of these shots. Not hard to see there's more detail in the result Nokia's is getting.

8 Nokia Lumia 2520 CROP 640 x 360 8 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO CROP 640 x 360

Funny as it may seem, these are the two shots I like the most from today - I'll share them for "artistic" reasons mostly.

9 Nokia Lumia 2520

9 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO

It may be hard to believe, but the light in the shots below was the same - you can tell by the shadows in the grass. Yet, the difference is remarkable.

10 Nokia Lumia 2520

10 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO

As you see, the result you get from the Samsung is much lighter and - in my opinion at least - contrast in the Lumia shot is a lot better. But the white in the Lumia 2520  appears to be a bit "off white" or even "yellowish" as we know from the Lumia 1020. It's a marginal difference though, even depending on the way you're looking at your PC screen.

Was it a coincidence the Samsung is showing this kind of bright light? No, I see the same effect once again in the next two shots. I can assure you the low sunlight was exactly the same.

11 Nokia Lumia 1520

11 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO

Not only do you capture more from the scene in Nokia's Lumia, again colors and contrast prove to be way better in my opinion, although some will argue the grass is very green indeed in Lumia's shot.

Let's have a look at two crops from this last shot as well. I think the results speak for themselves.

11 Nokia Lumia 1520 CROP 640 x 360 11 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO CROP 640 x 360

Last shot captured today - again from the exact same distance with all settings on auto.

12 Nokia Lumia 2520

12 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO

in fact, this is the first time where I think Galaxy NotePRO is showing more detail than the Lumia 2520 - maybe because the software "knows" how to handle these "darker" situations better?

You'll see what I mean in the last two crops from the central point of the shot (where I focused). In this case, the brightness of the NotePRO's camera really appears to help to bring out the subtle detail in the painted bricks.

12 Nokia Lumia 2520 CROP 640 x 360 12 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO CROP 640 x 360

There's a few things I'd like to add.

First, I think the Nokia Lumia 2520 gives you better shots in general, inside and out. It lacks the flash, so I couldn't compare it. But it may come in handy in some situations, like during a party inside or something.

Samsung may be boasting an "8MP sensor", but in general it's certainly not doing a better job than Nokia's even a bit smaller sensor. In fact, I think the results coming from the Lumia 2520 are quite surprising, but then again I understand it's the same camera module as the Lumia 720, which has been known for its quality already.

The position of the camera sensor on the Lumia 2520 is extremely unpractical however. Putting it this close to the only buttons you can use on this tablet, it's begging for fingerprints - so yes, it will get greasy in no-time, there simply is no way to avoid it. I had to clean it several times during this test (while I cleaned the lens from the Samsung as well just to make sure).

Using either tablet to make shots  is quite a different experience and I would never ever "just bring my tablet" during holidays or wherever. It's almost impossible to keep a good balance with a device this big, framing the shot is hard, keeping the frame while focussing and making the shot is a matter of luck I'd say. Moreover you'll be inclined to hold it with one hand to push the software button with a finger of your other hand (there is no hardware camera button on either), and for that it's simply too heavy: chances are you will drop the tablet.

I'm just saying this because I actually see people do bring their tablet to make shots (iPads mainly). Just: don't. Only use a tablet for photography when you lost your phone or drained the battery ;-)

Having said that however, the way the Samsung screen appears to adjust to the light in the scene makes it more "fun" to use. Or is it the enormous size of the screen? It's a confusing experience in all: what you see in your display while making the shot is so much better when you're holding the NotePRO, you think the Lumia 2520 won't stand a chance in the comparison. The opposite appears to be the case then you compare the results.

So I think I can conclude that whereas the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO has the bigger, better and brighter screen, the Nokia Lumia 2520 will get you the best shots. And it's not even PureView, but it has ZEISS written on it, and that proves to be more than just marketing.

One more thing though: you can make a lot closer shots using the Samsung. I will show that in the last two shots from both tablets, and you'll recognize the subject immediately. Again: Nokia Lumia 2520 first, Samsung Galaxy NotePRO second. I couldn't get the tablets to focus any closer than this (without using the digital zoom that is).

Nokia Lumia 2520 - Close up 1020 Samsung Galaxy NotePRO close-up Nokia Lumia 1020

It may not be the most practical thing to do, making a close-up with your tablet (keeping it still is far from easy), but it's only fair to share this result here as well. Again, you will find all the original shots from this post in a dedicated set from the PureViewClub Photostream on Flickr.

In the third and last part of this "tale of two tablets", I will write some general impressions about using these tablets, from a mobile photographer's and a blogger's point of view. I do hope you like these small series so far, although in fact they don't have much to do with the actual PureView technology - there's no oversampling nor OIS on the Lumia 2520. Since I strongly suggest never to use a tablet for shots, this might be the most useless comparison I've ever written - but it was fun writing it anyway :-)

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