How close can you get? Testing close-up and zoom on 11 (!) high-end smartphone cameras

I'm not sure if I've ever done anything like this before - compare the zoom capacity of different smartphone cameras. But I'm quite sure I never did that with 11 (!) different high-ed smartphones. In alphabetical order you'll see how close you can go with Huawei, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony.
To be more exact, you'll see results coming from the:
Huawei Ascent P7
LG G3
Motorola X (2nd generation)
Nokia 808 PureView
Nokia Lumia 830
Nokia Lumia 930
Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1520
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom
Samsung Galaxy Note
Sony Xperia Z3
I captured them all with the Samsung Galaxy Camera (depending on the season I've sometimes got quite a collection at the office :-)

Now to make this work, I had to think of something we literally all know - whether you live in Venezuela or New-Zealand: you simply have to know the exact size of what I´m capturing. So I thought of some technical stuff I´m sure we all know. Like a USB device. A simcard and a micro-sim. A micro-SD and an adapter. The far end of a micro-USB charger. Things that are the same all over the planet. Weather is quite unpleasant here, so I put them all on a white paper under the kitchen lamp (I do quite some shooting that way). 

I made two kinds of close-ups. One as close as I could get to the scene without using any zoom, and as close as I could get with maximum zoom (be it digital or not). When possible I put the camera software on ISO 100 (I know you like it to be comparable that way). But that's all I did really, I didn't fiddle around with the white balance - it's not about the right colours, it's about how close we can get. Remember it was all captured in LED lights, the colours will differ because of that - don't blame the cameras for it. By the way: this is the first comparison in a long time where I don't have to worry about crops, since I already got as close to the scene as possible. 

First the results without using any zooming capacity. This shows how close I could get to the subject before the camera couldn't focus anymore. I'm not going to present the results in alphabetical order, I'll just share them "zooming in" on the subjects. First, you'll see the Nokia 808 PureView, which is known for its very long focal length. I couldn't get closer than this, but has the advantage it shows the scene I designed for this post is pretty basic.

Next up, the Nokia Lumia 1020 - already a lot closer, but still quite far away from the scene.

Next step is coming from the Nokia Lumia 930 - and please note the giant steps we've been making up until now!

The next steps will be noticably smaller - but still. Here's how close I got with the Nokia Lumia 1520.

Focusing closer - still without using any zoom capacity - we suddenly find the new Motorola X (2nd generation, I will write more about this device and its camera in a seperate post)

This appears to be quite comparable how close I got with Sony's Xperia Z3 (although I now see this result is not as sharp, my bad...)

Can we get even closer? Yes, we can, still quite a few devices up ahead. The next three are completely comparable I'd say: these are the results coming from the Nokia Lumia 830 (much closer than its colleagues!), the Huawei Ascend P7 (Huawei has been promoting its short focal length) and - surprising - the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.



That leaves us with two devices that even got closer than this. Which ones? First, this is the result coming from the LG G3 - an amazing result without using any zoom I have to say! 

Last - but not least: the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom. I will only share one shot from the K Zoom however: this is how close as I could get and it's not even on macro.

Why don't I use the digital zoom on my Galaxy K Zoom? Well, if you're going to use the optical zoom on the Galaxy K Zoom, it's impossible to focus in scenes like this: that kind of optical zoom capacity is made for far distances. The digital zoom on the K Zoom goes on top of that. Anyway: the K Zoom is the winner in this little competition, so without using any zoom capacity. 

Zooming in even closer...
So the Galaxy K Zoom is more or less the "bridge" to have a look a close-ups with maximum zoom capacity (optical or digital). Most of us will know the Nokia 808 PureView and the Lumia 930 and 1520 use the PureView technique of oversampling (combining several pixels into one to eliminate noise). When zooming in, you'll be zooming in on a part of the sensor. So you'll have less oversampling and hence a bit more noise, but there is no digital zoom involved at all. The Sony Xperia Z3 will use oversamping as well (realizing 8MP shots from its 20MP sensor), but zooming is still digital. The other devices just zoom in digitally as well as far as I know. It doesn't really matter here, this is about how close you can get either way.

Again, I have to start with the Nokia 808 PureView. First, as close as I could get using the 5MP PureView resolution. Now that's already a lot better than I got without using any of its zoom capacity.

I can get even closer, but I have to switch to 2MP PureView (so it will have more of the sensor to zoom into). That will bring me a lot closer already, but still: this is it (and it's only a 2MP shot as well).

Guess it won't surprise you the next step is the Nokia Lumia 1020 - maximum zoom capacity, but not digital. I have to add than when zooming in with the Lumia 1020, 930 and 1520, you can still capture two shots at the same time: the zoomed version will be 5MP, whereas the 34MP version will capture the complete scene (which you could use for "Zoom Reinvented", a concept Nokia later completely forgot about). So the shots you'll see in this part of the comparison are in fact the same as you've seen above, only now in their "zoomed versions" (5MP)

Next step closer is the Nokia Lumia 930

And like in the first comparison, one step closer is the Lumia 1520

I now see I haven't bee too accurate capturing these close-ups, but I'm sure you'll see the differences. On a sidenote: the small difference between the 930 and 1520 is surprising, since they have the exact same sensor (as far as I know). I did try to get both devices to focus as close as possible several times though, there appears to be a small difference - but it might be me as well.

From here we'll be entering the digital domain - bringing us remarkably closer. But how close? This is how close I got with the Sony Xperia Z3, with 8x digital zoom (or so it says in the specs)

I'm a bit surprised about the 8x optical zoom used in the shots above, since I'm already getting closer with the new Motorola X (4 x digital zoom). It's not noise free (no wonder), but it's still very readable.

Wow, that looks like the biggest micro-SD card you've ever seen. The next not so noise-free but still readable result comes from the Nokia Lumia 830 (4x digital zoom as well) - another surprising result!

But we can get even closer than this... Like with the Huawei Ascend P7 (another device with 4x digital zoom). Check out the absence of noise in this one - it's a superclean close-up in fact.

Two devices take the crown being the closest in this comparison, since both have no less than 8x digital zoom - and I'd say it's a draw. First I'll show the result coming from the Samsung Galaxy Note 4

And to conclude this lengthy comparison, the result coming from the LG G3 (another device with 8x digital zoom)

I'm quite sure I never did a comparison like this before, since I never expected to be able to get this close - did you?

Mind you however, these are close-ups zoomed in - it's a whole different ballgame if you're going to use zoom with objects further away, let alone landscapes. That might be an interesting comparison in the future. This will have to do for now, but not before I share the link to all original results in a dedicated album on Flickr.

Oh and if you like what I'm doing, spread the word! You might consider making a donation as well to keep the SmartCamClub open - just hit that Donate button on the right hand side. Any donation is appreciated and I will add you to the (too) slowly growing list of sponsors. Thanks in advance!