Colourful twilight shots at the Hilversum Museum of Sound and Vision

In this post, you'll see two scenes captured in the evening twilight at the Museum of Sound and Vision in Hilversum. You'll see the results coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020, Galaxy Note 4, Sony Xperia Z3 and the Honor 6 (by Huawei). Why these and not several other smartphones I could have used? Since these were the ones I had in my inside pocket. I've been doing quite a lot of tests with the Nokia Lumia 830 and 930 lately, and I'm trying to wait for Lumia Denim before continuing testing those, since Microsoft is promising considerable improvements in Lumia Camera.

In my previous post I've already written there is a serious price difference between all devices, the Chinese Honor 6 being the cheapest of the pack at about €300, not even half of the suggested retail price of the Galaxy Note 4. Still I think it's interesting to see what a device like that is capable of (like I've been testing the Lumia 735 before). I was on my way home when the maginificent colours of glass panels of the Museum of Sound and Vision in Hilversum (once again) caught my attention and made me stop to capture the first scene you'll see in this post. This is a resized version of the 5MP coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Capturing a shot in the near darkness (at least so it felt where I was standing), at first I didn't notice my Lumia 1020 was on 4:3 aspect ratio. All the other devices I used were on 16:9, so you'll understand I won't be sharing all those shots here - you'd have to keep scrolling . I will however share all the originals on Flickr (as always), and I will share crops from all devices.

I decided against "resizing to one format" - I've noticed many details do get lost along the way so this method doesn't really do the devices justice. So once again, I'll share the crops from small (5MP) to large (38MP in this case) and see what the camera's come up with. I selected one of the difficult parts of the shot, the lamps inside the empty Museum restaurant. All settings were on auto in almost all cases.

Nokia Lumia 1020, auto - 5MP (ISO 800, 1/11 sec)

Sony Xperia Z3, auto - 8MP (ISO 1000, 1/16 sec), flash on (inadvertedly)

Honor 6, auto - 9.7MP (ISO 400, 1/16 sec)
Sony Xperia Z3, manual - 15.5MP (ISO 200, 1/8 sec (flash off!)

Samsung Galaxy Note 4, auto - 15.9MP (ISO 640, 1/10 sec)

Nokia Lumia 1020, auto - 38MP (ISO 800, 1/11 sec)

Well... A few conclusions so far. First the Nokia Lumia 1020: results seem way too "yellowish" in comparison to the other cameras. Sony Xperia Z3 on auto is trying to get the most light in the shot by choosing a very high ISO value, so there's way too much noise. I'm sure the fact that the flash accidently was on doesn't have any influence on the light in this shot, not over that distance. The result from the Z3 when using manual settings (15.5MP, 200 ISO) is in fact much better, although on the dark side - that's my fault as well though, I probably should have chosen a higher ISO value on the Xperia Z3 (risking more noise).

As was to be expected, the Honor 6 performs worst in these circumstances: the chosen ISO is relatively high, but 1/16th of a second simply isn't enough. The Galaxy Note 4 on auto appears to give the best detail - not only from the scene inside the restaurant, but also showing there is in fact glass in front. I'm not convinced by the details of the Lumia 1020 to be honest. The result in 5MP looks very sharp of course, and it makes sense it isn't as "sharp" in the highest resolution. However, the Galaxy Note 4 simply shows better contrast and definition, and last but not least: better colours. I'll share the resized shot coming from the Note 4 here as well anyway - despite the different aspect ratio. Scroll up to compare it with the Lumia 1020 original (keep in mind these shots were take three minutes apart, the Note 4 came second).

I must admit at first I preferred the shot coming from the Lumia 1020, probably because it looks "warmer". But I have no other choice than to conclude the Galaxy Note 4 gives a more realistic image - and better detail. It's obvious that Samsung adding OIS to the Note 4 really pays off.

Now let's have a look at the second scene. You'll see an old TV recording car in a glass cage next to the colourful museum in the background. Again, I'll share the resized shot coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020 first, but this time I'll compare it with the shot coming from the Galaxy Note 4 directly. 

Before I do so, I have to share some (lacking) information. Aiming for the lowest noise - and since I could rest my hands on the saddle of my bike - I put the Lumia 1020 on manual (ISO 200). And I think I did the same with the Galaxy Note 4, but the information is missing in th EXIF files. To be honest, I don't know what I could have done to the settings (I tried HDR on/off for instance) to make that kind of vital information disappear, but I simply can't share it with you, I'm sorry. I am sure there was no flash involved though. You should keep in mind that by the time these shots were made, the twilight was gone and it had really turned very dark. Here we go.

Nokia Lumia 1020 (ISO 200, 0.82 sec)

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (info missing, would love to know why)

That's quite a difference, isn't it? Again, I tend to like the "warmer" result coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020, but purists would probably argue it's more "pee warm", being way too yellowish. Others will say the result coming from the Note 4 is "too cold". In my opinion it's just on the bright side, but the colours are correct. 

Now I can already here some of you asking where the Nokia 808 PureView is in this comparison, but that's too late now - I should have, I even could have, but it was in my suitcase and I simply was too busy with the other devices I'm testing. So let's have a look at those as well. First the Sony Xperia Z3 on auto (I even managed to kill the flash this time).

Sony Xperia Z3, auto - 8MP (ISO 640, ISO 1600 (!), 1/16 sec)

Forcing the Xperia Z3 to ISO 200 in manual settings, it uses 1/8 of a second and gives a much, much darker, but in fact it the most realistic image, it being very dark outside. I'd have to add the shot was taken 5 minutes after the shot I made with the Lumia 1020 - and around that time, it may have had some influence on the darkness as well.
Sony Xperia Z3, manual - 15.5MP (ISO 200, 1/8 sec)

Finally, the result coming from the Honor 6 (captured 2 minutes earlier)
Honor 6, 9.7MP (ISO 640, 1/16 sec)

And - much to my surprise in fact - that actually looks very good and realistic as well. Now let's have a look at the crops, again from 5MP up to the largest resolution, to check the details.
Nokia Lumia 1020, 5MP

Sony Xperia Z, 8MP (auto)

Honor 6, 9.7MP

Sony Xperia Z3, 15.5MP (manual)

Samsung Galaxy Note 4, 15.9MP

Nokia Lumia 1020, 34MP (made the crop a bit higher to get all the letter in)

Off-topic first: you may have seen some cars in these crops - I didn't notice them until now to be honest: these were behind me in fact, waiting for the traffic light and reflecting in the glass I'm looking at. 

Of course, the higher the resolution used, the more "noisy" effects you'll see, and the shot coming from the Lumia 1020 isn't using any oversampling in high res: no wonder you'll see some noise in there. Again, if you just look at the letters in the shot - not just "televisie' but also "2000 café", the Honor 6 looses the comparison. But that's no surprise under these circumstances I guess and I'm still surprised to see what it's capable of. I must say the Xperia Z3 is doing a pretty good job in this case, especially in manual settings. In its auto settings it's too bright again, but that's something that can be said about the Galaxy Note 4 as well.

As far as the colours are concerned, you have to "know" the bus is grey - not the way the Lumia 1020 is showing it. I do like the atmosphere of its results, but it's hard to maintain the Lumia 1020 is still the best - although its colour rendition has often been criticized earlier. Either way, it's obvious the competition is approaching, and I'm quite sure that Samsung - also thanks to the addition of OIS - has never performed this well in my comparisons. Next time, I will have to put it up against the mighty Nokia 808 PureView, and that's a compliment...

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to Lumia Denim, with Lumia Camera bringing much better image quality to the Nokia Lumia 930 and 1520 - and I know I'm not alone being more and more impatient. But that's all for now! You´ll find all the originals in a dedicated album " The Twilight Zone" on Flickr. If you are on Flickr too, you're more than welcome to share your own smartcam shots in the special SmartCamClub Group you'll find here.