The Texel Lighthouse

In this post you'll see one scene, the beautiful lighthouse on Texel, captured with seven different devices in several resolutions - from 5MP up to 34MP (and raw .DNG). There is one new device (HTC Desire Eye) and one surprising winner. I will compare the devices in general, you'll find all shots on Flickr as usual.

I didn't make as much shots as I planned on the Dutch isle of Texel to be honest. I was on a short trip with family and friends and captured them mostly (shots I'm not going to share here). So this will be the only comparison from the last week, and it does show some remarkable results I might add.

I used the Nokia 808 PureView, Nokia Lumia 1020, Nokia Lumia 930, Sony Xperia Z2, Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 and even the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 - not a smarphone, but a system camera which I borrowed to see how much better it would perform than even the best smartphone cameras. As usual, I made several shots with all devices and picked the very best of each. Here's the scene where it all comes from, as captured with - why not - the only dedicated camera in this test:

Most devices in this test give a similar colour rendition of the sky and the blue sign showing where the entrance is to visit the lighthouse - except for one: the Xperia Z2 turned out quite a bit too pale - guess that "Superior Auto" isn't always as superior. I know the Z2 is an older model, but the camera software is supposed to have improved a lot with the last update (and I don't have the review sample of the Z3 anymore)

The new HTC Desire Eye appears to perform quite well if you look at the general image:

But the crops coming from it's 10MP results (in 16:9) are not as convincing as we will see later. I won't share the complete scene from all devices in this post - you will find them on Flickr and all raw .DNG files are on OneDrive (links below).

For the crops (I made two), I didn't resize the shots to 5MP like I sometimes do. I know it's easier to compare but you will lose detail and sometimes it's just good to see how much more detail you get from a larger resolution - or not. So let's start with the lowest resolutions and work our way up. Here's both the 5MP results coming from the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 930 (in that order).


Detail is definitely comparable on both, colour a bit warmer on the Lumia 930. Next, the 8.3MP detail from the Nokia 808 PureView, compared to the 8.3MP detail coming from the Xperia Z2:


It's obvious you loose quite some detail in the way the Xperia Z2 captured the scene. It does get a bit more detailed moving up to 10MP with the HTC Desire Eye, but you'll see the shot isn't as clean.

How does this compare to the next device, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 - a system camera with a way bigger sized sensor? This is the crop from it's 12MP result:

Much cleaner, as was to be expected. Let's have a look what the Nokia Lumia 930 gets in its 16MP (high-res) version:

And how does that compare with the 18MP coming from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1:

Main difference would be the fact that the white is actually white on the Panasonic, and - once again - yellowish on the Lumia 930. And you still see a bit more details on the Panasonic's result, but the Lumia 930 isn't underperforming at all I'd say. Let's have a look at the largest resolutions to conclude this part - the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 (in that order).


Very comparable indeed, although I must admit I do prefer the last result in this case.

Next crops come from the left side of the scene, the sign showing the way to the entrance of the lighthouse. It's a bit of a tricky thing to compare, since I focused on the top of the lighthouse - but since that's the case with all devices, it's still interesting to see what you'll manage to capture from the rest of the scene, right? Again, I'll work my way up, starting with both 5MP results coming from the Lumia 1020 and 930 (in that order).


Well, that doesn't need much explanation, does it? A striking result from the Nokia Lumia 930! Let's see how the Nokia 808 PureView did in 8.3MP, compared to the Sony Xperia Z2 (in that order)


The Nokia 808 PureView is doing pretty good, but ouch! - the paleness of Sony's Xperia Z2 completely lost the green color in the illustration of the lighthouse - it even lost the top part of it! Is the Desire Eye doing any better in 10MP? Not so I'm afraid - worse even, again showing more noise. 

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5 of course will do a lot better in 12MP (bigger sensor, bigger lens, bigger everything):

But how does that stack up with the Nokia Lumia 930 in 16MP?

Very good indeed! Great colours, detail and contrast. What about the other Panasonic? You can tell the Lumix DMC-CM1 can't come close compared to its dedicated brother - and it's not performing as well as the Lumia in this case either.

Last, the two 34MP resolutions: Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 - in that order:


A clear win for the Nokia 808 PureView in this case - the Lumia 1020 again seems to suffer from the "corner sharpness" it has been know for. I'm a bit surprised by this though, since this part of the shot isn't that close near the far left side of the scene. Remember though, this is the "non PureView" version of the shot.

Conclusions
Biggest disappointment to me - and not for the first time - has been the performance of the Sony Xperia Z2 (on Android 4.4 Kitkat). And  yes, I used it on manual and 15.5MP as well, without any improvement (you'll find the originals on Flickr).

But at least it performs better than the camera HTC provided the new Desire Eye with. As for the last device: this is the best "selfie cam" on the market without a doubt: it has a 13MP front camera - with LED flash even! I rarely ever make or share selfies, so I'll leave that to other sites. Its rear camera though appears to be not too bad in colours and contrast, but disappointing in detail. I have quite a few more shots from it and I will share those in a seperate review. 

It seems to me the clear winner of this comparison is the Nokia Lumia 930. Colours, details, crops - it's just all there. Even better than I got from the most prestigious smartphones in this comparison, the 808 PureView, Lumia 1020 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1... It might all look a bit different if I'd resize all results to say 5MP, but I really think this is a fantastic achievement!

CM1 vs GM5
Am I sorry I bought the Lumix DMC-CM1 after this, or after comparing it with the DMC-GM5? Not at all, really. The amount of settings and different possibilities of the CM1 still baffle me - there is still so much to learn, too! I'm sure a professional photographer, or someone who already knows Panasonic's own interface (the "Venus Engine") would have an easier time getting the best results out of it. As I'm quite sure it should be able to surpass what you'll get from the Lumia 930 or any other smartphone camera. It's not just as "easy", and I'm just not good enough yet - I'll get there someday.

And what about the GM5 then? Well, it's an adorable system camera, I'm sure it's among the best of its kind and size. I've been very happy to borrow it (together with the huge FZ1000 even), since both proved to me I'm definitely a smartcam photographer. I want it to have my camera with me always, in my inside pocket - and although it's not very large, that's already getting pretty hard with the DMC-GM5. Also, I really appreciate having complete control with the large CM1's touchscreen. The only things I miss having on the CM1: optical zoom (say 3x) and OIS. 

Flash
And what about the flash then? Many people have been asking me this and no, the CM1 is not really good at "freezing" the moment. Flash on the Nokia 808 PureView is best by far on anything I've ever seen, lighting up complete rooms with everybody in it - to an extent I even felt the need to adjust exposure compensation to retain some of the darker atmosphere. Flash on the Lumia 1020 might be Xenon, but isn't nearly as effective - in my experience it will only have a good effect on what's close to the camera, it certainly won't light up the complete room with everything and everybody in it. 

The LED Flash on the Lumix DMC-CM1 is somewhere in between I guess: the larger sensor is probably sensitive enough to give a very good impression of a darker scene, but the flash isn't strong enough to "freeze the moment" - at least I haven't managed to figure out how yet. As for now, I simply have to ask everyone to try and sit still for a second. For some that might be a deal breaker (especially at that price point), but since I detest using the flash anyway - and moreover I hardly ever share shots with people in it - it wouldn't be a deal breaker for me. If I do figure out how to use the flash so it actually will freeze the moment I'll let you know here (if you figured out how to, please share your experience). 

That's all for now. All shots are in a dedicated album on Flickr, all RAW files I got from both Lumia's and the Panasonic's are in a folder on OneDrive. I'm looking forward to your reactions on all this below, and don't be too shy to tip the club's bartender by hitting the Donate button no the right hand side of this page - thank you very much in advance! :-)