A bright scene - Panasonic vs Nokia vs Samsung

In this comparison you will see four high-end smartphone cameras at work - the classic Nokia 808 PureView, the large Nokia Lumia 1520, the pretentious Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 and the high-end Samsung Galaxy Note 4. I will only compare the .JPG output and you'll find links to all originals.

This weekend I had to work at the pop festival Noorderslag in the beautiful city of Groningen in the North of the Netherlands (still have to edit some of the video material I captured with the Lumia 1520 that evening). It was a pretty busy saturday and before I knew it the sun was gone. I was happy to have captured just one scene with the three major smartphone cameras I already mentioned.

It's not a very typical scene I guess - a lesser known area of Groningen, but the light and the weather was simply outstanding and made it irrestistable to stop on my way to the hotel. It's just a simple shot in fact, but you´ll see it´s quite revealing at the same time. This is the way the Nokia 808 PureView captured it (8MP)

Now I have different resolutions to compare here: from 5MP from the Lumia 1520 up to 34MP from the Nokia 808 PureView. First, I'll show you a crop from all orignals (you'll find them on Flickr, link below). Second, I'll show you the same crop from all shots resized to 5MP, and last a crop from the darkest part of this scene, coming from some of the shots resized to 15.8MP (the Note 4's resolution). I think that just about covers it all - except for the RAW file from the Panasonic, which I will link to in this post as well.

I should add I've updated the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 last week. It has some changes in the UI, I haven't read any information on any new .JPG compression so I'm more or less in the dark here. I'll need to try and reproduce some of the earlier shots I shared here to be able to compare the fine details. Hope to be able to do so soon. 

Crops from 5MP to 34MP
You know the drill: I make crops (640 x 360) to see how much more details you get when "zooming in"  from the small to the largest resolution 
Nokia Lumia 1520 (5MP)

Nokia 808 PureView (8MP)

Differences between 5MP and 8MP probably are too large to compare, but I have to say I like the what I see coming from the good old Nokia 808 PureView.

A lot more comparable as far as details are concerned are the results coming from the next three resolutions: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 first, Lumia 1520 second and Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 third
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (15.8MP)

Nokia Lumia 1520 (16.3MP)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (16.9MP)

Of course, the Nokia Lumia 1520 doesn't profit from PureView oversampling. On the other hand: the Samsung and Panasonic don't either. There are quite a few differences in detail in this part of the scene. For instance: on the Galaxy Note 4, you can read the word "construction" on the building in the background with ease. You can't read it on the Lumia 1520 at all. You can read it on the .JPG output of the DMC-CM1 as well, but not as sharp as on the Galaxy Note 4.

Another noticable difference is the now (in)famous yellow tint in the result coming from the Lumia 1520. Looks like there is some oversharpening in the result coming from the Note 4, but if it's fine details you want, it seems to be right on the mark, even a bit more so than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 - which has a bigger sensor and officially better optics I might add. Samsung appears to have got its stuff together with the Galaxy Note 4 - in perfect light conditions like these. Panasonic isn't far behind though, and the oversharpening we've seen before appears to be gone?

I owe you one more crop - let's see how far we can zoom in the scene with the 34MP result coming from the Nokia 808 PureView:

Well, it's closer, but not necessarily noticably sharper. Getting this close did reveal some details I didn't notice before, and if you realize where this comes from, it still is an amazing achievement.

Resized to 5MP
Now let's have a look at some of the resized shots. First the one I resized to 5MP, to see how these compare to what I got from the Lumia 1520 in this case. I made a slightly different crop to compare these simliar sizes.
Nokia Lumia 1520

Nokia 808 PureView (from 8MP)

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (from 15.8MP)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (from 16.9MP)

Nokia 808 PureView (from 34MP)

A few conclusions. It's remarkable the last result - from 34MP! - is actually better than what I managed to get from the Nokia 808 PureView in 8MP; far more detailed, better in every aspect. That doesn't mean oversampling doesn't actually work, that means my 8MP result probably isn't as good. Having said that, I'm (again) very impressed with what I get from the 808 PureView.

But talk about impressed... Look at what the Note 4 comes up with. This camera doesn't get as much credit as it should get: it's a great result coming from a smartphone that's not even camera-centric. But - there's always a but - scroll up to look at the ropes from the shipmasts, in the center of the crop of the Note 4. They look a bit fragmented, don't they? Don't get me wrong: I admire the details I get from it. But there must be some kind of extremely detailed oversharpening somewhere.

Sure, this might have to do with resizing the shot as well, so I checked the original file and made the exact same crop without resizing it first (after doing so, I still had to resize this crop to share it here, so please check the originals on Flickr).

You can still see some "moiré" like effect of the ropes against the building, but less apparant. It's splitting hairs, I know, but the other cameras do not "suffer" from the same effect.  

As far as the Panasonic is concerned, the .JPG result I got is very close to what I got from the 808 PureView and even slightly more detailed in some parts (see the hedge) and less in others (see the windows on the right top corner) - but the differences really are marginal.

So the Panasonic is doing pretty good actually, as the 808 PureView is still amazing: having a 41.5MP sensor still does pay off, even almost three years later. Speaking of which: yes, I did bring the Lumia 1020 as well, captured the same scene - but it froze on me next (and didn't save the shot). I guess I should have restarted it after removing several hundreds of shots from its memory (just a tip).

Resized to 16.8MP
Now let's move on to some other crops I got from the same scene, resized to the size of the Galaxy Note 4. I didn't blow up any result (won't go there again, it's useless) but stuck to the 5312 x 2988 pixels I got from the Note 4. So I resized the shots coming from the Lumia 1520, Lumix DMC-CM1 and 808 PureView (34MP). For this last comparison, I chose just about the darkest size of the shot: the boats on the left. I'll start with the shot I didn't have to resize, coming from 
Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Next up: the Nokia Lumia 1520, slightly resized.

The details coming from the Nokia Lumia 1520 are simply not as sharp, not as bright as the Note 4. Sure the Note 4 has some oversampling - check the ropes once more: still a bit fragmented. And there's some obvious noise in shot coming from the Note 4, too, which is not unlogical in darker areas - but the 1520 seems to know better how to cope with that (looks like it simply doesn't try to make it brighter). I'm quite sure I didn't ruin the Lumia 1520 shot by the way - we've seen the very same before with an earlier comparison of the Note 4: its sensor has a very impressive performance in darker areas of a bright shot as well ( here).

Now let´s compare the very same result of the Note 4 (first) with the .JPG output coming from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Interesting to see the Note 4 and Lumix DMC-CM1 have about the same focal length - shorter than the Lumia 1520. Again, oversharpening becomes obvious in the result coming from the Note 4. The Lumix DMC-CM1 gives a smoother result (hardly any noise at all) and much better even than what I got from the Lumia 1520: more contrast, more detail. So yes, I'm pretty sure the Panasonic wins this one. 

Last but not least, the crop from the shot I got from the Nokia 808 PureView, resized from 34MP. To avoid more scrolling, I'll share the last crop from the Panasonic once again first.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Nokia 808 PureView

The 808 has the same focal length as the Nokia Lumia 1520 but better quality. Not as bright as coming from the Note 4 or Lumix CM1, and showing a noise level that's somewhere in between. The 808 does show a bit more noise than the Panasonic, but looking real close I think it's undeniable the 808 PureView still shows more detail. 

The Nokia 808 PureView still amazes me and I think that what I got from its high res result in fact still is ahead of the pack... - it's a true milestone in smartphone photography in every sense of the word, even though unfortunately it's not that much of a smartphone anymore. 

The Note 4 is surprising indeed, but does show oversharpening in the brighter areas - and obvious more noise in the darker ones. The Lumia 1520 didn't really convince me in these crops, but the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 actually did: great detail and hardly any noise even in the darkest part of the scene.

Also, based on these crops I'm getting the impression Panasonic has been improving the .JPG compression with the last update - I don't think the "old" CM1 would have given this much fine detail. I'm quite sure its RAW file will be able to reveal the true potential of the sensor and I invite you to work with it and share the results below (just link to Flickr or whatever site you shared it).

The RAW file (only one this time, didn't make a second shot with the Lumia 1520) is here on Onedrive. You will find all the other originals in a dedicated album on Flickr. I'm really looking forward to what you think of all this. Please do like what I'm doing on Facebook and follow on Twitter (I retweet lots of great stuff from other smartcam photographers!) A donation would be very much appreciated and I'll mention you on the list of sponsors.