More, much more from the Samsung Galaxy S6 (1 - Updated once more)

This post is the first part of a series with somewhat of a "monster comparison", including the results I captured with seven devices in several scenes - bright and dark. With dozens of shots, I hardly know where to start and there is something else that has been holding me back as well.

Thing is, I did receive an early test sample the Honor 6+, but still under some kind of unexpected "embargo", so still I can't share the results I got from it here - I will add the shots to this post or write a seperate post about it later, but I hope now you'll understand why I've been waiting to share this post.

Most important for this post is how the Samsung Galaxy S6 is acually performing against the other high-end smartcams, like the 808 PureView, the Lumia 1020, Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 - but also against the brand new HTC One M9. Now I'm always torn between my love for fantastic light and my passion for comparing smartphones: I do know that more demanding light circumstances make for better comparisons.

So this time I emptied my box with "dead phones" on a dark table in my basement and captured the scene in neon light and in complete darkness (with and without flash). First - on request - I'll share the shots with different ISO settings from the

Samsung Galaxy S6 - ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800 (all on 1/7 second)

Now you might suspect a lot of noise with ISO 800, but in fact it's not half as bad as I suspected - you can check the originals on Flickr. Also interesting to note is that the Galaxy S6 proves to capture quite a brighter result as the

HTC One M9 - ISO 400 and 800 (both on 1/7 second as well)

Again you'll find the originals of these shots above (and more) on Flickr to compare them in detail.

Now there are a few devices in this test capable of longer shutter times, like the 808 PureView, Lumia 1020 and CM1. From the first, I'll share what I got with ISO 50 and the neon light still ON. The Nokia 808 PureView captured the scene perfect on ISO 50 and 2.7 seconds (it's longest shutter time).

The maximum shutter speed of 2.7 seconds on the 808 PureView isn't nearly enough to capture the scene in as good as complete darkness (and low ISO), which I did with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1. Of course I'm not able to get all these shots without a tripod, and that looks like this with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Mind you: there hardly was ANY light available capturing this with the Panasonic: ISO 125 (lowest) and 60 seconds shutter time (maximum).

Now the only other device with an extreme shutter time of 60 seconds is the Honor 6+. Unfortunately I can't share what I got just yet, but I will as soon as possible as my "embargo" is lifted.

Now let's have a look at the results I got from all devices with the flash on. Same distance, all settings on automatic, to see how the devices figure it out with the flash is turned on. I'll first share them according to the amount of ISO the devices chose (from low to high).

Again, interesting to note is that most chose just about their lowest ISO value, except for the Galaxy S6 (ISO 200) and HTC One M9 (IS0 800!). As a "bonus" I'll share what I got from the new Honor 4X which was recently officially launched in the Netherlands. The 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 are the only one with a Xenon flash (for those who aren't aware of that).

Nokia 808 PureView - ISO 64, 1//33 sec.

Nokia Lumia 1020 - ISO 100, 1/50 sec.

Honor 4X - ISO 100, 1/14 sec.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 - ISO 125, 1/8 sec.

Samsung Galaxy S6 - ISO 200, 1/24 sec.

HTC One M9 - ISO 800, 1/7 sec.

My first impression: Honor 4X shouldn't be in this competition, it's a very affordable device and far from a camera centric phone - but hey, it's new and I might as well share the results, right? It's obviously way too dark, but - and I was inspired to add these remarks later - it does give a surprising detailed result in fact. Not as detailed as the Samsung of course, but considering it's about four times cheaper it's a remarkable result.

I'm safe to consider the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 give the best results with their Xenon flashes and I must say the device coming closest to their general result is the Samsung Galaxy S6. It's on ISO 200 and a bit brighter than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 - but I have to admit I probably kept that on ISO 125 myself (so no wonder it's a bit darker). The HTC One M9 seems a bit desperate to get as much of the scene as possible, choosing ISO 800 and in fact getting a too bright result.

Next I made a few crops - from the original sizes that is - and I'll share those here from worst to best quality (in my opinion)

Agreed? Is this the order you would make as well, from low to high quality? Let's try it once more, with a different part of the shot. This time, I'll share them in the exact same order (of devices) as above.

Way too dark: the Honor 4X

Much too bright, bad detail: the HTC One M9

Good colours and detail: Samsung Galaxy S6

An even cleaner shot, be it a bit darker: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Great detail and accurate colours: Nokia Lumia 1020

Even less noise: Nokia 808 PureView

I could imagine if you'd prefer the Lumia 1020 crops over those coming from the 808 PureView - they're quite identical. Even more revealing is I think the crops from the Samsung Galaxy S6 are very close to those from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, although not as detailed - the most important difference is the 16MP vs 20MP sensor.

As far as I'm concerned, that's the most important conclusion for this post. The fact both Nokia's are doing a splendid job and the Panasonic does live up to its expectation can hardly be called a surprise. Again, Samsung proves to be closing in on the best smartcams out there, like they did with the Galaxy Note 4. When you take the extremely popular OS into account and its sleak form factor, it looks like Samsung has a potential winner with the Galaxy S6 (and S6 Edge).

I'll capture some more shots with the HTC One M9, forcing it to lower ISO values and see how it performs then - I will add those shots here later, I promise. Like I will add the results from the Honor 6+ as soon as I'm rid of the embargo. And I will share some of the shots I got in my favorite kind of light soon as well (again including the Honor 4X).

Update: HTC One M9 revisited
Like I promised yesterday, I went back to the tripod in the basement to make a few more shots with the HTC One M9 with flash on, forcing it to its lowest ISO setting: ISO 200. Below, you'll see the resized result and the two crops.

As you can see, it's a much better result on ISO 200 (and still 1/7 second), but I'm still not overwhelmed... For instance, it's still very hard to read the "one touch dialling" above the ABC buttons on the bottom of the old Sony device. 

Update: HTC One M9 and Nokia Lumia 1020 revisited.
It's embarrassing I've been at this for two years and still making a rooky mistake like not really knowing the device I'm working with. In one of the reactions below it was pointed out I completely overlooked the manual setting of the HTC One M9, so I was challenged to give that a try at 2 second shutter time. Well, I did.

It turns out that for some odd reason you can't use the flash in manual mode, so working in a very dark place like this you can only work with higher and higher ISO settings. The results have been more or less visible on ISO 400 and 800 and even quite bright on ISO 1600, but of course the noise becomes onbearable when you look at details. I'll just share the ISO result here, resized of course, including one crop (which is hardly worth sharing anyway in fact).

See? It's useless in extreme circumstances like these. Now why you can't fire the flash in manual mode is a mystery to me - not sure if it's possible on the M8, so I'd appreciate your input, and I think HTC should be fixing this with a software update. 

Nokia Lumia 1020
I did put the Nokia Lumia 1020 to the test once again: ISO 100, 4 second shutter time and using it's Xenon flash. For some reason it fires twice (guess it "thinks" it's needed?) and the outcome is something else of course.

In fact, now the result is a bit too bright and hazy if you compare it to the version where I didn't use the 4 second shutter speed (below), but it's good to see it's possible I guess, for even darker circumstances (and now you might suddenly notice the Nokia 8800 is gone, since I have it in my pocket these days :-)

As far as the Nokia 808 PureView is concerned, it does offer longer shutter times but you can't set those manually, so that won't work when you fire the flash.

As usual, you'll find all the originals on Flickr, except for those in my second update, because they don't really contribute to anything I guess, but including a few I captured with the Sony DSC-QX30, if those would interest you as well (I wasn't blown away by them to be honest). You will find all shots in this dedicated album on Flickr.

Off-topic: you might have noticed the Nokia 8800 lying on the table. I got it from an old friend a while ago and I suddenly couldn't imagine it was really "dead". So I checked, and I'm lucky to say it did charge, all buttons are fully functional, it excepted a sim card without any trouble and yes, it does make calls - it's a Nokia, after all :-) Captured it outside (with the Galaxy S6)