Three views on Warsaw (with 808 PureView, Lumix DMC-CM1, Galaxy S6 and Huawei P8)

In this post you will see three views on Warsaw, captured from the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science in the heart of the city. On my way up, I brought the good old Nokia 808 PureView, the prestigious Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 and both the brand new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Huawei P8.

For some odd reason I captured three views with all smartphones expect for the Huawei P8 - the third view from the tower simply isn't on the device, And since the Lumia 1520 was still on the charger in my room I forgot to bring it. Sorry about that.

Nevertheless I think you'll find this post quite revealing. To begin with, here's the Palace of Culture and Science in case you don't know what I'm talking about:

The 30th floor isn't really the top of this building, but trust me: it's high enough. The building used to be detested by the inhabitants of Warsaw, since it was a "gift" from Stalin, dominating the city from every angle. An old Polish joke says the most beautiful place in Warsaw is inside the Palace, since that's the only place where you can't actually see it :-)

What I have for you are 11 originals shots from this Palace, the same amount of crops, and crops from resized versions of all originals. So you'll be here for quite a while I'm afraid, but again, I think you'll like what you'll see. 

The devices I'm working with are quite different of course. The 41MP sensor of the old Nokia 808 PureView is still miles ahead as these shots will show. The Panasonic has a 20MP sensor, which is more or less close to the 16MP on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. The Huawei P8 offers 10MP in 16:9 and - being much cheaper as well - it's obvious it's not really competing in this league. I think it's just interesting to see how it performs anyway.

So.... how to present the results? First, I'll show you one version of the view itself (resized). Next, I'll share the crops I got from the original ones, and then I'll share the crops I got from the resized versions.

FIRST VIEW
Here is view one, resized from what I got from the Galaxy S6.

I just picked one of the resized versions, they're are more or less the same. To compare the crops from the original results I'll be "zooming in" on a central part of the shot (as you may be used to by now) so I'll start with the lowest resolution (9.7MP from the P8) and work my way up to the highest (34MP).

Huawei P8

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Not very surprising, the difference between a 10MP and 16MP shot from this distance is huge, but one can hardly blame the Huawei P8 - it's a much more affordable device and still shows some kind of detail. Looking at the crop I get from the Galaxy S6 is like putting on my glasses though. Shows you it can be rewarding to pay more for your smartphone. Does it get much better with even higher resolutions? Of course it does - but in what way?

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Nokia 808 PureView

It's the old "more detail" versus "less oversharpening", and I feel quite sure I prefer the result coming from the Nokia 808 PureView. What an amazing capture this is!

FIRST VIEW RESIZED TO 9.7MP
Now let's have a look at all results resized to the Huawei P8 9.7MP resolution. I'll share the crops in the same order, so the Huawei P8 first, then Galaxy S6, Lumix CM1 and 808 PureView. To make it a bit more interesting, I chose a slightly different part of the center.
Huawei P8

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (resized)

Well, that difference is pretty obvious. What does the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 give us resized to almost half its original size?
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized)

Is it actually better than the Galaxy S6? I'd say it's comparable - but looking at the details I do tend to prefer what I got from the Galaxy S6... Last, the resized version of what I got from the Nokia 808 PureView - so 34MP resized to roughly one third of its original size...
Nokia 808 PureView (resized)

Now THAT's detail!

As you must have noticed in the past months I almost stopped using the Nokia 808 PureView in comparisons like these. After all: who cares? It's becoming close to impossible to buy one and practically nobody cares about Symbian anymore anyway. The Lumia 1020 has a 41MP sensor on Windows Phone (and will even have Windows 10 this year) - so what's the point?

It has become quite hard to stay motivated using the old powerhouse that once inspired me to open a 'PureView Club". But detailed, noise free results like these do actually still blow me away. The Nokia 808 PureView is three years old and still proves to be a benchmark in smartphone photography. Let's see if the same goes for the next two views I captured from the 30th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science in the middle of Warsaw.

SECOND VIEW
Here's the way I captured another side of the view from the palace, resized from what I got from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1.

Now have a look at the crops in the exact same order as above - but first let me make one thing clear: I'm not trying to put the Huawei P8 down - I'm just showing what it's capable of. It's up to you to decide whether it'll be good enough to fit your needs.

Another interesting thing to note is that the sun was clouded at the time - light circumstances were a lot worse than in the first shot, but that's makes for an interesting challenge as well, doesn't it?
Huawei P8

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

In this case, of course you'll get a lot closer cropping your way into the picture, but under these light circumstances and from this distance, it doesn't necessarily give me a much better result.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

The result is a bit brighter, but it's quite noisy as well and still doesn't really blow me away. Guess I'm expecting too much from a relatively dark capture like this. How does the classic Nokia 808 PureView perform?
Nokia 808 PureView

Again, the cleanest shot - most detail, not too much noise even in the darkest parts.

SECOND VIEW RESIZED TO 9.7MP
Let's have a quick look at the crops I got from the resized (9.7MP) results - again from a different part of the original shot.
Huawei P8

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (resized)

Cleaner, more detail and less noise - but the differences aren't as large as one would expect in fact.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized)

Nokia 808 PureView (resized)

Already much more detail in the crop from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, but again, the cleanest and most detailed result comes from the Nokia 808 PureView, without a shadow of a doubt.

THIRD VIEW
Like I wrote in the beginning of this post, for some silly reason I forgot to capture the next view with the Huawei P8. It's quite a bright shot so the outcome would have been predictable I guess, but still I would have loved to have it as well. Be that as it may, I still want to share the other shots with you. Here's the resized version coming from Nokia 808 PureView this time.

First the crops from the originals I got
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Sure, the Panasonic has a larger sensor so you'll get closer with a crop. More important, it shows more detail - but some too obvious oversharpening as well. 
Nokia 808 PureView

Comparable detail but a "softer", much more natural result.

THIRD VIEW RESIZED TO 16MP
What happens when we look at the resized results? In this case - without the Huawei P8 in the competition - I could choose the 16MP resolution from the Galaxy S6 for all results. Again, I chose another part of the scene.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized)


Nokia 808 PureView (resized)

In short, again I think I prefer the result coming from the Galaxy S6 Edge over what I get from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1. The Nokia 808 PureView (even after three years) stands out as the best of the pack. There are quite a few things to add though.

Some more thoughts
Yes, the Nokia 808 PureView still offers the very best imaging experience - even to my surprise I might add. As a modern day smartphone though, it's gone forever and I'd never consider using it again. But on holiday? I'd never leave home without it (in fact, I still don't in daily life, I just don't use it as much as I used to or should). 

We've seen the .JPG output of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 is not as good. Of course, an obvious advantage of the Panasonic is it offers RAW as well. I do know I should just stop relying on its .JPG output, but I simply don't understand why Panasonic seems to be unable to do a (much) better job in this case -  and it's actually Samsung showing what's wrong with it. Another advantage of the Panasonic is its wide range of manual settings (like up to 60 seconds shutter time).

The Huawei P8 is not in the same league (a lot cheaper than the Lumix DMC-CM1 or Galaxy S6 for one thing, but also a noticably smaller camera sensor). But it has its own strong points, like spectacular night photography (more on that soon I hope). 

So what's the best smartphone camera? Is it the one giving you the very best images? Well, obviously. But is that all? Isn't it the one you actually like to use the most? That's obviously the reason why millions of people prefer their iPhone anyway, not caring about the competition at all. I do care about the competition, but couldn't help notice that on this last trip to Warsaw I made at least 25 (!) times more shots with the Galaxy S6 Edge than with any of the other smartphones I travelled with.

Why? Because I know I can generally expect great results from it. Sure, no night photography - the Huawei P8 even does a much better result in that respect. But I simply love to work with the Galaxy S6 as a smartphone camera due to the brilliant screen for instance, or the ease with which you can change the HDR settings (off / auto / on) which I appear to use a lot more than I ever expected. Or its Panorama function that performs way better than anything on any other smartphone I ever used. It might not be complete, but the Galaxy S6 is effective and easy to use - and its 16MP sensor gives a very satisfying result, meeting even my very high standards. 

I'm looking forward to your thoughts on this one after all these shots and different crops - don't hesitate to let yourself be heard below. Please don't ask me why I didn't include the camera you'd like to see included in this comparison though. My time in Warsaw was very limited anyway and I simply can't bring them all. Thank you for understanding.

You'll find all the original shots in this post in this dedicated album on Flickr. If you really appreciate what I'm doing here, please consider making a donation and I'll add you to the list of sponsors no matter what you contribute. The site doesn't support itself, unfortunately - the button is on the right hand side of this page :-)