Clash of six smartcam titans: Nokia N8, 808 PureView and Lumia 1520, Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, Samsung Galaxy S6, LG G4

In this comparison you'll see two scenes captured by six high-end smartphone cameras over the years - from the good old Nokia N8, 808 PureView and Lumia 1520 up to the recent Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 and brand new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and LG G4. Place your bets now.

The Nokia N8 has been reigning the smartphone arena for years, until the Nokia 808 PureView came along. It clearly became the new King of smartcams. But the King, however strong, is clearly getting old as you'll see in this post. There are new contenders on different platforms - and I've written before that Microsoft doesn't seem to be particularly interested to be leading in this game, although rumour has it a new flagship is on its way. 

One scene is captured outside - a bit of a messy barn in the country. The second, most revealing scene is from a collection of small souvenirs on two shelves, close to a window. This time you'll only see crops from the originals in this post, meaning I didn't "resize" the shots to one particular resolution.

Let's have a look at the barn first. For no particular reason you'll see the 5MP result I got from the Lumia 1520, resized to 640x360 to fit this page.
Nokia Lumia 1520

Capturing this scene wasn't easy with all phones - the sunlight was very bright and made working with the LG G4 quite difficult - especially in manual mode it's pretty hard to find the controls you need when the sunlight blinds the screen (the controls are kind of small, which adds to the problem).

Later it appeared the 1/1000 I chose still was just a bit too slow (although I can imagine 1/2000 would have been too fast). Anyway: I got the brightest shot from the LG G4 - I'll just share it here for you to compare

Not too bright as you can see, although there's not much left of the blue sky :-) Be that as it may you get great details from inside the barn. Let's compare the 1520 and G4 right away:
Nokia Lumia 1520


Not only the light is quite a difference, same goes for detail in the hay for instance, which appears to be quite blurry in the crop from the 1520. Let's see how another (about) 16MP sensor performs, that from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1.

This was captured in Manual settings as well and again you can tell the .JPG compression is far from ideal. As you know I always forget something, this time it was capturing the shot in iA+ as well.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

You can see some pretty annoying oversharpening/noise in this crop. And what about the Galaxy S6? Not very convincing in this part of the shot I'm afraid...
Samsung Galaxy S6

How did the old Nokias perform? Here's the original from the N8 (9MP) followed by the 5MP version from the 808 PureView
Nokia N8

Nokia 808 PureView

What I captured on the N8 appears brighter, but fooling around with the settings I used exposure correction on the 808 PureView (-0.7) so that makes sense. Let's have a look at the crops
Nokia N8

Nokia 808 PureView (5MP)

Another thing I forgot: capture the same scene with the Nokia 808 PureView in 8MP... Why did I use 5MP on the 808 this time? To compare it with what I got from the
Nokia Lumia 1520 (5MP)

I'd say the result coming from the 808 is a bit on the softer side, as we've seen before. I do prefer the crop coming from the Lumia 1520 this time. To conclude this part of the comparison, let's see what the 34MP version of the Nokia 808 PureView gives us:
Nokia 808 PureView (34MP)

Still great detail, even in this dark part of the shot... Yet, I prefer the detail I got from the LG G4,

but don't forget it's much brighter than the other shots, completely loosing the clouds in the sky... - so I guess it's not the "best" shot in this case. That's partially my fault, I should have picked the right settings - but the LG G4 is a bit to blame as well, making it very hard to manually control the interface because of the very bright sunlight. I could make more crops and show more differences, but as usual you'll find all originals on Flickr (link below). 

The next scene is much, much more revealing. It's a collection of souvenirs collected by my mother over many decades. Let me again start with how I captured it with the Nokia Lumia 1520 (again for no particular reason).

I made two crops this time, one from the upper and one from the lower shelf. I'll be "zooming" in on both using the larger resolutions, but I will also try to go from least to best result - and that's not necessarily the same. First the 5MP resolutions coming from the
Nokia 808 PureView (5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1520 (5MP)

If you look at the little bird in the right hand top corner, I'd say it's a win for the Lumia 1520, but the 808 does show more detail in some brighter parts. Focus appears to be not exactly the same either. Let's have a look at the small houses on the top shelf
Nokia 808 PureView (5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1520 (5MP)

Im very sure I prefer the result coming from the Lumia 1520. Much better contrast and colours, although I must admit focus seems to be a bit off with the 808 PureView in this case. Next step will be the crops I got from the old Nokia N8 (9MP) and compare those to the 8MP shots I got from the Nokia 808 PureView.
Nokia 808 PureView (8MP)

Nokia N8 (9MP)

Clear win for the 808 PureView I'd say. Better contrast and sharpness. Still the N8 is doing a remarkable job for a much older device (2010)! What about the second shelf?
Nokia 808 PureView (9MP)

Nokia N8 (9MP)

Same as above. Surprising result for the N8, but better colours an contrast in what I got from the 808 PureView.

Now it's time for the "about 16MP sensors". I'll share them in the way I think I like them best personally... Quite difficult to choose in fact!
Nokia Lumia 1520 - a bit too dark and noisy to my taste.

Samsung Galaxy S6 - focus is one of the problems in this case. Still, less noise

LG G4 Auto - as usual, "auto" causes a very bright result. Great detail though

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1. A bit darker and more accurate in my opinion. Differences are marginal though

LG G4 Manual. Very dark indeed, but great detail and hardly any noise.

The order I chose is personal and the differences aren't that big in fact. Choosing a much brighter part from the scene - from the upper shelf - it's a different story as you will see. 

LG G4 (Auto, ISO 350) - way too bright, ruining contrast and colours. For some reason all "auto" settings tend to get too bright results, on all Android devices I've ever used that is.

Samsung Galaxy S6 (Auto, ISO 200) - better already, but still not overwhelming in contrast.

Samsung Galaxy S6 (Manual, ISO 100) - not much of a difference, really.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (Manual ISO 125). Better detail, colours not perfect, details too "messy" to my taste.

LG G4 (Manual, ISO 100). Fantastic detail and colours. First in which you can see the material in a way like you could actually touch it.

This time much more obvious, the LG G4 wins - "with flying colours" as they say. I was stunned when I saw these details for the first time.

Now of course you wonder what the mighty Nokia 808 PureView performs in 34MP. Well... Not too brilliant I'm afraid, especially in the brighter part of the shot. This is the best I selected from over a dozen.

I've seen quite a few people preferring other devices over the LG G4 in my previous comparison. It's completely up to you. More than three years ago, when I started this club, it would have been absolutely unthinkable for me (and no doubt many others) a brand like LG would be able to set a new benchmark. But in my opinion, it does with the G4.

The device performs amazingly well thanks to its very versatile UI with more settings than many users probably care for. It has OIS and supports raw .DNG. Only disadvantage is the result tends to be too bright using the Auto settings (like always), and in Manual settings it's not so easy to control the camera when you're shooting outside in very bright sunlight. I've seen others remark they miss the Xenon flash - I'm not among those I must say, but I do understand. 

Other than that, I think the LG G4 does an outstanding job and I'd say it's the best smartcam at the moment, íts .JPG output outperforming that of Lumia's PureView and even the way more expensive Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (which camera UI - Panasonic's "Venus Engine" - I definitely prefer).

In case you're wondering: I don't get paid to write stuff like this, like I never got paid by Nokia or any other brand for that matter. I've always been completely independant, which has been one of the best things running this club.

You'll find all originals in a dedicated album on Flickr, as always. Oh and you will find another scene there too :-). I made crops from those as well, but this post is long enough as it is, don't you think? Looking forward to your reactions, as always.