HTC, Huawei, LG, Lumia, Nokia, Samsung... Bit of a crazy comparison

This is an unusual post with completely different scenes I captured with a variety of smartphones over the past few weeks. I didn't use all devices in every scene, I didn't manage to get a RAW version of every scene either, so I'm sure some of you are going to be disappointed. Also, I can't analyze everything in detail, but I will share all shots in their original size, so you can have a look at them at pixel level yourself if you feel so inclined. And you'll read some general observations about the newest smartphones in this post, being the HTC 10, LG G5, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and Huawei P9 Plus. Apart from those, you'll see results coming from the Lumia 950 XL (before its recent update), Nokia 808 PureView and even the good old Nokia N8 which I was asked to test just to see how it performs these days. 

So where do I begin? With my apologies I guess. I simply didn't have enough time to give all new devices the attention they deserve, although some of them simply were less inspiring to use as well. Matter of taste, probably, so I won't go into that all that much. I worked with different settings (so not just on "auto") and picked what I thought was the best shot from each device much later. For the most part ISO was between 50 and 100 and only a few over 200, so nothing really crazy going on there. Of course, shutter speed was slowest in the darkest scenes. I just tried to get the best shot with each device fast - like most users do in daily life.

12MP sensors
Most interesting fact of this post however, is the fact that majority of the smartphones I'm using have a 12MP sensor. The Nokia N8 was the first to get this resolution and after an impressive MegaPixel race (culminating in the 41.5MP of the 808 PureView as we all know), producers seem to settle for the 12MP size (generally using larger pixels). So the Galaxy S7 edge, LG G5, HTC 10 and Huawei P9 Plus all use 12MP. All roughly around the exact 3000x4000 pixels aspect ratio HTC chose. I did one thing right this time, I captured all shots in 4:3 aspect ratio, giving maximum resolution. The odd one out is of course the Lumia 950 XL, shooting in 19MP (or RAW and 8MP). 

EDIT One of the Club visitors pointed out the LG G5 actually has a 16MP sensor... It turns out LG did the same "trick" as Samsung did with the Galaxy S6, blessing the 16:9 ratio with its largest resolution. So - just like with the S6 - you'll get 16MP indeed in 16:9 and "only" 12MP shooting in 4:3. Thing is, the LG G5 doesn't show which resolution you are actually working with - it only shows aspect ratio. Since I decided only to shoot in 4:3 - thinking I'd get max resolution on all devices - I was more or less tricked into thinking the LG G5 uses a 12MP sensor as well. For the comparison, it's not much of a deal I guess. It still shows how the sensor captures the detail of the shot. The fact it uses more of the sensor in 16:9 doesn't affect detail. In fact I'm quite happy choosing 4:3 in hindsight, now that all Android devices actually have more or less the same resolution in this comparison.

Dying flowers (HTC, Huawei, LG, Lumia, Samsung)
Let me start with a vase with dying flowers captured with the HTC 10, Huawei P9 Plus, LG G5, Lumia 950 XL and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. I looked at the different results over and over again and chose one shot I just like most in a general sense - like "overall sharpness and color". It's really important to keep in mind that I could choose just about every part of the scene to "prove" one camera is performing much better than the other (see below). It's quite incredible to see the differences in what the devices focus on from such a short distance. So here's the shot I found most pleasing, coming from the Huawei P9 Plus.

The runner up would be the Lumia 950 XL

and the Galaxy S7 ends in third place as far as I'm concerned

Now since the differences in detail are very great, I won't pick just one part of the scene and crop it on all results: it would prove just about nothing due to differences in focus. Instead, I'll share five crops of what I found as the most remarkable detail in each photo. Same order as above to begin with.

Huawei P9 Plus does an incredible performance in the right hand top corner - way better than the competition manages.

The Lumia 950 XL of course gives great detail with a 19MP sensor

Galaxy S7 edge captured impressive detail slightly above the center of the shot

The LG G5 more or less nailed the yellow rose in the middle

And this is one of the best parts I found in what I got from the HTC 10.

I realize this is quite an onorthodox way to compare results, but like I said, the differences are just too large. You can have a detailed look at all the original shots yourself, you'll find them here (including a few RAW versions as well).

Inside the Museum of Sound and Vision
In the next scene you'll see the the inside of the fantastic building I've been sharing here so many times before: the Museum of Sound and Vision in Hilversum, one of the true landmarks of this country. From the inside its hard to capture due to the great contrast in light. I didn't have the Huawei at the time I captured it, so I only brought the HTC, LG, Lumia and Samsung. The Galaxy S7 edge wins this comparison.

The Lumia 950 XL is runner up, although I'm sure some will dislike the slight yellow tinting.

Interesting to note the focal distance from the LG G5 is even shorter (of course, I captured all from the same distance).

And here you can see why I'm not overwhelmed with what I'm getting from the HTC 10 it's simply too pale in comparison.

If you want to have a look at the results in detail, they are all here for you to enjoy and compare in detail.

An old Catholic church in Hilversum (Huawei, LG, Lumia, Nokia, Samsung) 
Going from one of its newest to one of its oldest buildings, here you'll see the old Catholic Vitus Church in Hilversum. This time without the HTC 10 which I had to send back recently (not that I'm missing the camera all that much, but I guess you noticed that already).

I must admit it's very hard to choose a favorite, but I think the Nokia 808 PureView and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge really nailed it this time.
Nokia 808 PureView

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Runner up would be the Huawei P9 Plus

And remarkably enough, I see similarities in the shots coming from the LG G5 and good old Nokia N8
LG G5

Nokia N8

Again, this is a matter of taste as well. Let's not forget what you can do using the second sensor of the LG G5 in cases like this though - a "fish eye" effect that gives you a nice result especially when you choose 16:9.

On a sidenote: using this ultrawide function, you should really take care not to get part of you finger in the  panoramic view, like I managed to do in the Museum of Sound and Vision...

Now let's have a look at the center of the shot of the 12MP sensors I used in the church: Nokia N8, LG G5, Huawei P9 PLus and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - in that order, and for a reason.
Nokia N8

LG G5

Huawei P9 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Obviously, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge reigns in this comparison. Stunning contrast and detail. Huawei P9 Plus comes in second, but at some distance.LG G5 is only slightly better than the Nokia N8, which in fact doesn't live up to its reputation at all.

So now you want to see how the Lumia 950 XL (19MP) performed against the Nokia 808 PureView (38MP). It's kind of useless, but just to satisfy your curiosity, here you go.


So although the Nokia 808 PureView gave me a general result I absolutely prefered, you can now see it doesn't always is as satisfactory to look at a shot at pixel level. The Lumia 950 XL seems to be much better here, but I suspect that's also because of lack of OIS on the 808 PureView. And of course, I could crop a 50% version of the latters result - but what's the use? If you want to try it yourself, you'll find all shots here, again including some RAW results. Please notice I messed up the RAW shot (and JPG) on the LG G5 by the way, reason why I didn't share that it in this post. Maybe you can still fix it using the RAW file.

This concludes the most important part of this post I guess. I have one more scene for you, since I've been asked (on Twitter and Facebook) to put the old Nokia N8 up against the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 950 XL. So I charged the N8 after a long time - still working - and brought it with me for the last couple of days. I will first share the resized results here, since I think those already speak for themselves. Let's stick to the chronological order: N8, 808 PureView, 950 XL.



Just to make sure, let's have a look at the crops as well



No surprise there in fact. The N8 colors are way too yellow and the shot lacks detail - although still not too bad for a now six year old phone. I don't remember the colors being this off in fact, so maybe my N8 is somewhat defective or maybe the sensor has become dirty in all those years. It's still fun to be able to work with it, but I think the shots in this comparion have shown it's not worth the trouble bringing it every day, not in this case at least.

In good light, the Nokia 808 PureView still produces a very clean shot with no less than stunning detail at its famous 38MP resolution. As you can see, I used the 19MP resolution on the Lumia 950 XL and you can see slight oversharpening in an otherwise completely noise-free shot. I guess it's up to you what you prefer, I'm happy to be able to bring both wherever I go.

Now this really concludes this somewhat unusual comparison. 

Final conclusion
As far as the newest high-end Android smartphones smartphones are concerned - the ones I suspect you've been reading this post for most - I wouldn't choose the HTC 10 if you're after the best camera. Picture quality simply isn't as good as the competition but you still pay the same steep price. You can read what I thought of it earlier in my previous post. In all, HTC needs a smartphone that can really revive the company and I'm afraid this isn't the one.

The LG G5 - also featured in my previous post - is the runner up and you'll pay less for it even. It produces adequate shots, genereally speaking sharp results in good colors as well. The most striking feature is the "fish eye" shot you can realize activating the second sensor. You can get a similar result using the panorama setting, but this realizes the same view in one click. I think the LG G5 offers great value for money, but it wouldn't be my choice as best smartphone camera. 

Now "best" doesn't only mean "greatest detail", it also means "most attractive result in general", "ease of use" and "fun to work with" I guess. There is no doubt in my mind the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge produces the best detail and probably the best shots in general. I am absoluely stunned at what Samsung has been able to achieve with a 12MP sensor, and in this post I didn't even demonstrate how well all different settings work. Unfortunately, I have to send it back as well so you'll have to trust me on this one. Good to realize though, you don't have to pay as much to get the exact same imaging quality in the Galaxy S7, which is noticable smaller but offers the same camera optics at a much more affordable price. So I guess that would be my suggestion.

But the same goes for the Huawei P9 Plus - in my previous post as well. It has a smaller version in the Huawei P9, offering the exact same image quality and possibilities for less money (but you'll have to live with 3GB of RAM, 32GB memory and no AMOLED display). The Huawei P9 (Plus) offers two remarkable features. I hardly use the one with which you can change the focus after capturing the scene. But I adore the monochrome option, the one where I guess the collaboration with Leica comes in.

I have already produced fantastic results with it in fact and for me it's the USP of the Huawei P9 Plus, which is great fun to work with anyway. And I have been really surprised to see how well the camera performs in general. So being fun to use and giving me fantastic results I wouldn't overlook the Huawei P9 in your considerations either...

In this case I don't have to send it back since I bought it (contract renewal), so I think my next comparison should be between the black and white results of the Huawei P9 Plus and the Nokia 808 PureView - being the only other smartphone I remember where you can easily choose black and white photography.

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Thank you very much for visiting the SmartCam Club. Still open 24/7 and all posts are on the house - tips are more than welcome though :-)