comparison

Low light shots from the Nokia 808 PureView, Lumia 1020 and Samsung Galaxy S5

You asked for it - and I'm always glad to serve you here at the PureViewClub: low light shots captured with the Samsung Galaxy S5, compared with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and - by popular demand - the Nokia 808 PureView.

In previous posts - in much better light conditions - we've seen the Galaxy S5 performing very well. Most remarkable was the Galaxy S5 shots turned out a bit brighter, losing some contrast along the way.

One of the interesting "discoveries" was that when you use the "selective focus" option the Galaxy S5 will give you a >20MB file (read about it in this earlier post). Also, I've been impressed with the way it shows you what HDR does to your shot before capturing it.

I think on almost every occasion readers have been asking for a low light comparison - including the Nokia 808 PureView if possible. During a family visit this weekend I managed to capture this simple, but effective scene outside. I hope it will offer what you were looking for.

As usual I'll share these shots with a few disclaimers: these were captured in between "family affairs", so I guess that's why I wasn't concentrated enough to put the Lumia 1020 in 16:9 aspect ratio. It's not something you notice fast when you're shooting very dark scenes either, so I discovered I didn't only a day later.

There is one advantage though: in 4:3 you'll get most of the Lumia sensor, whereas the Galaxy S5 gives you the full 16MP in 16:9. One more thing: I only used the Nokia 808 PureView in 8MP PureView mode. I will bring the Nokia 808 PureView on a next short holiday soon, I promise you I'll make some low light shots in full resolution with it as well.

Let me start with the Nokia 808 PureView since you appear to have missed it so much (I must admit it was fun to work with it again :-) You'll see two results (both resized from the 8MP originals) - first in ISO 400 (1/2 econd)

2 Nokia 808 PureView - Balcony ISO 400Next: Nokia 808 PureView - ISO 800 (1/8 second) 140320_Nokia_BT_728x90_MB

Next comparison: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs the Nokia Lumia 1020 - shades and lowlight (1)

Yesterday morning, just before work I made a few snapshots with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and Samsung Galaxy S5. Yes, it was a sunny day, but the scenes I captured had quite some shadow too. Next to that I managed to get one shot in a pretty dark studio - I will make more low light shots as I promised, I just didn't have the time yet - too busy discovering Windows Phone 8.1 on the Lumia 1520 :-)

In general, you can see the Samsung Galaxy S5 gives you a bit brighter result when you put all the shots next to each other, like below.

Screenshots Lumia 1020 Galaxy S5See what I mean?

Of course, these are the shots you will see in detail in this post - in the exact same order. The resized version are from the 5MP shot of the Lumia 1020 (first) and the 16MP shot of the Galaxy S5. The difference in light is quite remarkable in the first shot.

1 Nokia Lumia 1020 - Blue house 1 Samsung Galaxy S5 - Blue houseNext you'll see the 640 x 360 crops I chose from parts of the shot, presented in 5MP, 16MP and 34MP. Note the Samsung Galaxy S5 gives you its highest resolution in 16:9 format. And note the 34MP shot coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020 is not (or hardly) using any "oversampling".

140320_Nokia_BT_728x90_MB

More (much more!) about the Samsung Galaxy S5 - compared with the Nokia Lumia 1020

Here's my second post about the Samsung Galaxy S5, which may as well be the best Samsung camera smartphone so far - not counting the S4 Zoom which was more like a compact camera with GSM functionality.

Before you are tempted to ask me: yes, I would like to compare it to the HTC One M8 as well, but I don't have the review sample yet - and I don't want to wait for it either. Same goes for the Sony Xperia Z2 by the way.

In this post you'll read some more about the S5 and you'll find a few shots to compare it with the Nokia Lumia 1020 - generally excepted as the best smartphone camera of our time.

Camera Interface
Let me start by writing something about the new camera interface Samsung put in the new Galaxy S5. First of all, it's fast - starting it up (just by swyping the camera icon on your locked screen) is a lot faster than starting up the Nokia Lumia 1020, but then again: which smartphone camera isn't.

It's something we just have to learn to live with since we appreciate the results that are really worth waiting for. But for fast snapshops or a fast sequence of shots, the Lumia 1020 simply isn't the best smartphone in town and we know it.

Second, Samsung's camera user interface is much improved, as you can see in the screenshot below - this is what you reach in one click once you're in the camera module. You see it's quite easy to change a lot of different settings, and if you'd like a icon somewhere else you can just drag it there.

Also note you get the maximum resolution of 16MP in 16:9 aspect ratio (5312 x 2988), which I haven't sseen on any other smartphone before (usually, you'll need 4:3 to get maximum result). And you'll see ISO is not highlighted: you will have to turn Picture Stabilization off before you can manually change the ISO settings.

Screenshot Galaxy S5

HDR
Then of course, the remarkable way Samsung implemented HDR . Again, I've never seen the result you may expect from HDR in the screen before even capturing the shot. I really wonder how Samsung does stuff like that, but it works like a charm. I posted about it earlier, here's another example.

Something in the foreground of a pretty light sky is bound to become dark, as you can see in the first shot.

Samsung Galaxy S5 no HDR 2

Using HDR, it sudddenly is like someone hit the light button.

First impressions Samsung Galaxy S5: HDR comparison (with the Nokia Lumia 1020)

I've been working with the Galaxy S5 for just about a day now, and I think that as far as its photography goes, it super easy to use HDR functionality will become very popular on this device.

As I've shown in my first  comparison, the way Samsung managed to implement HDR in its camera is  impressive. Normally you'll have to hold still and make a sequence of two or three shots - not so on the Galaxy S5: you'll even see the result in your screen before you make the shot.

This is just a very quick comparison test to show you what the effect of HDR is, compared to using a dedicated HDR application in the Nokia Lumia 1020. The scene is from a church, partly in the sun, partly in the shade - quite ideal for HDR shots like these.

First, I'll show you the Lumia 1020, focussed on the bright part of the scene, the sunlit tower - you'll see it's the best shot so I'll use it as reference.

Nokia Lumia 1020 1

In fact, I'm surprised by what I got from the Lumia 1020 in this case - it didn't look as detailed on the phone itself when I captured the scene - I did expect the windows in the shadow to be hardly visible.

Next, you'll see what happens if you focus on the dark part of the scene: that becomes must more visible of course, but you'll burn the sky.

Nokia’s PureView flagships, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and: Jolla (2)

Let's go outside for a change. To a very small general aviation airport in my neighbourhood.  Carrying three Nokia PureView devices, the Samsung, Sony and Jolla.

Yes, I know the comparison isn't completely fair, the Jolla being cheaper and never "camera centric" and all that. True. But its camera sotware has been recently updated and the Jolla still costs you €400: you might expect a pretty good smartphone camera module for that kind of money as well I guess?

There has been some confusement about the amout of MP the Jolla's camera has - and I've been adding a bit to it as well, I'm sorry to say. Based on a too quick glance on the internet  I thought 3264 x 1840 pixels equals 4MP - but obviously (just do the math) it's 6MP.

Now why is Jolla mentioning 8MP for its camera? Probably because the sensor is that big - you know, like the 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 have a 41MP sensor, but you will only get 38MP in 4:3 and 34MP in 16:9 aspect ratio.

Like - for instance - the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a 13MP sensor but will only give you that in 4:3, and "only" 9.6MP in 16:9. The Jolla gives you 6MP in 16:9 and you can't change the aspect ratio to 4:3. So I guess it's 8MP when you would have had the possibility to use 4:3 - maybe after a future update.

Enough numbers. Let return to the small aviation airport. The light was bright, it was a clear afternoon and the clouds on the horizon made for an impressive scenery. All camera settings were on automatic - I didn't change the white balance, didn't put any focus to "infinity" (although that might have been wise in this case).

The shots aren't very interesting from an artistic point of view (although the clouds are beautiful). But to see how the different cameras cope with the contrast of the bright sunlight and the darker foreground - I think that's what makes these shots worth your while. And the 640 x 360 crops, of course, showing which offers you the best detail.

First the two smallest resolutions, 5MP coming from the Nokia Lumia 1520 and 1020 (shown in that order). Both devices chose ISO-100, the difference is remarkable - the light was exactly the same.

7 Nokia Luma 1520 Sky

7 Nokia Lumia 1020 Sky 5MP

Now one might argue the grass looks very green in the last shot, but on a very bright sunlit afternoon, it actually looks this green. I think the 1020 has done a better job here - maybe because of the bigger sensor? Who knows... You'll see quite a bit darker shade of green in all the other shots though.

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