Nokia's Pureview flagships, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and: Jolla (1)

Thank you for your patience all. I've been enjoying "some" peace of mind, but I've been walking around with six smartphone cameras lately nevertheless. The three Nokia PureView flagships of course (808, 1020, 1520), the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact and one (more or less) new kid on the block: the Jolla phone.

Jolla: a short introduction
Before I go on with my first comparisons, let me explain a little bit about Jolla. I won't write a review of the Jolla phone here - it's not what the PureViewClub is about, but I will provide you with some background information before I share some of its shots - and compare it with some of the big guns out there.

Jolla 3

First of all, for those who don't know, Jolla was formed by about 80 ex-Nokia employees who started the bold adventure to take "the road not taken". After Nokia took the decision to leave Symbian and choose Windows Phone, they started their own company to create a new smartphone based on their own OS called "Sailfish".

It will remind you of MeeGo when you see it for the first time, but there are differences, for instance in the way you "swype" your way through the menu. I found their initiative brave and inspiring (I have a natural sympathy for the underdog I guess), so I decided to order one and show my support.

Jolla 11

To be able to offer more applications than available in the original Jolla Store, you have the possibility to use Android stores like Yandex for applications - interestingly enough, it's the exact same route Nokia now takes with it's "forked Android" Nokia X devices.

As I already own a few Android devices, I've been waiting for the Jolla Store to grow, which it apparantly does, but as an average user, you will still need to turn to Android I guess. Without wanting to offend anyone, I think the Jolla phone still is a bit of a "geeky" device. I have the Jolla for a few months already to be honest, but I've been waiting for updates before writing anything about it.

Jolla 14

Jolla has been a somewhat disappointing experience for me in the beginning, although I really did like its design from the start: in a worldwide market loaded with different brands that all have their own devices, it's no small achievement to think of a design that is genuinely new and original.

The Jolla slogan is "we are unlike" and that is very well chosen. You'll recognize a Jolla smartphone directly by it's looks and the same goes for the Sailfish user interface: there's simply nothing like it (apart from MeeGo maybe, which never was a very large OS).

Jolla 8

You can even buy a different " other half" - a new back cover that will directly change the way your Jolla screen looks like - and there are more "other halfs" to come, putting a different emphasis on the way you use your device. Only thing is I find these other halfs quite expensive at €29 (but I will get one if they think of realizing one that is centred around the camera functionality :-)

After its recent, important update to "Ohijärvi" the Sailfish OS has left the beta stage. Also, the (only 4MP) camera has seen a major impovement in terms of settings etc. Now you can adjust Light sensitivity (from ISO 100 to 400) and choose different white balance (Cloudy, Sunny, Fluorescent and Tungsten).

You can tap to focus or set it to infinity or continuous autofocus. You can set a delay up to 10 seconds. Still, it's no more than 4MP: 3264 x 1840 pixels in 16:9, and you can't shoot in 4:3. Here's a shot I captured from the Jolla settings menu.

Jolla Camera Settings

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Nokia Lumia 1020 - first comparison based on a few shots

You might have read I'm more or less enjoying a short "time-out", but some shots are just too "important" not to share I guess. Like these ones, coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the brand new Samsung Galaxy S5...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first comparison with shots coming from the Samsung Galaxy S5. Today I was happy to be invited to an event called the Samsung Experience Day here in The Netherlands, and I asked if I would be allowed to take a few shots with the Samsung Galaxy S5 (and take those with me) and to compare them with a Nokia PureView device.

There was not a doubt in their mind, and since it would be necessary to take a few shots outside as well, they even let me borrow the brand new Galaxy S5 from the national Marketing Manager. You'll understand I couldn't take that with me for a very long time (and they didn't let me leave the building alone either :-). So although I only had a few minutes to make these shots, I'm very grateful for their trust and the opportunity they've given me to share them here.

But not without a few disclaimers first (you know me by now).
- First, maybe I should have grabbed the Lumia 1520 with its 20MP sensor, for a more "fair" battle with the 16MP results of the Galaxy S5. I didn't, I guess I just wanted to compare the Galaxy S5 to the best smartphone camera at the moment.
- Second: light outside was awful (nothing but grey clouds).
- Third: for some weird reason my Lumia 1020 reset itself (for the first time ever, great timing), while making shots, so I appear to miss one high-res shot. Since I have only a few, I decided to share them all nevertheless.
- Fourth: I guess I was so excited to be able to give the Galaxy S5 a try, there are quite a few things I forgot to capture (like screenshots of the different camera settings).

So although this post is limited in some ways, it will just have to do for now.

To start, first two shots only from the Galaxy S5 itself - one with HDR off and one with HDR on. The difference is obvious, the effect fantastic, but the really great thing is that you will see the effect of using HDR in the screen even before you make the shot. No need to explain why that's great - and I could add that there (still) is no direct HDR option in Nokia Camera (why not?).

Samsung Galaxy S5 Test HDR - off Samsung Galaxy S5 Test HDR - onJust one test with two shots, and I think the result speaks for itself. Like I said: you can immediately see the difference in the screen before capturing it. I really think that's a great feature and moreover, there's a direct button in the screen to control HDR (on/off).

Two smartphones with 20MP sensors: Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (3)

No, these are not the best shots I got artistically, but I'll share them anyway since I believe they're interesting in itself. In my previous two comparisons, I shared shots from the 20MP results from both the Nokia Lumia as the Sony Xperia.

In the first comparison, the Sony obviously lost, in the second comparison - in bright sunlight - its result was already a lot better and some might just prefer it since it simply looks sharper at first sight.

I promised some shots comparing the Sony on its "Superior Auto" setting, and compare that with the Nokia Lumia 1520. In Superior Auto, you can only shoot in 16:9 at the moment, but it wouldn't suprise me if an update will change that, since in Barcelona I've seen 4:3 in the same setting on the Xperia Z2.

So I need to choose 16:9 on the Lumia 1520 as well, but: which setting to choose? Everything on auto? Change the white balance? I didn't have much time to experiment since the sun was setting when I took these shots, but the differences are interesting.

There was another "problem": Sony's 8MP versus Nokia's 5MP resolution. Some advised me to shoot on high-res with the Lumia and manually adjust that to 8MP, but I don't have the software (nor the knowledge) to "oversample" shots on my PC . Moreover, I think it's fair to show what you get as a consumer just using the device.

Here are the few shots I captured in the setting sun. As usual, Lumia 1520 first, Xperia Z1 Compact second, both on auto settings (so the Xperia on Superior Auto)

2 Nokia Lumia 1520 - tree - 5MP

2 Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - tree - 8MPAs you can see, the difference are marginal - the only thing is you'll get a bit more of the scene with the Lumia 1520 (as usual, I didn't move an inch). Next, two crops from these two shots - again you'll see that choosing 640 x 360, you'll get "closer" in the 8MP shot of the Xperia Z1 Compact.

Two smartphones with 20MP sensors: Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (2)

After the first comparison, someone on the Facebook group " Nothing but a Nokia" asked me to do a similar comparison of the Nokia Lumia 1520 and Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, but in great lighting conditions.

That's a bit ironic, since most of the requests I got in the past years have been to test devices in less light, low light, inside or even almost complete darkness. Nevertheless: I like good light photography best myself, so I'm happy to oblige.

I made a few high-res shots from a nice house in my hometown, a scene I think I've shared before (not sure about it, a long time ago if so anyway). So both the devices were set to maximum resolution and 4:3 - equivalent of 19MP (4992 x 3744 pixels) on the Lumia 1520 and 20.6MP (5248 x 3936 pixels) on the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact.

I will show the resized versions first (click on the shots to see the originals on OneDrive). Mind you, these are the resized versions of the high-res originals. Nokia Lumia 1520 first, like in the previous comparison.

1 Nokia Lumia 1520 - house - 20MP

1 Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - house - 20MP

I do like the color rendition of the Lumia better personally, although the bushes in front of the house are quite green. In the EXIF you will see the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact was on manual settings, which I need to get the 20MP result (like I wrote a few times, you can't get high res in the "Superior Auto" setting). The Nokia Lumia 1520 was on auto settings however (more about that in a later post).

Next, a few 640 x 360 crops from these two results. Lumia 1520 first.

Two smartphones with 20MP sensors: Nokia Lumia 1520 vs Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (1)

This is the first part of a few battles between two 20MP sensors - those of the Nokia Lumia 1520 and the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. Sony boasts it's offering a very good mobile camera and does so with a lot of technical brouhaha if I may say so.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - and I quote - redefines the premium smartphone market by placing the best Sony technologies from the flagship Xperia Z1:  Sony’s leading camera technologies “G Lens”, “Exmor RS for mobile” and “BIONZ for mobile”; a 4.3 inch TRILUMINOS™ HD display and X-Reality™ for mobile; premium dust-resistant and waterproof (IP55/IP58) design.

Well: it's waterproof, that's for sure and I think it's amazing that the mobile industry is allowing Sony to have this USP for this long (yes, I know Samsung announced the same for the S5 at the Mobile World Congress). The HD display of the Z1 Compact is certainly better than even the FullHD screen of its predecessor in terms of visibility - black is much deeper black on the Z1 Compact. But its no competition for Nokia's FullDH ClearBlack, IPS LCD display.

Now how do the sensors compare? That's what this battle is about. In this post you will see (only) two shots from both, shot in 4:3 to get the maximum out of the sensors. Both shots were taken inside, in more or less good lighting conditions. As you know, you only need to push the button once to get two shots from the Lumia 1520: one in high-res (hence 19MP) and one in PueView (5MP).

With the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, you'll have to go to manual settings and choose 20MP for the first shot (the sensor is 20.7MP to be exact), and then choose 8MP for another shot in 4:3.

Like I wrote in an earlier post, you can't choose 4:3 in the "Auto Superior" setting on the Xperia Z1 Compact, since that will only allow you to shoot in 16:9. You'll have to wait for the Xperia Z2 to do so, but that will be a few months from now I guess.

I don't know if the camera software on the Z1 Compact will be updated to do the same by the way, and in fact I'm not completely sure if the Z1 compact uses oversampling when it makes the manual 4:3 shots in 8MP (I guess so, what else would it do?)

In this post, first you'll see the resized shots coming from the 5MP and 8MP results from both smartphone cameras. Next, you'll see screenshots I made at 100% from those same shots. Last, you'll see two crops from each shot I took at the highest resolution. So even with only two shots from each device, this will be a pretty long post I'm afraid - but quite revealing.

You know the drill, you'll find all the original shots on OneDrive. In all comparisons, you'll see the Lumia 1520 first. Here we go.

The first scene was captured inside a sports hall. The light was okay, not very bright, not too dark either. Average, I'd say, but certainly bright enough. Here are the resized results (from the oversamped shots - 5MP and 8MP).

2 Nokia Lumia 1520 Sports 5 MP 2 Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Sports 8 MPYou see colours are much deeper and more defined coming from the Nokia Lumia 1520. Next, the 100% screenshots from these oversampled results (5MP and 8MP).