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Serious Megapixels: Nokia N8, 808 PureView, Nokia Lumia 920, Sony Xperia S and Xperia Z

Maybe this is not very relevant to many, but I just happen to like do stuff like this: compare serious smartphone cameras. Now, the definition of “serious” is getting more and more tricky. Some brands say “it’s not about megapixels anymore”, whereas many (like me :-) strongly believe in the great possibilities of the 41MP sensor of the Nokia 808 PureView.

So just to be sure, I chose the 12MP sensor as starting point of this comparison. I would have loved to include the HTC One in this comparison too. Although it “only” has a 4MP (!) sensor, the “ultrapixel” technology looks like it’s a bit more than just marketing lingo, and this would have been a fantastic opportunity to compare it with the “big sensors”. I didn’t get a review sample yet, though, so there’s not much I can do about it at this moment.

In this comparison, you will see 5 x 6 shots taken outside with – in chronological order – the Nokia N8 (2010), Sony Xperia S (2012), Nokia 808 PureView (2012), Nokia Lumia 920 (2012/13) and Sony Xperia Z (2013).

Quite simple, there were hardly any other smartphone cameras boasting a similar resolution – the only one springing to my mind is the HTC Titan II (16MP), but that was never officially released in The Netherlands as far as I know.

With these smartphone cameras, you will see shots of three different buildings and three other outdoor scenes – it’s all quite simple, really, and I can’t promiss I couldn’t have made a better shot with all phones. No tripod, everything by hand, all settings on auto mostly (you’ll see one shot from the Nokia 808 in full resolution). Some shots are in 16:9, most in 4:3 format.

Directly after the five sample shots, you’ll see five similar, random crops I got from the originals. All crops are in 640 x 360, since I planned to present the results in a video: I feel quite sure you wouldn’t like to scroll through sixty results… Of course, you can, since I’m putting the complete collection on Flickr as well :-)

So it’s all just a bunch of snapshots really, that should be able to give us all a general impression of how these smartphone cameras compare in sunny daylight conditions. Again, this is more fun than science, I’m not trying to “prove” any point here, and I’ll leave the conclusion to you. Choose for 1080p if your connection is fast enough – I hope you’ll enjoy it! :-)

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29 Responses

  1. [...] one has number 22051, it’s quite easy to find it’s from May 1953.About these shots My first comparison of five serious smartphone cameras has become way more popular than I ever expected to. Many blogs [...]

  2. [...] ont été réalisées par nos confrères de Pureviewclub afin de nous donner une idée générale de la façon dont chaque appareil photo capte la lumière. [...]

  3. bigs

    thanks mark for some this amazing comparison between so many mobile handsets.

    It just iterates again and again that the 808 Pureview stands up from the rest with ease, quality of the pixel, is comparable to DSLRs, with the full res mode trumping most DSLRs in good light!

    For today I will analyse the first set, the two story building landscape shot in good light.

    It has been proven many a times that the Nokia 808′s purepixel technology is indeed quite amazing, against opposition manufactured phone cameras, but what if it is put against it’s 2 year cousin the old Nokia n8.

    The 12Mp sensor in the Nokia n8 back when it was release was indeed the best of the best, and in all situations took better quality images than any cell phone camera in the market, thanks to its abnormally large sensor combined with Nokias experience with processing digital images, and Carl Zeiss optics.

    Now compare this 12MP against the Nokia 808 pureview 8MP mode, which now has set even higher benchmarks than ever before. With the pureview 8mp mode, all effort has been made to make each pixel into a very high quality one. So much so, that although the 808 is using 8Mp, compared to the 12Mp image from the n8, the difference is substantial. In this case the 808 has resolved alot more detail in the brickwork than the n8, it is clear the additional megapixel in the n8 has not helped here, and the bricks seems to be rendered into slight mush, thanks to noise reduction.

    The rendering of the tree branches shows again what the 808′s pureview pixel can achieve, and the branches render sharp and clear. The n8, although rendering the branches well, shows signs of blurring with noise artifacts coming into play. No matter how well the noise reduction is on the n8, it still shows more noise in the blue sky than the 808.

    Grass detail is very good in both the n8, and 808, with the 808 having a slight sharpness detail edge, thanks again to the purepixel pureview technology.

    I have not mentioned much about the Nokia 920 here, since it really has not done all that well. As per usual, the tree branched are severely overshapened, and it really does shows in the sky where this over sharpening algorithm has enhanced the noise in the blue sky. The bricks reveal even less detail than the 2 year old n8, but I am impressed at the way the grass has been rendered. Although a bit noisy, alot of detail from the grass blades have been retained, and stands equal par with the higher resolution 2 year old Nokia n8.

    Now comes the Sony Xperias. They are a somewhat disappointing and details in the images of both the xperia s and z are dismal in comparison. Noise seems well controlled in the both Sony cameras, as seen in the blue sky, but as a result the detail in the Z in the tree leaves is completely gone thanks to noise reduction. The S seems more pleasing here, as it seems to have taken a slightly lower noise reduction approach possibly due to it’s lower MP sensor, but Z wins against the S for details in the bare tree branches thanks to the higher MP. In this case higher MP does work. As for rendering of the bricks, I think both xperias have done well here, and there is not that much disadvantage against the 920 or the n8.

    The winner for the “Worst” rendered grass goes to the Xperia Z. It literally has transformed grass into water colour art! It feels as if someone put Vaseline or cream over the lens to give a super soft out of focus type look. There is absolutely no detail left. I dare say coming in second to last, the Xperia S only does a slightly better job for the grass.

    It seems like a mix bag between the two xperias, with the S only able to render grass, and the Z able to render higher detail in bricks and branches. In my opinion this is a total fail for Sony, and I would have expected alot better from a company that actually makes high end photographic products.

    This good light landscape comparison has opened my eyes to the fact that the Nokia n8, is indeed still in it’s own league, and sits above the rest of the competition, even out classing the latest Nokia 920 with ease, but falls short to the Nokia 808. The 920 although, the last in this Nokia comparison, still holds it’s own well against the likes of Sony. I would say the 920 sits nicely in the middle, it is neither the best, nor the worst when it comes to cellphone photography. Also I believe the 920 files, since they are not over noise reduced, can benefit from high quality post process techniques, which would put it alot closer to the old Nokia n8.

    thanks marc again, will look at some other images shortly

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Wow Bigs, fantastic, what an interesting analysis once more! I’m quite happy the way this going: I find the time to make the shots, you do the analyses.

      Hope to be able to work on some (I think) very interesting close-ups soon. Just thought of a pretty rare subject, hope to get the shots somewhere this evening or tomorrow.

  4. i think it must be mentioned that an advantage of the 808 over other camera phones isn’t just image quality but the huge amount of available dynamic range. a jpg out of my 808 has more dr than a raw file out of my ricoh grd3. you can really work with these images in lightroom. this is something that may not be apparent in test shot comparisons.

    • bigs

      agree, but remember to allow for this dynamic range advantage, ensure you use the phone at it’s best ISO range 50-200 to get the best results when you pull back in the detail in the shadow.

      I find myself capturing images in bright daylight different since I found out I could recover shadow details. I tend to capture all landscapes at about -1.0 EV or even up to -2.0EV for extreme light to totally eliminate higher blowout in bright regions.

  5. Zaqsen

    The 808 have best edge and Z best colors. The colors is easy to fix.
    winner is 808. A liitle grey? But sutch a edge.
    2. Sony Z sharp and nice colors.
    3Lumia 920 yellow but almost same sharp as Z,
    4,5 N8 and arc s. no detaljs,

    It should be nice whith a systemcamera to se the real colors. but this is only high light shots. how are they in low light, in speed, in unsteady conditions?

  6. johnno

    To the untrained eye the 808 doesn’t look that impressive in those shots. To me it looked like it lost just about every shot. I was expecting way better pictures then those as I have a 808.

    • bigs

      are you talking color saturation on the 808? As for sharpness, and detail, not one of the other cameras come even close to the 808 for per pixel detail.

  7. [...] entire collection of stills, you can check out the full collection of images on flickr. SOURCES Pureviewclub Xperia [...]

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  10. Jack

    Nokia 808 wins, no doubt!!!
    Also the N8 is very good.
    The Lumia 920 is very oversaturated, I don`t like the pictures of this..

  11. Xperia Z still doesn’t stack up against the Nokia 808 PureView!

  12. vader

    I got a few things from this (brilliant) test.

    1) The 808 still amazes me.
    2) The 920 (and to a lesser amount both xperias) horribly over saturates
    3) The n8 can *still* hold its own after several years.
    4) Sony has some odd image algorithms – occaisionally they work.

    I think the last set is indicitive of the results:

    The n8 has a bit of grain and a bit of blur, but not bad.
    The xperia S seems overexposed, or is that just bad saturation, plus niose
    The 808 has virtually no noise, great colour gradient of the sky – its an 8m vs 12/13 so blur isn’t fair to compare
    The 920 – whats going on? Purple tinge, noise, blur – I suspect there was a problem, it shouldn’t be this bad.
    The xperia Z noise, over saturated and purple tinge – poor.

    From this, I rate:
    xperia s
    xperia z, 920 tie (possibly the z slightly ahead due to resolution)

    I suspect the 920 had problems, as I was honestly surprised by the poor quality of the crop. Maybe it wasn’t focused on this spot – I’ve seen it do much better.

    Thanks for the test – keep them coming!

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Hi Vader

      Thanks for your reaction! I must agree with you on the crop of the Lumia 920 – I have seen it perform much better, too.

      Many people will like this kind of oversaturation very much however – some people tend to think the results of the 808 are a bit “cold”.

      In a reaction on YouTube I was asked to do this kind of comparison more often, also for lowlight photography, portraits and macro shots. Inspiring thought, I might give it a try.

      Meanwhile, I’m surprised with almost 540 views in about 18 hours…

  13. Junnior_Reis

    Very Interesting… Great comparative… Congratulations Man !

    Unquestionably The 808 PureView PRO Was The Best, But With Good Light Conditions, If All Went Well !

    In My Opinion The Top Were Respectively:

    1º Nokia 808 PureView PRO

    2º Nokia NSeries N8

    3º Sony Xperia Z

    4º Lumia 920 PureView LITE

    5º Sony Xperia S

  14. Alejandro Nova

    1. 808
    2. N8
    3. THE REST.

  15. rhishi

    In my view 808 and N8 performs best in terms of resolving details, 920 does some clever processing but low res sensor shows up. Sony photos are heavily processed some of which turn out to be ok to good but some are plain horrible, Bad cam with bsi sensor does worse than n8 cam.

  16. Abubu

    still there is still no smartphone tht can challenge 808 pureview..pure and natural…

  17. nixx

    N8 wins because i own one hehe, this month i’ll get a xperia z.
    but… :) and 808 has the feel of true color and light.
    nokia should start making money with these sensors heheheh

    good video!

  18. Saeed

    proud of 808.

  19. Maimster

    Very interesting. Glad I own the 808 PureView. The other smartphones did very well, especially the N8. Holding her ground on several occassions. I felt the Nokia 808 again was more true to the targets. Just my opinion. Looking at the brick work gave me that impression. I was trying to be mindful of the shaded areas as well. The Lumia 920 did her normal over lighting. The chessboard scene. Otherall smartphones are making leaps and bounds as the go to everyday camera.