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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 - offSamsung 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).

Resized shots
Next, the few shots I managed to capture – resized to fit this page, and the 640 x 360 crops.

Now of course, since I chose the Lumia 1020, we have three quite different sizes here… 5MP from the Nokia PureView, 16MP from the Galaxy S5 and 34MP from Nokia’s “high-res” (I didn’t use the 5MP/Raw setting). They are not very comparable in fact, so I decided to share these results as are.

One more thing before I go and share what I got though.

It struck me that the Galaxy S5 will actually give you the highest amount of MP (16MP that is) in 16:9 aspect ratio. I’ve never ever seen that before – usually you’ll need 4:3 to get the most out of your sensor. So either the sensor is even larger than 16MP but  Samsung won’t let you use the full 20MP (in 4:3), or they did some magical trick to squeeze the best quality in 16:9. Honestly, I don’t know. Ideas are welcome.

Now the results. I will first share the resized shots I got from the Nokia Lumia 1020 (the 5MP result) and the Samsung Galaxy S5 (16MP). All setting are on automatic, and apart from resizing the shots, I didn’t change a thing.

In all comparisons, you’ll see the Nokia Lumia 1020 first, the Galaxy S5 second. Let’s begin with two cars that caught my attention. First the Alfa Romeo outside, next a Fiat 500 in the large hall inside the building.

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Alfa Samsung Galaxy S5 - Alfa

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Fiat Samsung Galaxy S5 - Fiat

You may find this hard to believe, but after resizing and cropping et cetera, I really see the results next to each other when I’m working on the post. And I’m quite surprised by these results, but before jumping to conclusions, let’s have a look at some other outside shots I got. I’m looking forward to the result as much as you are to be honest. Again, Lumia 1020 first.

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Building 1

Samsung Galaxy S5 - Building 1

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Building 2

Samsung Galaxy S5 - Building 2Light
After these shots, I think it’s safe to say the Galaxy S5 gives you a much brighter, lighter picture in general. Up to the point where you might think it’s less “natural”. It’s hard to prove – like I wrote, the weather outside was (once again) far from ideal but at least the light was very constant (it was a solid grey morning).

The Galaxy S5 really seems to “try to make the best of it” in some way. Getting more light in the shot than was actually there at the moment. I have to be honest though. In my shots – I always try to make more than one at least – I also found this one, coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Building 2b

Taken only seconds apart, it appears to be even brighter than the shot coming from the Galaxy S5! Why? Because in automatic settings, the Nokia Lumia 1020 suddenly chose to use ISO-400 in this case, instead of ISO-100. More about ISO a bit later on – you’ll be surprised.

I’m only sharing this to show I’ve learned it’s hazardous to jump to conlusions too fast. Light is a tricky thing, like with colors. Most mobile photographers I know want the scene to be captured as “realistic” as possible.

We have seen how difficult it is to get the “right” colors with the Lumia 1020 earlier. Many users – including me – thought the colors were way too saturated at first and Nokia actually changed that with the Black update. Yes, they really do listen to their customers’ feedback.

In this case, there doesn’t seem to be  great difference in color rendition, but like I’ve shown there seems to be quite a bit of difference in how Samsung’s sensor deals with the amount of light.

This may also account for the color difference in the marble floor under the Fiat 500. It’s almost white in Galaxy’s view, whereas the Lumia shows much more colors and hence more “warmth” and even contrast in that particular shot. Is that a color or light difference – you tell me :-)

I find it remarkable that the S5 has given me brighter results in most cases, but I’d need much more time and shots to be sure about it.

One more very remarkable thing though: as I wrote, all settings were on automatic on both devices. If you look at the ISO, you’ll see the Nokia has chosen ISO-100 in most cases (once more, I didn’t put it there manually).

But the Galaxy S5 shots are all captured with ISO-40!  And give such a bright result? Does that mean it has a much larger aperture? If someone has an explanation for that I’d be happy to read it.

So let’s move on to the crops, the details, the “pixel peeping” some like to make fun of (like if details aren’t important :-)

I’ll share the crops from the shots in the same order, according to size – so 5MP (Nokia), 16MP (Samsung), 34MP (Nokia). As always, the 5MP crops will show more of the scene, and you get “closer” with the same sized crop of the 16MP results from the Galaxy S5. And remember the 34MP results from the Lumia 1020 do not benifit from “oversampling” and are likely to show more noise.

For some reason the Lumia 1020 appeared to have a software problem while capturing the Fiat 500, so I can’t share crops from the high-res results (no, it’s not a lame excuse, it’s just the way it is but  I still want to share what I got).

So first the Alfa Romeo’s front wheel: you’ll see crops from the 5MP Lumia shot, the 16MP Galaxy result and the 34MP Lumia high-res capture without oversampling.

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Alfa 8MP 640 x 360

Samsung Galaxy S5 - Alfa 640 x 360

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Alfa 34MP 640 x 360

I must admit I’m surprised to see the detail from the edges are even  smoother in the 34MP (not oversampled) result coming from the Lumia 1020, than on the 16MP, pretty pixelated result from the Galaxy S5.

Let’s move on to the Fiat 500 – the one where again I’m really sorry to say the Lumia 1020 for some reason refused to save the high-res result. So in this case, I can only compare Nokia’s 5MP with Samsung’s 16MP (again in that order).

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Fiat 8MP 640 x 360

Samsung Galaxy S5 - Fiat 640 x 360

I would really have loved to be able to share the detail from the 34MP shot as well, but it’s simply not on my device :-/

Next, the two outside shots of the building where the event took place. It’s not much, but I was very happy to have been given to opportunity to make these shots outside at all. The order is again 5MP (Lumia), 16MP (Galaxy), 34MP (Lumia).

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Building 1 8MP 640 x 360

Samsung Galaxy S5 - Building 1 640 x 360

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Building 1 34MP 640 x 360

And one more time – 5MP, 16MP and 34MP (you know which is which by now :-)

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Building 2 8MP 640 x 360

Samsung Galaxy S5 - Building 2 640 x 360

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Building 2 34MP 640 x 360Even compared to the 34MP result of the Lumia 1020, I still see quite a bit of compression in the Galaxy S5′s result, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. But although many people seem to think so, I’m not an expert.

I just try to make as similar shots as possible, copy the results to my PC, resize, crop, post and compare – in that order. The outcome is often a surprise to me, too, like in this case.

To be totally honest, I expected a bit more from the Galaxy S5′s camera, but it’s quite early to judge and these are just a few shots, or should I say “carefully made snapshots”. Maybe a future software update will bring some improvement as well.

Moreover, there’s more to the S5′s camera than this – like speed. We all know it takes quite a bit of time before you’ve started the camera on the Lumia 1020 (or 1520 for that matter, and I know the Icon is pretty slow as well).

The Galaxy S5 really is much faster than that, and it looks like Nokia can really use some improvement in that respect. Also, the autofocus on the S5 appears to be really fast, like Samsung is promising in some promotional shots I’ve seen. But it´s not like the Lumia’s are slow in that respect.

Like I wrote several times, I only had a limited time to play with the Galaxy S5, but I was shown a functionality which looks a lot like Nokia Refocus – or the Lytro for that matter – enabling you to focus on the foreground or the background after capturing the shot.

That’s great of course, but the Galaxy S5 only offers those two points of view (in a combination of two shots), whereas Nokia Refocus offers a maximum five points to focus on (check this post). Is it extremely important? Nah, it’s a nice feature and I just wanted to let you know you now have this option on the Galaxy S5 as well. It will give you a result with a pretty insane size though, the resized shot below is no less than 18MB originally!

Samsung Galaxy S5 - Blue carpet

Again, however short it was, I’m very grateful for the amount of time I could spend with the Galaxy S5 camera and even honored that Samsung was happy to send me the results from their phone to mine (via WiFi Direct) to share here.

I”m really looking forward to get a review sample of the Galaxy S5 and do a lot more testing, in better light conditions and preferably in more colorful surroundings. For a first test, I think this comparison, however limited, has been quite revealing to begin with though.

I’m looking forward to your reactions as always – and yes, all the original shots are on OneDrive and I shared them on Flickr as well. And once more: if you appreciate what I’m doing at the PureViewClub, don’t hesitate to hit the “donate” button on the right side of this page :-)

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50 Responses

  1. […] I’ve shown in my first  comparison, the way Samsung managed to implement HDR in its camera is  impressive. Normally you’ll have […]

  2. _______Nokia 808 pureview king cameraphone_______

  3. nikhil joshi

    Marc why are you leaving 808 aside in most of the comparisons. It’s still the best out there from photography standards.. I would love to see 808 go up against samsung gs5..

    • Givi

      1020 made s5 cry in terms of photography. Do you think S5 has chance to stand with 808 ?

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Hi Nikhil, I don’t think you have any idea how much time this all takes? In this case, time to capture the shots was extremely limited, like I wrote in even this post as well.

      Moreover, like it or not, the 808 PureView “is history”. It’s very hard to buy one but second hand if you’re lucky. Its OS is dead but not yet burried.

      Don’t get me wrong though! I still do love this miracle smartphone camera, but why would I keep using it in comparisons if less and less people will be able to buy it at all? Just to show how brilliant it once was, and still is for the ones who own it? What good will that do for future buyers interested in PureView technology?

      Nevertheless: check out my last comparison (including the Jolla phone). I’ve used the 808 PureView in all comparison shots as well. You’ve only seen one scene, there are at least five more to follow. Pretty interesting stuff, I assure you.

      • Nikhil Joshi

        U have a point Marc but I hope u keep on using 808 in some of the future comparisons if not on regular basis .. Keep the King alive

  4. Richard

    The S5 outside pictures seem overexposed and lost detail. Look at the distance in the outdoors shots: the 1020 correctly captures the power lines and power poles, whereas the S5 loses them in the bright white/gray sky.

  5. Karl

    S5 looks great. But I would reserve comments until a lower light shot environment test. Having owned an S2, S3, S4, and Note 1,2,and 3 I can say with experience that Samsung fairs poorly in low light due to the small sensor and aggressive noise reduction algorithm (read watercolor smearing. In addition flash photos in low light with current Galaxy phones is terrible at best.

  6. Sergio

    Nice job ! Thx !

  7. Galaxy s5 wins , nokia 808 pureview vs galaxy s5 ;)

  8. Navvarr

    I’m pretty impressed by the S5 camera- it’s certainly making ground on the Pureview technology. -whether its better or worse is open to speculation.
    To be perfectly honest I found myself preferring the S5 pics over the Lumia pics, seeing as I have an 808 and I’m happy with it, I’ll not be jumping to the S5 any time soon, but with Samsung snapping at Nokia / Microsoft’s photographic heels like this- they’re going to have to up their game to keep ahead. – Which is only a good thing for us amateur photographers.

    • MF

      Way to go, a no-explanation comment. You can substitute ‘S5′ with HTC, Motorola, LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, whatever brand and your statement will be equally ambiguous.

      • Navvarr

        Hmmm, I don’t see any mention of HTC, Motorola, LG, Huawei Xiaomi or any other manufacturer, so I’m not sure what point your trying to make.
        The point I’ve tried to make – and I’ll simplify it for you since you are struggling to understand it is that the Samsung S5 camera appears to ‘me’ -the viewer- to be able to take very good photos and in ‘my opinion’ they are indeed better than the Lumia phone used to compare.
        I’ve not mentioned any other brand since the reviewer hasn’t mentioned any other brand either.

        I don’t see any ambiguity either in my statement in relation to the fact that this is indeed a good thing for the consumer- the fact that Samsung can produce a camera phone which can ‘in my opinion’ produce results as good as or ‘in my opinion’ better than the Lumia- will perhaps result in Nokia / Microsoft having to raise the bar and come up with even better technology to keep their lead over Samsung.
        As a happy Nokia 808 user I’ve yet to see a better camera phone- but its great to know that perhaps soon I’ll have the pleasure using an even better camera phone as technology moves forward.

        • MF

          The issue is the lack of explanation or analysis to support your comment, particularly about the S5 “making ground on Pureview technology”.

          Various other commenters have observed that the 1020 is showing more details in reflection on glass, overblown highlights in the S5, etc. Those are explanations or analyses. Way better than just making broad sweeping statements like yours.

          Of course the context of this article is about S5. But supposed for a moment there was another camera comparison between, say, Blackberry Z10 versus 1020. The BB is, of course, getting its rearside kicked. Your broad sweeping statement is sooooo general that it can even be copied-and-pasted into that article. “I’m pretty impressed by Z10, it is making grounds on Pureview… to be honest I prefer Z10′s pics… Blackberry is snapping on Nokia’s photographic heels”, etc. Silly as that sounds, that’s the danger of making broad general statements with no particular analysis to support it.

          • Navvarr

            I don’t really feel the need to analyse and pixel peep in order to form an opinion as to which photos I prefer.
            If I were to present the above photos to my wife or kids and ask- ‘which ones do you prefer’ – they’d give me an opinion based on what they see in front of them- at a cursory glance- I wouldn’t expect them to start zooming in and comparing lights sources, palettes and post processing effects.
            IMO, SG5 produces a more pleasing result to my eye- simple as that.
            Incidentally, my daughter owns the SG4 and it takes very good pictures- not as good as my 808, but very good pictures none the less- this represents a step up from the SG4- it appears that Samsung has upped their game. Nokia will have to as well to keep ahead.

            Perhaps if my original comment had been ‘I’m pretty impressed by the Nokia Lumia camera- it’s certainly seems to me to be better than the SG5 technology. -whether it is really better or worse is open to speculation.
            To be perfectly honest I found myself preferring the Lumia pics over the SG5 pics, seeing as I have an 808 and I’m happy with it, I’ll not be jumping to the Lumia any time soon, but with Samsung producing inferior technology like this- they’re going to have to up their game – us Nokia fanboys can rest easy in our beds for the time being.

            Does that sound better to you? -Its not really my opinion and its makes no difference really to anything , but if it makes you happy then I’ll leave it at that for you.

            • Ron

              Also If you were to present my Lumia 920 colorful photos vs the 808 photos to your wife or kids and ask- ‘which ones do you prefer’ – they will say the 920 photos is better, I wouldn’t expect them to start zooming in and comparing lights sources, palettes and post processing effects.

              What’s your point? Why did you buy the 808?

            • Navvarr

              Why do you assume they’d favour your 920 photos?

              Not sure of YOUR point actually.

            • Marc @PureViewClub

              Guys, take it outside, please – or let it rest, thanks :-)

            • MF

              I think it takes more than your wife’s or kids’ preference to make a statement that any particular manufacturer is certainly gaining grounds on Pureview technology or snapping at Nokia’s photographic heels.

              Incidentally, many many iPhone owners think their phones take pictures as good as DSLRs. Seriously. If preference is your criteria for imaging superiority, perhaps you should be saying that S5 is certainly gaining ground on iSight technology and snapping at Apple’s photographic heels.

  9. Rich Thomas

    Hi Marc, sorry but I have to ask; you keep saying above that you are generating 8MP pictures from the 1020… in fact you even say that you didn’t use the “5MP/Raw” modes. Am I missing something? Nokia Camera doesn’t offer me 8MP on my 1020. Are you using a different app here (such as ProShot) that gives you 8mp photos?

    • Rich Thomas

      Hmmm, reading again I think maybe you accidentally kept saying 8MP instead of 5MP, and the the “5MP/Raw” comment was really just about DNG mode. If I’m right, you really do need a break! :)

      • Marc @PureViewClub

        OMG, thank you for this. Maybe I’m just wishing for an 8MP resolution on Nokia Camera, but you are absolutely right there isn’t one, not at this moment in time at least. I have to admit it’s a bit embarrassing, and I think you maybe did prove the point I made in my previous post :-) I corrected all the “8MP” to “5MP” by now. Thanks again.

  10. Innoxius

    “But the Galaxy S5 shots are all captured with ISO-40! And give such a bright result? Does that mean it has a much larger aperture? If someone has an explanation for that I’d be happy to read it.”

    Maybe ISOCELL is the answer ?

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Yes well, maybe. But what is it? Hardware? Software? Do you know?

    • Javier

      Hi Innoxius, both phones have F2.2 and the shutter speed is almost the same in some of the pictures, like in the fiat one 1/55s (1020) and 1/50s (S5). So that wouldn’t be the reason in my opinion. Also you can see that in all pics reflections the 1020 pictures take more bright detail from the dark places (look the glass door on the fiat one too) so I really think that 1020 took more light from the scene but then the S5 do a post process where the white or almost white colours become more white if it can be. Finally I see that in the white zones the s5 pictures lose details and think it is because that post process. Look the alfa romeo picture in the buildings near sky. ;)
      Hope that helps you ^^

      • MF


        This is either a sign of poor dynamic range or perhaps image processing to boost the contrast resulting in loss of detail.

      • Innoxius

        I do not deny the superiority of 1020 over S5 in terms of photography, just my opinion on what make S5 shots better (much better) in Android world.

  11. Interested

    Can you do S5 vs Xperia Z1 comparison?

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Sure I can, I just need the devices to do so. I’d prefer the Galaxy S5 and the Xperia Z2 however.

  12. re_c

    ISO 40 seems to low for the result of the S5, i think sony,samsung and htc are aiming for fast shutterspeeds in adequate lighting conditions, so the photo wont get blurry, the 1020 leaves the choice to the user (But i think the 1020 automode tends to slower shutterspeed). The s5 has no ois, thats indicator to use fast shutter. The question is here which shutterspeed used the s5 in comparison to 1020. An explanation could be the problem from htc in the past: The camsoftware writes wrong iso-values in the exif information.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      That’s my impression as well: I don’t think the shutter time was long enough for ISO-40.

  13. Marc, you can see live HDR on Lumia too, with app called camera360 – when you press shutter button half way (hardware) you will see what you get! ;)

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      I’ll have a look, but I can’t possibly check all third party apps. I think Nokia Camera is just fantastic – but it might need a few more features, like HDR.

  14. Petet


    exposure consists of three variables: iso, aperture and shutter speed. Does the S5 have slower shuttet speed? This could explain the brighter pic. You coul also check on an exposure table what the difference in metering of the two devices since the same exposure can be acchieved with different combination of the thre variables (only two on smartphones brcause of constant aperture).

    If the metering is the same then it’s a post process result from raw to jpeg.

    Let me know the results.

  15. Glifford Menezes

    Regarding the highest res in 16:9, I guess the S5 sensor itself could be in 16:9 aspect ratio (considering that Video is in that aspect ratio). One pain I have with 16:9 aspect ratio snaps however is that portrait snaps are often too narrow (too tall) in most cases, in that case 4:3 is preferable!

  16. interesting photos Marc.

    I found that in the Fiat photo example, the S5 colours are closer to reality, 1020 photo is too warm and shows the yellow hue we all hate (specially in the floor).
    I wish the 1020 colours were closer to the 1520 representation.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Well Frankie, you may be right – but I’m not even 100% sure what the scene/light/colors really looked like at the time. But I was there – and you weren’t :-) Most of the “yellow hue” has gone since the Black update however – why would it suddenly appear again here?

  17. Javier

    Very good job!
    I’m not an expert but I think the withe colours in the Samsung photos are more because of a some kind of post process where it gives strength to all “white” or almost white colours.
    I’m seeing it in my 1520 (then I’ll check all pics better in the computer screen) and I pay attention in 3things.
    First of all in the reflections on the first car (alfa Romeo), where I can see more details in 1020 photos than in the reflection of the galaxy s5 photo.
    Second I pay attention to the cristal door in the second car photo where I also see more details from the other side of the door and brighter in the 1020 photos. (This is the reason why I tell you that, even having as bright result with ISO 40, I think that the bright in s5 photos is more for the processing process than its lens).
    Finally I try to read the text (Thinking that the s5 would be better in the second car picture above in left) in the fiat photo and it surprise me a lot that the 5mpx 1020 picture shows more detail than the s5 16mpx one! I can read in my 1520 without problem http://www.snowtime…. In the 1020 5mpx photo and not as well in the s5 photo.
    As I said I’ll check them after more carefully but my first impression is that the s5 makes a very powerful post process to show so bright whites to create very strong contrast to take “attractive” pictures to the eyes.
    Anyway I still prefer the results on 808 (but that’s just a subjective point of view of my pics and what I like more hehe) ;)

  18. Bruno.808Pureview

    The Galaxy S5 has a really great camera (on top of that a great smarthphone). I’m impressed. And I think reviewers in general are giving it very unfair (negative) reviews that it truly doesn’t deserve.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Good to see you’re impressed, I’m pleasantly surprised after even a few shots as well. Like I said, I’d love to spend some more time with the Galaxy S5. Hope you don’t think this was meant as a negative review by the way, I try to be as open and objective as humanly possible.

  19. Dave

    The S5 seems okay; some of those artifacts are a little irritating.

    Interesting that you highlight the camera startup time on the 1020. I’ve been starting to get so wound up by it that I’m starting to carry around the 808 as well. The 808 can start the camera app, take a picture and be back in my pocket before the 1020 is even ready to take a picture.

    And finally on the 1020, the black update still gives colours that pop way too much. Sometimes it can be pleasing, some of my weekend sunshine shots did look like they’d been taken with a CPL. The catch there is that it would be nice to dial back to natural 808 style colours, or be able to apply B&W high contrast shots without having to resort to post processing.

  20. Katta92

    Some low light samples could be nice to see how the smaller sensor of S5 react. But to be honestly, the S5 camera is pretty impresive.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      No worries, I will work on some low light samples as soon as I have the chance :-)