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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 Lumia 1020 2

Now this is how the Samsung Galaxy S5 captures the scene with its settings on auto. And it’s not bad at all in fact: you can still make out the details in the shadow.

Samsung Galaxy S5

But this is what happens if you use HDR on the Galaxy S5, which is extremely easy (just an onscreen button to switch it on or off).

Samsung Galaxy S5 HDR

Now of course, this look unnatural, but that’s what HDR often looks like, isn’t it? Most important in this case is that you’ll even the dark parts of the shots become a lot more visible. If it really adds to the atmosphere is not the issue here: I just want to show what it can do – with one single click…

To conclude, I used the HDR application on the Nokia Lumia 1020, to make a sequence of three shots. You’ll have to hold very still of course, and afterwards the application need time to allign the shots etc. You’ll have the choice to make the HDR effect much stronger, but this is what I got from the application without changing anything in the original HDR result.

Nokia Lumia 1020 HDRThis concludes my first impressions so far – I have tons of more shots to make this weekend (with the Galaxy S5, the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520, and I think I’ll even bring the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact), but I thought the extremely user-friendly way to use HDR function on the Galaxy S5 was something you’d like to read about.

I won’t come as a surprise you may find all the original shots in a dedicated set on the PureViewClub photostream on Flickr. I’m sorry I don’t have time to do some serious pixel peeping at this moment, but be my guest if you fee so inclined :-)

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22 Responses

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] I really wonder how Samsung does stuff like that, but it works like a charm. I posted about it earlier, here’s another […]

  3. Parsian

    This is great and all but I think Nokia should learn a lesson from Samsung’s book by improving the photosites. I think 1020 can be so much better (in the next iteration) if they improve the dynamic range further. The live HDR feature comes naturally by faster CPU/GPU…

  4. Junnior_Reis

    Marc…Please compare the 4 devices (1020,1520, S5 and Z1C), set at “5 megapixel resolution”, because we have all 4 devices compared equally and just there!

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Hi Junnior,

      I would have to put the Galaxy S5 into 6MP mode, and the Z1 Compact on either 3MP or 8MP… There are no alternative settings.

      Only solution I think is to choose “best possible” resolution on all devices.

      So that’s 16MP (in 16:9!) on the Galaxy S5, compare that with the 20MP result from Z1 Compact and Lumia 1520.

      Next, I guess I should compare those to the 5MP result from the Lumia 1020 and the 8MP result from the Z1 in “Auto Superior” – both using “oversampling” technology.

      I’ll admit it’s quite impossible to make a direct comparison so I’ll have to improvise.

  5. Steve

    Hey Mark I did a quick edit on the 1020 photo in lightroom it appears the 1020 standard photos have more shadow detail then the galaxy s5 hdr. Of course if I had the raw photo it would be even better. Thanks for the comparison.

  6. Prathamesh Wadia

    Nice comparision marc. The s5 camera seems to be pretty good and fast as well.. I know hdr apps are available and everything but to mean the bracketing and then using photomatix pro on the oc will be the way to go.. The app ive used 4blend hdr reduces the detail of the shot greatly (as do any other hdr app ive tried for my lumia 1020. if you could just compare it with manually bracketed photos it would be nice.. I know the point of this post was easy of hdr)ability) but I just want to see what the quality difference might be.. or if you could just share a bracketted shot on flickr i could edit it for you.. : )

    Here’s an example of the kind of detail the 1020 is capable of, and this was without a tripod, just steady hands..

  7. Richard Shepherd

    Nice comparison again Marc, I would also be keen to know which appyou used for the 1020. As Marc is a busy man, I wonder if anyone else would like to write a HDR app overview/comparison for windows phones?
    All I can contribute is a link here to Steve Litchfield’s review of 4Blend which is free but doesn’t do any alignment so u need to rest your camera on something to really keep still for HDR, but its quick as its not trying to align……


    • Marc @PureViewClub

      I use HDR Photo Camera. Not very expensive, not sure what it cost me, I think it’s worth it – and it does alignment as well.

  8. egg

    Hdr pro camera produces much better results than hdr photo camera, but UI is shitty and u can’t use it to capture photo because of image distortion. And it has no trial…

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      “you can’t use it to capture photo because of image distortion” – so how is it better then?

  9. Even though the HDR mode had captured the scene well, it indeed looks very unnatural. But really impressed with the detail from the Lumia 1020!

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Well, it might look a bit unnatural – that’s not uncommon with HDR shots in general, like I wrote. I’m particularly enthusiastic about the ease of use and fastness of HDR on the Samsung Galaxy S5.

  10. P.S.: Did you use ‘HDR Photo Camera’ ?

  11. Hi, Marc!
    Although there are more bright spots on the S5 capture, I prefer the 1020 shot: It is ‘not too’ unnatural. ;-)
    I like the HDR Shootings generally a lot, but one has to be aware, not to ‘overdo’ it, otherwise it becomes ridiculous and looks like a painting… :-)

    The Koreans did a good job though because of the simple implementation of the hdr-function in the camera UI…
    maybe we will see it in ‘Cyan’, too?? *gg*

    Liebe Grüße aus Wien!

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Let me remind you the 1020 is a “composed” HDR shot, from three combined shots – you’ll have to stand still during the time capturing and wait for alignment. That’s not a problem in itself since the result is pretty good. But the Galaxy S5 does this in one shot, and you can even see what to expect before making the shot. I really wonder how they do that.