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Nokia, Samsung, Sony, HTC, Oppo: 3 scenes, 7 smartphones, 8 resolutions (part 1)

Luckily I had a few hours off yesterday afternoon and the weather was great, so I tried to find some interesting scenes to capture with no less than seven (!) smartphones.

I was travelling with the Nokia 808 PureView, the Lumia 1020 and 1520, Samsung Galaxy S5 (still don’t have the K Zoom to test), Sony Xperia Z2, HTC One M8 and Oppo Find 7a. With each I took several shots, when possible in different resolutions, so I ended with way more than a hundred shots to select from.

Now there’s only one way to do this – I won’t post all three scenes in one post, but stick to one scene per post. In this post, I will share only one resized version of the original scene to show you where all the 100% screenshots came from.

Then I will present you all 13 screenshots from the lowest to the highest resolution – so from HTC’s One M8 (4MP) to Oppo’s Find 7a (37MP in 16:9) First scene is a quite dark bar in a new restaurant in an old fortress in the very small but beautiful city of Muiden (definitely worth a visit when you’re in Amsterdam for instance).

Here’s the original scene (of course, you’ll find all the original shots on Flickr!). When possible, all smartphones were set to “lamplight” (Tungsten), since after some experimenting I was sure it would give the most appropriate result under these circumstances.

2b Nokia Lumia 1020 5MP Dark Cave 640 x 360Now here we go with the screenshots I made from the scene looking at it 100%… Starting with the 4MP shot from the HTC One M8 1 HTC One M8 Dark Cave 4MPNot bad of course – pretty bright but that’s what I expected from the “ultrapixel”. But keep in mind you can’t get much closer than this – this screenshot was taken at 100%. You’ll already get a bit more detail at 5MP. You’ll see the Nokia 808 PureView – darkest of all, but most realistic – and the 5MP results from the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520 (in that order) Read more…

 
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The Verge: iPhone 5S best smartphone camera

It’s been a while and this might a bit off-topic, but I can’t resist writing about Verge’s new This Is My Next “buying guide for the future”.

The first episode is about the best smartphone, and the Verge bluntly states the iPhone 5S simply is the best you can buy: “two things really set the iPhone 5S apart: its camera and its ecosystem.”

Verge reporter David Pierce says: “The 8MP camera is the most consistent, sharpest, simplest camera smartphone camera you’ll find. Other smartphones offer cool features the iPhone doesn’t, but there’s just nothing that matches its picture quality or ease of use.

Well, I think there are far too many smartphone cameras around to just state the iPhone is best at being “most consistent and simplest”. And I simply refuse to believe that “there’s nothing that matches its picture quality“.

I’m quite sure it’s okay, I’ll accept it’s far above average even – but I won’t buy it offers the best picture quality. It won’t come as a surprise to you I believe the Nokia 808 PureView and the Nokia Lumia 1020 are King in this area.

Talking about Lumia, the Verge says: “You might find yourself looking at a Windows Phone like the Lumia Icon or the Lumia 925, but even though they have good cameras and hugely improved software thanks to Windows Phone 8.1, they still don’t have the app selection or general performance the best iOS and Android devices do.”.

When the smartphone camera is considered to be that important, not even mentioning the Nokia Lumia 1020 is almost hilarious. As I think the way The Verge is complaining about Windows Phone app selection and performance is pretty old-fashioned.

First runner up is the HTC One M8, although the camera is “the big compromise“. That’s sort of funny, since the camera was one of the most important reasons to prefer the iPhone 5S over everything else. It’s HTC’s design that wins here, since The Verge must know the second runner up simply has quite a bit more to offer.

Second runner up is the Samsung Galaxy S5, and the way The Verge is putting this smartphone down is seriously making me wonder if this wasn’t sponsored by Apple in the first place.

The Galaxy S5 “takes good but unspectacular pictures pretty much all the time. Actually anything about the S5 is good but unspectacular. I has a good screen, some useful software features and great battery life. And it’s waterproof, which I really like.

But it has a plasticy design, which is better than last year’s S4 but still not exactly attractive. And it’s still too full of overbearing and unnecessary software and bloopy sound effects to really be a great enjoyable device. There’s nothing terrible aobut the S5 except maybe the design, but there’s really nothing to be all that excited about either”.

Well… That reads like the S5 is actually very good in just about all respects (it’s even waterproof!) but the Verge simply doesn’t want to put it that way since the reviewer doesn’t like the design.

Other runners up are: Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Motorola Droid Maxx, Moto X – and as David Pierce puts it: “honestly that’s really the end of the list of phones you should consider“. Wait what?

Is the Verge seriously putting the Moto X in the same list as the Apple iPhone 5S, be it at the end of the list? There as so many other devices that could be put there. Is it because those are “not from America”? Speaking of which: where is the new Sony Xperia Z2? Where is the new LG G3? They certainly got very high marks in The Verge’s reviews.

This first episode of “this is my next” certainly looks very well produced and promising in that respect – as we may expect from the Verge. Other than that it looks like their advice about what should be your “next” is more about design than about pure quality.

As for me, the iPhone 5S would probably be my last choice. Here’s This Is My Next if you want to check it out all yourself. I wonder what you think.

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Nokia, bring more flagships to the battlefield

Recently at Computex, Microsoft has announced a few new Windows Phone devices coming from OEM’s like “Blu”, “Prestigio” and “Yezz” (see NeoWin,). It’s not really clear what these new Windows Phone devices will cost, but I assume these are all very affordable.

I’m convinced reaching out to “emerging markets” is the way to go – several major companies have reached a huge market with Android. Nokia has already been doing so for quite some time for Windows Phone (up to the point where they even introduced a Windows Phone look-alike on Android with the Nokia X-series).

Also during Computex, it has been hinted that HTC has a new Windows Phone device up its sleave, Samsung seems to have one coming up (the Ativ Core) and there are rumours about Sony and LG as well.

So far though, in the Battle of the Ecosystems, Nokia has almost been competely alone fighting for Windows Phone. The complete Windows Phone portfolio stilll depends on Nokia (now Microsoft Mobiles). And it’s a tough war to fight on your own.

Jeronymus-van-Diest-II-Het-opbrengen-van-het-Engelse-admiraalschip-de-Royal-Charles

The competition on Android has become overwhelming this year (like if it wasn’t last year or even the year before). But just look at this year’s most recent Android flagships. Samsung’s Galaxy S5, Sony’s Xperia Z2, HTC’s One M8, LG’s G3. As for completely “dedicated camera phones”, Samsung is releasing the Galaxy K Zoom with a 20MP sensor and 10x optical zoom. And there’s Apple of course, about to release the iPhone 6.

The Lumia 1020 was announced a year ago - a light-year in this industry. Even the next flagship Lumia 1520 is “from last year” (november). I really love it, but I do understand it’s simply too big for many customers. Meanwhile, Europe is still waiting for Nokia’s next flagship, the Lumia 930 (aka Icon in the US) – waiting for the official release of Windows Phone 8.1.

Now (more or less) three flagships in about a year isn’t that bad, but fighting for a complete ecosystem with only three modern devices a year looks like a mission impossible to me. In the same period Android has been showing off at least a dozen flagships, and of course even a lot more cheaper devices to please the crowds (and I’m aware of the fact the Lumia 520 was a bestseller for Windows Phone).

But I do wonder where the next PureView flagship with the famous 41MP camera sensor is? After all five years of R&D on the Nokia 808 PureView, the huge investment of bringing all those amazing innovations (PureView, Rich Recording, OIS) to the Lumia 1020 – where is its successor? What happened to “ZoomReinvented”? Did Nokia/Microsoft get bored with it?

1024px-Holman,_Cape_St_VincentDoes Nokia/Microsoft Mobiles need more flagships? Judging from the experience of just about all other smartphone companies, there simply is no other choice. It’s the flagship that gets the attention. Of course you’ll need a lot more less expensive products to sell to those who can’t afford it, but people will notice the brand thanks to its flagship.

It’s the Find 7 that got people interested in Oppo from China. A complete newcomer like OnePlus One gets major attention because it’s a flagship device (although it’s actually quite affordable). Apple hardly even cares about anything but the flagship (and its cheaper iPhone 5c even appeared to be quite disappointing).

For Microsoft, a new flagship device will be even more important – not just for the Nokia division it recently acquired, but also for the platform itself. No matter how good Joe Belfiore sells it, Windows Phone is in dire need of great ambassadors people can actually want to buy. Although I really get the focus on emerging markets and connecting the next billion et cetera – showing off with a a few extremely exciting flagships is quintessential.

Just like in the car industry: you will sell more of the less expensive products, but they won’t get you as much attention in all major media. It’s the flagship that really shows the world who you are and what you’re made of. It makes people long for your brand, hold it, use it, be part of it. The centuries old image is a metaphore for a reason: the flagship is the one to fight the war with.

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Two 20MP sensors compared: the Nokia Lumia 1520 vs the Sony Xperia Z2 (1)

Still waiting for the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom – the newest smartphone camera with a 20MP sensor – I can’t wait with sharing a few of the first results I got from the Nokia Lumia 1520 and Sony Xperia Z2. It’s interesting to note that 20MP seems to have become the new “standard” for high-end smartphone cameras by the way.

I’ll tell you a bit about my method of comparing. First I (usually accidently) find a scene I think worth looking at. I take several shots of that with the smartphones I’m testing, making sure the light is as constant as possible. Nowadays, when it’s very sunny outside, I usually choose the corresponding white balance on all devices.

After that I copy all the results to my PC, I check them in detail and pick what I believe is the very best from each device. Then I resize them – usually to 640 x 360 pixels, to fit this page. Next I either make crops in the same size, or I zoom in to 100% (using Picasa) and make a screenshot (like I’ve been doing in this case).

Finally, I start writing the post like I’m doing now, adding the shots and details as I go along. And doing so it’s in fact the first time I actually compare the results from the devices I’m testing myself. It has become a simple method I find not only easy but also fair, and it’s a way of surprising myself during the whole process as well :-)

With the Lumia 1520 and Xperia Z2 I made a few shots in bright and not-so-bright light – in this post you won’t find the “low light shots” a lot of you seem to appreciate so much (will work on those later). First, a scene from an antique store, captured pushing both devices directly on the window to avoid reflection.

The Nokia Lumia 1520 was set to 5MP/16MP (in 16:9 aspect ratio), I need to make two shots with the Sony Xperia Z2 – one in Superior Auto (8MP) and one in manual (15.5MP in 16:9). Where the Lumia 1520 will be more or less identical, we might see some small differences between both shots from the Xperia Z2.

In all comparisons, you’ll see the Lumia 1520 first, Xperia Z2 second. First you’ll see resized versions of the smaller results.

WP_20140602_09_02_49_Pro DSC_0044The second shot (Xperia Z2) is noticably brighter, but strangly enough also a bit more “yellowish”.  Let’s have a look at the crops. First from the 5MP (Nokia) and 8MP (Sony) results.

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Steve Litchfield compares 41MP PureView devices with 20.7 MP Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

Where does he get all those wonderful toys? was a famous quote I thought of when I saw Steve Litchfield’s impressive first comparison of the Nokia 808 PureView, Lumia 1020 and the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom. I’ve been begging to test this device, but apparantly it hasn’t landed in the Netherlands yet.

Steve’s already got his hands on it and was able to share a first impressive comparison. You’ll find all results in his Battle of the Best post. I could be quoting tons of stuff, but I feel it could take too much fun out of reading the whole thing, so the only thing I’m “quoting” is this great shot he took of all three competitors.

Steve Litchfield - 808-1020-kzoom

Why am I looking forward the to the Galaxy K Zoom so much? Because of its impressive 20.7 MP sensor of course. The Xenon Flash. Optical zoom! Its daring design – looks like a combination of the 808 and the 1020 judging from Steve’s shot above. There’s so much more I’m curious about – it will all just have to wait for my own quality time with the device.

As far as the 20MP devices are concerned, I’ve started comparing the Nokia Lumia 1520 with the all new Sony Xperia Z2 (I can test some beautiful toys myself now and again, too :-) Hope to share some more from those two devices soon myself! You’ll read Steve’s complete story here.

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A Dutch windmill, by three Nokia PureView devices, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Oppo Find 7a

Yesterday was one of those typical sunny / cloudy days in The Netherlands. And I happened to be close to another typical Dutch scene: a windmill. But before showing you the shots and crops I got from the Nokia 808 PureView, Lumia 1020 and Lumia 930, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Oppo Find 7A, I’d like to touch on another theme.

On other sites I often read people reacting “mobile cameras are only good for snapshots”. Others wonder what all these MegaPixels are worth – “you’re not ever going to decorate your living room wall with one of your shots, are you?”

Well, no-one is I guess. But remember the VGA (640 x 480 pixels ) shot printed on A4 paper? You could recognize what it was, but that’s it. Since the 5MP mobile camera, like on the Nokia N95, printing on A4 became a serious possibility. I have some great family shots in my home captured with the N95.

The higher the resolution, the more details you’ll see or get to work with. It will enable you to make sharper printed results, or bigger prints with great quality. And it will provide you with the possibility to zoom in (and crop) your shots before sharing or printing.

So that’s why I keep zooming in at 100% and keep making crops – just to compare which mobile will give you the best detailed result. It’s not just about sharing your shots on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or wherever – it’s a search for the very best imaging quality you can get out of your smartphone.

Most visitors here know all this of course, I just felt I needed to explain it once more, since I’ll be sharing a lot of shots and crops in this post (and the future :-)

Back to the Dutch windmill. I grew up next to this mill, saw it working countless times. But you know what it’s like when you’re young: you get used to anything and think it’s normal. Only later you’ll realize it’s pretty special, especially to others.

I captured it with five smartphones: three Nokia PureView devices (808, 1020, 930), the new Samsung Galaxy S5 and even newer Oppo Find 7A (the Find 7 isn’t even on the market yet and like I wrote before, the camera is the same on both).

Let’s start with one of the 5MP results, from the Lumia 1020. Just to make sure: this is just an order I chose to present these shots, I’m not suggesting they will get better the more MP you’ll see. The first presentation of these shots is not about MP, but about coloring.Windmill - Nokia Lumia 1020 5MP

In the shot coming from the Lumia 930, you’ll see the light is quite different, thanks to the sun peeping through the clouds. In fact – just my luck – it was only with the Lumia 1020 that I captured the windmill in the shade (the inevitable odd one out).

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