Smartphone Camera Shootout 2013

Round 1: Outdoor Daytime Scenic Shot

We took our nine smartphones out on a sunny day in New York City to see which handset captured the best daytime scenic image. We took each photo in the same exact location at around the same time with the settings on Auto.


1. Samsung Galaxy S4: We found that the Galaxy S4’s photo showcased the best overall image quality. The color isn’t perfect, but we found it be the most accurate.


2. Apple iPhone 5: The detail isn’t as sharp as some of the others, such as the HTC One, but the iPhone 5’s image has more detail in light areas than any other we captured.

MORE: 10 Best iPhone Apps You’re Not Using


3. Sony Xperia ZL: The detail is a little soft in this photo, but overall the ZL nails it when it comes to color and lighting.


4. HTC One: This image is sharp overall, but could use some more contrast. It’s also slightly dark, but its not as noticeable in this image as it is in other One photos we took.


5. Nokia Lumia 920: Colors came through loud and vibrantly in the Lumia 820’s image, but these colors aren’t quite accurate. You can particularly tell when looking at the red in the street sign, which looks a little too magenta. The leaves on the trees also aren’t as detailed as some of the other images.


6. LG Optimus G Pro: LG’s newest flagship also snapped a photo that was a little too dark, but colors were mostly accurate.

MORE: Top 10 iPhone Alternatives


7. BlackBerry Z10: While the exposure in the BlackBerry Z10’s photo is better than that of the Nokia and LG, the detail appeared soft when we expanded the image to full capacity on our calibrated monitors.


8. Motorola Droid RAZR: Similar to the Nexus 4, the Motorola Droid RAZR’s exposure was too dark and the color seemed inaccurate. This is particularly noticeable when looking at the sky, which looks much deeper and darker than it should.


9. Google Nexus 4: Google’s Nexus 4 performed the worst during this test. In this image of several buildings in New York City’s Flatiron District, we found the color to be inaccurate and the exposure too dark.

Smartphone Camera Shootout

Lisa Eadicicco
Lisa Eadicicco
Lisa has been reporting on all things mobile for since early 2013. When she’s not reviewing gadgets, she’s usually browsing patent databases or interviewing experts to track down the hottest tech trends before they even happen. Lisa holds a B.A. in Journalism from SUNY Purchase and has contributed to The International Business Times, The New York Daily News and Guitar World Magazine.
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  1. jb82 Says:

    You give 1st place to a camera that produced grainy or hazy or inaccurate color photos most of the time! 2nd place to one that is out of focus half the time.

    You need to work on your focus across the range – half the shots are out of focus and I imagine that is down to the taker not the camera. For instance the HTC one is known for good macro shots. Yours didn’t even focus on the main flower in the center!

  2. Joseph Chen Says:

    Ummm……which smartphone placed 2nd in the “Night Portrait with Flash” category?

  3. Yanbo Says:


    Just curious to know, why you’ve left Nokia PureView 808 out of competition?


  4. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Hi Yanbo,

    Thanks for your question. We wanted to include a Lumia device since that’s more readily available in the U.S. It’s a device consumers are more likely to purchase.


  5. Todd McGrew Says:

    What’s so obvious is that everything yall publish comparing smartphones yall favor iPhone. Sorry to rain in on your parade buddybut iI’m a professional photographer and have personally compared iPhone 5, iPhone 4s, Samsung Galaxy SIII, and Samsung Galaxy S4. It wasn’t even close. Both Galaxy’s outperformed even the iPhone 5. All my shots/tests were concluded under well controlled conditions. ie: professional climate. Also it may be worth mentioning that I was biased prior to these examinations in that I’m an American and I was pulling for the domestic products. However, to my complete dismay the Samsung(s) were far superior in almost every control group. After reading your article I can say without any reasonable doubt that you, my friend, are extensively more biased than even I. Which leads me to believe that you/your magazine may just have some monetary incentives for publishing such blatant misinformation.

  6. Cornell Tramontana Says:

    1. Did you use the same metering-mode for each picture in a given round? The range of exposures in “Round 8: Night Portrait without Flash” me wonder whether the same metering-mode was used for all smart-phone cameras in that round.
    2. As far as color accuracy in Round 8, the color rendition would be influenced by the artificial lighting;as such, color accuracy not be expected to be correct.

  7. bobAbooey Says:

    For goodness sake, they’re phones, not actual cameras, all of them took good pictures in one form or another.
    NONE of them took Great pictures in every (or even any) category.

  8. Shani Says:

    Just interested to know if anyone can tell me which smartphone is best to take pics of moving objects (my daughter)? And also which ones have a fast response time? Drives me crazy having to wait for it to focus before taking a shot. Thanks :)

  9. Azure Says:

    Sorry but my iPHone 5 is well capable to shoot much better pics than those seen here….Especially with 3rd party apps where you can control WB, Light, Exposure and the final Jpeg process…..


  10. Carl T Says:

    You may want to double-check the scorecard. If you look in the last column, you’ll see there are two phones with rank 8 and none with rank 2. The opposite is true in the second to last column.

  11. Some Guy Says:

    Well I have to say Azure is clearly a biased Apple zealot. Why focus on the iPhone 5 as any phone could take great pictures when using 3rd party apps to clean things up. It’s sad that iPhone lovers are such bigots, they act like nothing else can possibly compare to Apple. Too funny…

  12. David Spahr Says:

    When it comes to evaluating phone cameras, you don’t know what you are doing. Did I find out what I wanted to know? Absolutely not. The reviewers are as bad as the cameras. Close up? Exposure compensation? Flash adjustment? Slow synch? Your comments about contrast and sharpness are absurd. Edges too sharp? You prefer chromatic abberation? Too much contrast? Seriously? Fogginess, haziness is acceptable? Whaaat????

  13. David Spahr Says:

    The really absurd thing about this review is that you comment that the iPhone has lower sharpness (and obviously lower contrast) in the outdoor scenic shot and put it at number 2 as if to suggest it is even remotely in the same league as the Galaxy 4 right above it. All of my landscapes would look like that? I would take a few pictures like that and immediately shop for another camera. Any camera that makes that kind of a “scenic” is last in my book. Anyone comparing image no. 1 with no. 2 will immediately spot your bias.

  14. Deirdre Says:

    Please get rid of those ANNOYING ads!

  15. saalik Says:

    AAAAnd the iPhone is not made in america…………

  16. Michael Says:

    One phone (which isn’t exactly mainsteam i get that) which could outperform any of these is the Lumia 1020 with a 41mp camera, I have a Huawei ascend mate (which is more of a tablet) and im not exactly pro Nokia, i find the phones too colourful and look more like toys.. But this test was to see which smartphone has the better camera, not which smartphone that allot of people own has the best camera.. This test in that sense was pretty useless.. Sorry, but it’s my opinion

  17. Vikki Virad Says:

    HA HA hA Apple fan girl exaggerated the whole scenario

  18. seth Says:

    wow, what a bunch of complainers… this review was helpful and I exactly what I was looking for. thank you

  19. Sondra Says:

    Have to say I use my iPhone 5 for taking lots of photos. Rarely do they have to be adjusted! I take sports photos of my kids and everything. I use Pro Camera which is amazing and takes great pictures. So yes you can take great pictures with the iPhone5.

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