Smartphone Camera Shootout 2013

Round 8: Night Portrait Without Flash

During this test we photographed our subject outdoors at night with the flash turned off to see which camera captures the most natural light.


1. Nokia Lumia 920: The Lumia 920 produces the brightest photos in dim environments than any other camera we’ve tested. The subject is clear and in focus and the exposure is perfect, although the color isn’t completely accurate. There’s still that blue tint over the image, but there’s no denying that this is the brightest image you’ll get without using a flash.


2. Apple iPhone 5: The color is great in this image, but the exposure is could be better. We can clearly see the colors on our subject’s shirt.


3. HTC One: There’s no doubt about it—the HTC One has the best exposure and the best color, but the image is out of focus. This would have been No. 1 if the image were sharper.

MORE: 5 Best T-Mobile Smartphones


4. Sony Xperia ZL: The Sony Xperia ZL takes brighter photos than some of its competitors, but it still isn’t good enough to be the best. We can see detail in the subject’s face and clothing, such as the texture of his beard and the pattern on his shirt.


5. LG Optimus G Pro: The subject in this image looks fairly sharp. There’s a green filter over the Optimus G Pro’s photo, but it’s not as prominent as it is in the Blackberry Z10’s image.


6. BlackBerry Z10: There’s a slight green tone to this one, but it’s not a bad photo. We can fully see the subject’s face, although it still should be brighter.


7. Motorola Droid RAZR HD: This image is much darker than it should be, but we can see the subject’s face. We can make out his skin tone, his glasses and his beard; in worser images the subject seems to fade into the background.

MORE: Radiation Extremes: 5 Highest & Lowest Rated Smartphones


8. Google Nexus 4: The Nexus 4’s photo here is on the dark side. You can see a little more detail in the subject’s shirt than in the S4, although facial features are difficult to decipher.


9. Samsung Galaxy S4: Without its flash or low-light mode, the Galaxy S4’s photos are tough to make out. We could barely see our subject’s face when taking photos outside on a dark street. There’s also a lot of noise in this image.

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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