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What makes two smartphone cameras different?

So I'm looking around for a new phone and I'm realising that two 8MP cameras (for example) could be really different? What are the technical things to look out for with smartphone cameras? Flash is obvious (even to me!) - anything else?

Most Useful Answer JanSt  Sep. 8, 2014 at 12:43

The dual-cam gimmick of the HTC One M8 lets you apply some cool effects - cool for 3 visits to the pub and a show and tell and ooh ooh aaaah... Little that you cannot achieve with some free editing apps. Having said that: the One M8 has a good camera nonetheless. It's strengths are the speed and low light performance. It has problems with high contrast scenarios - bright background and dark object. But it's a good camera. And because it's 4MP (UltraPixels or whatever) the resulting filesize is smaller than that of you common 13 or 16 MP phone cam.

The HTC One M7 - i.e. the original One - lacks the dual cam gimmick. Instead it has OIS which makes it even (a tad) better in low-light, burst shots etc...

What you want otherwise: good sensor, aperture. And fast autofocus and shutter.
Also: e.g. the high-end Lumias take excellent photos, but it can take a while for the image to save so you can review it - especially with the Nokia Lenses. It also takes a tad longer to be ready for the next photo. Rumours are MS/Nokia improved on that with the next software update called "Denim", but that isn't out yet.
The iPhone 5S rocks in that regard. Its captured images are dumped in the RAM and then saved to the memory. That gives the illusion/effect of very very speedy performance. You hardly notice the image is already taken. The 5S is also very good in low light - though:not as good as the One/s.
As to flash: I usually do not ever use 'flash'. If I do it's in situations where being able to see
something overrides any aesthetics ;)
The iPhone 5S has dual LEDs - in 2 different colour tones. The idea is to give a warmer effect. And unless you get too close to your object it works. Proper Flash leaves you pretty much with the Lumia 1020 - it has LED AND a proper Xenon Flash. The good thing about the Nokia Lumia 1020: the camera is very good, and WP 8.1 made it really really fast. Though it's dual-core only, I find mine much faster and smoother than the newer quad-core 930 and 1520.
And again: there is no better smartphone camera - both for video AND photos. Maybe the iPhone "6" can do something about it - rumours suggest it/they will have OIS or some clever
other hard- or software process to deliver OIS-like performance. It also seems Blackberry
bet their future on the Passport. It's camera specs (as 'leaked' thus far) suggest it may well be a good one.

Anyhoo... do not go by any one spec item... There's more to it than sensor size and MP number.
On 'paper' and reduced to some feature items the iPhone 5S shouldn't be as good as it actually is compared to the Htc Ones or the Z-series by Sony (which, btw.... Meh!) or the Lumias.
Read some good reviews that offer sample images. As to the Lumias: find Richard Dorman on Flickr. He's got excellent unedited images taken with all the Lumia models. Oh, here he is.

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JanSt / MOD  Sep. 8, 2014 at 12:43

The dual-cam gimmick of the HTC One M8 lets you apply some cool effects - cool for 3 visits to the pub and a show and tell and ooh ooh aaaah... Little that you cannot achieve with some free editing apps. Having said that: the One M8 has a good camera nonetheless. It's strengths are the speed and low light performance. It has problems with high contrast scenarios - bright background and dark object. But it's a good camera. And because it's 4MP (UltraPixels or whatever) the resulting filesize is smaller than that of you common 13 or 16 MP phone cam.

The HTC One M7 - i.e. the original One - lacks the dual cam gimmick. Instead it has OIS which makes it even (a tad) better in low-light, burst shots etc...

What you want otherwise: good sensor, aperture. And fast autofocus and shutter.
Also: e.g. the high-end Lumias take excellent photos, but it can take a while for the image to save so you can review it - especially with the Nokia Lenses. It also takes a tad longer to be ready for the next photo. Rumours are MS/Nokia improved on that with the next software update called "Denim", but that isn't out yet.
The iPhone 5S rocks in that regard. Its captured images are dumped in the RAM and then saved to the memory. That gives the illusion/effect of very very speedy performance. You hardly notice the image is already taken. The 5S is also very good in low light - though:not as good as the One/s.
As to flash: I usually do not ever use 'flash'. If I do it's in situations where being able to see
something overrides any aesthetics ;)
The iPhone 5S has dual LEDs - in 2 different colour tones. The idea is to give a warmer effect. And unless you get too close to your object it works. Proper Flash leaves you pretty much with the Lumia 1020 - it has LED AND a proper Xenon Flash. The good thing about the Nokia Lumia 1020: the camera is very good, and WP 8.1 made it really really fast. Though it's dual-core only, I find mine much faster and smoother than the newer quad-core 930 and 1520.
And again: there is no better smartphone camera - both for video AND photos. Maybe the iPhone "6" can do something about it - rumours suggest it/they will have OIS or some clever
other hard- or software process to deliver OIS-like performance. It also seems Blackberry
bet their future on the Passport. It's camera specs (as 'leaked' thus far) suggest it may well be a good one.

Anyhoo... do not go by any one spec item... There's more to it than sensor size and MP number.
On 'paper' and reduced to some feature items the iPhone 5S shouldn't be as good as it actually is compared to the Htc Ones or the Z-series by Sony (which, btw.... Meh!) or the Lumias.
Read some good reviews that offer sample images. As to the Lumias: find Richard Dorman on Flickr. He's got excellent unedited images taken with all the Lumia models. Oh, here he is.

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