Nokia Lumia 925 vs. iPhone 5: Camera Shootout [Updated with low-light shots]

Lumia 925 vs iPhone 5

Last time out, Nokia’s Lumia 920 was released with the promise of having the best lowlight shots on a regular smartphone and so much the same was expected by its successor. The Lumia 925 boasts an 8MP camera, matching the iPhone for pixel count. But, can the Lumia do what many other handset cameras can’t, and beat the iPhone 5′s snapper for all-round performance? I decided to take the two handsets out for a walk to compare them.

As with all my camera comparisons I make them as fair as possible. I don’t touch any settings (except to make the Nokia’s the same 4:3 ratio as the iPhone), they’re all on auto or default. When taking the image, I attempt to focus on the same part of the scene, and take it from exactly the same position. Lightning conditions can be slightly variable in outdoors scenes, but given the photos are normally taken within a few seconds of each other, there’s little time for any change.

When looking at the differences I compare sharpness, color reproduction, contrast and noise among other things to see which camera takes the best photographs in real-world tests. After all, anyone taking photos with a phone is doing so in normal day to day life, the number of passionate Phoneographers may be growing, but we’re very much still the minority.

Spade - iPhone 5

Spade – iPhone 5

Spade - Lumia 925

Spade – Lumia 925

What I’ve found in past tests with other devices is that the iPhone’s images tend to be a little more faded and natural looking. But, in this case, the iPhone’s photograph shows a much deeper and vivid clay color. Contrast levels are good on the iPhone’s too, as the Lumia shows a slightly over-exposed image. There are settings within the Lumia’s camera app to adjust ISO levels, and change the scene mode, but as mentioned, I left everything in auto since that’s the default for the iPhone 5. Clearly, in some instances, the Lumia’s auto processing isn’t quite as hot as it should be.

Tele - iPhone 5

Tele – iPhone 5

Tele - Lumia

Tele – Lumia

Auto whit balance showed a clear difference in the two devices again as the iPhone 5′s photograph shows a much more true to life representation of the coloring of the Telecaster’s headstock and the wall paint. That said, both images are really great quality overall when you look at sharpness and depth of field. The acoustic nylon string guitar in the background is nicely blurred on both images.

Railway - iPhone 5

Railway – iPhone 5

Railway - Lumia

Railway – Lumia

This time around, the Lumia didn’t over expose, attempting to create a more balanced image. One thing I did try while shooting the railway was using the iPhone’s HDR setting (something I couldn’t find on the Lumia) to see what the difference would be. Obviously I can’t compare too much with the 925, but it was interesting to see the difference it made.

Railway HDR - iPhone

Railway HDR – iPhone

Unless I’m completely dense, I couldn’t find a similar feature on Nokia’s phone. However, there are a few options in the Windows app store, so don’t let the lack of a default camera setting put you off the Nokia.

Flowers - iPhone 5

Flowers – iPhone 5

Flowers - Lumia

Flowers – Lumia

Colors are great on both, with the iPhone (oddly again) being the one with the more vivid colors. The pinks in the flower petals definitely “pop” a little more on the iPhone’s photography. It’s not that immediately noticeable, and it’s certainly not something which would persuade me to buy one device over the other.

Fence - iPhone 5

Fence – iPhone 5

Fence - Lumia

Fence – Lumia

One thing that keeps cropping up for me is the tendency for the Nokia to over-expose in daylight scenes. It washes out a lot of the depth in contrast and color, something which is clearly apparent in the fence images. The iPhone’s has a much more earthy and realistic depth to it, the shadows and lines are more defined which helps give it a more real look.

All in all, I do prefer the iPhone’s daylight shots to the Lumia’s but the telling difference will be when I upload low light shots a little later this evening. Look out for an update to this post after 5pm Eastern/10pm British Summer Time.

Daylight Gallery

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Low Light Shots

As promised, an update to the post to include some lowlight shots. They’re all in a gallery at the end of the post, but I’d like to highlight a couple of interesting points. Firstly, the built in LED flash. Nokia’s has a dual-LED flash which (logically) would suggest twice the brightness.

Banister - iPhone 5

Banister – iPhone 5

Banister - Lumia

Banister – Lumia

As you can see clearly from the images above, the Lumia outperforms the iPhone considerably in low light situations. The iPhone produces dark images with too much noise. Nokia’s Lumia on the other hand – although producing some noise – picks up a lot of light and does a good job of picking out the colors even in less than optimal conditions.

Night Tree - iPhone 5 w/Flash

Night Tree – iPhone 5 w/Flash

Night Tree - Lumia w/Flash

Night Tree – Lumia w/Flash

I tested out the two flashes  to see if Nokia’s extra LED made any difference. It’s pretty remarkable how much brighter the flash is. Although I don’t generally use a flash at all in any of my photography, it’s nice to know that if any of my friends are taking the usual late night club shots that I’ll be able to see more than just one person’s face in the foreground.

Check out the gallery below to see all the lowlight images compared.

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