iPhone 5s vs. Lumia 1020 – Real-life Camera Comparison

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For the past couple of weeks I’ve been testing a Nokia Lumia 1020. Its biggest (and perhaps only) talking point is its 41 megapixel camera. It’s an insane number of pixels to cram in to a smartphone camera sensor. More pixels on a small sensor normally means poor quality imaging, but many have been hyping up the awesomeness of Nokia’s all-camera device. So, I had to put it to test against what I – and many others – believe is the best all-round smartphone camera system on the market: iPhone 5s.

While it doesn’t have as many pixels as the Nokia, it has some fancy image processing, lets in good light and its shutter speed is impressively quick. But how do images compare for everyday photography?

It’s important to note that whenever I compare cameras on smartphones I do my utmost to make it fair. That means shooting the shot from the same distance, focussing on the same subject in the same lighting conditions and not touching any settings. Leaving everything on automatic. If I wanted to test Nokia Lumia’s customizable “professional” settings against the iPhone, I could have done it through downloading a third party app, but I decided to go all-auto to see what happened. After all, most consumers will never change any settings on their phone camera.

i5s setup

i5s setup

1020 setup

1020 setup

The one thing you’ll notice immediately is the amount of light let in by the Nokia in lower light conditions. The image is much brighter, but that does have its issues here and there. Look at the striped cushion on top of the bass amplifier. The iPhone’s image picks up the stripes perfectly, where as the over-expsure on the Nokia fades the two colors in to each other, leaving no definite stripes.

i5s logs

i5s logs

1020 logs

1020 logs

One area that always surprises me with the iPhone 5s is the depth of color and contrast on the end image. Looking at the colors of the wood and the moss, there’s slightly more tone and vivid-ness to the iPhone’s picture. And unless you blew both images up to a larger size, you don’t notice too much difference in sharpness.

i5s telecaster

i5s telecaster

1020 telecaster

1020 telecaster

As I mentioned earlier, the Nokia’s lowlight performance is impressive. The Telecaster’s headstock is almost exactly the color your eye would see in good light. Its maple-yellow tone is much better than on the iPhone’s almost pine-colored look.

i5s oil

i5s oil

1020 oil

1020 oil

Again, the Lumia outperforms the iPhone. It captures much more of the rainbow-like effect left on the road.

i5s flowers

i5s flowers

1020 flowers

1020 flowers

Here’s one that really surprised me. I was testing the camera’s auto-exposure. Normally, focussing on the dark part of the image would force the camera to boost exposure, making the brighter parts of the image pure-white. The affect you see in the iPhone’s image is much more like what I’d expect. Lumia, no matter how many times I tried refocusing kept the image dark and showed the detail on the curtain behind the flowers. It was pretty weird. iPhone clearly shows better detail and color on the leaves and flower petals.

i5s luke

i5s luke

If you’ve been reading many of my ōlloclip reviews, you’ll know I like to take a lot of close-up or macro shots. In this case, I clearly haven’t used any extra macro lenses, but I wanted a close-up of my Luke Skywalker keychain. On the iPhone (above) you can see it’s pretty well in focus, and even manages to add a bokeh (background de-focus) of sorts. The Lumia, on the other hand, did not want to play ball. I tried taking the image 6-7 times, even moving further back, but it just didn’t want to focus on Luke. The best result is below:

1020 luke

1020 luke

As you can see, my “best” attempt with the Nokia was taken further back, and still just wouldn’t focus. I tried the same with a few other objects, and it seems it’s just a common problem with the Lumia. It does not like close-ups. I had the same issue with the 925 and 920 when I tried those last year.

i5s sky focus

i5s sky focus

1020 sky focus

1020 sky focus

Here’s one  shot that impressed me with the Lumia. Like I mentioned with my shot of the flowers. Focussing on the brighter parts of the image normally darkens the image, focussing on the dark parts does the opposite. In this case, I focussed on the same point in the sky just next to the chimney in the background. The iPhone made the railway really dark, in fact, you wouldn’t see it but for the light reflecting off the steel tracks. Lumia – on the other hand – manages to get the detail and contrast in the sky and clouds and still boost exposure in the bottom 2/3rds of the photo. I was well impressed. Even using HDR on the iPhone didn’t achieve results like that.

i5s fruit

i5s fruit

1020 fruit

1020 fruit

I took the image of our fruit bowl to see how both cameras handled bright colors. I have to note, again, the Lumia did not like focussing on the Apple which was closer to the lens than the tangerines. However, it did capture more life-like colors on this occasion. The iPhone darkened the image, added more contrast and depth.

i5s coffee shop

i5s coffee shop

1020 coffee shop

1020 coffee shop

It may just look like a random shot of a shop, but there was good reason for me grabbing the shot of my local, traditional coffee shop. It’s the only place in my city that roasts its coffee beans on location so 1) It smelled amazing. 2) That large extractor fan to the left of the shot pumps out clouds of smoke from the roasting process, and I wanted to see how the cameras picked it up. Smoke and steam are hard things to shoot, and both struggled. But, there’s clearly more visible in the Nokia’s photo.

i5s hirise

i5s hirise

1020 hirise

1020 hirise

The last set of images are all about one thing: detail and zoom. Lumia’s extra pixels should mean that the details are much clearer when you zoom in. So, I stuck the miniature model (supplied with the phone) on top of my HiRise. Ignoring the fact that the iPhone’s colors on the shot seem far more natural this time. (Lumia’s end image is pretty yellow, tone-wise – perhaps faulty White-balance).

5s lumia

 

There’s clearly no competition here. The iPhone’s end results on zooming in to the image is less smooth. Edges are jagged and pixelated, making it much harder to see any detail. The Lumia is the opposite. Edges are pretty smooth considering the size of the subject and its distance from the camera. It’s still not completely noise free, but it’s good. The ability to reframe the shot within the camera app UI is very cool.

End Thoughts

Would the Lumia replace my iPhone? No. It wouldn’t. There are lots of advantages to the 1020. Most important is that it allows you a huge range of customizable settings. You can set ISO levels, shutter speed, white balance. All the things you could do on a bespoke camera. And that’s the problem. Using the iPhone’s camera is great because you really can just point and shoot and – in most instances – get good results. To get great results with the Lumia in a lot of instances requires a lot of fiddling with settings. I may as well grab my DSLR.

On the whole though, the Lumia is a fantastic camera. It’s sharper, copes vary well with contrasting light conditions and massively outperforms the iPhone in lowlight. It might not be my cup of tea, personally, but it could well be yours.

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  • poke493

    TodaysiPhone Lumia is good at low light. But it then bleaches the photos.

  • DrewPage

    I think that if you take lots of low light photos, and don’t want to carry a bulky DSLR all the time, the 1020 is a must.  Otherwise, you are much better off with the 5s, and your trusty DSLR.

  • EwenRankin

    jasonhooper99 considering he started with the iphone as his stated favourite the 1020 did well. Its a way better camera and the fiddling

  • EwenRankin

    jasonhooper99 comment is BS. There is not comparison to field of view and balance across the whole image. The flower shot showed that

  • EwenRankin

    jasonhooper99 also with 1020 shooting DNG uncompressed files, any exposure issues are easily recovered…and there arent many

  • jasonhooper99

    EwenRankin Thanks Ewen – appreciate the balanced comments. Also – do you recommend Flickr as a cloud based back up for 30k pictures?

  • EwenRankin

    jasonhooper99 i dont recommende any cloud system for backups

  • jasonhooper99

    EwenRankin As a third back up – I have Time Machine & clone back up so additional level.

  • EwenRankin

    jasonhooper99 fine

  • jasonhooper99

    EwenRankin Thanks Ewen – was looking at Everpix initially but they went bust.

  • EwenRankin

    jasonhooper99 such is the transient notion that what youre getting is really a ‘backup’

  • DeveshSharma

    Low light photos do appear darker and less detailed on iPhone 5s (I have been comparing it to s4; note3) , but when adjusted for exposure with iPhoto app, it’s an amazing result, the details pop out like magic with not so much of noise either, and then they appear better than the preprocessed pics of lumina n galaxy,, so all in all iPhone has a more natural capturing.

  • andycoydwilson

    Nokia_Connects TiP_Cam a well balanced review from a iPhone fan, maybe needs more time with the Lumia to #Switch

  • Macca_Chief

    Nokia_Connects TiP_Cam ‘I may as well grab my DSLR’ – but what if u don’t have it? And u mostly always have your phone…

  • ThisIsMetro

    Nokia_Connects TiP_Cam About the macro (close up) shots: The 1020 should never be held closer than 15 cm to the object (to get focus).

  • Macca_Chief

    Nokia_Connects TiP_Cam Also, I’ll raise u a Boba Fett – the Macro comparison was nonsense when u can zoom AFTER! http://t.co/h22XvftNxo

  • Macca_Chief

    Nokia_Connects TiP_Cam And here u go… Zoomed AFTER the photo was taken. No changing settings to take the photo. http://t.co/kYjsJjFGIu

  • Macca_Chief

    Nokia_Connects TiP_Cam other than that, the review was good ;-)

  • mrcfield

    Macca_Chief I prefer my 925 because I really dislike the macro on the 1020.

  • Macca_Chief

    mrcfield but u can zoom in! That’s the whole point?! Lol

  • TiP_Cam

    Macca_Chief Nokia_Connects You can zoom after, but then it’s not really a close-up, and it’s not an accurate or fair comparison…

  • TiP_Cam

    Macca_Chief Nokia_Connects … also, Boba Fett definitely trumps Luke. ;-)

  • Macca_Chief

    TiP_Cam Nokia_Connects i thought my zoomed Boba Fett looked great??! Also, i want an R2D2 ;-)

  • TiP_Cam

    Macca_Chief i have Leia with a gun, riding a Y-Wing fighter… ;-)

  • TiP_Cam
  • Macca_Chief

    TiP_Cam WANT!! though i think my wife would stop it entering our house… ;-)

  • TiP_Cam

    Macca_Chief My wife bought me that for Christmas in 2012. ;-)

  • mrcfield

    Macca_Chief I was never happy with the quality of the zoomed in images. Always quite grainy for macro. Medium distance is ok.

  • Macca_Chief

    TiP_Cam Lucky u!! I have far too much Halo stuff around to house to start buying a lot of Lego too! Haha ;-)

  • Macca_Chief

    mrcfield you sold the 1020 on then?

  • belon1986

    mrcfield Macca_Chief Chris.. You could use the zoom to capture closer object indeed.. That’s the oversampling used for

  • mrcfield

    belon1986 Macca_Chief but isn’t that just digital zoom?

  • Jamie Rhoades

    I am an iphoneographer through and through. I was surprised to see the amount of light Nokia lets in. The landscape shot looked nice too. Though, iphone could have the same result using the on screen focus/exposure. Hands down iPhone 5s camera is magical. Interesting, and good read here. Saw this on Google+, where I post my iphoneography daily. Thanks~ Jamie Rhoades.

  • MSCCAG

    Lumia 1020 caméra de protection

    Lumia 1020 cas de couleur orange vif

    Il est nécessaire d’avoir un protecteur de cuir, effet d’éviter les dommages causés par la chute par accident.not seulement de protéger la lentille de la caméra. également de protéger l’écran.

    cette conception est un véritable cas antichoc, totalement souple.

    Est fabriqué à partir gadget2us

  • Julius

    Both camera did well. I will choose the iP5. Thank you for sharing. I would like to recommend you a wireless charger for iphone 5/5s and here is the link

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EB45UYM/

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSF90II/

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HFPK1EI/

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HFPK1CK/