Smartphone Camera Showdown

I'm a strong believer in objective comparison - I can opine for pages about the cameras and what I think about them, but ultimately you have to see the difference and make conclusions on your own. After all, the differences are obvious. For these camera reviews, I visited 7 different locations and took photos and one video with a number of phones. I'm going to do this for every phone I get my hands on, and build up a running comparison so we can really get a feeling for camera image quality. We're starting out with just a few, but I've got more for some phone reviews that aren't fully finished that'll come soon. ;)

We're working on a rollover table and gallery mashup that will let you view and compare all of the bench photos in an easy manner, but it isn't complete yet. Look for it soon, though!

Until then, all of the images are available in a zip file at full resolution (42 MB) here, and I've chosen one of the 7 locations to inline for comparison below.

iPhone 3GS

HTC Droid Incredible

Motorola Droid

Nokia N900

There are also videos from each of the phones at the highest quality settings, and uploaded them to YouTube. For these videos, I haven't made any modifications or edits, just uploaded the videos in their native formats from the desktop:

iPhone 3GS

HTC Droid Incredible

Motorola Droid

Nokia N900

These should give you a pretty good feel for camera performance in a variety of locations - bright and dark, and of subjects with lots of colors. Where the N900's video is both higher resolution and crisper, the Motorola Droid's looks a bit noisy and seems to have a lower bitrate. The iPhone 3GS actually seems the most fluid in practice, though it adjusts exposure very aggressively while panning from the brightly-lit intersection to the shadowed wall across the street.

It's pretty apparent that the N900's camera is superior to the Motorola Droid's. The Motorola Droid's camera could use a bit more saturation and appears to have totally missed focus on the first image of the tree, if not a couple other images. I took the best photo of a few - all of these were marginal. The N900's camera is shockingly good - rivaling the HTC Incredible's in a number of cases. Interestingly, the HTC Incredible totally misses white balance in image 6, appearing way too blue.

There's quite a bit of variety in image aspect ratio and focal length between all of the cameras. Keep in mind I stood in the same location for all these tests.
 

Camera Comparison Display Comparison: N900, Motorola Droid, Droid Incredible
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  • tarunactivity - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    a notable omission:

    The FM receiver on the N900 requires Bluetooth to be switched on. So if you want FM, you need to plugin your earphones + enable bluetooth.

    Kind of counter productive , if you ask me,and surely a waste of power.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    Ahh, you're totally right. I think I glossed over that because I already had Bluetooth on, but it makes sense now since the FM radio is on that same piece of silicon.

    I wonder how much of a difference it makes on battery - had it disabled for those other tests of course.

    -Brian Klug
    Reply
  • asdasd246246 - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    I'm sure the Nokia has sweet hardware, but it's still all plastic..
    Plastic screen that will scratch the first 10 minutes you own it, and a friend has a similar model without a keyboard, and the plasticness is so horrible I shudder.. -_-
    Reply
  • legoman666 - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    I've had the N900 since last November. No screen protector, no case. Not 1 scratch. So speak for yourself, maybe you ought to put your phone in a separate pocket as your keys. Reply
  • legoman666 - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    back: http://imgur.com/tf6RE.jpg

    front: http://imgur.com/XDsyI.jpg
    Reply
  • akse - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    The case is somewhat plastic yeah.. but it hasn't really bothered me so much. I have only a few tiny tiny scratches on the screen, you can only spot them by mirroring a clean screen against bright light.

    At the back I have a few bigger scratches because the phone fell on concrete..
    Reply
  • Calin - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    I have a 1200-series Nokia phone, which I keep in the same pocket as the keys, and the display is in a serviceable condition after more than two years of abuse Reply
  • arnavvdesai - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    Actually, the Symbian OS- Nokia's No.1 Smartphone OS is more open with entire OS(including the core APIs) being Open Source. Symbian is more open than Android. Reply
  • Talcite - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    That's only true for symbian^3 and newer OSes. Only the Nokia N8 is currently shipping S^3 I believe.

    You should also mention that the Maemo 5 OS has many binary packages to get all the cellular hardware and PowerVR GPU working.

    Anyways, it definitely has more support for the FOSS community than android though as far as I know. You're free to flash your own ROMs without needing to root it and you don't need to do weird stuff with java VMs. Just a simple recompile for ARM and support for Qt I think.
    Reply
  • teohhanhui - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    Nokia N8 is still far from "currently shipping"... Reply

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