The Galaxy S4 has proven to be a worthy successor to the S3 in almost every respect and is the phone we’d recommend if you're shopping in the high-end space right now. We’ve already compared the camera to its predecessor and it’s now time to compare it to the other flagships like the HTC One and the Nokia Lumia 920. Unfortunately, the Xperia Z will sit this one out since we didn’t get one from Sony in time.

We’ve conducted our tests under a variety of lighting conditions and different subjects to see just how good today’s flagship handsets are at imaging. We kept all the settings at ‘Auto’ and the highest resolution was selected for each phone. Portions of the images were then cropped and compared.

Outdoor portrait
Our first test was a portrait, shot outdoors at around 4pm. The Galaxy S4 has the best image quality here with very good exposure for the subject as well as the background. The level of detail is also very good. The Nokia Lumia 920 comes in at a close second giving you a brighter image but the highlights on the face are a bit overblown. The One, on the other hand, managed to capture a very dull image compared to the other two.

The S4 manages the best portrait

Outdoor scene
In this shot, we check for the colours and level of detail being captured. If you view the full-sized image, you’ll notice that the S4 once again manages to capture a lot more detail and the colours are very accurate as well. Notice the text on the movie banner and the chalk writing on the blackboard. The text is clearly readable in the S4 and the colours are punchier as well. The 920 comes in at a close second with the One having the worst detail.

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The S4 once again manages better detail and colours

Colour test – Outdoors
In this test, we check for the accuracy of colours and how the phones handle the white balance. The S4 once again manages this brilliantly, although the reds are a bit too rich. The 920 captures slightly better detail, but the white balance is a bit off, with a bluish tinge on the white flower. Due to this, the greens are also a bit exaggerated. The HTC One produces quite a hazy picture compared to the other two.

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The S4 and the Lumia 920 manages very good detail

Colour test 2 – Outdoors
The Galaxy S4 once again manages better colours, but more importantly, accurate colours. The colours of the vegetables are spot on. The Lumia 920 comes a very close second, but the colours are a bit exaggerated. Notice how the reds appear jarring as compared to the S4. The HTC One is not too bad here, but the colours are a little dull compared to the rest.

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Punchy and vivid colours with the S4

Depth of field test
All cameras perform very similarly here with very good depth of field. We like the Lumia 920 the best here, as the colours in the background are better defined.

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Similar performance across all the handsets


ISO 800 test – Indoors
The Lumia 920 has the best performance out of the three with the exposure set to ISO 800. The HTC One isn’t able to reproduce fine detail, as the image gets very coarse and grainy. The S4 comes in at a close second and has much better colours out of all of them.

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The Lumia 920 is the best at such high ISO levels

Macro test – Outdoors
The Galaxy S4 definitely has the best-looking image, although the colours might be slightly exaggerated. The 920 comes in a close second while the HTC One comes trailing in at number three.

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The Lumia 920 and the S4 manage very good details

Night scene 1
This shot was taken at 11:45pm with just the street lights for illumination. The image produced by the S4 is a bit underexposed and there’s not a lot of detail being captured. The competition here is between the One and the 920. The Lumia wins hands down in terms of illumination as the picture looks like it has been shot at the break of dawn. It also managed to capture the best detail, which is pretty impressive given the low ambient light. The HTC One comes in a close second and even though the scene is not as bright as the 920, it’s the most accurate out of the three.

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The HTC One manages a more balanced low-light shot

Night scene 2
In our second night scene, the HTC once again manages a more balanced image compared to the 920. The Lumia does illuminate the overall scene much better but at the cost of burn-in in the bright areas.

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Once again, the HTC One has a more balanced image

The bottom line
In the end, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the undisputed winner as it won most of our camera tests. The camera is at its best for daytime shots, macros and portraits. It even fares very well indoors and under high ISO levels. The 13MP snapper also managed to deliver punchier colours and the level of detail captured was a lot better as compared to the other two. The HTC One doesn’t fare very well outdoors but makes up for it with stellar low-light performance. The f/2.0 aperture manages to trap more light while keeping the overall exposure balanced. The Lumia 920 fared very well in day time shots and had the best depth of field too. The camera truly excels at night shots as even the smallest source of illumination is enough to light up the entire frame.

 

Samsung Galaxy S4

HTC One

Nokia Lumia 920

Outdoor portrait

1

3

2

Outdoor scene

1

3

2

Colour test – Outdoors

1

3

2

Colour test 2 – Outdoors

1

3

2

Depth of field test

2

3

1

ISO 800 test – Indoors

2

3

1

Macro test – Outdoors

1

3

2

Night scene 1

3

1

2

Night scene 2

3

1

2

Total Wins

5

2

2

Note: The numbers for each test indicate which place that particular handset came in. For instance, the 'Outdoor portrait' test was won by the Galaxy S4, followed by the Lumia 920 and then the HTC One. The 'Total Wins' field  is the addition of the number of times the handset has secured first plce. 

As it stands, the Galaxy S4’s camera is the best all-rounder as it performs brilliantly in a wide variety of scenarios, except for night shots, where the smaller aperture holds it back. The HTC One and the Lumia 920 are ideal for low-light photography thanks to the larger aperture value of the sensors. The Lumia continues to perform well even in the day. Sadly, HTC’s UltraPixel camera just doesn’t measure up to the other two. 

Publish date: May 13, 2013 5:40 pm| Modified date: December 19, 2013 11:28 am

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