What kind of times were those when a snapshot could only be taken if you wisely packed your digital camera and brought it with you to a party, on a trip or vacation. Nowadays, it is usually enough to reach into your trouser pocket, hold your smartphone in the direction of the subject and press the shutter button – and the picture is ready.
However, the wheat is separated from the chaff, especially with the camera setup built into the cell phone – i.e. the cheap entry-level phone from the top model. That’s why we’ve dedicated this issue to the subject of smartphone cameras and are testing seven top cell phones. Can the built-in lenses replace a digital camera? Are they maybe even better than a separate camera? And does that make the phones worth their money? We will clarify these questions on the following pages. However, it is also essential that the vast majority of smartphone users are not high-end technology experts who, thanks to ISO and aperture settings, can even get the most out of their snaps. Instead, our subjects are classic point-and-shoot types who prefer the camera app’s default settings.
We start the big smartphone camera comparison test directly with the supreme discipline – night photography. The different snaps had to master several challenges. The dominant light source of the street lamp provides the scenery with some brightness, which the camera setups knew how to use differently. In addition, the rear light of the vehicle catches the eye, and the wheat is separated from the chaff at the latest during the presentation. In the end, the Vivo X60 Pro achieved the best result, closely followed by the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro.
The Apple iPhone 13 Pro picture resulted in the most coherent overall picture, which offered a pleasant balance between a wealth of detail in the foreground and a subtle blurriness in the background. The picture achieved a total of 45 out of a possible 49 points. The portrait shots of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and the OnePlus 9 Pro follow at a respectful distance. We couldn’t even make out a fragile image because even the result of the last light, the Google Pixel 5.
Taking photos in good lighting conditions is generally easier for many smartphones than challenging conditions. It is, therefore, not surprising that all the photos basically looked very appealing and only a look at the numerous details in this motif make it possible to distinguish them. In addition, it is not surprising that there are two winning pictures and two other smartphone snaps finished just a touch behind. All cameras can do landscapes.
When preparing and evaluating the different images, we were able to determine significant deviations in the color space of the individual images. This also gives the Sony Xperia 1 III the relegated last place. The image has an unpleasant yellow cast. Numerous counter-checks brought the same problem to light again and again. It is also interesting that three smartphones (OnePlus, Samsung, Vivo) deliver mirrored results, while the others do not. However, this can be adjusted in the settings of every phone.
The final sub-category includes close-up shots—so-called macro or close-up shots. Fortunately, almost all results have become usable, although not every camera system has an actual macro lens. The wealth of detail of water drops and the structures of the sheet, which is just a few centimeters in size, looks impressive in some cases, especially when viewed on a large monitor. The color spaces in some camera setups are sometimes too shallow and appear soft, but some camera software plays around too much with the HDR effect in the background.