Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is toted as the flagship Android device in the market right now, and with good reason. It boasts a Quadcore CPU (in the Australian version at least), 2GB of RAM, a 2,600 mAh battery and a massive 4.99in super AMOLED screen. Topped off with a powerful 13MP camera, you can see why it’s a tough phone to beat. But how does this powerhouse’s photographic capability fare against that of the iPhone 5? Let’s find out.
Typically, your mobile phone camera use will fall into two main categories: outdoor and indoor. With outdoor photos, you’ll have your sports action shots, group photos, picnics and days at beach. It’ll make up a huge portion of your leisure-time happy snaps – unless of course you don’t go for the whole ‘nature’ sort of thing. Either way, outdoor photography can make or break a camera.
In cases where the light source is just out of frame, the iPhone 5 suffers from its infamous ‘purple haze’ issue. The S4 doesn’t get off scot-free either. The whole image is overexposed and tinted by the sunlight. The detail in the close-up though is breathtaking, even if you can’t see it on the small screen of the phone itself. Neither handset managed to focus well in this take, so most of the images are a bit blurry.
Both phones failed to pick up a great deal of detail in the lowlight scenario, although the S4’s 13MP did fare slightly better than the iPhone 5’s 8MP. The iPhone 5 also oversaturated the low light shot, making it look nicer, but also less realtolife than the S4’s. It did the same with the sunlight shot, although it’s a bit more washed out by the light and less noticeable in that instance.
A whole bunch of your memories will take place indoors too. Work in an office? Indoor photography. Going clubbing? Indoor. Sitting in class, going out for lunch, eating dinner, going to a house party – the list goes on. The camera in your phone has to be able to keep up.
It’s a feat which both of these phones accomplish, and well too. The first and most striking aspect of these examples is how much detail the S4 captures with flash. I’d like to highlight that both flash images were taken in complete darkness at a distance of about 10cm to 20cm from the subject matter. A more impressive telling would be testing distance too, but if you want to snap a picture of your friend sitting next to you in a dimly lit restaurant, both of these phones will do you fine. The S4 will pick up each of his/her wrinkles with astonishing clarity, while the iPhone 5 is slightly worse.
The iPhone 5 had trouble focusing when the flash was on, choosing to pick up the details of the mesh container in the background instead of the markers in the foreground. As a result, the image is blurry in the forefront and much sharper towards the background. Still, those extra 5MP are really working to get at the detail in the S4 shots. Without a flash, the S4 had a bit more trouble focusing. These shots were taken without fiddling with settings or High Dynamic Range (HDR), instead relying on autofocus.
While the iPhone 5 did pick up sharper contrast than the S4, and thus a sharper image, it also oversaturated the colours again, both with and without flash. The S4 indoor shot shows the scene with the best colour of the bunch, while the S4 shot washes out some of the colours thanks to a flash which was too strong in some places (most notable on the light blue lid).
Panorama shots are an industry standard feature, and can produce beautiful, printworthy photographs. In the case of these two phones they’re huge, both in terms of physical dimensions and in digital storage space. The iPhone 5 panorama was over 7MB while the S4’s verged on 16MB! The S4 also managed to capture nearly 360° while the iPhone 5 went a bit beyond 180° in our testing.
Both of these panoramas are stunning. The amount of detail picked up is remarkable, with the S4 showing up a bit more in that department. The iPhone 5 did manage to avoid its usual oversaturation in this shot and instead showed colours that were quite realistic. The S4 turned out a bit dark, but it was an overcast day and the iPhone 5 excels in lowlight photography.
We can sum up all these shots by saying that the iPhone 5 typically oversaturates images and shows them with a more intense contrast, while the S4 picks up more detail and produces colours and tones that are more true to life. The S4’s autofocus also seems to do a better job of focusing on the right areas than the iPhone 5. If we had taken the S4 off its reins and played around with white balance, ISOs and the like, I have no doubt some of these shots would be markedly different. As it stands though, if you’re looking for stunning, simple point and shoot functionality, both the S4 and the iPhone 5 are sure bets.
Kelly Vieira writes for finder.com.au, an Australian comparison service that promises to help you save money on a bunch of products like your mobile phone plan, credit cards or even home loans. When she’s not doing that, she’s tweeting from @_kellycvieira, so be sure to follow her.