Smartphone Camera Shootout: Nokia Lumia 900 vs. Apple iPhone 5

As I mentioned on my blog last week, Nokia recently hooked me up with a Lumia 900 smartphone to test out the camera on it and share the results with my readers.

After using an iPhone for the past several years (since the very first one came out), it was impossible not to compare the Lumia 900 with what I was already so comfortable and familiar with. So in addition to showing the handful of photos I posted last week shot with the Lumia 900, here’s some overall thoughts on how it stacked up to my new iPhone

(If you need a reminder, you can look at my last post to see the specs and features of the Lumia 900‘s camera.)

Overall Impressions:
– Holding the phone itself is more awkward and bulky than an iPhone has ever been. It’s heavier than an iPhone and feels really big in your hand. (Check out Phone Arena’s blog post to see a physical comparison of the Apple iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 900.)
– The shutter button is kind of weird to press. I feel like when I press the shutter, it is hard to keep the camera still, so the composition often gets shifted from what I intended.
– It was strange trying to get used to a new Microsoft-based user interface, but it didn’t take long to figure it all out. Not quite as sleek or sexy as Apple’s iOS, but pretty easy to master rather quickly.
– There is no way to pick a focus or exposure point like there is on the iPhone. When you tap the screen, it takes a photo. I didn’t like this lack of functionality as it often makes it difficult to focus and expose how I want.
– The digital zoom works in preset increments, so it is more limited than what I’m used to with the iPhone 5. Not that a digital zoom ever looks good anyway, but still…
– The photos look great on the phone’s screen. They seem super sharp and vibrant with plenty of contrast, but once I looked at them on the computer, that contrast and vibrancy seemed to lack a bit, especially when compared to the iPhone 5. However, I didn’t really try bumping up the contrast and saturation settings on the phone. Maybe this would have helped some, but all those custom settings seem overkill on a smartphone.
– Speaking of custom settings…There are a lot. Too many. White balance, exposure levels, metering mode, special effects, and so on. I didn’t like how any of them made the images look on the screen, so I never bothered much with them. There could be a time and a place to make some of that stuff work out, but again, it really seems overkill. I want to be able to pull my phone out of my pocket and take a great shot within seconds. (Like I can with my iPhone 5.)
– The “Auto-Fix” function inside the camera roll didn’t work very well with most of my images. In many cases it actually made the photos look worse. However, iPhone’s “Auto-Enhance” function seems to make nearly every image look better by bumping up the contrast and saturation.

Am I biased towards Apple? Most definitely. But when a company offers to let me test their product, I’ll gladly give it a shot… Do I genuinely think that Apple makes a better product when it comes to a smartphone camera? Absolutely. However, that’s not to say the Nokia Lumia 900 is a bad smartphone camera. And let’s be honest…average users will never really know the difference anyway. Keep in mind that I did not set up the Lumia 900 for phone or Internet usage, so my conclusion is based solely on the cameras.

Notice the colors, white balance, and sharpness in this side by side comparison. I think the iPhone 5 image looks much better. (Click to enlarge.)

Here's a perfect example of the Lumia 900's downfalls. I tried taking this photo about six or seven times with the Lumia 900, using both the default and macro settings, and I could never get the leaves in focus, even when touching the screen directly on the leaves. However, with the iPhone 5, I touched the screen on the leaves on time, and had a great looking "macro" type up close shot on the first attempt. (Click to enlarge.)

The gallery below contains 22 of the same photos each shot with the iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 900. Most of the iPhone 5 photos were run through iOS6’s “Auto-Enhance” feature, but most Lumia 900 images don’t have Microsoft’s “Auto-Fix” filter applied because it usually made them look worse. None of these images were altered on the computer, with the exception of batch processing them to resize for this gallery.

One thought on “Smartphone Camera Shootout: Nokia Lumia 900 vs. Apple iPhone 5

  1. Noah

    Good review! I’m curious to see how the Iphone 4 or 4s would stack up against the Lumia. It really doesn’t compare at all with the Iphone 5 based on the sample photos. Doesn’t the IPhone also use Carl Zeiss lenses?

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