Saturday 27 December 2014

Review: Top of the range cameraphones

Published 21/07/2013 | 05:00

From left, the Samsung Galaxy 4 and the HTC One.
From left, the Nokia Lumia 920 and the iPhone

JUST 10 days ago, Nokia unveiled what is being hyped as the "ultimate cameraphone". The 41-megapixel Lumia 1020 allows levels of clarity and zoom previously unseen in the smartphone world. It is also the latest gadget to condemn the standard digital camera to the dustbin.

But can Nokia's mega-snapper compete with all-conquering smartphones from Apple, Samsung and others?

Ahead of the Lumia's autumn launch, here are five of the best cameraphones currently on the market.

 HTC One (joint editor's pick)

Megapixels 4 'ultrapixels'

Screen 4.7 inches

Price from free on contract

HTC's proposition is a novel one: it's not how many megapixels your phone has, it's the quality of those megapixels.

In effect, it has created 'bigger' pixels that let in more light than 'normal' pixels. This is why the camera only has four megapixels rather than, say, eight or 12. The results are genuinely impressive: the phone performs superbly in low light conditions.

There are some other elements worth noting here, too. Its Zoe feature (which captures short video clips as you're taking photos) is novel, if a little niche. It also has a superb burst-mode, snapping up to five photos per second. (This may sound technical, but you'll appreciate it when you're trying to capture the bride walking up the aisle.)

The handset is beautifully designed, with a powerful quadcore 1.7Ghz chip, 2GB of Ram and a generous 32GB of internal storage memory.

Cameraphone rating: 5/5

Samsung Galaxy S4 (joint editor's pick)

Megapixels 13

Screen 5 inches

Price from free on contract

The smartphone world is generally carved up between Samsung and Apple. But there is no doubt as to which has the better camera.

It is not just the enhanced resolution of the Galaxy S4's camera (via a whopping 13 megapixels) that gives it the edge. It is the control that the phone gives you over how you take photos.

This comes via a range of user-friendly modes ('best face', HDR and more) and controls (such as the panorama feature) that beat off most of its rivals for simplicity.

The phone's superb, five-inch high-definition screen also tops the models reviewed here for perusal and playback of photos (and HD videos) taken. And, for getting through pictures quickly, it also packs the most power under the hood, with a massive 1.9Ghz quadcore processor complementing 2GB of Ram. The phone's 16GB storage capacity can be expanded via a memory card.

Cameraphone rating: 5/5

iPhone 5

Megapixels 8

Screen 4 inches

Price from free on contract

For many, the most salient question about the iPhone 5's photographic abilities is not whether it can manage HDR or the finer points of its panoramic mode: it's whether it is worth waiting for the next model. (Which is expected in the autumn, incidentally.)

Suffice to say that the world's favourite beginner-smartphone finally started to take its lenses seriously when it launched the iPhone 5 last September. That meant an eight-megapixel sensor and a number of handy photo modes that allow more control over how to take photos.

A downside to the iPhone 5 is its screen: four inches struggles to compete with the five-inch high-definition displays of some of its rivals.

If the iPhone has an advantage, it is the degree to which photo app developers naturally gravitate toward it when prioritising platforms (Instagram was not available for Android for a year).

Otherwise, this is not the phone to get if you're prioritising photos.

Cameraphone rating: 3/5

Sony Xperia Z

Megapixels 13

Screen 5 inches

Price from free on contract

Sony's Xperia Z has two main things going for it: its looks and its camera.

Indeed, if there was an award for the best-looking smartphone, the Xperia Z would probably snatch it, with its sleek, glassy casing. (Although this sometimes attracts a little smudging.)

For pure imaging quality, the handset is also up there with HTC's One and Samsung's S4 with its 13-megapixel sensor. Images are crisp and clear, with excellent detail on zoom and in low light.

Happily, the phone also comes with a superb five-inch screen (fronting a 1.5Ghz quadcore processor and 2GB of Ram) on which to browse photos and videos. The smartphone also happens to be water resistant and dust-proof, a handy bonus in a wet country like Ireland.

Downsides? You may still get one with the last version of Android on it. The battery also could be a little better. On the whole, though, this is a top-grade snapper.

Cameraphone rating: 4/5

Nokia Lumia 920

Megapixels 8

Screen 4.5 inches

Price from free on contract

While Nokia users await the much-hyped 41-megapixel Lumia 1020, the Lumia 920 remains the Finnish giant's most powerful cameraphone.

Its eight-megapixel sensor is boosted by some of the background technology present in its 41-megapixel successor. To be honest, I didn't find it to be particularly impressive or illuminating relative to top-end rivals. But photos were certainly clear and detailed.

The Lumia 920 has one big advantage over rivals for those who take their mobile snaps seriously: an external camera button. Press it and it will wake the camera immediately into the correct mode. There's also a generous 32GB of internal storage.

There isn't a whole tank of power under the hood, with a modest 1.5Ghz dual-core processor and 1GB of Ram. Also, don't forget that this is a Windows Phone – it will feel different to the usual iPhone or Android interface you're used to.

Cameraphone rating: 3/5

Irish Independent

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