Trying to choose a new smartphone? Technology Editor Adrian Weckler compares megapixels in four leading contenders
With screens, power and gimmickry all but maxxed out, there is one feature that distinguishes the very poshest smartphones – their onboard cameras.
But are megapixels really the measure of quality? And how do the top models compare?
Nokia Lumia 1020
If megapixels are a metric by which to measure the prowess of cameraphones, Nokia's 41-megapixel Lumia would appear to have the game wrapped up.
However it's not quite so straightforward.
Megapixels achieve one main goal: detail. Thus, photographs taken on the 4.5-inch Lumia 1020 (in Procam mode only) reveal an extraordinary degree of detail when the photo is blown up. By this measure, and by the generous 32GB of onboard storage, the 1020 blows the competition away.
But there is more to a (non-blown-up) photo than simply detail and, here, I found that the 1020 performed more closely in line with its rivals.
The mega-megapixel shots typically measure over 10 megabytes per photo, meaning that only lower-resolution backup shots are really suitable for sharing online.
The camera is also a little slow, being slight-underpowered by its dual-core chip. Still, having an external camera button is good, even if it defaults to the lower-resolution format.
Price: Free on operator contracts
Sony Xperia Z1
Although little compares to the detail of Nokia's Lumia 1020 photos, I found that Sony's Xperia Z1 may shade it for being the best cameraphone on offer, overall. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, with a 20-megapixel camera, its clarity and resolution are higher than any other cameraphone on the market (bar the Lumia). And on anything smaller than an 8-inch device (or similarly-sized photo) the detail matches the Lumia.
Sony has also put in a better camera sensor than most of its rivals, which helps with low-light detail and depth of field.
An external camera button wakes the camera up from a locked position, while the gadget's bright, clear 5-inch screen is a superb viewing display for shots. Its 2.2Ghz quadcore chip and 2GB of Ram make it much faster than the Lumia, while its Android operating system gives it access to lots more photo-editing apps. With a little bugginess, it's not perfect, but it's probably the best all-round cameraphone right now.
Price: From free on operator contracts
Samsung Galaxy S4
Times change very quickly. A few short months ago, Samsung's 13-megapixel S4 was close to the best cameraphone you could buy. While it's still good, the competition has become so fierce that it has been firmly pushed back in line.
The phone's camera takes decent shots and encourages you to mess about with its range of filters and modes (such as panorama, HDR and more). It also has a (gimmicky) feature that allows you to take a photo of yourself at the same time (through the front-facing 2-megapixel camera) as you're shooting your subject.
There's no external camera button but there is a well-powered 1.9Ghz quadcore processor complementing 2GB of Ram and 16GB storage memory. This is no weakling, it's just outgunned right now.
Price: From free on operator contracts
Other than a more powerful chip and a fingerprint reader, the only main upgrade that Apple put into its new high-end iPhone was to beef up the camera. It has done this in two ways.
First, it has increased the size of the pixels (by 15 per cent) that the camera's 8-megapixel lens allows in. This gives the phone better photo ability in low-light situations.
Apple also introduced a new slow-motion video capture facility. This basically makes the camera shoot 120 frames per second, about three times the normal rate. This means you can slow the footage down to a quarter of its speed and still retain smooth video. There's also a new burst mode to capture up to 10 shots per second and an enhanced panorama photo feature.
It's an enduring shame that the screen remains a miniature four inches, but that won't stop demand for it when it arrives on Irish shores in the next week.
Price: €700 sim-free
Where can you store your photos safely and cheaply?
MOST people don't use memory cards in their smartphones, so how to back up photos? Here are three free online services to consider.
While it's not really a photo-storage site (it shrinks the photos to a web-only size), this is currently the most popular photo-sharing service online. The reason is that it's very easy to link to casual snaps via Facebook or Twitter. Instagram also has a community in itself, where you can comment upon or 'favourite' others' shots.
In terms of space, this is the ultimate personal photo resources. Flickr gives a whopping 1,000GB of space to users for free. While not as popular or as easily shareable as Instagram, it is a lot more complete with no complaints for large file sizes.
Although this isn't laid out as a photo-only service, it is an enormously useful resource for a couple of reasons. First, it's a simple drag-and-drop exercise to copy or remove photos when accessed from a PC. Second, it's really easy to share access with others (in this way, it is a popular service for sharing party or wedding photos). An initial 2GB can be bumped up by a few basic actions.