Disclosure: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. Please help support Studiopsis and buy from B&H and Amazon. It won’t cost you anything extra.
Smartphone Camera Buying Guide: The camera is one of the most often used features of the smartphone nowadays – be it for taking pictures or for taking selfies (using the front-facing camera). With smartphone cameras becoming better, for many, they’ve replaced the standalone point-and-shoot cameras for everyday photography. Here, we take a look at smartphone camera hardware, key terms associated with photography, comparisons between the top smartphone cameras and important things to look for when comparing smartphones
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Features
- 3 Is It Easy to Use?
- 4 Do Your Homework
- 5 Warranty Details
- 6 Research Carrier Plans
- 7 Look for Best Deals
- 8 Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
- 9 Best Smartphone Cameras
- 10 HTC U11 camera compared with other flagship smartphone cameras
- 11 Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge
- 12 Microsoft’s Lumia Icon
- 13 To Conclude
- 14 You Might Also Like:
In one of our articles, we discussed how smartphones are posing a serious challenge to the point and shoot camera.
There is no doubt that smartphones are becoming more and more powerful, and are now seen as a replacement, even to laptops. They can definitely take good pictures and come with several photo related apps. Besides, you can easily share them on the internet.
Phones have gotten so good at taking photos that many users rarely bring along a stand-alone camera anymore.
Of course, a phone is never going to replace a full-bodied, single-lens reflex camera, otherwise known as an SLR. There’s just no way to squeeze a powerful, SLR-type lens into the small body of a phone. But many smartphones now match and even outperform point-and-shoot cameras. You’ll get good pictures with any high-end phone, but a few phones go beyond just good.
So if you’ve been thinking of buying a smartphone, here are some more things that you should ideally consider.
There is no doubt that several choices exist due to competition, but then it can also make selecting the right one more difficult, especially if it’s going to be your first Smartphone.
Do you want only a good built-in camera, or would you also like to have features that help you organize your daily life and tasks?
If you want it to have a good camera, then ideally you also need a large screen and better graphics quality.
Nowadays, you get many more features such as music, videos, web browsing, file transferring, Wi-Fi, GPS, and more. And the best ones can perform these functions much faster and are good at multitasking as well.
So make a list of what you would want in the smartphone.
Is It Easy to Use?
There are products that offer features that are easy to use; then there are some products that provide lots of features but then they need to be customized.
You should ideally choose one depending on how tech-savvy you are.
Then there are other things that you need to consider such as:
In general, small is good when it comes to smartphones, but it should ideally not be at the cost of usability.
Do Your Homework
Best way to get familiar with the features is to visit shops and check them out personally. Touch them and get a first-hand experience.
Talk to the sales people there and ask which are the bestselling ones and the advantages / disadvantages of the several models they have. Most of them are quite willing to give an honest opinion of the ones they have.
Most products offer good warranty coverage, but since these gadgets can be expensive its best to confirm that you’re getting an excellent warranty coverage.
Check if the accessories that come with the phone, are covered too.
Research Carrier Plans
There are numerous plan options available with all of the major carriers.
Some offer family plans, business plans, and individual plans. There are also data plan and unlimited messaging options available for heavy users.
So look for the deal that works the best for you.
Look for Best Deals
Most important thing when looking for a smartphone is to know why you’re buying it, which includes knowing the key features and benefits. Then you need to decide what functions you would like but are not necessities.
Based on this, you can look for the best prices available. Here are some more tips that can help you land a good bargain:
Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
Last year, I declared the iPhone 5S to be the best camera phone overall. This year’s 6 and 6 Plus models are even better, particularly with faster and more accurate focusing. The iPhone can even make moving toddlers look still and sharp.
For indoor and night shots, the iPhone often manages to avoid the image blur that many other cameras produce when shutters stay open longer to let in more light. The 6 Plus model also has anti-shake technology to help reduce blur. I noticed increased sharpness in some shots of statues inside a museum and the city skyline at night, compared with shots taken with the regular iPhone 6. For most shots, though, the iPhone 6 performs just as well. Go for the Plus only if you want the larger viewing screen — not for the camera.
That’s not to say the iPhone always takes the best shot, particularly with its resolution on the lower end at 8 megapixels. For any given condition, you might find another phone that does better. But that other phone might perform poorly in other circumstances. The iPhone shines in a wide range of settings, making it an overall great choice for capturing impromptu moments.
Best Smartphone Cameras
I took more than 10,000 still images with more than 20 phones. I used the rear cameras and refrained from using the flash so that I could test the phones’ low-light capabilities. That’s an area where an otherwise good phone can be great.
Here are some popular options when looking to buy some good phones with cameras:
HTC U11 camera compared with other flagship smartphone cameras
The iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel, Sony XZ Premium and Galaxy S8 have all claimed (at some point) that they have the best smartphone camera on the market. Now HTC has come up with a world-beating camera.
The folks at Recombu made a video comparing the different cameras from the common flagship phones against the “bloody brilliant” Ultrapixel camera on the U11.
The results aren’t pretty if you’re an iPhone user. When it comes to white balance and low-light shots, two of the things that can ruin smartphone images most easily, the iPhone 7 Plus came in last. The U11 is on par with the competition in getting accurate colors in daylight, and the Ultrapixel sensor really excels in low light.
Aside from image quality, the video also tackles one of the more underrated things on camera phones: how quick and easy they are to use. A smartphone’s camera is only a big deal because it’s the camera you have with you most often, even if you’re a serious photographer with a stack of lenses somewhere. The U11 uses its squeezy edge sensor to add a lightning-fast shortcut to the camera, which is important for getting quick shots.
The U11 excels in a few other categories, too. The focus speed is way quicker than any smartphone camera has the right to be, and it’s particularly evident compared to the other phones in the shooutout. Even the iPhone 7 Plus looks slow compared to the U11.
Overall, the U11 is a solid contender for the best all-around smartphone photography experience on the market today. You’ll notice that we didn’t say “best camera,” because pixel-peepers will always find something to complain about. But the well-thought-out camera app, quick focusing speed and easy-access shortcut mean you’re more likely to get a good final result from the U11 than anything else.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge
Images taken on the Note phones are rich in colour. Friends say ‘wow’ when they see the shots. The Note’s AMOLED screen technology contributes to that, but the colours are still rich when viewing on a standard LCD laptop.
The problem is the colours sometimes look too rich, as though they’ve been adjusted using software. Faces, for instance, often look overly orange, especially for indoor shots (the yellow glow from artificial lighting contributes to that). The iPhone doesn’t win on colours, but images look more natural. With the Note, you wind up with many images that look better but others that look worse. The colour can typically be fixed with editing software, but that takes time.
The Note camera’s 16 megapixels is among the highest in smartphones. Although having more megapixels doesn’t necessarily mean better pictures, I can make out smaller text on Note images. The Note also excels with zoom. With most phones, quality degrades as you zoom in because the lens itself doesn’t move. Zooming is essentially cropping. The Note compensates for that with anti-shake technology, similar to the 6 Plus, and with the merger of pixels from multiple exposures taken in succession.
Low-light shots come out well, something that wasn’t so with older Samsung phones. However, shots aren’t free of distortion. In some skyline shots, for instance, the dark sky wasn’t entirely dark, and purple spots could be seen when blown up. There’s less of that with iPhone shots. But these are subtle differences that most people won’t notice.
Microsoft’s Lumia Icon
Like other Lumia phones using the standard Nokia Pro Cam app, the Icon camera is slow to snap and save the shot. Forget about moving babies. Forget about multiple images in bursts, as iPhones and Note phones allow.
Even as Lumia phones are known for their low-light performance, rivals have caught up. And the Icon’s ability to take images of up to 19 megapixels no longer is impressive.
Yet the manual controls in Lumia phones are unmatched. You can control shutter speed, light sensitivity, white balance and other settings you typically only get with an SLR. It’s the camera for taking professional-looking photos.
Most people, though, are going to be happy with snapshots taken with other phones under auto settings. The Icon requires patience to set up and take the shot, and some of the manual options you need at night won’t be useful without a tripod. When I need that kind of shot, I’ll grab my SLR. But having that level of control in a phone is impressive.
Doesn’t matter if this is going to be your first smartphone, or if you’ve already owned one before and want to upgrade or try out a different manufacturer, the suggestions offered here can save your time, hassle, and money when buying a Smartphone.