Showdown of the smartphone cameras

Showdown of the smartphone cameras

The best camera is the one which you carry all the time. It is no wonder that the five most popular cameras used by people who post photos on photo-sharing website Flickr are the ones on smartphones.

Smartphone makers often tout their "superior" cameras as a major selling point. Smartphone cameras are getting better. Most high-end smartphones now come with backside-illuminated image (BSI) sensors, which increase the amount of light captured.

BSI sensors use a method of arranging the components in the sensors to improve low-light performance. The sensor is the most important component in a camera which determines how much light it can receive.

Phone makers have stopped focusing on the megapixel war. Apple, LG and Sony did not increase the megapixel count of their latest smartphones' image sensor from the previous models.

For the image sensor in the iPhone 6, Apple stuck to the same 8-megapixel count found in the iPhone 5s.

For the G3, LG retained its 13-megapixel image sensor found in the G2, while Sony's Xperia Z3 shares the same 20.7-megapixel image sensor found in the Z1 and the Z2.

This is because the size of the sensor is more important than megapixel count when it comes to image quality. A larger sensor allows more light to be captured, thereby reducing image noise. For example, the iPhone 6's camera, with a pixel size of 1.5 microns, captures 88 per cent more light per pixel than a smartphone camera with a sensor pixel size of 1.12 microns.

Another camera feature being highlighted by many smartphone makers is faster and more accurate autofocusing (AF).

LG introduced Laser AF technology, which uses infrared light to gauge distance for AF, in its flagship G3, while Apple added Focus Pixels - or phase-detection AF found in DSLRs - in its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Last year, Apple introduced a two-tone LED flash in the iPhone 5s to improve lighting of subjects under artificial light. This has since become a feature for some smartphones too. You can find dual-LED flash in the LG G3 and the Oppo N3.

Camera features, such as high dynamic range (HDR), which increases details in dark areas, optical image stabilisers to minimise the effects of camera shake and panoramic mode for super wide-angled shots, are now standard features in modern smartphones.

Digital Life tested the cameras of six latest smartphones:

In bright sunlight to check for sharpness; In panoramic mode with good lighting; In low lighting conditions with and without flash; At night and; Selfie in good lighting. We also looked at how each smartphone camera handles and its functions.

To level the playing field as much as possible, all the pictures and videos were taken using the native camera app in Auto mode with Auto HDR.

trevtan@sph.com.sg

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