This post was published 2 years, 8 months ago. Due to the rapidly evolving world of technology, some material it contains may no longer be applicable.
I often hear people complaining about the camera quality on their smartphones and see reviews popping up all over the place with wildly different conclusions on whether the snapper on a particular device is any good. Some of these reviews can even create some damaging public misconceptions about a particular device for example the Nexus 5 which despite some claims to the contrary actually has a very capable camera.
I understand that the quality of a picture is quite subjective but if you look at the samples from different sources they will still vary widely even in similar conditions. The reasons for this is that the user actually can make a bigger difference to the quality of the pictures taken than the device they were taken with.
Both the photographers skill and other factors such as the size of their hands can be very important in determining how the photo comes out. For example, a person with small hands is likely to struggle to take stable pictures with a large device such as the Galaxy Mega compared with someone who has larger hands and will thus be able to hold the device more steady. They are likely then to find taking good pictures easier or a smaller device such as the Moto X or the iPhone. It does not necessarily mean that the camera on the larger device was less capable.
To demonstrate my point about how much the user can effect the picture quality, what I have here is a collection of images I have taken with my old Nexus One, a phone which was my main device for many of years (during which most of these were taken). The Nexus One is an old phone with a camera which would be considered terrible by today’s standards and yet I think you’ll probably agree these images are not that bad at all. Take a look…
So there you have it. Not too shabby, eh? I feel that these pictures look pretty good and this is with a phone launched in January 2010 and so using the technology of 2009 which in the world of smartphones is pretty ancient. It is nowhere near as good as what we have today. These were taken with what is technically the weakest camera of any ever put on a Nexus phone and yet (if used correctly) can still produce some beautiful images.
What this shows is not just that Nexus phones have always had better cameras than people give them credit for but also more generally that pretty much all decent smartphones can take some wonderful pictures as well as some pretty awful ones all depending on the conditions and the way the pictures are taken and you should bear that in mind when reading / watching camera tests online. It is convenient to blame the camera when you get a bad shot but it may not always be completely fair.
A camera phone is no DSLR but they are actually pretty capable devices for photography and I think it is important that the user learns how to get the best out of their camera if they want to take nice pictures in more challenging conditions using just their smartphone. We will therefore do a follow-up post soon, showing our top tips for mobile photography to help you capture your memories with your phone as beautifully as possible.