As the resolution and quality of cameras in smartphones has risen dramatically in the last five years, it's easy to forget that these devices aren't just for snapping people and things around us right now. With the technology now included - here demoed on the especially capable Nokia Lumia 1020, but this also applies to any other decent camera phone, of course - it's perfectly practical to archive and transfer printed images from older times. In this feature, I explain a use case that made a lot of sense to me and I pass on a few tips.
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It's all very well seeing phone manufacturer after phone manufacturer adding faster image processors and (ever so) slightly larger sensors in their smartphone cameras. It's all very well them proclaiming in their marketing "the best phone camera ever". And, in extreme cases, even adding two lenses and two sensors. But, ultimately, physics wins. It always wins. Never mind the tiny sensors used in even the likes of the brand new Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2, use a large sensor like that in the Nokia Lumia 1020 and photos are immediately better, especially when allied to Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and (when needed) also to a proper Xenon flash.
I didn't think this comparison would happen, due to the QX-100's price and availability, but we've been kindly loaned one and I set out to pitch it, chained to an Android smartphone, against the best of Nokia past (the 808 PureView) and Nokia future (the Lumia 1020). The QX-100, in case you hadn't been following the tech buzz, really is the guts of a high end standalone camera in a form that can be used directly by any compatible smartphone. Let battle commence!
You'll have read my general comparison between these two camera flagships already - I'd given the 1020 the nod already, across the board, but then this is AAWP and you might be expecting that(!) What's more interesting is to put the camera units in the 1020 and Z1 Compact to the test across my usual range of scenarios and test cases. Sony claims super results and lossless digital zoom, PureView-style - but surely physics will win out in terms of the 1020's larger optics, sensor, OIS and Xenon flash?
Picking devices from the Android world that are aligned similarly to the Nokia Lumia 1020 is tricky - whereas the 1020 is unashamedly camera-centric, you have to go to the ridiculously sized Galaxy S4 Zoom to find something competitive in the Android world. Well, until now. Possibly. You see Sony has just released the Xperia Z1 Compact, slightly smaller than the 1020 and yet with the same high end 1/2.3" 20MP oversampling sensor as the much larger Xperia Z1 - and, hopefully, more recent image processing algorithms. I'll come to actual camera performance in a separate feature, but for now here's a blow by blow comparison of the two devices.
With the ever moving goalposts in the mobile world, it seems that the Samsung Galaxy Note range has been accepted as a bona fide 'phone', while anything bigger is a 'phablet'. Yes, everyone hates the term, but nothing better has come along in the meantime, so.... The Nokia Lumia 1520 and OPPO N1 here, both of which I've been reviewing recently, are definitely too big to be classed as pure phones - even by the Note brigade. Part phone, part tablet, do they offer the best of both worlds? And can I pick a winner?
You're right to do a double take - the Sony QX-10 isn't a phone. It's a camera accessory for a phone, the idea being that you clip it onto the back of an Android or iOS smartphone and use its better optics instead of the device's integral camera. In this case, for the purposes of comparison, a Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.4.2. Is it a kludge? Yep. Is it capable of results that rival those from the Lumia 1020? Absolutely. Which would I rather have in my pocket? No. Contest. Whatsoever.
The camera and chipset in the Lumia 1520 is especially interesting, as the hardware is thin enough to be part of a range of devices, yet with some of the PureView oversampling and lossless zoom from the likes of the 1020. But, in tests, how much extra does this new set of hardware and electronics give the end user (over the likes of the existing generation, e.g. Lumia 920 and 925)? How much 'purer' are 1520 photos and how much difference does the 2x lossless zoom make?
Having recently looked in detail at the Lumia 1520's PureView camera against the flagship 1020 for stills, it's time to pitch the two devices for video capture. And with interesting results, as you'll see in the side by side video comparison below.
The Lumia 1520 is a space age (and space-sized!) piece of kit, to be sure. And it also happens to include a cut down version of the same PureView oversampling technology as in the camera flagship, the Lumia 1020. Making for an obvious head to head feature, though I threw in some other camera-equipped phones for good measure in some tests, as you'll see.