With every rating that the much-quoted DxOMark site puts out for phone cameras, the more I think that it's missing a healthy dose of real world experience and use cases. Not to mention a few key phone models (e.g. Lumia 950). Given that I've tested the majority of recent smartphones for AAS and then AAWP, usually against the best of the competition, I wanted to aggregate my experience into my own 'Top 10' camera-phones of all time. 'SteveMark', if you will.
Recent Features - Hardware
Yes, yes, I did a piece just over a week ago comparing imaging on the new LG G6 with the Lumia 950 XL and... well, it wasn't even close. But a) the Galaxy S8+ is also now in for review, with an acclaimed phone camera, and b) some commenters took exception to my using a particular resolution on the G6. So we have a new comparison, a three-way head to head, and all at maximum resolutions. Can the spanking new multi-frame Galaxy S8+ camera finally provide a challenge to the mighty Lumia 950 XL?
How does the (unbelievably now) 18 month old Lumia 950 XL stand up, spec by spec, against the brand new LG G6, which i've been reviewing? Clammy glass against cheap plastic coated matt plastic with real wood, double camera against one really good PureView effort, and so on. Read on for my blow by blow comparison.
It's been interesting hearing the various reporting of low sales of 'Windows' phones over the last 12 months, with pundits concluding that there was no interest from users, when the main reason was that Microsoft had stopped making or selling Lumia devices. How could people buy what wasn't for sale? How would they know the Lumia 950 etc. existed? The interesting question is why wasn't there any first party hardware for sale? The short answer is that Nadella's 'new brush' was determined to 'sweep clean'. What a shame.
It's perhaps the most relevant camera phone head to head for a while - the legendary Lumia 950 XL, still relevant in terms of specs in 2017, I'd argue, even if it's harder to buy one new, against the very latest LG flagship and perhaps the best thought out of the MWC 2017 super-phones, the well-respected G6. We're not talking an exact match in terms of scope (the 950 XL has only the one rear camera, for example), but this should still be a battle royal!
One aspect of the recent Creators Update (Redstone 2) that has fascinated me has been the speed increases (ok, maybe increased smoothness) of this Windows 10 Mobile branch. It's evident on newer phones, but what about older ones? What about those abandoned x20 Lumias that weren't deemed capable of running 'Threshold' well enough? Could they be hacked up to Creators Update level and how smoothly would the OS now run, in May 2017?
As usual with my benchmarking features, I'm focussing here on real world timings, not on artificial software-based utilities. My observations at the end of 2016 were that the early builds of Redstone 2 were showing performance gains compared to the existing Anniversary Update (Redstone) on the same (or similar) hardware. What about the latest, release version of the former, i.e. the Creators Update? Is it still faster?
Now, don't get too excited - this isn't some low level hack, and regular AAWP readers probably know everything that's detailed below. But for anyone catching up to the ever-more-convoluted story of Windows Phone, Windows 10 Mobile, the Insiders programme, the Lumia 930/Icon and 1520, and - above all - Microsoft's idiosyncratic policies, then here indeed is how to get your Lumia 930 or 1520 onto the Creators Update.
A year ago I pitched the Huawei P9 against the camera phone world champion (in terms of image quality), the Lumia 950. A year on, the P10 adds extra resolution and OIS to the mix in trying to challenge the Lumia - but is it enough? With a bunch of interesting lighting challenges I test the phone cameras out...
After many editorials and features, there still seems to be much confusion about exactly where each Windows Phone will end up - officially. So I thought I'd produce an upgrade grid, for easy bookmarking. And note that I'm ignoring hacks like fiddling with phone registries - we're keeping things 100% legitimate here.