The titular question is one I've been asking myself now for... four years. Ahem. Back in June, so three months ago, I looked at the internals and tech feature sets of Android and iOS, declaring them much of a muchness overall. So I've ended up spending almost exactly equal time with each OS, again and again, honing my workflow and summarising my experiences below, hopefully in a way that may help others when also agonising over everyone's favourite geek party question: 'what smartphone to get next?'!
Carl ZEISS, later shortened to just 'ZEISS', has been an optics brand associated with cameras and then phone cameras, the latter since 2005 and the Nokia N90 transformer smartphone, but then used in over a dozen Nokia camera champions over the next eight years. And one can understand that ZEISS might have had a hand in designing and tuning the lenses in these pioneering devices. But there's a ZEISS trademark that's a little more mysterious and we've been starting to see it on phone cameras in the last couple of years - T*, with the legend often in a dark orange or red. So what exactly is T*?
Nine and a half years apart, we have two phone camera systems with near 1" sensors. Yes, it has taken the rest of the phone world a decade to catch up to the Nokia 808 PureView in terms of sheer sensor size. But a lot has changed in terms of processing power and multi-frame capture, enabling true HDR and night modes. So how, in terms of photo results, does the 2012 808 PureView match up to the very latest 1/1.12"-sensored Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra?
This phone camera shootout has been hotly anticipated, not least because the 2021 Xiaomi flagship promises 'PureView' quality images and with a larger (1/1.12") sensor than even the legendary Nokia 808. Add in top notch image processing and immense power, plus a high megapixel 5x periscope telephoto, and going into this first test with the Mi 11 Ultra should see it triumph overall. A lot will depend on how much emphasis I place on zooming, of course, but let's keep things sensible and balanced - for now!
It's not often that a camera-equipped smartphone comes along that goes so far 'up to 11' (pun intended) that even running through the imaging specs needs an article of its own. But with the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra in for review at All About Towers over the next week or two, it's probably a good idea to lay the imaging bare, especially for fans of classic Nokia imaging phones like the 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 - the Mi 11 Ultra is right up in the same ballpark, at least in theory, while having massively more horsepower and massively newer components. Which should bode well...
Yup, it's the new Nokia - ruggedised, fully specced, and - well - rather huge. There's a lot to like, but there's one big question for old-Nokia, Lumia and Windows fans: how does its camera arrangement perform? Given the Nokia name, I just had to return to a Lumia as the comparison, my trusty 950 XL, which I pitched spec-for-spec against the new Nokia last week.
What's this? A Lumia up against a new Nokia? Yep, and it's something rather different this time round. The XR20 has all the gadgets one might expect from a flagship smartphone for 2021, plus it's utterly milspec durable. Yet it starts at under £400 inc VAT. What's the catch? Screen technology, mainly, but if lack of AMOLED isn't a showstopper for you then the XR20 might very well be the large and tough 2021 contender you've been waiting for.
There's a video capture question I have for you to answer, and it's this. Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you? With apologies to Dirty Harry, it does seem as though there are two approaches to video capture on phones and it's not something we've ever covered before. Do you let the hardware and software work their auto-magic or do you take charge of everything, as if your smartphone was an old fashioned video camera or DSLR? The two approaches are completely opposite but are worth exploring, in terms of pros and cons.
I've done PureView shootouts in the past, but there are a few tweaks here. From the 2012 Nokia 808 PureView, which I've allowed to be tripod mounted here for low light shots (there being no OIS), through the trusty Lumia 1020 and the good all-rounder that is the Lumia 950, then to the iPhone 12 Pro Max in full ProRAW 'pure' shooting mode and the latest Sony Xperia 1 mark iii with 'Photography Pro' app and dual telephoto. It's the widest shootout I've ever done, in terms of timescale and is provided more for interest than to try and score generational points!
Having established that Sony's phone image processing has made major strides in the last year or so, it was good timing to get the brand new Xperia 1 iii (read it as 'mark 3') flagship in for review for The Phones Show. But, more than ever, the smartphone's reputation here lives and dies with its camera system - Sony tout a new dual-zoom factor persicope and brand new software. I'll need some reference points, of course. In this case the mighty iPhone 12 Pro Max and Sony's previous generation Xperia 5 ii (with similar camera to last year's 1 ii). Let's push all of these to their limits - just how good is the imaging in this new Sony smartphone?