Camera comparison: Samsung Galaxy S II vs LG Optimus 2X vs Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4

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May 21, 2011 by yogi2raj

The smartphone universe became ripe again for camera comparisons, especially with the introduction of handsets, capable of recording Full HD 1080p video. That is why we took a few of the most popular high-end smartphones that are on the shelves, and staged a shootout. 

We got the Samsung Galaxy S II, the LG Optimus 2X, the Nokia N8, and the Apple iPhone 4. Two of those are capable of Full HD 1080p video recording, so we are only pitting them against each other in that department. In all fairness, these are still cell phone cameras, so, with maybe the exception of the big sensor on the Nokia N8, we didn’t expect wonders from the snaps. 

We’ve reached the stage, however, where you can leave your point-and-shoot at home for casual photos with a piece of mind, and just use your high-end smartphone, which you are lugging around anyway. So let’s try to determine which of these cameras does what well. All phones were on Auto settings, no HDR was used, we only switched on the Macro mode for close-ups, where we had it.

Samsung Galaxy S II vs LG Optimus 2X vs Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4: Camera comparison
Samsung Galaxy S II vs LG Optimus 2X vs Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4: Camera comparison
Samsung Galaxy S II vs LG Optimus 2X vs Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4: Camera comparison
Samsung Galaxy S II vs LG Optimus 2X vs Nokia N8 vs Apple iPhone 4: Camera comparison
Samsung Galaxy S II
LG Optimus 2X
Nokia N8
Apple iPhone 4


Each of the phones captures plenty of detail in the frame, and it’s hard to pick, since none of the cameras missed any major bit. At first look, the Samsung Galaxy S II has the upper hand, producing sharp photos with distinctive details out of the box. 

The Nokia N8, however, captures the same extensive amount of detail, but since it bets on unaltered looks by default, the image appears slightly softer than on the Samsung Galaxy S II. The iPhone 4 also showed very good, almost equal results, and, alternatively, the LG Optimus 2X captures plenty of detail, but the lack of contrast makes the picture appear washed out.

1. Samsung Galaxy S II and Nokia N8
2. Apple iPhone 4
3. LG Optimus 2X
Color reproduction

Colors from the Nokia N8 came out being the most natural-looking. We have more saturation from the Samsung Galaxy S II, which makes its photos more appealing at first look, but unfortunately, looking at it closer, it becomes clear they are slightly colder than in reality. The ones with the LG Optimus 2X are both quite cold, and on the bland, undersaturated side.  Finally, the iPhone 4 flips to the other side, producing contrasty, jolly, highly saturated images, which can be good and bad, depending on the situation.

We’d pick here the Nokia N8 for its natural looks, and the Samsung Galaxy S II, whose pictures, while slightly colder than reality, are a close enough shot. 

1. Nokia N8 
2. Samsung Galaxy S II and Apple iPhone 4
3. LG Optimus 2X
Exposure and dynamic range

Nokia N8 gets it right most of the time when there is a bright distraction in the frame, or a lot of sky. It also doesn’t over- or underexpose, and you can clearly see the close gradients in the cloud and sky coloring. The Samsung Galaxy S II also does pretty well with exposure measurements and dynamic range. 

The iPhone 4 sometimes overexposes bright objects, depending on where you focus at, so you have to be careful which spot to touch on the screen if there is such area in the frame. The LG Optimus 2X performs decently, with no drastic misexposed spots. We didn’t turn on the HDR function on the iPhone 4, in order to keep the playing field leveled.

1. Nokia N8
2. Samsung Galaxy S II
3. LG Optimus 2X
4. Apple iPhone 4
Indoor shots 

In low-light situations the large 1/1.8” sensor on the Nokia N8 with its big pixels played a role to capture the most light, bringing noise down to a minimum. Nokia’s pride is the king of indoor shots with its Xenon flash, and didn’t hesitate to fire it up every time the lights dimmed even for a bit. The Samsung Galaxy S II indoor shots seem quite crisp and detailed too, although in well-lit to medium lighting colors came out too warm, and the flash came a bit weak.

Indoors with incandescent bulbs the Apple iPhone 4 sometimes produces too warm, yellowish colors in low- to medium lighting, and inserts a fair amount of noise in the picture. The LG Optimus 2X exhibited less noise, fairly sharp photos, and the LED flash did a decent job illuminating the scene.

1. Nokia N8 
2. Samsung Galaxy S II and LG Optimus 2X
3. Apple iPhone 4
Night shots

The most pleasing night shot results we obtained from the Nokia N8 and the Samsung Galaxy S II. Their shots were sharpest and the most noise-free of all four phones. The Nokia N8 fared well in night shots around town, largely due to its big sensor. There wasn’t excessive noise or haloed lights in its photos. The Samsung Galaxy S II night shots also came out fairly clear, with no overblown light sources. 

Despite its backlit sensor, however, the iPhone 4 produced quite noisy night shots, with blown-up highlights like neon signs, and halos around light sources. The LG Optimus 2X fared better with clearer night shots, but it had trouble with brighter objects like the lit-up shop sign below.

1. Nokia N8
2. Samsung Galaxy S II
3. LG Optimus 2X
4. Apple iPhone 4

All phones managed to focus well in close-up shots, blurring everything further than the object at hand. 
Despite that the iPhone 4 doesn’t have a dedicated macro mode, it automatically focuses on close-ups, thus saving you some extra fiddling in the interface.

The Samsung Galaxy S II produced very good close-up shots, clear, and with distinctive details on the nearest object. The close-ups with the iPhone 4 come out very good for its point-and-shoot concept – it manages to focus strictly on the near object, and with large amount of detail, too, with the only downside being a tad noisy shot.

The LG Optimus 2X also performed very well, capturing plenty of small details in a clear image. The macro mode of the Nokia N8 captures a bit more of the background scene than the rest from the same distance, since it has a wider field of view, and its macro shots are clear, with a good amount of detail. 
1. Samsung Galaxy S II and Apple iPhone 4
2. LG Optimus 2X
3. Nokia N8
Ease of use and speed

The phones have very snappy shot-to-shot times, if you turn the preview function off, with only the LG Optimus 2X being behind the pack in that respect. As for ease of use, that goes to the iPhone 4, where you don’t have to fiddle with anything – just point and snap, takes a split second. We’d have called it a draw here, since the Nokia N8 has a dedicated two-stage shutter button, but we still appreciate more the utter simplicity of the iPhone 4’s camera operation for casual snaps. Besides, the camera interface on the Nokia N8 is a bit cumbersome, and the least touch-friendly of all.

1. Apple iPhone 4
2. Nokia N8
3. Samsung Galaxy S II
4. LG Optimus 2X 


Besides sharpness, color or contrast, we have other characteristics to look for in videos, like frame rate and compression. 1080p video from the Samsung Galaxy S II came out bright, with good contrast, a lot of detail and fluid 30fps. The Apple iPhone 4 produces jolly, fluid 30fps videos, with bright, overly saturated colors and nice detail too. In night videos, though, it blows up highlights like illuminated signs or car bulbs a bit too much. 

There’s no doubt that the Nokia N8 has great sensor and lens, and it does produce natural-looking videos with good contrast and detail, but if you have to shoot sports or some other fast action, 25fps sometimes doesn’t cut it. 

We just appreciated the fluid 30fps that the Galaxy S II and the iPhone 4 capture with, adding continuous autofocus or touch-to-focus in the mix, too. Nokia’s phone records pretty good stereo sound with the video, though, thanks to the nice noise-canceling mics. The LG Optimus 2X records in the .3GP format, compressing the files a bit too much, and skimming on quality. Moreover, its videos need quite a bit more contrast, similar to the stills taken with the phone.

1. Samsung Galaxy S II
2. Apple iPhone 4 
3. Nokia N8 
4. LG Optimus 2X


So, which phone should you take on vacation with you? It depends on the functionality you desire from your convergence device, and we wouldn’t scoff at any of them, except maybe the LG Optimus 2X as the worst performer. 

If you can’t be bothered, but just want to point, shoot and obtain flashy colors, get the iPhone 4. However, if you want to be able to shoot fluid video with extraordinary amount of detail, plus excellent, but slightly off-color stills, take the 1080p-capable Samsung Galaxy S II. 

Finally, if you are somewhat of a shutterbug, and your foremost demand is realism and well-lit indoor shots – the large sensor, 12MP resolution, and Xenon flash on the Nokia N8 undoubtedly have your best interest at heart.
Pictures compare and videos compare given to the link:Phone Arena


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