Samsung’s Galaxy line has never produced the most amazing images out there. But they’ve been decent, good enough. That changed with the Galaxy S III, and got even better when Samsung introduced the Galaxy S4, which comes with a robust 13-megapixel shooter. Even better, Samsung implemented a terrific new interface—similar to the one found on the Galaxy Camera—that makes shooting on the S4 a pretty wonderful experience.

In amply lit situations—at the beach, baseball game, or just walking around on a hike—images produced by the S4 look pretty darn good. And the overall UI makes shooting actually fun; instead of just relying on auto, Samsung includes a number of cool features that encourages users to get more creative with their shots. The features might not be something a pro photog would take advantage of, but they’re wonderful for the average consumer.

With Nokia’s Lumia 1020, the company has taken advanced settings and watered them down so even the most inept photographer will understand what changing the ISO means. Nokia has done an excellent job designing its Pro Camera app, giving users the flexibility of a professional-grade camera in a super small smartphone body. And the best part is that all the changes you make on the fly are reflected right there on the screen, so you have the opportunity to see how the changes effect your shot before taking it.

galaxy-s4-camera

Probably the coolest thing about Nokia’s Pro Camera app is that you have finer control of focus. You can still tap anywhere on the screen and the camera will focus just fine. But bring up the little focus half circle, and suddenly you have a manual focus experience similar to that of a typical lens. That kind of flexibility shows just how powerful Nokia’s optics are compared to other competing handsets; it’s why people will care about the Lumia 1020 after all.

For a lot of people, the results produced by the Galaxy S4, which is a good device in its own right, is enough. The average consumer might now be tempted by Nokia’s vision of a future where you can zoom on photos to your heart’s content. But that doesn’t discount how great the Lumia 1020’s new 41-megapixel sensor is, and what the company has managed to do in a smartphone no less.

Taken under a patio umbrella on a bright sunny day.

Taken under a patio umbrella on a bright sunny day.

Taken outside on a sunny afternoon.

Taken outside on a sunny afternoon.

Taken on a sunny afternoon in the shade.

Taken on a sunny afternoon in the shade.

Taken in an office setting with ample daylight coming through the window.

Taken in an office setting with ample daylight coming through the window.

Taken in an office with the lights off and daylight coming in from behind me. The flash was on.

Taken in an office with the lights off and daylight coming in from behind me. The flash was on.

Taken in an office setting with no lights on, but the blinds wide open to let daylight in.

Taken in an office setting with no lights on, but the blinds wide open to let daylight in.

Taken in a dark office with the flash on.

Taken in a dark office with the flash on.

Taken inside an office setting with light directly overhead.

Taken inside an office setting with light directly overhead.

Taken in an office building with ample lighting.

Taken in an office building with ample lighting.

Taken in a dark office with the lights off and doors and blinds closed.

Taken in a dark office with the lights off and doors and blinds closed.