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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5: The More Megapixels The Better?

by Brandon Russell | April 24, 2013April 24, 2013 1:00 pm PST

Ever since the iPhone 4 hit, Apple’s mobile handsets have consistently pushed the boundaries for camera quality. Aside from its excellent build, the iPhone 5’s camera is, even months later, still one of the best on the market—even with the Lumia 920 and HTC One around. So, of course, we put it up against the brand new Galaxy S4, which will be one of the iPhone’s biggest rivals this year, in terms of sheer specs and popularity. Which one produced better results?

This camera test is setup exactly like the S4 vs. HTC One—same subjects, same time of day, etc. Believe me, juggling multiple phones to take the same shots isn’t as fun as it sounds. We tried to keep everything as consistent as possible, though the crops obviously vary based on resolutions and lenses. One thing we failed to mention last comparison is that we did darken the upper left, bottom left and bottom right corners so the text would pop; the 100 percent crops are left untouched.

It’s worth noting that, unless you download a handful of apps, the iPhone 5 doesn’t get anywhere near the shooting options the S4 offers. Jon touched on a few of them during his initial impressions. For more context, the S4 basically has the same layout and functionality as Samsung’s excellent but flawed Galaxy Camera from last year. From a consumer standpoint, the more shooting modes (no matter how useless some might be) the better, and some truly add to the experience.

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Right out of the box, the iPhone 5’s 8-megapixel camera is about as barebones as can be—HDR,  grid lines for better Rule of Thirds framing, and a Panorama option. That’s about it, though there are plenty of apps that allow you to edit and shoot in different modes for a more robust shooting experience.

We tried to capture more casual scenes, ones you’re likely to experience throughout a typical day—both are shot using Auto settings. Of course you’re unlikely to see a Mario figurine just sitting around outside. The colors captured by both devices certainly pop, maybe more than is natural, but both look quite excellent. Just like last time, we’ll let you decide which produced better images. Image quality alone might not ultimately determine your final purchase, but seeing them compared certainly doesn’t hurt.

Taken in the morning around 8:00 a.m., in the shade, with the light source to my left. The flowers themselves are white.

Taken in the morning around 8:00 a.m., in the shade, with the light source to my left. The flowers themselves are white.

Taken around 7:00 p.m. with the light source coming from the left; you can see the shadows in the little ridges below. Visibility was great on the day, with very little haze.

Taken around 7:00 p.m. with the light source coming from the left; you can see the shadows in the little ridges below. Visibility was great on the day, with very little haze.

Taken on a clear day around 7:00 p.m. The light source is coming from behing me.

Taken on a clear day around 7:00 p.m. The light source is coming from behing me.

The pages of this magazine are an off-white, almost a grayish white. Taken in a dimly lit room by the entrance of our office. No natural light.

The pages of this magazine are an off-white, almost a grayish white. Taken in a dimly lit room by the entrance of our office. No natural light.

Under three big office lights in our kitchen. No natural light, very well-lit.

Under three big office lights in our kitchen. No natural light, very well-lit.

Taken around 3:00 p.m., with visibility great on the day. The light was pretty harsh when these were taken.

Taken around 3:00 p.m., with visibility great on the day. The light was pretty harsh when these were taken.

Taken around 3:00 p.m. The light is not quite overhead, but it's still very harsh as you can tell by the shadow. The box itself is a mint green color.

Taken around 3:00 p.m. The light is not quite overhead, but it’s still very harsh as you can tell by the shadow. The box itself is a mint green color.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 - Camera Comparison - Outdoor - Shade - Mario
Indoors, taken around 5:00 p.m. with the light coming in from Jon's right (our left). This area of our office building is very well-lit, taken by the door with a white wall as the background.

Indoors, taken around 5:00 p.m. with the light coming in from Jon’s right (our left). This area of our office building is very well-lit, taken by the door with a white wall as the background.

Inside our office's conference room with natural light coming in from behind me. The lights were turned off, but there was plenty of natural light.

Inside our office’s conference room with natural light coming in from behind me. The lights were turned off, but there was plenty of natural light.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.

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