More and more people are leaving their cameras at home, because they believe photographs taken on smartphones are just as good. To find out if this is true, we rounded up the best smartphones for a camera shoot-out
Taking photographs is an integral part of any real adventure. Whether you use them to reminisce about the past, or brag to your friends about the things you’ve done, one cannot deny the importance of a good camera to capture the special moments in life.
Here at Leisure Wheels we have a nice collection of Canon SLRs with multiple lenses. We still believe in an old-school approach to photography. In other words, we scout locations beforehand and wait for the sun to reach the perfect position to avoid lens flares. But none of this is necessary for the average person, who won’t be publishing a photographic account of his travels in a national magazine.
A small digital camera is more than up to the task — or so we used to think. Staff members upgraded to new smartphones earlier in the year and we simply couldn’t believe the quality of the photographs they delivered, and apparently without any photography skill being necessary. The latest smartphones come with an “automatic” setting. Rather like Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, it will set everything up for you, so you can just sit back and relax. Getting the perfect photograph these days takes nothing more than the push of a button.
We have also noticed a trend among fellow adventurers. The massive SLR hanging from the neck, which used to be the signature look of any budding adventurer, has been replaced by a bulge in the pocket. Why carry a massive camera when you can just as easily take an epic picture with something you have in your pocket anyway?
Those of you who take photography seriously might not agree with that statement, and to some extent you’d be right. A raw SLR photograph comprises about 60 megabytes, while a high quality photograph taken by a smartphone is on average around four megabytes. However, do you need that amount of definition? That’s the big question, and we devised a test to find out.
The project also enabled us to test five of the best smartphones on the SA market in the hope of finding the best one for amateur photographers.
Well, it’s fairly simple. We are not technology journalists, so we judged the smartphones purely on their photographic abilities.
To start, we compiled a list of the most popular smartphones in the business. Our sister publication, Popular Mechanics, who are the real boffins when it comes to smartphones, gave us some suggestions and we ended up with a list that consisted of the LG G4, Apple iPhone 6, Huawei P8 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. As a matter of interest, we included a mik en druk entry-level camera as well, if only to see how the traditional vacation camera fared against the smartphones. We tried to get our hands on a Sony Xperia Z3 as well, but apparently there is a global shortage of media demonstrators.
In the interests of being transparent, we’d like to state that the iPhone 6 belongs to a staff member and we are big Apple fans. This whole magazine is put together on Apple products, but we found a way around any prejudice we might have. We took all of the phones to multiple locations and shot the same photograph on each phone within seconds of each other. These images were downloaded and presented to our photography guru, Jannie Herbst.
Jannie started his first job as a photographer in 1976 and has won the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists’ Photographer of the Year title more than once. If anyone can spot a shoddy photo, it’s him.
There are obviously different kinds of photographs and we took this into account. In order to get a score out of 100, we judged the phones in three different categories, which are representative of the photos people take most often.
The first and most important photo is the standard action or landscape shot — in other words, the kind of photo you’d take of a magnificent view like the Victoria Falls, or a watering hole with various wildlife.
Next up we have the night shot, or the kind of photo you take at braai. It’s a difficult shot to get with an SLR camera, but all of the smartphones had a special setting for taking photographs in the dark.
Last, but certainly not least, is the “selfie”. Years ago the photographer had to be excluded from the picture, but the smartphone gives us the ability to capture ourselves with a front-mounted camera.
As an adventurer, you might come across a scene where a photograph simply wouldn’t be enough to capture everything. Imagine a lioness grabbing hold of a springbok in the bushveld. In a situation like that, you’d want a video. This particular section counted 10 points, and we left the job of judging it to Danie Botha. In addition to being a valuable part of our editorial team, Danie dabbles in the world of television production, so he known a decent video when he sees one.
The rest of the photographs were scored out of 30, which brought the total to a nice round 100.
The results in descending order:
Fifth place: Huawei P8
Dimensions: 144.9 x 72.1 x 6.4mm
Screen resolution: 1080 x 1920 pixels
Primary: 13 MP
Secondary 8 MP
Camera score: 56
Video score: 6
“The lack of colour quality lets it down.” – Jannie Herbst
“There were eight obvious exposure (aperture) adjustments in 17 seconds. Quality is okay, as is the sound.” – Danie Botha
Fourth place: Canon Ixus 220
Price: About R1000
Dimensions: 92.2 x 55.9 x 19.5mm
Screen resolution: n/a
Camera score: 63
Video score: 2
“The old-school mik en druk failed to perform well in any area. Operating it was fussy, when you consider how easy it is to use a smartphone these days.” – Gerhard Horn
Third place: iPhone 6
Dimensions: 38.1x 67 x 6.9mm
Screen resolution: 750 x 1334 pixels
Camera score: 68
Video score: 7,5
“The iPhone scored second best overall in low light.” – Jannie Herbst
“Slightly grainy in places, and the exposure is not consistent. Overall quality of video and sound is not too shabby.” – Danie Botha
Second place: LG G4
Dimensions: 148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3mm
Screen resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
Camera score: 83
Video score: 8
“The LG G4 is the winner when it comes to the business of taking ‘selfies’, and it took the best motion shot. It delivered the sharpest photo with the least blur. The colours are also nicely balanced.” – Jannie Herbst
“Excellent video quality.” – Danie Botha
The winner: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
Dimensions: 142.1 x 70.1 x 7 mm
Screen resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
Camera score: 84
Video score: 9
“The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge scored consistently well, with both the ‘selfie’ and motion shot scoring second place with high marks. The low light shot impressed me the most. The colours, even in the shaded areas, are distinguishable and it also has the best contrast out of the lot.” – Jannie Herbst.
“Excellent all-round performance… quality, sound and stability all excellent.” – Danie Botha.
Rather annoyingly, our beloved iPhone finished in third place!
The smartphones performed admirably and left the editor suitably impressed. Their performance versus that of an average mik en druk also leaves little doubt that there’s no sense in still carrying a conventional camera around, unless you’re a die-hard photographer.
We didn’t factor cost into the shoot-out, but a mere two points separated the LG from the Samsung. Considering the fact that it’s a lot less expensive, the LG might just be the best all-round buy.