iPhone 5 vs Galaxy s4

We put to the test the cameras of the Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5. Which has the better camera? Find out in our Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 camera comparison. PLUS: which camera is better in the dark, iPhone 5 or S4?

The iPhone 5's main camera on the rear has the same back-illuminated 8Mp resolution as the 4S and, in truth, there's little difference between the two (the shorter focal length means the 5 has a slightly wider angle of view). But if a great camera is one of your priorities when choosing a smartphone, no doubt the Galaxy S4's 13Mp rear snapper will have piqued your interest more than the iPhone. It's not the highest resolution to be found on a smartphone (that would be Noka's 808 Pure View with 41Mp) but it's considerably more than the iPhone 5. See also: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Active vs Mini vs Zoom specs comparison.

Few people will need to print poster-sized images from their smartphone, so the iPhone's 8Mp sensor is probably fine. But the default iPhone camera app has few features - you can't change the quality of photos or videos, for example, but you can display a grid, enable HDR or panorama modes. It also has face detection and you can choose the focus/exposure point by tapping and holding somewhere in the viewfinder. The Samsiung camera app gives you a level of control normally found only on higher-end compact cameras, however. In terms of sensor and options the Galaxy S4 is a mile ahead. See also: The top 20 iPhone 5 tricks and tips.

With the S4 you can manually select ISO sensitivity, metering mode, white balance and exposure. The menus let you enable or disable face detection, framing guidelines, flash, continuous shooting and a timer - useful for group shots in which you want to be included.

Like the iPhone 5, you can take photos on the Galaxy S4 while shooting video, and there's electronic stabilisation. Taking photos on the iPhone 5 isn't as easy as it could be because there's no dedicated shutter button, but you can use the volume up button instead of the on-screen button.

Samsung has added to the S4 extra features such as Dual Shot which allows you to overlay a photo of your face (taken with the front camera) on another taken simultaneously with the rear camera. Sound & Shot lets you record a comment with a still photo (like old digital cameras used to) and Drama Shot takes a sequence of photos and merges them into one frame.

Voice control means you can take a photo or start a video without touching the phone, and an enhanced geo-tagging mode notes the exact location (such as a street name) and the weather at the time of the photo. There's also a selection of scene presets to play with.

Best Photo and Best Face lets you pick from a series of images captured in quick succession - it's similar to the BlackBerry Z10's TimeShift. See also: 5 things we'd like to see in the new iPhone 5S.

Which camera is better in the dark: iPhone 5 or S4?

An interesting fact about the iPhone 5 is that in extremely low light, the sensor switches to a mode where four pixels are combined into one in order to provide an effective increase of 2 f-stops. What that means is that photos taken in this mode will have a much lower resolution, but won't be as noisy. Like all smartphones, the iPhone struggles in low light. However, in our tests, the iPhone 5 managed to capture sharp images with a surprising amount of detail.

The only weakness of the S4 is in dim light where the S4 struggles to deliver sharp shots and even when there is no movement, photos look soft. See also: What's the best Samsung Galaxy smartphone?

iPhone 5 photo quality

In most circumstances, the iPhone 5 does a great job. As long as there's enough light, photos are sharp and have good colour depth and tone. The HDR mode improves the dynamic range (useful when you have a dark subject and a bright background) but isn't great if people are moving around in the photo.

In general, the iPhone captures motion well when HDR is disabled, as long as there's plenty of light. That means it's good for kids and sports.

Panoramas require a steady hand, but it's possible to get excellent results with a bit of practice.

Galaxy S4 photo quality

The Galaxy S4 is pretty much in a class of its own when it comes to photos. Although it can't compare to a DSLR, it will give most compact digital cameras a good run for their money. Our test shots were well exposed and had an impressive detail levels. Noise was all but absent as were compression artefacts.

Even fine details were resolved and colours were accurate, too.

The only weakness was in dim light where the S4 struggled to deliver sharp shots and even when there was no movement, photos looked soft.

iPhone 5 camera specifications

    Sensor size: 1/3.2in
    Megapixels: 8
    Resolution: 3264x2448
    Video: 1920x1080, 30fps, MOV (Mono audio @ 64Kbps)
    Aperture: f/2.4
    Focal length: 4.1mm (31mm equivalent)
    Flash: One LED
    Stabilisation: electronic
    Geotagging: yes

Galaxy S4 camera specifications

    Sensor size: 1/3in
    Megapixels: 13
    Resolution: 4128x3096
    Video resolution:  1920x1080, 30fps, MP4 (Stereo audio @ 128Kbps)
    Aperture: f/2.2
    Focal length: 4mm (31mm equivalent)
    Flash: One LED
    Stabilisation:  electronic
    Geotagging: yes

iPhone 5 video quality

Like the iPhone's photos, videos have nice, natural colours and plenty of detail. The electronic stabilisation does a great job, but can be a bit jerky if you're intentionally panning the camera vertically (and you can't switch this off).

One of the best things is the rear-mounted microphone which does a much better job of recording what's happening in front of the camera than other smartphones. However, it's a shame audio is in mono and at 64Kbps (though it doesn't sound highly compressed).

While shooting video, you can tap the on-screen photo button to capture stills - a handy feature.

Galaxy S4 video quality

As well as shooting standard 1080p video, the S4 has slow- and fast-motion modes for getting creative. In our tests, the S4 produced videos that were both sharp and stable. Colours were pleasingly accurate and a real bonus is the good-quality stereo sound (the S3 and S2 also record in stereo), although the lack of a rear-mounted mic means it can be hard to hear what the people you're recording are saying in noisy environments.


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iPhone 5 outdoor

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iPhone 5 outdoor

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Click the displayed images to see these crops at full size. Click the links below to download the full images.

Galaxy S4 indoors

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Galaxy S4 outdoor

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iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4 test videos

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