Camera head to head: Nokia 808 PureView versus Apple iPhone 6

No, no, I haven't got an iPhone 6 - but reader Vlado Grouev has been doing some detailed shootouts and I wanted to delve deeper into his data. The units tested, under various light conditions, were the iPhone 6 (not the 6+) and the Nokia 808, running in its 8MP PureView mode. Which one has the better camera? Go on, have a guess. A wild guess.

Test 1: Daylight, landscape

In this case a house on a hill, in bright but cloudy conditions. Here's the overall scene, as captured by the 808:

Overall scene, as shot (and sometimes lit by) by the 808

And here are the 1:1 crops from central detail, Nokia 808 and then Apple iPhone 6, click on each crop to download the original JPG (thanks, Vlado!):

1:1 crop from central detail, click for the full JPG
1:1 crop from central detail, click for the full JPG

At first glance, both photos look pretty good, and indeed they are. But look closely and appreciate the purity of the white on the house's sides, the detail - e.g. the window blinds - the naturalness of the trees, both on the left and on the right. Now look at the iPhone 6 crop, everything's that tiny bit less distinct, less 'real'. A good effort here by the iPhone, but its sensor is outclassed, of course.

Test 2: Daylight, macro subject

In this case a colourful flower. Here's the overall scene, as captured by the 808:

Overall scene, as shot (and sometimes lit by) by the 808

And here are the 1:1 crops from central detail, Nokia 808 and then Apple iPhone 6, click on each crop to download the original JPG (thanks, Vlado!):

1:1 crop from central detail, click for the full JPG
1:1 crop from central detail, click for the full JPG

It's tough to judge this one, since I wasn't there and don't know the exact colour of the flower in real life, but the 808 version looks more immediately impressive, certainly if you look at the full JPGs.

Test 3: low light, no flash

In this case, a garage at night, with artificial/incandescent lighting. Here's the overall scene, as captured by the 808:

Overall scene, as shot (and sometimes lit by) by the 808

And here are the 1:1 crops from central detail, Nokia 808 and then Apple iPhone 6, click on each crop to download the original JPG (thanks, Vlado!):

1:1 crop from central detail, click for the full JPG
1:1 crop from central detail, click for the full JPG

The iPhone 6 does pretty well here, actually, plucking detail from extremes of low light, but there's a fuzziness to everything (derived from sensor noise) that's not there in the Nokia 808 version, with the oversampling producing a cleaner output, even in its reduced-effectiveness 8MP mode. To quote just one example, look at the tiny dots above the "i"s in 'California' - they're visible in the 808 photo and not in the iPhone 6 one.

Test 4: low light, flash allowed

In this case, an ornate working fountain, in almost pitch darkness. Here's the overall scene, as captured by the 808:

Overall scene, as shot (and sometimes lit by) by the 808

And here are the 1:1 crops from central detail, Nokia 808 and then Apple iPhone 6, click on each crop to download the original JPG (thanks, Vlado!):

1:1 crop from central detail, click for the full JPG
1:1 crop from central detail, click for the full JPG

Oh dear. There had to come a point where we compared the results of weedy LED flash (the iPhone 6 is no worse than 99% of other smartphones here, but still.....) with the proper Xenon flash on a real camera phone. I'm not even sure words can convey the difference above. See the full JPGs if you want to see the full iPhone 6 horror. Again, I'm sure the latter is no worse than a Samsung or Motorola (etc.), but there's no comparison with the 808's flash.

Thoughts

Look, I get it, the Nokia 808 is obsolete, effectively, while the iPhone 6 is far higher specified. And the latter's camera can do neat tricks with video, such as shooting at 120fps, plus it's arguably more modern in its approach to the 2014 smartphone ecosystems. But this test was all about taking great photos with your phone, and it's safe to say that even the latest Apple imaging tech can't get that close, for still shots and across all light conditions, to the mighty 808 PureView.

The test shots here were plucked from Vlado's public galleries here and here, with his permission. As an exercise for the reader, I'll leave you to download more shots and perform more comparisons.

Published by Steve Litchfield at 20:03 UTC, October 1st

Section: Articles
Categories: Comment, Hardware
Platforms: General, Symbian^3