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Warnung! To the pixel peeper: This is not scientific and not an extensive test. I’m writing about my personal impressions only.
Tests, charts and the like you can be found on the relevant sites on the net ;-)

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On a hike during Pentecost, in the Swiss Alps, I took pictures with my smart phone (Samsung S4). I was too lazy to lug around a larger camera. The result is mixed. At first glance, the images are beautiful, colorful, tack sharpl and the panoramic images are cool. Taking a closer look…

Settings

The camera app on the Samsung offers several modes:

  • Auto
  • Beautiful portrait
  • Best Photo
  • Best Face
  • Sound & Shot
  • Drama
  • Cinema picture
  • HDR
  • Eraser
  • Panorama
  • Sports
  • Night Mode

So many automatic mode and no way to adjust  ISO, aperture, speed, white balance or exposure compensation? Help! Is this a Mac? I do not want to be incapacitated … After the first disgust was overcome, I’ve tried the different modes and these are left:

  • Auto: For almost everything
  • HDR: For scenes with high dynamic range
  • Panorama: For panoramic images

All the other “modern stuff” is nothing for me. So far.

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All photos in the article, except otherwise marked, are untouched, OOC. For some however  I’ve changed the crop. Click the image for a bigger version[/blockquote]

Automatic Modes

Shooting on the beach or in the snow is a challenge for any camera because the camera processor is programmed to go for a medium brightness (I’m not going more in to detail here). Shots of very bright scenes therefore often come out too dark. With a “decend” camera, the photographer is using the exposure compensation in such scenes to push the exposure, depending on the subject, by 1-3 EV. In ancient times, there even was a “backlight” button on many cameras. Doesn’t work on the phone (see above) and therefore this is the output:

[clear] In the images on the right I pushed shadows and lowered lights in Lightroom.

 Digital Zoom

Crap! These scenes in thrillers kill me, where the police officer says to his technician: “Blow this up”. The technician presses some buttons, the image gets zoomed, heavily pixelated  but is sharp after a short time. This gets repeated several times and the result is always a tack  sharp images. Very funny! If it was that easy to enlarge images by software there was no need for telephoto lenses any longer…  The digital zoom on my phone is of no use in any case! The lower image is a 100% crop.

Image Details

As said above the images look good at first glance:

But if you take a closer look on the details (100% Crop):


No details, the grasslook like painted with water color and washed out.

Panorama Mode

Is great! It’s easy to use and delivers pleasing results. Hardly any banding or stitching errors. Unfortunately vertical panos (eg a mountain from bottom to top) can’t be done.

 Conclusion

The images are pretty neat, but over-sharpened, too colorful and lack details. During shooting almost no settings can be made. But:

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To have a less good image is sometimes better than to have none![/blockquote]

I carry my smart phone almost all the times with me. When hiking I use it for example for navigation. My smallest camera is sometimes still too big for me to carry around. Without my phone I today would not have any image from our beautiful trip to the great Alpstein area.