Camera Blind Test: Which Sub-$1,000 Smartphone Takes the Best Photos?
Camera blind tests have become a staple at NextPit. As smartphones have not only breached the $1,000 threshold but also soared beyond $2,000, we've decided to embark on a quest to find the best camera smartphone under $1,000—and we want your help. Learn how the process works here, and don't miss your chance to participate!
Here's how the blind test operates: Following your input, we spent a day capturing images of Berlin's streets and landmarks using five state-of-the-art smartphones, each priced under $1,000. Introducing the contenders:
From backlit photos and the dim subway station to telephoto lenses and night shots, we exhausted all the camera aspects of these smartphones. It is also important to know this: We always capture shots using the default settings, unless it is noted otherwise. We also cropped some of the pictures slightly and scaled them all to 12 megapixels so as not to give away the identity of the individual phones with their slightly different resolutions.
Speaking of giving away: Which picture from which smartphone will remain a secret until the dust settles on March 29. After all, we don't want you to approach the blind test with a bias. So come on, put your nose close to the monitor, hit the keys, and vote!
- Don't want to wait until March 29? Here are the best camera smartphones at NextPit
Photo 1: Underground station at the Bundestag
The Berlin subway station known as "Bundestag" was completed in fall of 2009, is a particularly challenging architectural subject for any camera. The station, which is almost 3,000 square meters in size and eight meters high, offers good illumination on the one hand, but also total darkness in the tunnel. With a good camera, the stones in the track bed can be counted, as well as the dominant columns at the very back of the picture.
Photo 2: Brandenburg Gate
No visit to Berlin is complete without a selfie in front of the Brandenburg Gate. We would also have that on demand, but our blind test is about the main cameras at the back and not the front camera. If you were to look closely, you will not only recognize a tourist who spotted me with my flashy 5x camera position, but that the Brandenburg Gate is just located in front of the sun.
The shape of the Berlin city gate offers everything the typical photographer desires: blue sky with some clouds and fine stucco work crowned by the proud Quadriga. Which smartphone offers more details? Where can you still clearly see the street of June 17 in the background before it gets muddy despite the sunshine? Make up your mind - which shot is your favorite?
Photo 3: The river Spree in Berlin
Prior to the Paul-Löbe-Haus directly at the Spreebogenpark, we looked at this scene between the Berlin central station and the Charité university campus on the Spree and the Humboldthafen. In front of a few sun-seekers, no less, who knew how to welcome the first rays of spring with suitable colorful clothing. Guess what? Who among you can still count the glass tiles of the main station on the left side behind the bridge?
Photo 4: The bridge dragon (griffin)
The 78-meter-long listed Moltke Bridge offers some whimsical sculptures, of which we chose the allegory of a griffin sculpture for our next photo sample. Restored in 1986, the red brick bridge offers a fascinating photo. Who can recognize the inscription "First weigh, then dare" on the family crest? In which photo is the red rich and in which pale? Which of our five test candidates do you suspect is behind which photo?
Photo 5: At the Reichstag
I don't need to tell you what sample number five is about. Architect Paul Wallot immortalized himself here until 1894. The glass dome is accessible to visitors, where you can stare at the smartphone of the members of the German Bundestag, which was only completed in 1999. And it is also it that makes the difference in our photo sample. Where are the sharp contours, and where can the (sadly) famous Reichstag staircase be seen better under certain circumstances? Ultimately, which smartphone renders a black storm cloud out of the clouds right away?
Photo 6: Berlin TV tower
The next sample is also a classic Berlin sight: the Berlin TV Tower at Alexanderplatz. You are welcome to take a look at the trees lining it on the right and left. Among them, which crowns can be seen with all their branches, and where are the rather swaying bits? Speaking of swaying: not every photo shows the tower flanks clearly and sharply. I wonder which smartphone will shine here?
Photo 7: Red City Hall (main camera)
With a height of 74 meters, the Red City Hall had to hide a few times behind the 368 meters high television tower. The seat of government of the "still" ruling mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) was completed in 1871 and is used twice in our smartphone camera blind test. Once a normal shot with the main camera, where the city hall does not make it completely on the photo, so that a wide-angle shot had to be taken.
Photo 8: Red city hall (ultra-wide angle)
And there it is! The Senate Chancellery and meeting place of the Senate of Berlin with many windows also provide a great sample shot, where detail and finally also the color reproduction of the Red City Hall is colored differently. Which photo can you see the time of the tower clock best? This is your favorite, isn't it? How did you decide and why? The comments section is open!
Photo 9: Cube Berlin with the main camera
The next motif, the Cube Berlin, is a building that was not completed until 2020 and will not even be found on Google Maps. The ten-story building has mirrored windows and is therefore not an easy subject for a smartphone camera. In general, however, the cube was a bit far away for us.
Photo 10: Cube Berlin with 5x zoom
So let's zoom in a bit. In fact, the Apple iPhone 14 was the spoilsport here. While the Xiaomi 13 would also like to offer a 30x magnification with its 75 mm equivalent Leica telephoto camera, the iPhone 14 only offers a maximum magnification of 5x.
Photo 11: Berlin Weißensee by night
Friends of expertly taken smartphone camera photos, hear me out! Let's move on to the main event: night shots! With very little light for the image sensor, the photographer can't hold his breath long enough and segments of the photo with a lot of black parts quickly become a uniform mush. No, smartphones are not suitable for night photography even in 2023.
However, which among the five candidates have mastered this part best in your opinion? In which photo can you still recognize the tree on the left that is actually sticking out into the water of Lake Weissensee? Which picture showed that the night has turned into day by too much a margin? On the back of some samples, we still recognize the lido of Weissensee and the illuminated letters. Or rather not?
Photo 12: Test pattern
For all the readers among you who regularly push us to our limit and might want to complain that not every sample is identical (1:1), we still have the ultimate final opponent: a studio shot, with identical lighting which guarantees the same settings. In this shot, you'll find everything you need for an ultimate evaluation.
Addendum: My special thanks go to my colleague Stefan, who helped me in a special way and with a big share in this smartphone camera blind test.
Why are people voting 8D over 8C, when it's got worse white balance, worse colors, worse detail, worse exposure? I don't get it...
The HDR effect on the 8D is obviously over processed. 8C has a natural colors and well balanced exposure