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iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S3 Camera Shootout

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Want the best camera phone? We offer the following Samsung Galaxy S3 and Apple iPhone 5 camera shootout.

Each phone comes with an 8MP camera. Both shoot HD video and offer pinch zooming and tap focusing. They also include HDR and panorama mode. The Galaxy S3 camera app includes a lot of shooting modes from burst to beauty and macro to cartoon mode. It also offers some creative filters.

Out of the two camera apps the Samsung Galaxy S3 wins the most options, but many prefer a simpler camera like the Apple iPhone 5′s.

samsung galaxy s3 v apple iphone 5 camera comparison

We tested many areas to find which phone gives the user the best camera. To compare the shots, remember to click the images below to see the shots full size.

Outdoors: Sunny Day

Outdoor Sunny iPhone 5

Outdoor Sunny iPhone 5

At midday the sun creates high contrast. As a result an iPhone 5 shot looked more saturated, but the Galaxy S3 reproduced the scene more faithfully despite looking lighter. Casual shooters might like the iPhone 5′s bump in saturation, while more serious photographers would prefer the more accurate Samsung Galaxy S3 shot. Notice that the blue sky and green trees in the iPhone 5 shot look darker. The Galaxy S3 shot below seems brighter and has less color. However, the lower shot more accurately captured the scene.

Outdoor Sunny Galaxy S3

Outdoor Sunny Galaxy S3

 

The iPhone 5 shows less detail in the trees because it’s darker. The Galaxy S3 captures more of the scene thanks to a wider lens, which is why the Galaxy S3 photo shows more of the trees, parking spaces and a glimpse at a fourth large window on the right.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S3

Indoor

The first shot from the iPhone 5 produced faithful color and detail.

iPhone 5 Indoor Shot

iPhone 5 Indoor Shot

In fact both the S3 and iPhone 5 shots look similar and offer a plenty of detail. Like the outdoor shot, the iPhone indoor shot seems to bump up the saturation, making the resulting image look slightly better.

Galaxy S3 Indoor Shot

Galaxy S3 Indoor Shot

Both cameras reproduced the color of the candle accurately. Both cameras struggle with the brighter top part of the image. It’s hard to see the wick on the candle since it’s blown out in both shots.

If forced to pick, the iPhone 5 shot looks a fraction better, but we should really call this one a tie.

Winner: Apple iPhone 5

Indoor Medium Light

Here’s an indoor shot under medium light taken with the iPhone 5. This shot highlights the greatest difference between the two cameras.

iPhone 5 Indoor Medium Light

iPhone 5 Indoor Medium Light

The iPhone 5 produced warmer color than the Samsung Galaxy S3 shot below. The iPhone shot looks a lot better. For the first time the S3 camera didn’t produce a brighter shot.

Galaxy S3 Indoor Medium Light

Galaxy S3 Indoor Medium Light

The iPhone 5 got the proper color, white balance and dealt with the medium light setting better than the Galaxy S3. The iPhone also produced a sharper image under lower light.

Winner: Apple iPhone 5

Indoor Macro

This trio of objects found in a desk drawer demonstrates that the iPhone 5 takes better closeup photos than the Galaxy S3.

Indoor Macro iPhone 5

Indoor Macro iPhone 5

Both phones produced a nice picture, but look at the dark marks on the key in each image. The brighter and warmer image from the iPhone 5 offers more detail.

Indoor Macro Galaxy S3

Indoor Macro Galaxy S3

When shown at actual size below, the difference becomes clearer. Notice the finer detail in both the ring and the handle of the key in the iPhone shot. The ring looks softer in the picture on the right.

iPhone 5 v Galaxy S3 Macro comparison

Winner: Apple iPhone 5

Low Light

Smartphone users find themselves shooting in low light more often than not, especially during indoor social events.

The low light samples were shot in a dark room with no lights turned on and only window light coming in from more than 30 feet away. The resulting photos make the room look twice as bright as it did in real life.

iPhone 5 Low Light

iPhone 5 Low Light

The iPhone 5 photo has a lot more detail in low light than the Galaxy S3′s photo (below). It’s also easier to capture sharp images in low light with the iPhone 5. At first glance, you can see the difference in the two photo.

Galaxy S3 Low Light

Galaxy S3 Low Light

When zoomed to actual size, it’s even more clear that that the Galaxy S3′s camera doesn’t measure up to the iPhone 5 in low light. Keep in mind that this is an inanimate object and the differences can be more noticeable when shooting photos of people and other moving objects in low light.

low light comparison

We took two shots with the Galaxy S3 fearing camera shake caused the blur. However, both shots turned out this way.

When looking at the wall behind the flowers, the Galaxy S3 higher noise level shows. Noise reduction in the shot below from the iPhone 5 (left) trounced the Galaxy S3 (right).

low light noise

Winner: Apple iPhone 5

Outdoor Detail

Both cameras did a good job capturing the fine detail of the leaves in these bushes as well as the bricks in the shadows behind them.

iPhone 5 Outdoor Detail

iPhone 5 Outdoor Detail

At this zoom level they look pretty close. We see the points on the leaves and the crevices in the brick. Zoomed in we can even see crevices in each brick.

Galaxy S3 Outdoor Detail

Samsung Galaxy Outdoor Detail

However, putting the two side-by-side as we’ve done below at actual size, the iPhone 5 camera has less detail and warmer color. The green on the leaves looks better in the Galaxy S3 shot.

comparison zoom between galaxy s3 and iphone 5

Comparison shot zoomed

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S3

Depth of Field

Good depth of field lets users blur a background or foreground to map a viewer’s attention on a specific element. We tested each camera and saw little difference.

iPhone 5 Depth of Field

iPhone 5 Depth of Field

Above we see about the same amount of blur in the background as we do in the shot below.

Galaxy S3 Depth of Field

Galaxy S3 Depth of Field

Winner: Tie

Panorama

Each phone makes taking panorama easy using the same method. Point at one end of the horizon and tap the shutter button after setting the camera in panorama mode. Then move the phone across the horizon slowly. The iPhone seem to do anything feeling like we’re taking a video. The Galaxy S3 flashes the screen and the shutter sound plays each time it takes a shot. Both work great.

iPhone 5 Panorama

iPhone 5 Panorama

Like the other outdoor shots, the Galaxy S3 produces brighter photos, while the iPhone 5 produces more saturated photos with more contrast. Click each image to show full size and the detail in the iPhone 5 shot stands out especially in the yellow curb on the other side of the street.

Galaxy S3 Panorama

Galaxy S3 Panorama

Winner: Apple iPhone 5

Quick Fix Images

The Apple iPhone does quick image fixes faster than the Samsung Galaxy S3. On the GS3 the user must install an app that the camera app suggests the first time we tried to edit a shot from within the camera app.

The Galaxy S3 Photo Editor app offers more options, but it’s really not built into the app. For that reasons, we give the nod to the Apple iPhone 5 by default, since the user can download plenty of great image editing apps on both platforms. Snapseed works on both platforms now and gives the user a lot of great editing features.

Winner: Apple iPhone 5

Camera App and Hardware Design

We already stated at the outset that the Galaxy S3 camera app offers more options and shooting modes. Both phones include HDR, panorama, tap-to-zoom and pinch-to-zoom features. The S3 also gives users more shooting modes and filters. The Android OS offers better sharing features too. Samsung wins the competition between the two apps without breaking a sweat.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Camera App

Samsung Galaxy S3 Camera App

As for hardware design, the larger screen on the Samsung Galaxy S3 makes composing shots so much easier. Using the volume buttons for zoom offers a nice option. The iPhone’s volume buttons will snap like a shutter button. Tapping the screen on the S3 makes it harder to get sharper images since tapping the screen can shake the phone.

Overall, this round goes to the Galaxy S3 because of the great camera shooting and sharing options in the app and the larger screen of the phone.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S3

Conclusion

In our head-to-head comparison of the two phones we originally said the Samsung Galaxy S3 camera edged out the iPhone 5. However, after this more comprehensive test, the iPhone 5 wins. The Galaxy S3 camera app offers more options and granular control of the camera. It also did a better job in the Outdoor Detail test and tied the iPhone 5 in depth of field. The iPhone 5 narrowly took the Outdoor, Indoor, Medium Light, Macro, Low Light and Quick Fix rounds.

Of course, a buyer shouldn’t pick one phone over the other just because of the camera. But if somone needs a tie-breaker, then get the Apple iPhone 5 for the slightly better camera. People who want a lot of control might think they should get the Galaxy S3 due to the more powerful camera app. However, iPhone users can download great camera apps that give the user just as much control as they get with the GS3.

Kevin loves notebooks, tablets, gadgets and photography. He grew up with computers starting out on a Vic 20 and Commodore 64. The first computer he owned himself was an 8086 Compaq Deskpro. His foray into tablet computing began when he bought a Samsung Q1 Ultra. The smartphone market opened up for him with his Palm Treo 600.

21 Comments

  1. wajd

    12/24/2012 at 9:47 am

    Care to use the anti shake next time? or say that if one wanted to take macro shots or low light shots,use the mode specified or change the iso which makes the photo way better?and you should mention that the s3 screen is amoled making it more vivid, meaning that pictures taken are made less colorful to be viewed with actual color on the screen. :)

    • Atlas

      12/24/2012 at 12:57 pm

      It’s just a test don’t get into technical stuff, besides that all goes into how the camera works which they just showed.
      It’s obvious that you are a fully fledged Android fanboy.

      • Atlas

        12/24/2012 at 1:01 pm

        Also apple doesn’t have anti shake and whatever that is, besides this test also said that if you like a camera that you can customize take android if you like a camera that’s just there, go with apple.

    • sdev

      12/28/2012 at 5:35 pm

      Totally agree with you on these shots. The blur from shaking, different angles, settings and lighting changed in comparisons. For true real comparison fix these issues..

  2. martyn thomas

    12/24/2012 at 2:54 pm

    This must be someone who has an iphone. They are biast. The key pic is different angles so will produce a different picture. The screen is better on the S3. More true to life colour i have done close up macro shots and they have never been blurred

  3. mac

    12/24/2012 at 3:45 pm

    As someone who actually has a diploma in photography, I can say without bias…. tue galaxy wins. Why…. colour tone is far more realistic.

    Mind the best way to tell is to.print the photos on the same printer on the same.paper and then ask a few people to independently judge them not knowing which were taken by which handset.

    BUT no one is that brave or independent!

  4. Russ

    12/24/2012 at 5:00 pm

    So obviously the person calling Atlas an android fanboy, is an apple fanboy. So apple is customizable with an app but S3 gets dinged because you have to download an app for editing? So I guess Iphone 5 is the idiots camera phone. Ugg,, you point and shoot, you no think. Good lord when you search for a quality Camera you look for one with good mega pixels and Built in features. They are called point and shoots but they still come with fine tune settings. I think it far more important and respectable that I can control the quality of the pictures I take then editing abilities. The tester has it right, there are tons of editing apps and I like the fact that I can choose the one or ones that fit my needs, Apple as is typical shoves one down your throat.

  5. Don

    12/25/2012 at 11:15 am

    Funny, in the pic of the candle, which the reviewer gave the nod to IPhone 5, the wick is much more visible on the S3.

    • The odd one

      12/26/2012 at 12:53 am

      That’s exactly what I was about to say. Plus, that piece of furniture or what ever it is in the background in the candle pic, is more detailed and distinguishable on the s3.

  6. freakish

    12/25/2012 at 11:40 am

    i dont want to argue with you cause its a waste.. but we can see that u definitely a biast…

    • Russ

      12/25/2012 at 12:00 pm

      What’s a waste is these head to head tests cause clearly not complete and valid tests. I will happily say I prefer android over the Apple machine, like having a condo association, you pay for Everything and have zero input you do it their way period.. I have had an itouch so I’m not oblivious nor stupid. So the difference between the two is pretty simple. SGIII has a majority of the adjustments and customization where it belongs.. In the camera app. Anything from there requires a editing app, cool. Apple gives you point, shoot done but has built in editing. Whoopy, No comparison at all.

  7. isis2012S (@Isis2012S)

    12/25/2012 at 11:29 pm

    The reviewer should’ve mention that the S3 has a better resolution and sharpness than the iCrap5. Also, my T-Mobile S3 loads pages faster than the Verizon iCrap, which shows a loading circle before the page appears. My S3 has no delay, my pages are instant on.

  8. Dj Midian

    02/25/2013 at 2:55 pm

    ive been an iphone user for years until i got the s3 …. im happy i switched ….less limited in all ways

    • Dj Midian

      02/25/2013 at 2:56 pm

      click my name to visit my website

  9. logan

    04/17/2013 at 11:36 am

    this is the worst test ive ever seen ive goten way better detail with my gs3 than an iphone 5

  10. notbias

    05/18/2013 at 4:06 pm

    The iphone wins. Yes, the s3 has nice detail and color — if you hold it perfectly still. If the object you’re photographing moves even the slightest bit, like, takes a breath, the photo is blurry. It has the worst shutter ever. Even when I photograph shots of my artwork to post, the photo is so horrible I can’t even post it. You zoom in and everything is grainy. I’m so bummed I switched from iphone to this phone. It also takes way longer to TAKE the photo, and takes too long to open the camera if you need to take a quick shot. Fail.

    • Hahahahahaha

      09/26/2013 at 11:36 am

      GS3>iPhone 5
      Use anti-shake on gs3 next time, “notbias”

  11. Alan

    08/06/2013 at 5:21 am

    We will never find a real clever discussion about iphone vs samsung, too any funboy are turning around (apple AND samsung), it’s always soo funny to read and so ridiculous… Both are excellent phone, be happy we don’t have only one option, be happy we don’t have only apple, be happy we don’t have only samsung, and for photo shooting, are both crap, take a real camera

    • Russ

      08/06/2013 at 5:38 am

      Take a real camera? Fool, please. I have taken many photos in many lighting scenarios and I have yet to be disappointed nor have I found myself saying “damn, should have brought a real camera” and trust me when I tell you I have a nice compact Sony camera that takes great pictures. The reality is that we as a society try our best to streamline our take alongs and as I stated, I have not regretted it in over a year. I have the S3 to be clear and I’m happy to say so. Before you call me a biased android fanboy, I also have an ipad with retina display so I’m more informed and level headed than someone with just one or the other. If a lot of people were to come down off their Android and apple ivory towers we’d be better off.

  12. brenda

    08/28/2013 at 5:41 am

    So I have a galaxy s3 shoulf I switch to iPhone 5? Whst phone takes best pics

  13. Marc

    12/05/2013 at 10:37 pm

    I feel that this was a poorly performed comparison. Of all the picture’s I’ve taken with an S3 I’ve never had them look as blurry as the pictures in this comparison. You must have been punching the camera button to get such poor quality pictures.

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