Smartphone Camera Showdown, Part 3: Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

by Nora on March 20, 2014

Nokia vs Samsung

Welcome to Part 3 of the Smartphone Camera Showdown, where I’m testing out the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom: the two top cameras on the smartphone market. They were lent to me by AT&T, after I expressed a desire to do away with my camera entirely, in favour of a smartphone that can carry its weight as a semi-professional camera.

Click here for Part 1: My review of the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Click here for Part 2: My review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom.

In this episode of the Smartphone Camera Showdown, the Samsung and the Nokia will go head-to-head, as I compare various features and determine an overall winner (for me).

For a little history on why I’ve decided to do away with my “real” camera, check out my review of the Nokia Lumia 1020 in Part 1 of this series.

 

 

As A Smartphone

Out of the box, here are some differences between the two phones:

Feel/Usability

Nokia Lumia and Samsung Galaxy

The Samsung is much heavier and bulkier than the Nokia, which is quite thin and light.

The Nokia’s screen is much bigger, which makes for nice big tiles and buttons and easy readability. Comparatively, the Samsung’s screen is small, and the icons even smaller.

Because of the Samsung’s protruding camera lens, using it as a smartphone feels more awkward.

Winner: Nokia

 

Operating System

The Nokia Lumia 1020 uses Windows 8, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom uses Android. iPhone users will find using Android a little more familiar, although I haven’t had any difficulties with the Windows 8 operating system.

However Android has way more flexibility, and infinitely more apps available. Windows 8 is really lacking in this area.

Winner: Samsung

 

Compatibility with Mac

Neither one of these phones is stellar in playing nicely with my Macbook Air laptop, but Samsung is better overall, with just one program (Kies) that syncs everything and few if any “hacks” required to transfer information.

Samsung however, loses points by being very finicky connecting to a computer. The cord they provide in the box doesn’t work at all, and with a different cord it still doesn’t work 100% of the time.

Ultimately both phones are manageable with Mac. Check out the individual phone reviews of the Nokia and Samsung for the specific programs and processes I used.

Winner: Tie

 

Storage/Speed

The Nokia has 32gigs of storage space, in comparison to the Samsung’s measly 12gigs. Apparently the Samsung is expandable to 64gigs by using a micro SD card, however I’m not sure what information (other than photos) can be stored on the card.

Both phones have 1.5mH dual core processors, but the Nokia has 2gigs of ram as opposed to Samsung’s 1.5gigs of ram.

Winner: Nokia

 

World Phone

If you want to travel the world with one of these (unlocked) smartphones – as I do – Nokia has quad band GSM compatibility, whereas the Samsung is only a tri-band phone.

However, because of the Windows operating system on the Nokia, not all SIM cards can offer data plans (as I recently discovered in Peru).

Winner: Tie

 

 

As a Camera

Since I’m doing away with my “real” camera entirely, it’s important that the cameras on these smartphones are worthy replacements. Here’s the head-to-head analysis:

Feel/Usability

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom looks and feels like a real camera. In fact, it feels more like a camera than a smartphone. If you care about looking like a serious photographer using only a smartphone, the Samsung is better.

Winner: Samsung

 

Photo Size/Resolution

Nokia’s 41 megapixel camera offers a couple of different shooting modes; hi-res pictures are about 10mb in size, and lower-res pictures (meant for internet sharing) are about 2mb. If you have the Nokia set to take hi-res pictures, it saves one of each.

Samsung’s 16 megapixel camera takes pictures right in the middle, at about 5mb in size.

All in all on a computer, it’s difficult to tell the difference in terms of photographic detail between any of the three modes, but larger picture sizes allow for cropping and post processing of photos without undue loss of size and quality.

Winner: Nokia

 

Zoom

Samsung’s 10x optical zoom (which rivals many “real” cameras) is awesome, and a joy to use.

Technically the Nokia’s 41mp lens takes in enough information to allow cropping to a similar degree, but in practice there is a wee loss in quality when you get to 10x, as shown in the pictures below.

Winner: Samsung

Samsung at 10x zoom

Standing in the same spot as the above picture, taken as a wide shot with the Nokia

The Nokia photo above, cropped to equal 10x zoom

 

 

Low Light

Apparently the Nokia is better in low light, but because the Samsung is a little heavier, it’s easier to hold steady for sharper shots with fewer tries. Both cameras have night settings, but Samsung has three night modes including light trace and fireworks (as well as party/indoor shots and other settings to help you adjust to your circumstances). With a tripod and some knowledge of exposure and other manual settings, both cameras are equally capable.

Winner: Tie

 

Auto Settings

Sometimes you lose that kodak moment while futzing around with camera settings; you just gotta snap n go. Nokia takes much richer shots on auto; the Samsung is consistently somewhat over-exposed, as you’ll see in the shots below.

Winner: Nokia

Nokia

Samsung

 

Nokia

Samsung

 

Shooting Options

Both phones have fully customizable manual shots, allowing you to adjust everything from exposure to shutter speed, white balance, aperture, ISO, and more.

The Samsung offers 25 (oh yes, 25) different shooting modes; the Nokia considerably less.

Winner: Samsung

 

Macro Shots

Nokia falls down entirely with macro focusing. This seems to be a bug with the software, as the camera should be more than capable of letting you get close for detailed shots. Technically you can compensate with the Nokia by holding the camera farther back and cropping, but it’s not ideal.

Winner: Samsung

 

Selfies

A solo traveler has to be good at taking “selfies”, and Nokia wins hands-down with a much wider angle.

Winner: Nokia

Samsung

Nokia

 

Editing Options

Nokia takes the cake with the on-board Creative Studio, which makes up for the lack of shooting options in my mind; in many ways it’s easier to just get the shots on the fly and edit them to your liking later. With Nokia’s most awesome 41 megapixels, there’s enough shooting information in the photo to accomplish lots of effects afterwards and still come out with a photo the same size as a Samsung shot (before editing).

Winner: Nokia

Nokia original

Nokia edit #1

Nokia edit #2

Samsung….yawn!

 

Steady/Tripod

Samsung has the ability out of the box to accommodate a tripod, which is necessary for most low light and long exposure shots. For hand-held photography, the Samsung’s heavier weight helps you to hold the camera steady, despite Nokia’s built-in image stabilizing options.

The Nokia can’t accommodate a tripod, but their camera grip accessory allows for one, and adds the extra weight and ergonomics to take steadier hand-held shots too.

Winner: Samsung (out of the box)

 

 

The Bottom Line

Every bottom line has a price attached to it; the budget conscious will prefer the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom at $400 factory-unlocked, as opposed to the Nokia Lumia 1020 at $600 for a factory-unlocked model.

 

The Verdict

If price isn’t your final determining factor, you might agree that these two phones are quite comparable. Neither one screams out as way better than the other; a lot of it boils down to personal preferences and what you need your smartphone/camera for.

What’s my verdict, you ask?

I must admit, the Nokia Lumia 1020 stole my heart right from the start, and although I tried to like the Samsung better, I just couldn’t manage to. The Nokia takes better shots overall, it feels nicer to use as a smartphone, and despite the Windows operating system (which I hope will improve with more apps and flexibility over time), it does everything I need a smartphone to do for my full-time travel needs.

 

Winner: Nokia Lumia 1020

 

 

Thank you…

I would like to extend a special thank you to AT&T for lending me both phones complete with SIM cards for one month so I could test them to my heart’s content and perform these comparative reviews. They rose to the challenge when I told them of my mission to get rid of my “real” camera and replace it with a smartphone that could produce quality semi-professional shots, and also be a useful smartphone for my full-time travels.

It’s not often you get to test-drive the goods in this fashion, and I’m very grateful to have had this opportunity.

 

Imagine my surprise, when after the comparison was complete, I was offered a brand new Nokia Lumia 1020 of my own! Both AT&T and Nokia were so happy to have the feedback I personally sent them, that they got together and sent me a phone, camera grip accessory, and extra battery pack! I am now the proud new owner of a Nokia Lumia 1020.

May the awesome photos begin – and continue!

 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rob March 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm

A well done test, thank you!

Reply

2 Nora Dunn March 20, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Thanks, Rob! Ultimately it was a toss-up between the two smartphones – they’re both excellent. But I’m very happy with my personal choice of the Nokia. So far so good!

Reply

3 Marie @Budgeting for Travel March 21, 2014 at 9:17 am

I really enjoyed reading your cell phone comparisons, it’s really a big help especially for those who are planning to buy a new one. Btw, congrats for having a new Nokia Lumia 1020!

Reply

4 Nora Dunn March 21, 2014 at 11:14 am

Thanks Marie! I’m glad you got something out of it. It was a somewhat self-serving comparison exercise, but I can’t imagine that there aren’t other people out there who want to do the same thing as I did in combining their camera and smartphone.

Reply

5 Joshua Dent March 21, 2014 at 12:23 pm

What a great idea! Good luck on your plunge into the unknown of leaving the traditional camera behind!

Reply

6 Nora Dunn March 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Joshua – So far so good! I’m loving the fact that I always have my camera with me and can whip it out any time very easily, and it’s not a big heavy hassle to carry around.

Reply

7 Dan Cowell March 21, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Welcome to the family! So great to see another Lumia 1020 out there on the road. Looking forward to seeing the photos that come out of it!

Reply

8 Nora Dunn March 22, 2014 at 11:32 am

Hey Dan,
Another Lumia 1020 owner! Yay! Have you also made the transition to just having the Lumia as your camera?

Reply

9 Dan Cowell March 22, 2014 at 5:16 pm

I’ve been using it for the last four months or so as my daily shooter. I still travel with a dedicated camera, but it’s nice to be able to leave it at my apartment (I slow travel, maybe 3-6 months based out of a large city with lots of day- and weekend-trips) when I feel like travelling light, without worrying about missing a moment!

These days whenever I take my “real” camera out it’s mainly when I’m having a “photography day” of sorts, where I go out with the pure intention of taking photos.

Reply

10 Anna Reitman April 8, 2014 at 4:53 am

Just wondering, which one lasted longer for battery power?

Reply

11 Nora Dunn April 8, 2014 at 9:02 am

Anna – Good question! It was neck and neck, but I think the Samsung might have lasted a wee bit longer. It really depends on what you use the phones/cameras for. An accessory I recommend for the Nokia is the camera grip accessory, which makes feel and operate more like a camera, AND it has extra battery power in it as well.

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