nighttime camera comparison

We’re treated with some great smartphone cameras this season, between HTC’s Ultrapixels, Samsung’s Isocell technology, and Sony’s large sensors.

One area where smartphone makers have focused their attention is low-light photography. And rightly so – no matter how great a camera is in broad daylight, in most situations lighting is not ideal, hence the prevalence of grainy, smudgy and generally poor images we see every day.

But what’s the best camera for nighttime photography out of the current crop? A user of Taiwanese website ePrice managed to get his hands on an Xperia Z2, LG G Pro 2, Samsung Galaxy S5, and HTC One (M8), and pitted them against each other in a quick low-light photo test. Here’s a sample of the results.

Click to enlarge. Order, from left to right: M8, Galaxy S5, G Pro 2, Xperia Z2

The results from all competitors are quite good, a testimony to the advance in camera quality from the past years. But each device manifests its strengths and weaknesses. The HTC M8 makes the most of the light in the scene, but tends to overexpose bright areas and details are low. The Galaxy S5 takes well-balanced shots, but images are not that clear. The G Pro 2, with its optical stabilization, takes the clearest shots, but the images are very yellowish. Like the Galaxy S5, the Xperia Z2’s shots are a bit on the fuzzy side.

Head over to the source for more shots and details (in Chinese). What do you make of these samples?

Bogdan Petrovan
Bogdan is the European Managing Editor of Android Authority. He loves tech, travel, and fantasy. He wishes he had more time for two of those things. Bogdan's phone is a Nexus 6P.
  • MasterMuffin

    In my opinion S5 with ISOCELL is the best out of the 4. One’s photos look just horrible, G2 Pro’s colors are completely wrong and Z2 is pretty even

    • k

      I agree that S5 look the most natural, but I am drawn so much more to everything else about the One that I am conflicted

      • MasterMuffin

        Buy both and glue the S5 to the rear of the One!

        • Aniruddh

          I wouldn’t do that…would spoil the only reason you’d buy One for – the premium feel

          • MasterMuffin

            I don’t know if you’re serious or not :)

          • Aniruddh

            I wasn’t xD
            One is a great phone, but the camera seems like a let down.
            G Pro 2 has a horrible (low-light) camera too.

          • John Mortimer

            The problem is you get more street if you got the gs5 anyways I.e. if you do not own a iPhone or Samsung you get oh that phone ok

          • Aniruddh

            Dat true. No one cares how ‘good’ the phone looks. Samsung has managed to build up a brand as a premium smartphone maker.
            While, GS5 may not ‘look’ premium, the Samsung logo is enough to convince everyone that it IS premium.

    • Colby Leong

      Z2 loses a lot of detail when zoomed into the pictures above while Samsung still retains a good amount of detail when zoomed.

    • Winston Purnomo

      The G Pro 2 has some terrible issues with saturation, I swear that was not the case with the G2 though.

  • Shark Bait

    Different shots look better on different sensors, but all pretty good. One things for sure and that’s who needs a point and shoot camera anymore ??

    • mggOptimusG

      Point and shoot are way better than these ones. The only real benefit of phone based cameras is the sharing ability. No go to the zoo and take a few shots, you will see that optical zoom is critical.
      Everyday photos for FB, G+ and other sharing sites are well served by a phone camera.
      On a real once in a life trip would you take only your phone ? … Hell no.

      • Anthonydotcom

        Wow, someone who’s actually speaking my language. I never understood how people think that a tiny cellphone image sensor can replace even the cheapest pocket camera with a decent “optical” zoom lens. Cellphone cameras are cool only for instagram and texting. My real pictures are taken with a real camera.

      • Cody Kiker

        My EyeFi card pushes images straight to my phone, so I get the best of both worlds!

  • kevin

    How about the shooting speed? With a bit of editing all those look even to me… which one of those is the snappiest, less laggy and has the shortest waiting time bettween 2 shots? I got a LG g2 few months ago and im so disappointed about the camera…

    • Sandy

      disappointed with camera ? r u kidding me ?

      • Guest

        The G2 gives almost identical results to the Note 3, except the white balance is a little (not a lot) worse and the shots are slightly more noisy/fuzzy. There is not much to complain about the G2 camera. If that camera is disappointing, I doubt any smartphone camera short of the Nokia PureView/N8/1020 is going to satisfy.

  • MuffY

    As a photographer looking at those picture I have to tell that all 4 have a problem in common, the noise reduction filter is way to aggressive resulting in those “plastic” like feeling. The first picture especially, the building seems made of butter.

    G pro seems to have a big issue with white balance too.

    • Karl Massia-Demers

      its like pulling the noire reduction to 100 on a jpg in lightroom… its quite horrible :/

    • In your opinion, what’s the best one?

      • MuffY

        It’s hard to tell, as many people pointed out you can always tweak the settings and auto is never the best. Seeing those picture seems that gs5 has a bit more details but again could be only a matter of settings. It will be nice to see also shots taken under good light condition to see more how the sensor is and less how the software is “interfering”

    • Tuấn Ankh

      Perhaps HTC had their own Project Butter?

  • Carlos Paixao

    The S5 shows the most faithful colors, but at too much noise to achieve that. Z2 is shows decent colors and almost none noise.

    • Christian

      how do you know which one is the most accurate in terms of color when there’s no reference to compare it with?

      • Carlos Paixao

        I live nearby.

  • Superprelude

    You can probably change the white balance on G2.

    Another thing to comment is how long for each to focus? From my experience, HTC One M7 was always the fastest to focus in nearly complete darkness restaurants settings compared to note 3, nexus 5, G2, and S3.

  • someone

    The S5’s night time photos has definitely improved over the night time photos on the S4

  • Bakirsaad200

    3- G Pro 2 too warm (yellowish)
    4-one m8 overexposed, noisy and no details

    • Pinterest

      are you kidding me? S5 worst than M8, open the full size pic and S5 pics are not details and noisy.

      • Jesus

        Mate, you’re talking about details… and comparing a 4MP camera, with a 16MP camera. Be realistic. Also, I don’t see any noise with the S5, don’t be such a fanboy.

        • Anthonydotcom

          It wasn’t really noise, it seemed more like a the photoshop filter called Dry Brush. Either way it lacked a ton of detail.

          • alex

            Dude, i prefer Dry Brush than Bluring!

  • Anonymity

    Um, im sure most of these devices have settings/modes that can improve the weaknesses mentioned in the artical if you know how to adjust them the right way. So, for the M8 im sure you can adjust the brightness/exposure to solve the the issue stated, the s5 im sure there are some focusing options that can be adjusted and/or a mode that you could chose to help with the lack of detail stated, the G-pro2 should have settings to adjust the coloring or saturation and/or a mode to improve the yellowish/orangeish color of the picture and its even hard to say unless you actually were there to see what the scenery looked like in person because i know at night lighting alot of times has a yellow/orange tint to them to help with the attracting of bugs so not sure if the Pro2 does look discolored or just depicting the actual look of the scene either way it can be adjusted, and for the Z2 as with the 5S im sure adjustments can be made with settings/mode to help with the detail and focus. I do however love the artical and would like to see some more tests.

  • Luqmaan Mathee

    Galaxy S5

  • mggOptimusG

    … this test is not showing the real world.

    If you can take any of these phones and then tweak it to take the best photo, the results would be probably different than this test.
    You also need to decide what type of picture you taking and what you need to do with the picture afterwards.

    M8 is sub-par on details (4 Mp against way more Mp)
    S5 has way too much noise reduction

    GP2 white balance is off … but the best one overall
    Z2 is way too noisy … .

  • John-Phillip Saayman

    Ya what’s with the yellow.. Coz the details are good on g pro 2

    • Guest

      Seems like some sort of Auto-Night Mode/Smart Stabilization was employed. You get the same Yellow Hue on Samsung (S4/Note 3) phones if you enable that. Galaxy S3 does something similar if you use the “Low Light Mode” on the phone. The phone uses a light inside the sensor to aid it in low light. Once you turn that feature off, the image goes back to normal coloring.
      I think it’s very important that reviewers spend at least 2 minutes learning the camera software before they attempt any “comparisons” Lol

  • John-Phillip Saayman

    For me the Z2 looks worst in these.. Sorry

    • Rogue

      Actually the Z2 is at it’smax rresolution I don’t know why the person taking the photos did that when that mode should be for daytime if he had chosen the 15mp or 10 mp mode where the phone could over sample the results would be a lot better. Seems this test ain’t fair cause all these cameras are at different resolutions maybe set them to the same and then we could complain.

      • John-Phillip Saayman

        Oh yes I forgot about the high megapixels

    • Clarence Alvarado

      With Superior Auto, it uses ISO 6400 whenever it is needed for low light photo to process it. Sadly, Sony’s NR is not that good.

  • wilfredo

    The S5 Wins look at them pictures ;)

  • guy with guts

    Since when htc’s ultrapixel sensors were great. It is another gimmick, just like duo camera and imagesense chip. All htc flagships from desires, sensations, the ones all had below average cameras and image quality. But even with this history they post infographics and make ads boasting bout their not so great cameras lol

    • Guest

      ImageSense wasn’t a gimmick. ImageSense is a custom ISP that they use in their phones. ImageSense was baller in 2012. Issue is, I’m not sure it has really improved at nearly the rate that companies that focus on this stuff have. Samsung uses Fujitsu’s custom ISPs in their flagships, and those are really good… Apple uses a custom ISP. Those coprocessors allow the phone to do a lot of things in imaging that would either be much slower or impossible to do otherwise.
      Duo Camera is a gimmick. UltraPixel is a gimmick. ImageSense was not a gimmick. It was a hardware component in the phone with a clear purpose and it accomplishes that. Whether or not it is on par with competing ISPs is another matter. Personally, I think HTC hasn’t really improved it nearly as much as they likely could have – if at all, which is probably why we haven’t heard of them mentioning or marketing it since the One X/DNA.

  • cristianer

    GS5 the best. Those details are great!

  • teotsi21

    the M8 is an absolute beast in low light shots. Still, the 4 UP camera sucks on any other condition…

    • Guest

      The M8 is the worst camera in this shootout. The low light imagery is completely destroyed by the fact that the camera cannot capture any detail and any direct light in the image (Sun in daylight, street lights at night, etc.) completely overwhelms the sensor. HTC are taking one of the worse routes to solve an issue, and while their camera captures more light than other cameras unless you’re in near darkness the other OEMs don’t really seem to be that far behind in that department. In any case, their images are way more usable than what comes out of the M8. This phone is a disappointment. HTC had a pretty easy way to make a pretty mediocre spec bump/refresh into something worth talking about (since they did regress so far irt the camera with the One), but they completely dropped the ball. Even just delivering something on par with the S4/Note 3/G2/iPhone 5[C] would have been a ton of free marketing…

  • Đỗ Hoàng

    1. Z2
    2. S5
    3. GP2
    4. M8

  • satsmine2k4

    S5> Z2>GPro2>M8

  • Adon

    not bad,BUT ,i think the next time sampling are done. All setting should be even. All the Camera are actually good. I was expecting the Z2 to be best by far. Interestingly,the LG Pro G was the best overall BUT that yellow hint was to much,Looks like the camera was set to a yellow HUE. The S5 no surprises its clear than the S4,but in true Sam manner,color can be over the top. The HTC,most people wouldn’t know its just 4mp,HTC SHOULD have done the M8 just and amp the cam to 8mp. All good cams,just depends on what you like.

  • matticitt

    “Low-light performance my ass” It seems the 4MPx camera is rather shit regardless of lighting.

  • Mr james bunt

    Can you compare the S5 , Z2 , HTC one M8 with LG G2 , the old true 13 megapixel OIS camera ?

  • Damon Salvador

    Now , compare wid LUMIAs .. lol

  • dimmypage

    For me, it is obvious that these photos clearly bear a great comparison. In my opinion, HTC’s innovation of their ultrapixels is horrendous. Its competitors have resolved this low-light issue and came up with even better results. S5 definitely won this test, even tough Z2 might surely be the best camera since it can shoot underwater. my thought about GPro2’s photos is they have some problem with saturation or somethin.

    • DMR

      I agree with you. Samsung won this contest, and the Sony X2 has some good photos as well. HTC ‘ S has too much lighting, even blinding the eyes as you stare at the photos. Any camera with the red lighting as demonstrated by the LG G2 is a no-go. I give the win to Samsung, not only for its true – to – life color reproduction, but also its zoom quality. Can’t wait until April 11th!

      • DMR

        Sorry…I meant Z2 there. Since I started using the Google keyboard, I can’t go back to choppy typing :-)

  • Bruno Rosa // TaRuGo

    Z2 all the way.

    (At least on camera side….)

  • Testerkd

    There is only one reason for choosing HTC One over S5..
    Extra logo at the front!

    • Anthonydotcom

      You serious? Everything about the One is better than the S5, say for the camera. If anything it’s at least nice to know that people have the choice. I love the front facing speakers, and don’t mind the extra size because of that. The HTC logo and black bars are there to fit components underneath. The top and bottom of the phone are consumed by the speakers and I/O ports.

  • deepen915

    S5 pics not clear? what is this guy smoking? they look sharp to me! I’m looking at them on an ASUS 1080p monitor also.

  • Jose Ra

    oppo 7??………………

  • Jesus

    I really don’t like HTC’s ‘strategy’ of say… suckerpunching.

    While Samsung makes fun of Apple, by mocking them with humor, HTC just outright insults Samsung, when Samsung doesn’t give a f about them. Not classy…

    Also, who does HTC think they are? THey are not Apple.

    • K

      I agree.

      I feel its all part of ‘marketing strategy’. Attacking the biggest player brings a lot of attention to their phone.

  • jubi

    s5 no doubt

  • K

    S5 has the deepest blacks ( a huge plus for night time pictures) while the Z2 has the best colour accuracy tied with the htc one, in my opinion. The G2 has a yellowish tinge even though the pictures are the sharpest.

    • K

      I overlooked the first photo from the hct one m8. The light at the left is blue in all the other three phones while its purple in the one m8. So it isnt entirely colour accurate.

  • Nathaniel William Philip

    If only the S5 had OIS, the photos would look much more amazing.. In terms of light, colour and exposure, the S5 is the clear winner.. If it had OIS, the details would also be great as well (such as the G Pro 2 which has OIS)

  • Blowntoaster

    ISOCELL looks good, but could do with a bit of tweaking.

    Seems the HTC lets in a bit too much light at times when there is actual light in the scene/shot. what’s up with the warm glow on the G Pro2. software needs a tweak. Sony seems to be good overall.
    Sony Xperia Z2 or GS5 seems to be the obvious choice for photography.
    Buy the HTC One if your one of those Selfie fa…uhm…addicts.

  • J.B.

    1-GS5, z2
    2.One m8
    3.G Pro 2

  • pop

    I like a GS5 in low-light, and m8 in normal light…
    Wasn’t it suppose to be another way round?? haha.

  • Johan

    In my opinion:
    Pier: Z2>S5=GPro>M8
    Bridge: S5>Z2>GPro>M8 (GPro was ok but the colours were badly off)
    Angel: GPro=Z2>M8>S5 (S5 may have got shaken?)
    Street: S5>Z2>GPro>M8 (GPro’s colours off again)

    M8 obviously has a low-resolution camera and simply can’t catch enough detail, it’s by far the worst of these four. Parts of the picture are badly overexposed. The only thing M8 is decent at is low-light macro shots.

    G Pro 2 has horrible automatic colour balance but otherwise gets good detail. You’d need to manually set the balance.

    Z2 and S5 are the clear winners with the most detail and sharpness. S5 handles long-distance photos at night well (eg. it’s the only one that properly captures the pattern in the wall of the building in the street photo). Z2 is good in macro shots in dark conditions (either S5 was shaken in the close-up photo or the quality isn’t that good) and Z2 also does extremely well in scenery photos at night.

  • The Gpro2 was the most warm, but in fountain shot, it was cooler than the others also the best imo. Not sure if image was switched, or because of flash

  • Anthonydotcom

    The One might be over exposing some shots, but we don’t exactly know what focal point was chosen. That being said, i’m completely satisfied with my current one, and can’t wait to upgrade to the M8. 4 Megapixels is enough for most people. For everyone else worried about image quality, you really need to go and get yourself a dedicated camera. I’d take a 10MP DSLR sensor over a 41MP cellphone camera sensor any day of the week. It’s not the number of megapixels you have, it’s about the size of the sensor/pixels and the glass. That’s the truth.

  • risky fadillah

    HTC ONE M8 !!!

  • Adon

    would have been a better test with a OPPO Find 7 and a NOKIA Lumia 1020 (the benchmark) further comparison.

  • George Av

    Wow.. ISOCELL is fucking amazing! You sure you didn’t use a compact camera instead of the S5? :D Oh, and HTC you said your phone had awesome night shots… well. More lies from the dying company.

  • xd feng

    As for network,rigid flex circuits take part in the connection of business office and interpersonal communication by means of the refreshment of cable materials in communication tools.

  • gordon brown

    Samsung’s new Android flagship comes with a built-in ‘Download Booster’ mode that basically allows you to downloads large files (over 30MB) using both your Wi-Fi connection and cellular network at the same time, combining their bandwidth for zippier downloads. . This will come in handy, especially for users who are in a hurry to download a big file.

  • goog yubari

    G Pro 2 > GS5 > HTC One M8 > Z2