Rumors cropped up last week that Apple had put down a big order for LED flashes, something useful for one thing, and one thing only: a digital camera. It doesn't take much to figure that the next iteration of the iPhone is likely to be packing one of these, since many of the latest cell phones--including HTC's recently released Nexus One, now have them included.
That got me thinking: how does the Nexus One's 5-megapixel camera and its eye-searing flash stack up against the 3-megapixel flashless camera module of the now-aging iPhone 3GS? Is the ability to take bigger and better-lit photos worth touting as the end-all, be-all feature among smartphone cameras? The easiest way to figure that out is to run a few tests.
Full disclosure here: I'm not a camera-testing expert. I am an avid photographer with a handful of pro gear, as well as a few high school and college photography courses under my belt. I'm not even going to try to get into things like testing dynamic range, color sensitivity, signal-to-noise ratio, etc. So instead, I've set up the two cameras to take essentially the same photo in various situations, to see how the two stack up.
All photos in this comparison were taken within the same minute of each other, while balanced from a leveled tripod to maintain the same height and distance. Images were then transferred directly from the devices for analysis. All comparison shots are presented side by size, at full quality, without any recompression or conversion. Any timings were done with a stopwatch.… Read more