Smartphone Camera Battle: iPhone 4S vs. the Android Elite

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Overall Still-Image Quality Results

Model NameMegapixelsScore (Out of 100)Word Score
Nikon Coolpix P300 (Control Subject) 12 82.4 Very Good
T-Mobile MyTouch Slide 4G 8 81.7 Very Good
Samsung Galaxy S II 8 81.4 Very Good
Apple iPhone 4S 8 81.0 Very Good
HTC Sensation 4G 8 75.1 Good
Apple iPhone 4 (Black) 5 74.6 Good
Motorola Droid Bionic 8 72.4 Fair

The T-Mobile MyTouch Slide 4G remains the best phone camera we've ever tested for still-image quality, but it now has some serious competition. The Samsung Galaxy SII (we used the Epic Touch 4G version for Sprint in these tests) and the new Apple iPhone 4S finished right on its heels. In fact, the results were so close in our lab tests--only 0.7 point separates the top-ranked MyTouch Slide 4G from the third-place iPhone 4S--that you could argue for any of those three phones as the best overall.

Each of the top three phones has its own strengths. Based on our judges' feedback after looking at the test images, the T-Mobile MyTouch Slide 4G took the sharpest-looking shots and had the most accurate-looking colors; the Samsung Galaxy SII captured the most evenly exposed photos with and without its flash enabled; and the iPhone 4S had an impressive lack of distortion and the most evenly balanced scores across the board for exposure, color, sharpness, and distortion. Without a doubt, the star feature of the iPhone 4S's camera is its automated white balance, which is extremely accurate.

Here are the individual scores for each category (exposure, color, sharpness, and distortion) in our lab tests for still image quality. It's important to note that each category is weighted differently to produce each camera's overall imaging score. Color accuracy and sharpness scores account for 30 percent each of the overall imaging score, exposure quality counts for 25 percent of the overall score, and distortion counts for 15 percent of the overall score.

Image Quality Category Results

Model NameExposure Quality (25%)Color Accuracy (30%)Sharpness (30%)Distortion (15%)
Nikon Coolpix P300 (Control Subject) 80.1 Very Good 78.0 Good 87.5 Superior 85.2 Very Good
T-Mobile MyTouch Slide 4G 84.3 Very Good 85.1 Very Good 82.5 Very Good 67.6 Fair
Samsung Galaxy S II 86.4 Very Good 82.9 Very Good 79.8 Very Good 72.6 Fair
Apple iPhone 4S 83.8 Very Good 83.0 Very Good 80.0 Very Good 73.6 Good
HTC Sensation 4G 80.7 Very Good 77.1 Good 74.5 Good 62.0 Poor
Apple iPhone 4 (Black) 78.8 Good 78.8 Good 69.2 Fair 66.4 Fair
Motorola Droid Bionic 73.1 Fair 72.1 Fair 72.9 Fair 71.0 Fair

Video quality was an entirely different story. The T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide went from first to worst, while the Samsung Galaxy SII posted the highest overall score--even better than the Nikon Coolpix P300. In low-light situations, however, you'd be much better served by the Motorola Droid Bionic (which posted one of the best scores we've seen for low-light video quality), or the Apple iPhone 4S (which continued its impressively consistent jack-of-all-trades ways with solid scores for both bright-light and low-light video).

Here's how the smartphones stacked up in our video tests.

Video Quality Results

Model NameResolutionVideo: NormalVideo: Low LightAudioOverall Video Score
Samsung Galaxy S II 1080p 88.0 Superior 64.2 Fair 68.6 Fair 82.9 Very Good
Nikon Coolpix P300 (Control Subject) 1080p 80.6 Very Good 62.0 Poor 85.2 Very Good 80.6 Very Good
HTC Sensation 4G 1080p 79.8 Very Good 68.6 Fair 72.6 Fair 77.8 Good
Apple iPhone 4S 1080p 79.0 Good 77.0 Good 70.4 Fair 77.2 Good
Motorola Droid Bionic 1080p 75.4 Good 82.8 Very Good 77.0 Good 76.1 Good
Apple iPhone 4 720p 74.8 Good 73.6 Good 73.2 Fair 74.4 Good
T-Mobile MyTouch Slide 4G 1080p 68.6 Fair 65.4 Fair 64.2 Fair 67.6 Fair

On the next pages, you'll find the sample images taken with each camera for our exposure, color, sharpness, and distortion tests, as well as for our bright-light and low-light video tests.

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