back to article Eight... HD camera smartphones

You know that really annoying person who is videoing the gig with their camera phone to stick on Facebook when they get home? That's me. These days my TV is HD and my games console is HD, so it only makes sense that my phone – the device I use the most, day in and day out – should be HD too. Luckily, HD on smartphones is …


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  1. Fuzz


    So the Lumia, and the Blackberry get negative comments because you have to install their software to get video off of the phone. No mention of the required iTunes infestation in the iPhone review. I also think more needs to be made of the hideous rolling shutter effect; it's very pronounced on the sample video from the Nexus and quite a few others.

    All in all though a pretty good round up, I'd say the iPhone's lack of continuous autofocus works in its favour. Some of the other phones, particularly the Lumia seem to struggle with constantly refocusing on the wrong thing. The sensor size of these cameras means that apart from extreme close ups the depth of field will take care of most focus issues for you.

    A bit disappointing not to see some gig footage shot with each phone. I find this is a huge test for a phone, flashing lights are tricky for almost all of them and the ability of the onboard microphone to deal with a really loud sound system should have been mentioned.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge


      A very good point as iTunes is both pretty crap on Windows (my experience of friend's machines), and of course useless for Linux.

      Why, oh why would you WANT a phone-specific access method?

      Why can't those idiots provide USB mass storage access (even if defaulting to read-only) to allow you to copy off files on any sane computer system, including ones you don't have admin rights on to install infestations such as iTunes or Zune?

      1. Vin

        iTunes not required for video

        I can't comment on the latest and greatest iPhones, but I have an old 3GS here.

        When I want to retrieve photos or video from it, iTunes isn't required at all.

        Just connect the iPhone to any PC via USB, and it appears like a digital camera under "Computer" and you can just drag and drop photos and videos from it, although not to it.

        So it works "nearly" as well as a mass storage device for retrieving your photos and video, but only one way traffic is permitted.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge


          Good to hear that for a change.

          1. Gene Cash Silver badge

            @Paul Crawford

            Be aware this is some pain-in-the-ass semi-proprietary "Media Transfer" protocol, which is slow as hell on Linux, requiring some FUSE hackery to deal with. My Xoom uses this garbage.

      2. hazydave

        It's not just that...

        Real cameras, photo and video, have settled on using standard mass storage access. They also have standards for video file storage, photo file storage, etc.

        When your phone doesn't follow these standard, it becomes something weird and hard to deal with. When it does, all the regular photo and video software out there works with it, no questions asked. So, as you way, why would you want any phone-specific storage method? There's no possible reason; no single company, not even Apple, trumps the momentum of the whole consumer photo and video industries on this.

        Of course, Apple's probably trying to sell you something. Anyone who's not Apple and still doing this, even more shame on your, because there's no chance this isn't going to hard on users.

      3. introiboad

        Mass storage doesn't cut it for non tech savvy users. You cannot expect them to drag music using an Explorer/Finder.

    2. Gordon 10


      Videos and pics on the iPhones have all ways been available without iTunes - check your facts before you post.

      The iPhone photos folder shows up as a camera under windows.

      1. Ted 3

        Gordon 10 is totally correct. You do not need iTunes (thank god) to transfer video or jpgs off an iPhone. However, Fuzz is correct in highlighting iTunes on Windows as a crappy piece of bloatware. That is why I always transfer photos off an iPhone on a computer specifically without an iTunes installation.

    3. hazydave

      Video vs. Photo

      Some still cameras with video use still camera algorithms for their video autofocus... phone cameras as well.

      A still camera needs to focus very quickly, then grab the shot. Pretty obvious.

      A video camera needs to do slower focus seeking, so that the process of focus seeking isn't obvious in the finished video. While professionals will usually use fixed focus in video anyway, dedicated camcorders will produce decent autofocused results. If you have a phone camera that's jumpy on video autofocus, that's a good sign the manufactuer/app is just recycling a still camera focusing algorithm.

  2. Insane Reindeer

    Not normally bothered by these reviews

    No, I'm not. These group reviews are so light on details I normally like to find full reviews of each item across various sources and compare like that.

    So why am I here and commenting now? Because in picking the Nokia Lumia 800 you have been as daft as a brush and I wanted to share that thought with you.

    This review isn't about operating systems, ecosystems or form factors. It's meant to be about HD cameras. So you decision to not pick the Nokia N8-00 both astounds and disgusts me in equal measure. Yes it only records at 720p but it does have a standard HDMI mini output and includes a mini to full adapter in the box, and if you are running out of space on your (up to) 32GB microSD card and/or you've filled the internal disk while you are recording you can always plug in a USB memory stick and push your already recorded files over to that to free up more space. Then you can of course watch said HD recordings back from said memory stick via the phone while it is plugged into a HD TV and controlled via a suitable bluetooth device while seated on your sofa.

    But then of course you know all of that. A more suspicious commentard might think that all of that was why you didn't choose the Nokia N8-00. But then I suspect that the publicly given reason will feature the word Symbian...

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      A cynical commentard's view

      A link to purchase an N8 will get fewer clicks than the other phones because it's a year and a half old now and yes, it comes with Symbian Albatross^WAnna which can be annoying when the mood takes it but certainly not worthy of the bad press it gets.

      From a strictly technical point of view it really should be included, especially after installing the camera software update from Betalabs or which comes with Symbian Belle (out this month).

      1. Hypnotist

        They have Belle already

        The Nokia N8 now ships with Belle, even though the upgrade for existing users isn't ready just yet.

  3. pcsupport
    Thumb Down

    Not too impressed with this

    The 'Buy on Amazon' links at the bottom of each of the items shows that El Reg makes some money out of us readers who would click 'n buy.

    Where is the line that should state that El Reg has a financial interest in these links?

    I'm all for paying you a bit of commission if I choose to buy through your links but only if I was forewarned.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      "I'm all for paying you a bit of commission if I choose to buy through your links but only if I was forewarned."

      Do you pay any more via these links? If not, I don't seen any real conflict of interest.

    2. Gordon 10

      Your whining may have a point if they were links to clove technology but since they arent you don't.

    3. Robert E A Harvey


      I like el reg, and if they can make a few tenths of percent by providing a helpful link I don't care. I rather thought that the world had known about amazon affiliate schemes for half a decade.

    4. zanto


      lots of review sites include links to where you can buy. i think it's a useful feature and if the reg earns some money from it (and i honestly hope that they do), then good for them.

      epic fail for being such a jerk.

  4. Dazzz

    Where is the N8?

    Oh come on, you couldnt be bothered including the most acknowledged camera smartphone out there?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Surely the Nokia N8 is the obvious choice for HD video? OK, it only records at 720p but the lens is excellent. With the new Symbian Belle update it's not a bad phone now either and the battery life is very good which does have a bearing.

  6. Chris 171

    What to buy if you don't want an N8?

    And why I suspect its not reviewed, write video to external memory. Switchable focus modes on video, excellent glass, better sound than many camcorders etc etc. All in free and easy formats, throw it where you like. Kinda embarrassing for the competition.

    Boiled down the death of Symbian is as result of Nokia taking the apple user lock in route and that sucks hard. I'm only buoyed by the hint of one final S^3 successor to the N8.

    Crippling the most useful phone OS so soon to pander to the market that responds best to advertising is a crime.

  7. JDX Gold badge


    You're clearly aware El Reg makes some money through referrals so whay are you asking them to tell you something you (and most IT-literate people) already know?

  8. Lunatik

    Love the Paul McKenna-lite 'appreciating' la bellydancer in the iPhone 4S vid.

  9. Craig Foster

    Samsung S2

    Why not include the camera phone the public is buying - like the Samsung S2?

    The Nexus, N8, and S2 all have better lenses than the 4S.

  10. Miffo

    No sd card.

    Similar to the posting about the complaint of requiring software for the Nokia but no mention of that lack on the iPhone. The iPhone has no replaceable sd card (OK - you can get bigger internal memory but then increase the price) and neither does the Nokia but it's only mentioned on the Nokia page.

    Maybe you should have complained at the lack of an easily replaceable battery for those festival weekends to complete the set! :-)

    Is it just because we can assume that everyone knows about the iPhones shortcomings? (i.e. iTunes software, fixed battery and no SD card)

    1. Danny 14


      you'll only get downvoted for iphone bashing. They couldnt even put a review of the galaxy S2 in case apple sued them for likeness comparisons.

  11. Steve Litchfield

    N8 for me too - unforgiveable omission...

    Agree that overlooking the N8 here is criminal - it has by far the largest sensor and highest quality optics of all the phones on the market. Out of the box, there's large hyperfocal depth of field for video capture, but with the latest Camera app update, it can do macro/continuous a-f too. A win all round - omitting it is surely because of the Register's bias against Symbian?

    Disappointed in you.

  12. Levente Szileszky

    iPhone as recommended? 'Nuff said about the whole article.

    Seriously, this clearly shows the author has no clue about the subject.

    1. gisabsr

      Why not? The 4S, like it or not, does a great job with photographs and video. Both tests and real world experience shows this to be true. Is it just because the article doesn't pander to your particular set of biases?

      1. Levente Szileszky

        RE: why not?

        Ummm, perhaps because it DOES NOT DO a great job?

        "Both tests and real world experience shows this to be true. "

        This is something you just pulled out of your bottom part, right?

        Ah you said photographs? iPhone colors are crappy compared to my Arc pics, we concluded when the first iPhone 4S arrived at work, y'know.

        4S is using the same chip you can find in my original Xperia Arc (non-S) and Apple still has no clue what to do with it, just look at those blown-out, over-saturated colors. The Sony Exmor chip hands over the picture ALREADY DIGITIZED, all Apple has to do is filter, compress, save etc and, of course, present it. Well, they screw it up.

        Video, you said?

        There are no biases here, I'm just trying to break through the bubble most Mactard wannabe journos live in - and with all due respect women scribblers are the worst "good enough" offenders.

        Seriously, read this reasoning again:

        "If the iPhone 5 doesn't have continuous autofocus, I won't be impressed. I could moan that you can't change exposure and white balance that came in handy on some of the other phones, but the iPhone is pretty accurate on the whole and its ease of use just outweighs these little niggles."

        Ah, talk about iP5, only to give a pass to your review subject...

        Riiiiight, shooting without autofocus is NOTHING... this article a joke?

        To me it sounds like just another wannabe journo (granted, likely some unemployed film/tv major) submitting her piece for a paycheck, sorry.

        FYI generally speaking AVCHD is shitty codec and likely Sony knows that: they never enabled 1080p recording, rather stayed with a decent 720p but added auto-leveling audio etc so it's actually perfectly usable in a live concert, even even in front of woofers. A much better use for a camera phone than shitty quality, out-of-focus 1080p home videos if you ask me.

        1. Levente Szileszky

          RE: why not? II.

          Interesting tidbit: other aspects of this Exmor chip vis-a-vis Sony vs Apple show the same level of difference when it comes sophisticated implementation eg the chip has great low-light specs (for a phone, I mean) yet the lack of proper light kills iPhone pics immediately vs 1+ year old Arc works just fine after sunset in a park and I bet Arc S is even better... I really think Apple still needs to learn how to handle the image that comes out of the chip, that's all.

          1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

            And why did my iPhone 4 blow my mates Sony camcorder out the water taking film of a firework display? Oh, but it's Apple, therefore automatically crap in some people's eyes.

            1. Levente Szileszky

              Sure it's true, you heard it on the internet, right, dear?


    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      So what do you want to recommend? The Sony?

      The Arc has red-eye software compensation which cannot be turned off resulting in all party shots looking like the Zombie convention of the living dead.

      While in theory it is better than the iPhone, in practice it's camera is utterly useless indoors.

      1. Levente Szileszky

        RE: So what...

        Errr, what... what is this nonsense?

        I have an Arc for almost a year now and I have no idea what are you talking about, my Arc is FAR THE BEST camera phone on the market even today, including indoor photos. I have a DSLR for days when I want to take HQ photos of my wife and kid but, as with everybody else, phone is always with me so that's my run-and-gun camera and I pay attention when I replace my phone.

        FYI on my Arc there are four different flash settings: "Auto", "Fill flash", "Off" and, as usual on every flash-enabled device, a "Red-eye reduction" setting - take your pick.

        I can imagine that "Auto" might produce something like you said but then 1. use some other setting and 2. I am not too big on flash, I hate that ugly, unnatural flash-lit look of those pics so normally I rather let the camera crank up the ISO and keep flash off - it's pretty cool when your phone sports a CMOS with such great low-light specs. ;)

  13. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Watch out for crap Android bugs

    I discovered an annoying bug in the stock camera app on my Droid. It turns out that if you have geolocation selected in the app, but you happen to have the GPS turned off, then it just drops the pictures on the floor. It looks like it's taking pictures, but nothing ends up on the SD card.

    1. Danny 14


      Not on my S2 it doesnt. I have geolocation powered down permanently using easy battery saver (a wonderful app). My pictures took just fine when I enabled geolocation in the stock camera app. Ive not even flashed the beast - gingerbread 2.3.4

  14. dansus


    Err.. wheres the N8 in this shoot out?

  15. TheRealRoland


    >>Yes, the touch focus is annoying sometimes, as I have to get someone to hold my beer as I do it.

    Another place where I can use my beer helmet!

  16. Blubster

    All well and good

    But what are they like as bloody phones? Can you actually make and receive calls with them with decent reception?

    It's a phone for fuck's sake - te-le-phone. An instrument that converts voice and other sound signals into a form that can be transmitted to remote locations and that receives and reconverts waves into sound signals. They don't need fancy additions and gadgets IMO - talk about over-egging the pudding.

    1. James Hughes 1


      No, they are not phones nowadays. They are multifunctional.

      Anyway, if you want decent call quality and decent HD recording, get an Nokia N8. Doesn't seem popular with El Reg though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You point woud be valid were this a general review of smartphones. It's not though. The title of the piece is "Eight... HD camera smartphones" Clues in the title young fella-me-laddo...

      One more thing; it's not a telephone. It's a smartphone. That means that it's *more* than a a te-le-phone. It actually the natural successor to the ill-fated PDA, with telephony being a feature and the 'phone' nomenclature coming more from the form factor.

  17. Dick Emery
    Thumb Down

    They all suck

    For a quick capture on a spur of the moment I guess they are useful. But they all pretty much suck at HD video (or any video for that matter). If you want to capture HD video you need a dedicated camera. End of story.

    1. James Hughes 1

      I think you mean

      If you want to capture *high quality* HD video. And if you want to do that, you should buy a high quality HD camera. That seems rather obvious.

      These devices (and the strangely missing Nokia N8) are perfectly capable of capturing HD video.

  18. MJI Silver badge

    Hmm jittery

    Well I have a few things to say.

    Firstly it is not all about resolution, I have some 27 year old Beta camera recordings which still look quite presentable. Used DV for about 5 years and I now use HDV.

    Secondly - how about some image stabilisation, the shake on these videos was so distracting, sheer weight stopped this on my first camera, latest has optical image stabilisation.

    Last holiday I forgot my video camera one day and had to use my phone for about 5 minutes of material.

    Here goes, colour, not great, slightly shakey, but frame rates was the issue, that phone did AFAIR 720 x 480 30FPS, now UK TV uses 25FPS (50 fields) so I had the fun of using 720x480/30p mixed with 1440x1080/50i.

    Lets say better than nothing but rather jarring, especially as with HDV there is no reencoding except at transitions.

    So these are good for party and emergency use, but if you are serious, or even just want a watchable holiday video you still need a proper video camera - and a lot are cheaper than the phones.

  19. Jon H


    You say some of the phones "requiring adaptors to deliver a hi-res AV out"... I don't know about the others but the HTC supports DLNA. So as long as your TV is compatable, you can stream the HD video to your TV over your WiFi network without purchasing anything else. That's how I watch my phone's videos at home.

    1. Danny 14


      but not all DNLA TVs support the codecs the phone feeds em. Most androids can be used as DNLA devices and I dare say there will be an iphone app.

  20. Jon Massey

    In the mosh pit?

    Ah, so you're one of those wankers?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think what gripes me most is that the superimposed images show off things you just can't do with a camera that has a tiny sensor, shallow depth of field on any object that is more than 3" from the camera lens, ridiculous amounts of dynamic range that you would only get close to capturing with the assistance of some Singh Ray or LEE ND Grads or perhaps at a pinch with a colour negative film in the hands of someone who knows what their doing with the right soft light... And then of course the squeaky clean non-JPEG smeared high ISO appearance...

    Sorry I'm just being a grump aren't I.

    1. Danny 14


      I'd agree that a small compact might be better but by the time you have set up the shot the kids will have finished unwrapping their pressie or scoffing their chocolate bar etc. They do have their uses as a quick snap device - all the better if they can actually produce a reasonable printable piccy.

  22. Chris 171
    Thumb Up

    Footage quality...

    From any device depends entirely on the person / thing holding the camera steady. And after that its the glass in front of the sensor.. Ergo.

    My N8 has been on all sorts, bamboo boom, stuck to an aircraft window (great images flying over clouds at sunset) , strapped to my bike (shaky), made up a kitchen timer rotating timelapse thing, will probably put it on a kite at some point too. Best converged communication device I have ever owned.

    So yes its big thing is the camera but the results of particularly timelapse stuff is superb. I'd also much rather fire off thousands of shots on this than a DSLR. 4K HD from a phone! :-)

    Sorry to go on about it...

  23. Samaung galaxy

    Could be better

    The devil’s advocate knows it, maybe it’s true. Better check with hahaped.

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  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where is the Galaxy S2

    Why not include the SGS2. It's similar to the Galaxy nexus, but has a better still camera so should be in the review list really

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