Saturday, May 7, 2011

Android smart phone vs. Canon DSLR ... Image Comparisons

How does the camera in my Android phone compare to my Canon DSLR's?  On first viewing, the result is a surprise.
I had an accidental opportunity to make the comparisons. When I stepped outside the front door the other morning, I was greeted by a large butterfly resting (?) on one of the stairs.  Not knowing how long it would stay there, I pulled out the only camera I had on me at the time ... my Android phone.  I shot a few pictures, some with and some without the "flash". I then hurried back into the house to get my Canon 5D with a 24mm prime lens attached.  I also grabbed a 24 inch reflector to help with the lighting, since my 5D doesn't have a flash in it. I composed and shot a few frames.  The butterfly didn't look like it was ready to leave, so I went back in and brought out my Canon 40D with a 90mm prime. After knocking off a few pictures with the 40D, the critter started to flutter away and my photo shoot was over.

Here are the best of the shots, exactly as they came out of the cameras without any post-capture adjustments or enhancements.  For a fair comparison, click on each image to enlarge.

Canon 40D, 90mm lens, 1/160 sec., f/5.6, ISO 400

Canon 5D, 24mm lens, 1/60 sec., f/5.6, ISO 200

Android HTC smart phone, 4.92mm, ISO 109, all other settings unknown

Straight out of the camera, it appears the smart phone wins hands down for the best picture to post on the web.  It has great color, sharpness, depth of field, and it seems to have more pop than the DSLR cameras.  Keep in mind the smart phone captured the image in jpeg, so it probably did some internal sharpening, tonal correction and color compression automatically.  The two Canon DSLR cameras are doing RAW capture, so the images out of the cameras need sharpening and some tonal work from the get-go.

Verdict:  For fast web posting, the smart phone is a great quick and dirty solution.  At least for this image, no post-capture processing is needed for a very respectable picture.

Now, let's do some pixel peeping. Here are crops from each image, of approximately the same area of the butterfly:

Android HTC smart phone

Canon 40D

Canon 5D
This is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak.  The blow-ups show what's possible when printing the images.  Forget the jpeg Android image for enlargements on paper.  It just doesn't hold the fine detail, and color artifacts are visible.  The other two RAW images, when they get suitable sharpening as part of the normal digital post-capture workflow, will have more than enough resolution and pop to withstand substantial enlargement on paper.  There just isn't enough in the Android jpeg image to recover in post-capture sharpening.

Final verdict:  An image from the Android smart phone is fine for web viewing, but will disappoint if printed on paper much larger than 4x6 or 5x7 inches.

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