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iPhone – still the master of the camera?

I put it to the test – let’s look at the results

is iPhone still the best smart phone camera?

iPhone 15 is nearly here and everyone will be talking about it.

And I’d wager good money on the fact that although the new USB-C port, thinner bezels and action button will get spoken about, the star of the show will be the camera.

The most important feature for most people buying a new phone is the performance of the camera. Last year I bought my iPhone 14 Pro for the camera – in particular the video aspect of it. And it hasn’t disappointed.

The Pro Res video is stunning (although almost impossible to get from the phone) and the Pro Raw images are large enough files to give you loads of data to be able to edit in post.

This year iPhone 15 doesn’t sound as if the camera will get a massive overhaul – larger sensors are rumoured and a periscope lens will allow for 5x or 6x zoom. The fact there aren’t more changes is fine – the camera is already so good that the upgrades are bound to become more minor and iterative as the years pass by.

The same importance will be placed on the cameras for Google’s Pixel Pro 8 when that gets launched a few weeks later and the Samsung S24 when it sees the light of day come January.

But these are all $1,000 plus phones – high-end flagship phones. But what if I told you that you could get similar results to my $ 1,000 iPhone with a phone half the price?

That got your attention eh?

Is iPhone still king?

I do love my iPhone 14 Pro – Apple built a great device that has served me well over the past 12 months and save two minor scratches on the front screen, looks as good today as it did the day I bought it.

However, over the past few months I have been trying out some Android alternatives and one in particular has caught my attention – the Nothing Phone 2.

What I initially took to be a gimmicky, cheap Android phone has surprised me with its individuality…and overall quality.

Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro has a 48MP, 24mm main camera, a 12MP Ultra Wide & a 12MP Telephoto lens.

The Nothing 2 comes with a 24mm 50MP camera and a 50MP Ultra Wide camera with no zoom lens.

On the Nothing you can only shoot 4K video at either 30 or 60 fps whereas on the iPhone you can record 4K video at 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps or 60 fps.

But sometimes the numbers don’t tell the full story – you need to get hands-on with these devices to get a measure of what they are like to use.

Hopefully, you’re enjoying this story  -  if you wanted to say ‘thank you’, the best way is simply to clap, highlight and get involved in the comments. And my promise to you…If you get in touch I will answer! So clap, highlight and comment away…

Living with Nothing

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to be invited along to a stunning classic car event. Of course, to me that smacked of one thing…a camera duel!

So, packed with the iPhone 14 Pro and the Nothing 2 I set out for the day.

I did make one mistake though – the Nothing Phone seems to hold its charge forever to the point you simply overlook charging it. So although Apple’s phone was full of juice, the Nothing only had about 50% on it – I’ll let you know how that played out later on in the story.

I shot all the images you see scattered through this story in the Raw mode on both phones and have not edited them at all – what you see is what I took.

The first point I’d make is ease of use.

With the iPhone, once you’ve selected your shooting mode – say 16:9 in Raw as soon as you take the phone out again to shoot another shot, it recalls your last setting. With Nothing though, annoyingly every time you open the camera up, you have to scroll through the settings again to get back to where you were – that’s so annoying, fiddly and time-wasting.

The very nature of getting to the Raw setting is way simpler on the iPhone – once in the camera app and you’ve selected the photo mode, the Raw option is at the top of the screen.

For Nothing you have to scroll along to the More option and then to the Expert mode – it’s a clunkier way of going around it if you ask me. Once there though you have much the same options as on the iPhone – you can shoot in four aspect ratios of 4:3, 16:9, Full or 1;1.

But, one area that the Nothing wins out over the iPhone is the ease of use of the detailed settings – ISO, auto-focus and white balance. There’s no pull-up menu to drag up, they are all there for you with easy-to-use and understand detailed sliders.

A day with two cameras

The day I was out with the two phones was hot nearly 30 degrees and very, very bright. I was often shooting in bright, direct sunshine, but both phones with their 1000 nits of brightness held up well.

I was shooting videos as well all day. Clearly, I can’t show you those here. I’ve not had a chance to pull the videos apart, but from what I can see the Nothing’s videos are good but fractionally under-exposed and haven’t seemed to capture the vibrance that the iPhone managed.

The haptic motors on the Nothing are way too strong for my liking and you can’t seem to back them off at all, but I think Nothing is aware of that problem and is going to fix it with a future update. The ‘spirit level’ that you get onscreen with the Android phone is neat and helps to better frame shots.

When it comes to the photos though, I prefer the colours that came from the Nothing 2. They seem more faithful, more life-like.

In these two photos, for instance, look at the rear fairing over the wheel. The detail and colour on the second shot below, the Nothing 2 shot, looks to have way more detail to it.

That is particularly true when it comes to this interior shot of the gorgeous 1950s classic Ferrari roadster.

The tale of two batteries

And so to the batteries.

The Nothing left home with approximately 50% of the charge of the iPhone. Neither phone was hooked up via Bluetooth to anything and the very nature of the day meant their usage was almost identical.

I was out for around 8 hours and the iPhone had dropped to 18% charge and the Nothing to 24%. Those numbers speak for themselves – the iPhone dumped about 65% of its charge while the Nothing 2 only lost about 15% of its battery.

Overall I’d say the video was, as expected, a winner from the iPhone but when it comes to the images I think I slightly prefer what comes out of the Nothing 2 which has surprised me.

It’s the first time I have done a like-for-like test with these two phones and the fact the image quality is so close is shocking. At the least, let’s just say the iPhone is not twice as good. For $500 this Nothing 2 is packing a pretty serious camera set-up. OK the same may not be true in low light situations and it lacks a zoom lens, but for your general shots day-to-day shots, this second-generation phone from Nothing is starting to play hardball with the big boys.

iPhone season is nearly here – how will you spend your cash now you know there is a cheaper, viable alternative? You could nearly buy an iPad with the money left over if you wanted…just sayin’!

I’m now writing regularly on Substack too – informal stories about things that randomly cross my mind. You can follow me here.

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