Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5S – Camera Image Quality Comparison

In this article I will compare the camera image quality of the Samsung Galaxy S4 versus Apple iPhone 5S.  I had a chance to shoot with both smartphones in the weekend. I was very impressed with both the iPhone 5S cameras and the Galaxy S4 camera, but I did found some differences when I later compared the two side by side.

Both the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S4 have an extraordinary cameras, and both have very high image quality. I did find a few things that make the two differ from each other, and I don’t mean that like positive negative thing — each camera has its own distinctive look.

A picture worth thousand words so let’s just jump straight into the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S4 sample images, so you can see the differences yourself. I will add my side notes to share with you my overall impressions with both mobile cameras.


iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S4 sample image comparison
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S4 sample image comparison – Image 1

The image above can sum up some of my experiences with both phones. The first thing that you probably already noticed that the S4 has a noticeable resolution advantage over the iPhone 5S (13MP vs 8MP). It’s not huge, but it’s certainly visible and help the camera resolve more details from the scene. You can look at the door bars near the stairs or by comparing the miniature doll and the art on the balcony.

I think that most people will not take advantage of that resolution, but it does give you more cropping space if you edit your photos on your home computer on on the phone itself.

Both the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S4 lenses are tack sharp. Just look at the bricks and crop samples and you can see what I mean. The 5S photo however looks live it has more details.  I tried to examine the both images closely and I think that its due to a higher contrast. In fact, I found the iPhone 5S to produce more contrasty images with more punch. Whether Galaxy S4 photos to be more flat, but look more like the original seen that I’ve seen in my own eyes.  I personally prefer the 5S processing because it does look better when you share a low scaled version of the image.

On the other hand the iPhone 5S does lack the warmth of the S4, and its images look a bit, but just a tiny bit more dramatic.  I think that the iPhone 5S color processing will a better suit for landscape shots, whether the S4 will probably make portraits look more pleasant. I checked it on various sample images to make sure it’s not just a coincidence. The iPhone 5S also look more saturated, but it’s not just because of the  increase in image saturation, but what it seems to be, an application of a higher contrast in post processing.

Let’s take a look at the second test shots..

Miniature building closeup
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S4 sample images comparison

Here you can see the S4 advantage in resolving details (look at the broken brick stairs). You can see that the iPhone 5S loses some of the details in the shadows (look between the stairs on the left part). Both images were shot under the same lighting conditions. The miniature doll in the sample image above also looks more redish or pinkier on the iPhone 5S.

I am not hundred percent sure whether it means that the S4 has a higher dynamic range. I went to check the results on DxOMark website. The iPhone 5S yield two points higher in the color category, but was far behind (69 vs 76) in the texture category.  You can see for yourself that the S4 camera does result in more detailed image in the texture areas.

I also find the S4 to also over expose compare to the iPhone 5S. I rarely get blue skies with the iPhone 5S, but did get it quite more frequently with the S4.  Many camera manufacturers prefer to overexpose to minimize image noise, but that’s come at the expense of more blown highlights.

I think that some of you might prefer the S4 image look, others will prefer the iPhone 5S. For me it was a mixed bag. In some images I preferred the S4 images, on others I preferred the 5S ones. Which one do you like better?

Let’s move on to the next image..

Sunset image comparison, S4 vs iPhone 5S
iPhone 5S vs Samsung Galaxy S4 low light comparison sample images

The sample images above were shot before sunset in the Marina. It was the perfect time to catch that lovely romantic atmosphere. If you look at the iPhone 5S water color and even the sky color, in the iPhone 5S they are bluish, whether on the Samsung Galaxy S4 they more grayish.  I shot about 50 shots with both the S4 and 5S before sunset and all the S4 and 5S images look very similar. I personally like the iPhone 5S image better because it looks more real in my opinion, but the S4 image turned out to be very unique too — more pastoral if this is the right word to describe it.

Both the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S4 light metering sensor worked incredibly well in this situations — you just need to press in the right area to get the optimal exposure (I clicked on the clouds around the sun). The more worm and yellowish tone of the S4 gave the image a unique look, and you can see that the color around the sun is much more yellowish on the S4 photo.

If you look at the sky / cloud area, you can see that the iPhone 5S has bluish tone and much more details there. This is how it looked when I viewed it with my own eyes. The extra contrast does add more dramatic look to the image, so in reality it was maybe a tiny bit less dramatic compare to how the 5S process the image.

I have nothing negative about the S4 or the 5S, each one has its own unique look. That’s true to many images that I’ve shot with both phones.

I can’t really find a winner here. I really enjoy shooting with both and both phones process the image quite differently. Both are equally sharp (more or less). Some people will love the more dramatic look of images coming from the 5S (better for landscapes), some will prefer the more subtle rendering of the S4, which will make people faces look.. well.. smoother.

I really want to here you opinion and what do you think about those three sample images. For the full set of S4 vs 5S images, please visit this set on Flickr.

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