Android camera vs. Android phone: who wins?

About The Author

CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

As Android-based cameras start to hit the market, we find out how one model stacks up against the smartphone competition.

Three Android cameras have already been announced this year. Whether branded by Polaroid, Samsung or Nikon, each has a different specification and form factor. The underlying similarity, though, is the operating system. Connectivity has been a huge buzz-word for camera makers this year, and Android is just one of the solutions presented to make shooting and sharing photos much easier.

Does it make sense to buy a dedicated Android camera when smartphone cameras are perfectly good for most purposes? Time to find out.

The contenders in this round are Nikon's Coolpix S800c and the Samsung Galaxy S3. Let's take a closer look at the camera specs:

Nikon Coolpix S800c Samsung Galaxy S3
16-megapixel CMOS sensor 8-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor
3.5-inch OLED touchscreen 4.8-inch super AMOLED touchscreen
10x optical zoom No optical zoom
Wi-Fi, GPS Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G/4G capable
25mm wide-angle lens, f/3.2-5.8 27mm wide-angle lens, f/2.6
Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
1080/30p video recording 1080/30p video recording
184 grams 133 grams

Apart from the advantages of an optical zoom and, possibly, the higher resolution afforded by the sensor, on paper, there doesn't seem to be much reason to choose the Android camera. So we decided to test both out to determine which was the best all-rounder, from usability to connectivity, as well as simply taking images.

Click through the gallery below for comparisons under a number of different everyday shooting situations. Note that there will be some slight variations in the photos because of the different focal length of the lenses at the wide end, and the higher resolution of the Nikon sensor.

While this isn't a scientific test, it provides a good idea of what to expect from both cameras. All images were taken on automatic settings in the case of the Galaxy S3, or Easy Automatic mode on the S800c.

If you would like to see a comparison between the Galaxy S3's camera and a number of other smartphones, click through here for a comparison gallery.

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kalval posted a comment   

I'd like to have seen a DSLR here for comparison. While it's all well and good to sit back and decide which one offers favourable colour saturation, it is entirely dependent on what monitor you use, viewing angle, etc, so I'd like 'ideal' reference shots before making any calls on colour saturation.

What this does prove is that the lens is a hugely important factor, there is simply no point in that 16MP unless the lens can resolve the image adequately.

Where the smartphone really falls down though is low light, which is a byproduct of the necessarily smaller sensor and is something that only the nokia 808 with its enormous sensor (and corresponding bulge) has to some degree conquered. It's no SLR, but it's a step up from other smartphones. It'll be interesting to see the inevitable comparisons between the 920 and point-and-shoots in a few weeks.


ras0406 posted a comment   

Sucks about the battery life. IMO smartphones have made non-SLR cameras redundant, as the trade-off between quality and functionality is heavily weighted in the smartphone's favour.

I still think SLR/DSLR cameras are the way to go for serious phoography or those looking for customisability.


mikey74 posted a reply   

I would have to disagree...

Unless all you are doing is taking photos in reasonably conditions (not too Dark and not too light), without needing any optical zoom then fine, a Phone will take reasonable pictures, otherwise they don't compare to a non-SLR camera.

However phone cameras have come a long way and could offer the same overall functionality in the future!


ras0406 posted a reply   

That's a fair point.


Dunners posted a reply   

I see exactly what you are saying but i would have to disagree. Two main reasons.

One, a camera is another thing to carry around in your pocket, i know for a fact that i don't like arrying around an extra device when i know that my phone will take decent photos. Yes night photos are an issue with phone cameras we know that, but if your going for a night out do you really want to carry a phone, wallet and a camera (remember that girls are usually slim on pockets)

Two, The additional price. Again if your phone takes good photos most wont want to shell out another few hundred dollars for a camera they'll occasionally use.

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