Battle of the 20s: the 20MP Sony Xperia Z2 and Nokia Lumia 930 cameras go head-to-head #PhotoWeek

Holly Brockwell Android, Gadgets & Apps, Microsoft, Nokia, Phones, Photo Week, Photography Leave a Comment

At the culmination of #PhotoWeek, we’re pitching two rival flagship phones with 20-megapixel cameras against each other in an epic duel of flash and film. Who’s fastest? Who’s brightest? Who takes the best selfies? It’s the waterproof Android Sony Xperia Z2 vs the weighty Windows Phone Nokia Lumia 930 in a fight to the photo finish.

The rules

  • The phones were used as a normal person – not a photographer – would use them. That means no tripods, no manually-adjusted settings, and no outside help.
  • To make it extra-fair, only the phones’ automatic shooting and filming modes were used. We want to see how good they are out of the box, not after messing with them.
  • Each shot was taken 3 times, with the best of the 3 used as representative.

Round 1: Speed.

The moment your champagne glasses clink. The instant your water balloon hits the ground. The second your cat yawns. Sometimes you’ve only got a tiny window to take the perfect photo – which camera will serve you best?

There are a lot of squirrels in the park I used for this shoot, and trying to get a snap of one is a devil of a job. They’re pretty quick.

For the first squirrel I saw, I pulled out the Xperia Z2 and held down the hardware camera button until the camera app opened. The phone responded quickly enough for me to snap this amazing squirrel action shot:

Sony Xperia Z2

Sadly, he scampered up the tree before I had time to whip out the Lumia 930. But thankfully it’s squirrel party season, so I soon saw some more, and again held down the hardware camera button to snap a shot. The Lumia said “Resuming…” for what felt like ages, and this was all I could manage before my squirrels fled:

Nokia Lumia 930

So from a standing start, the Xperia Z2 was definitely faster to wake and get into the camera app. However, both phones take about a second to snap a photo (“one Mississippi…”), so neither felt fast enough for high-action shots. I prefer a faster camera, like the HTC One.

Some of the delay on the Lumia 930 will be due to the fact that it simultaneously takes a 5MP photo for faster social sharing. This can be turned off, but only so that you solely take a 5MP photo – you can’t just take a full-res one (at least in Nokia Camera). This seems daft to me.

Winner: Sony Xperia Z2.

Round 2: Colours.

When someone sends you a giant bouquet, the jealousy-baiting Facebook post needs to look gorgeous. Which phone wins at capturing all things bright and beautiful?

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

For me, the Lumia 930 definitely wins this one. Colours are brighter, more saturated, and truer to life (the red flower looks more washed-out than it really was in the Xperia Z2 photo, and the blue flowers look closer to their deep cobalt in the Lumia photo). In all 3, I think the Lumia 930 did a better job of representing hues. In the unlikely event that anyone buys me flowers, I’ll be snapping them with a Lumia 930.

Winner: Nokia Lumia 930.

Round 3: Close-ups.

It can be frustratingly hard to get a really good close-up shot, even with a great camera. Fiddling with macro settings isn’t anyone’s favourite thing, so which of the phones is most out-of-the-box ready for its close up?

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

For me, the Xperia Z2 wins on 2/3 of the closeups. The red and yellow flower photos are much more vibrant and true-to-life (that yellow flower was really, really yellow) than the Lumia 930’s. This is interesting because every time I took a flower photo on the Lumia, it looked absolutely amazing – which is because the screen is tailored and over-saturated to appear that way. It’s nice if a photo looks fantastic on your phone, but you’re going to be disappointed if you email it to someone and it comes up washed out.

On the purple flowers, I think the Lumia 930 did the better job. The colours are more representative of the actual petals, and the background foliage is less blurred. Interesting to see that the Lumia does better at colours from afar, and the Xperia does better from close up.

Winner: Sony Xperia Z2.

Round 4: Detail.

When I got my first pair of glasses aged 10, I couldn’t believe tree leaves were visible from the ground to normal people. Some phones still think this way. You don’t want yours to be one of them.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930 – cropped

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2 – cropped

The Xperia Z2 definitely did a better job of representing the colour variation and details of the leaves on this tree. The cropped version is a fair bit clearer than the Lumia’s.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930 – cropped

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2 – cropped

The Lumia wins this one for sure. The colours look better in the Xperia version, but the clarity just isn’t there in the bunny crop.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

The Xperia Z2 is the clear winner on this one: the Lumia photo has a strange fuzzy quality to it that makes the spines look almost fluffy. The colours are a bit off, too.

Winner: Sony Xperia Z2, by 2 to 1.

Round 5: Low light.

The human eye is great at making you forget you’re in a badly-lit room – until you pull your camera out and it reduces you to a floating white smile in a sea of grainy darkness. Which phone is least likely to make your night-out photos look like they were taken in the Batcave?

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t much fancy hanging around a park at dusk, so I took these at home with my cat. I closed the curtains, turned the dimmer switch halfway down, and kept the flash off.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Wow, the Xperia really dropped the ball here. The Lumia 930 photo looks bright – you can’t even tell it was taken in a dimly-lit room – colourful, and relatively clear (considering the conditions). The Xperia Z2 photo is darker, yellower, and looks like it’s had the contrast cranked up manually. The nose looks particularly odd, and the whole thing is fuzzier – not just the cat!

Winner: Nokia Lumia 930.

Round 6: Video.

From your Single Ladies routine to the New Year fireworks, videos capture a moment in a way photos can’t match. So you don’t want a wobbly, unfocused film when you come to relive them. Which phone is your best Vine buddy?

Lumia 930:

Xperia Z2:

I definitely prefer the Lumia 930 video. The colours look brighter and more appealing, detail is much crisper, and the sound (particularly from the fountain) is clearer and more accurate. The fountain in the Xperia Z2 video sounds thinner and less nuanced, which might be down to the Lumia 930’s four directional microphones.

Winner: Nokia Lumia 930.

Bonus round: Selfies.

It’s 3-all, so we need a tiebreaker, and what better to test than selfies? OK, this is mildly unfair – the two phones have different specs on their front-facing cameras (Xperia: 2.2MP, Lumia: 1.2MP), but let’s face it, the most interesting kind of photo is a photo of you. So here’s how they do on those all-important self-portraits.

The Xperia front-facing camera automatically zoomed in a bit, which was mildly annoying – I don’t like phones making decisions for me that I can’t reverse. The Lumia photo is truer to how I was holding the phone, but the colours are noticeably off (my grey t-shirt and black jacket look almost blue) and I think the warmer colour palette on the Xperia looks more natural. If I was going to upload one of these to Facebook, I’d choose the Xperia Z2 photo.

Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Winner: Sony Xperia Z2.

The results

What a match! A dead heat until the bonus round, these two heavyweight cameras are very well-matched indeed. The Xperia delivered a killer final blow with its superior selfie camera, but its very poor performance in the low light round should still be considered if you’re thinking about buying this phone. The Xperia generally did a better job of making photos look vibrant, snapping from a standing start, and delivering clarity from close-up and afar – and of course provided more social-worthy selfies. Still, the Lumia 930 did an admirable job of taking a crisp video with great sound, and absolutely wiped the floor with the Xperia at low-light performance. If you take a lot of shots in gloomy places, the Lumia might be your man – but for just about all else, it’s got to be the Xperia Z2.

This title fight might have seemed like a close call, but combine the results with the general reviews of the Sony Xperia Z2 and Nokia Lumia 930 and the Xperia comes out miles ahead: 42/50 vs 31/50 for the Lumia. If you’ve been trying to decide who’s the favourite out of these two big hitters, there’s your answer.

With thanks to Mobiles.co.uk for the Nokia Lumia 930 and Vodafone for the Sony Xperia Z2.

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By Holly Brockwell | August 15th, 2014