Best camera-centric smartphones of 2013 - Gadgets of the Year

Will Nokia's PureView range reign supreme once again or has the competition caught up?

This year we saw manufacturers put in serious thought into building great cameras for their high-end smartphones. From Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Zoom to Nokia’s PureView to Sony's G-lens and Cybershot smartphone lenses, everyone has been pushing to bring out the best camera features to their smart devices. As a result, we already have some smartphones which can shoot as good pictures as most point-and-shoots. Among the slew of phones released this year, here are the three best camera-centric smarphones.

Winner: Nokia Lumia 1020
The talking point of the Lumia 1020 has been its massive 41-megapixel camera. After spending enough time with the camera, it clearly comes across as the best camera phones in the market today. Nothing comes close to the 1020 for indoors and low-light photography. It is also capable of capturing the subject with great detail and minimal noise even without the flash.  The handset also features some of the best video recording capabilities. It comes with excellent Optical Image Stabilisation, which works overtime with even the slightest movement.  It also comes equipped with a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, capable of recording 720p @30fps. Read the complete Nokia 1020 review to know more about the stellar camera performance.

Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020 with a 41-megapixel sensor takes the top spot


The 1020 also brings the special camera app called Pro Camera and Zeiss optics with a 6-lens design. The shutter button directly fires up the Nokia Camera app which now lets you toggle between the Pro Cam and the Smart Cam app. Pro Cam lets you seamlessly tweak various settings like focus, shutter speed, white balance and shows you the effect in real time as you slide the bars around. It also comes with manual shutter settings and xenon flash for enhanced brightness in low-light situations.

1st Runner up: Sony Xperia Z1
Sony had pitched the Xperia Z1 as the return of the Cyber-shot phone, but this one has Sony's G Lens for optics. The Z1 packs in a massive 20.7MP 1/2.3-inch sensor and the G lens which is typically used in their point-and-shoot cameras. Digging a little deeper reveals a 27mm wide angle lens with an aperture of f/2.0, 1/2.3-type CMOS image sensor Exmor RS for mobile as well as BIONZ mobile image processing engine. All of this comes together very well given the ideal lighting conditions. The Z1 is excellent at capturing macros - colours and texture are captured in great detail even when zoomed in all the way.  It’s just sad that Sony still hasn’t managed to crack good low-light pictures on their phones. To know more, read our Sony Xperia Z1 review

sony xperia z1

Sony Xperia Z1 sports a 20.7-megapixel sensor


The company has added a range of camera applications such as Social Live for broadcasting videos live to social networks, Info-eye for information on landmarks, books, food and more. Then there is TimeShift burst that takes 62 pictures with just one click of the shutter. Users will have the option of scrolling back and forth to find the image that looks best. The AR effect is more like a gimmick and a fun way for kids to pass time. It shows a selection of customisable animations to create pictures using the company's Smart AR augmented reality technology.

2nd Runner up: LG G2
The LG G2 is one of the first 13-megapixel cameras to feature Optical Image Stabilization or OIS. Nokia still rules the roost in this space as the stabilization in G2 works quite well for very slight hand movements, but isn’t as capable when it comes to recording from a moving vehicle. The camera works well in good lighting conditions. It captures detailed macro shots. On the flip side, the post-processing tends to create unwanted artifacting around edges which is only noticeable if you zoom in all the way. In landscape shots too, distant objects aren’t as clear as they should be. Night shots are thankfully not as bad as the Z1 as there’s no colour noise noticeable in the dark areas.


LG G2 comes with a 13-megapixel camera with OIS


The G2 handles video recording quite well. It goes all the way up to 1080p at 60fps. The smartphone also supports dual recording. Live effect morphs the subject's face while they are being shot, and tracking zoom records video with a window overlay.  Read the complete review of the LG G2.


Cover image credit: Getty Images

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