A couple of years ago I bought a Panasonic TZ10 point-and-shoot (current Amazon price; from £130) which has lived in a pouch on my belt and has had regular, often daily use. Recently though I found myself with a Samsung Galaxy S2, and like all the current smartphone devices, great publicity has been given to the quality of it’s camera.
So I thought I’d put my Panasonic to one side and give the S2’s camera a bit of exercise and see what all the fuss was about.
For some time now I’ve being doing a’take one picture a day’ task and for the first 9 months I had almost exclusively used the Panasonic, for the last 3 months it’s been the S2. Combine that with my usual usage and I have more than enough to give me a smartphone vs point-and-shoot picture comparison.
The Panasonic has a greater sensor pixel count, however the S2 has a more modern sensor and processing electronics, so I was uncertain what to expect between the two. I did think the Panasonic would have the edge ( though was quite willing to be proved wrong in this respect).
Under good daylight conditions both produced great results, however as soon as you were away from those conditions (even into mid-afternoon lighting levels) the point-and-shoot totally blew the S2 out of the water with a sharper image and far greater range of contrast.
This really comes down to two things. 1) The physically larger lens (a typical smartphone lens is only 3 or 4 mm across, a point-and-shoot say15 mm) allows for more light to reach the sensor. 2) Physical size of sensor. Regardless of pixel count and that sort of thing, the larger sensor size of the point-and-shoot allows for a far greater collection area for light.
So under good conditions where there is a ‘surplus of light’ there’s more than enough light available to allow either device to produce a really nice picture, but when light levels fall and things move away from a ‘surplus’ condition, then the greater light collecting ability of the point-and-shoot leaves the smartphone way behind.
So my Panasonic is back in its pouch attached to my belt, though I still do use the smartphone’s camera now and again. It’s certainly not that my smartphone has a bad camera, but when it comes down to it it just does not compete with a dedicated picture-taking camera device.