Microsoft Lumia 950XL Camera Comparison with Some Real Cameras


I recently bought a Microsoft Lumia 950XL phone, one of the main reason is the camera. Before I placed my orders I actually read quite some phone reviews, among which there are some blog reviews and tons of YouTube videos focusing on camera performance. But none of them reflect what I really want to see. I usually do some travelling around the world from time to time, and would like to take nice pictures on my trips. I do own my DSLR and it is/will be my primary gear of photography, but I also think it would be cool to have a smaller device I can use whenever I don’t want to pull out my bulky camera.

I finally got the phone, I am very curious to see how it compares with my DSLR regarding the image quality and how much I can rely on it in my trips. I know it is a totally unfair comparison since both of them belong to completely different categories, and they have very different characteristics. Let me explain what I have and what is my strategy to do the comparison first.

  • Microsoft Lumia 950XL:
    • 20MP sensor
    • Aperture 1.9
    • Focal length 26mm
    • Minimum focus distance 10cm
  • My DSLR gears:
    • Nikon D7100 body
      • 24.7MP sensor
    • I have some lenses, the Nikkor 18-140 is my main walk around lens. So I will use this one to participate the comparison.
      • Max aperture 3.5-5.6
      • Focal length 18-140
      • Minimum focus distance 45cm
  • Point and shoot camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3. This is an aging camera older than 7 years. I simply included it for my curiosity.

As you can see the phone camera has no optical zoom, much bigger aperture and shorter focus distance; while my DSLR is on the opposite side. So the comparison will coordinate what the phone camera can do, I simply treat the phone camera a macro prime lens. In order to be close to what the phone camera can see, my DSLR lens will be used on the wide angle side. I usually shoot my DSLR in semi-manual mode, I will continue to use aperture priority mode in this testing, the aperture will be adjusted according to what subject I shoot so the result won’t match phone camera’s f/1.9 wide open status. I don’t foresee I will use manual mode to shoot with my phone camera, so I will leave it completely automatic, let the camera software to decide everything for me.

Ok, enough has been said let’s do some real work. All the raw files from both phone and DSLR are processed by RawTherapee with very minimum processing, such as exposure compensation, tone curve, saturation, noise reduction, cropping and so on.

Case 1 – In the Sunlight Close-up Shooting

 Panasonic Lumix

  • f/4.0
  • Focal length 4.1 mm
  • Shutter 1/320
  • ISO 80

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1564/24536227586_13a60bf598_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1465/23934238464_229e727026_o.jpg
100% Crop View

Lumia 950XL Direct JPG Output

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/733
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1675/23935572603_bf1d1019b3_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1712/24267842370_fa55e2f787_o.jpg
100% Crop View

Lumia 950XL Raw

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/733
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1668/23934238614_87b4c29594_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1695/24266861530_09df55ec76_o.jpg
100% crop view

Nikon D7100 Raw

  • f/7.1
  • Focal length 27.5mm
  • Shutter 1/200
  • ISO 160

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1562/24454076242_56ec9cd4c7_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1556/24480091291_b3fb3b627c_o.jpg
100% crop view

Case 2 – Not so Bright Indoor in Daytime

Panasonic Lumix

  • f/3.3
  • Focal length 4.1 mm
  • Shutter 1/25
  • ISO 400

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1638/24480988741_95c0586d96_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1715/23936475403_a55f9e21fd_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Direct JPG Output

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/27
  • ISO 200

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1638/24267761830_81b25a9a5b_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1644/24267879100_3b6d6db16f_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Raw

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/27
  • ISO 200

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1458/24195538309_1aff007c4d_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1685/24267753910_8e56616d60_o.jpg
100% crop view

Nikon D7100 Raw

  • f/5.0
  • Focal length 53.4mm
  • Shutter 1/80
  • ISO 2000 (Luminance noise reduction is applied)

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1672/24563290005_4ecdb07d3c_c.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1567/24267761910_2cc0f8a426_o.jpg
100% crop view

Case 3 – Landscape

Panasonic Lumix

  • f/5.6
  • Focal length 4.1 mm
  • Shutter 1/500
  • ISO 80

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1559/24195953469_7d1babb022_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1482/24537536116_75595c00c7_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Direct JPG Output

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/2049
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1707/23935549894_a955a9717d_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1492/24455394002_3c633d0ffd_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Raw

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/2049
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1629/24268187110_c3bf0e2b00_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1650/24195961119_b40591d940_o.jpg
100% crop view

Nikon D7100 Raw

  • f/11.0
  • Focal length 18.3mm
  • Shutter 1/250
  • ISO 160

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1686/24455417282_9f706a55ae_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1705/24195973149_784e3e7e36_o.jpg
100% crop view

Case 4 – Landscape

Panasonic Lumix

  • f/5.6
  • Focal length 4.1 mm
  • Shutter 1/500
  • ISO 80

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1582/24269200410_a110a7ff6c_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1717/24456408252_ce4288955f_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Direct JPG Output

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/1938
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1535/24564734565_b1fc2bafe3_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1586/24538554676_f17f2761fa_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Raw

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/1938
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1454/24564743795_2c1192cf9a_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1714/24196982539_b0d2b48c22_o.jpg
100% crop view

Nikon D7100 Raw

  • f/11.0
  • Focal length 18.3mm
  • Shutter 1/320
  • ISO 160

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1609/23937925723_0ba9f5c920_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1605/24196991349_73753d34a8_o.jpg
100% crop view

Case 5 – Landscape (Glare)

Panasonic Lumix

  • f/4.0
  • Focal length 4.1 mm
  • Shutter 1/200
  • ISO 80

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1524/23938253123_d4d5c38e83_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1602/24197316289_6c23e1d68b_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Direct JPG Output

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/1608
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1472/24269556340_2cbff0bc0e_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1552/24482778261_e4a1a5b270_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Raw

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/1608
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1676/24269564940_c8a5daee7c_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1536/23938266813_dfc430d58d_o.jpg
100% crop view

Nikon D7100 Raw

  • f/11.0
  • Focal length 18.3mm
  • Shutter 1/100
  • ISO 160

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1667/24538923806_473ff96675_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1629/24565097045_459930a862_o.jpg
100% crop view

Case 6 – “Architecture”

Panasonic Lumix

  • f/5.6
  • Focal length 4.1 mm
  • Shutter 1/500
  • ISO 80

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1704/23938400543_13db236918_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1569/23938399213_6c69613d5f_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Direct JPG Output

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/2247
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1694/23937056874_f69a1cc0d9_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1475/23937055354_e61e3ba26c_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Raw

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/2247
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1569/24539054776_a50194670a_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1463/24539049016_64f04835c1_o.jpg
100% crop view

Nikon D7100 Raw

  • f/11.0
  • Focal length 18.3mm
  • Shutter 1/250
  • ISO 160

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1458/23938483873_e530d21f77_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1638/24197543149_3d139ae114_o.jpg
100% crop view

Case 7 – Plants

Panasonic Lumix

  • f/5.0
  • Focal length 4.1 mm
  • Shutter 1/500
  • ISO 125

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1520/23937269584_328dfda408_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1562/24539258646_65036f7b18_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Direct JPG Output

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/2315
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1511/24269915970_8feee9f4da_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1691/23938621223_2c202a0b08_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Raw

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/2315
  • ISO 50

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1661/24269924030_eba24b9566_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1520/24269917440_7621e0f2e8_o.jpg100% crop view

Nikon D7100 Raw

  • f/11.0
  • Focal length 23.1mm
  • Shutter 1/160
  • ISO 160

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1592/23937286924_f1ff23227e_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1631/24565454015_a0cc775815_o.jpg
100% crop view

Case 8 – Low Light in Potlight No Flash

Panasonic Lumix

  • f/3.3
  • Focal length 4.1 mm
  • Shutter 1/8
  • ISO 400

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1689/24568488575_647b90f6b5_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1709/24272963850_833472d2dc_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Direct JPG Output

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/13
  • ISO 400

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1653/24460183682_5a01d720ca_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1691/24272967280_c2850a55c1_o.jpg
100% crop view

Lumia 950XL Raw

  • f/1.9
  • Focal length ??
  • Shutter 1/13
  • ISO 400 (Luminance noise reduction is applied)

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1629/24542327086_4ca192547f_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1579/24272970890_c146964af6_o.jpg
100% crop view

Nikon D7100 Raw

  • f/3.5
  • Focal length 18.3mm
  • Shutter 1/30
  • ISO 2800 (Luminance noise reduction is applied)

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1529/23941699693_ff533e126f_z.jpg
Click here to view the full sized image.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1535/24542327046_3ae803d8db_o.jpg
100% crop view

Conclusion

What I try to say below is from the point of a hobbyist photographer. Maybe I should not call it a conclusion, but rather some my personal feeling from what I see so far. At the same time there are some other features, such as nature flash, rich capture and so on, haven’t been tested yet. Probably these features would be able to provide some interesting result.

No 1. The JPG produced by phone has some crazy/amazing post-process to sharpen, increase saturation and so on. Direct JPG output actually looks more stunning than the raw output unless I spend tons of time to play with the raw files. Direct JPG output is definitely more than good enough for social media purpose.

No 2. In bright daylight the phone is able to produce fairly decent image quality, the details could even match my DSLR. Of course I don’t have a very sharp lens mounted to the body for this test yet, but at least the phone seems to be able to catch with kit lens. But in low light situation I still feel DSLR has the advantage.

No 3. It seems that the phone always use aperture f/1.9 no matter what. Maybe there is no way to adjust the aperture on this phone, the camera app’s manual mode has no aperture adjustment as well. Typically f/1.9 should be able to produce some nice bokeh, but I honestly never see such thing on the phone. It puzzles me quite a lot.

Will the phone be able to replace my camera, probably not yet. The lack of optical zoom is a hard limitation to me and it is difficult to overcome as a full time camera. But I am quite happy with the image quality in general, I believe it could be a useful companion in my next trip. I will do more testing when I am on the road again.

From what I have seen above, I begin to think why do I need to save raw (DNG) file together with JPG?

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