Photo Shootout: Nexus 5 vs. iPhone 5S

Smartphones are making point and shoot cameras more irrelevant by the year. Sensors on phones are producing more detailed shots in sun and low-light thanks to more advanced software being developed behind them. These technological changes allow today’s simplest low to mid range phones to capture decent photos.

Although low to mid range phones serve their purpose for certain amount of folks; let’s be real, flagship handsets are what we tech enthusiasts pay more attention to.

So the most logical thing to do was put Google’s Nexus 5 up against Apple’s iPhone 5S. LG and Google teamed up once again to deliver us a Nexus 5 that rocks a 5 inch display, and a 8MP camera. This is a camera that Google claimed they made better from last year’s model. On the other side is Apple’s newly minted flagship iPhone 5S, which also offers a maximum resolution of eight megapixels.

Obviously, both smartphones run on different mobile operating systems. The Nexus 5 is running on Android 4.4 KitKat, while the iPhone 5S dawns the revamped iOS 7.

In the one on one, the Nexus 5 put up a valiant effort against the iPhone 5S but ultimately ended up being miles behind in quality. When I was shooting with the Nexus 5 I quickly noticed how saturated and washed out many of the photos I took were — and most of the photos I took were during the day. Every shot at the bottom was taken raw: no filters, no flash, or HDR.

What’s troubling is the fact that Google went into developing the Nexus 5 knowing full well that the camera was a huge point of emphasis, but still managed to not deliver on the 8MP camera’s performance. Hopefully the camera on the Nexus 5 will get better once Google rolls out its next minor software update.

Anyway, my opinion is my opinion, so feel free to let us know which phone images you think is better!

Nexus 5


iPhone 5S


Nexus 5


iPhone 5S


Nexus 5


iPhone 5S


Nexus 5


iPhone 5S


Nexus 5


iPhone 5S


  • Willie D

    This really is a mixed bag. Some shots look great on the Nexus 5, but some are also warmer and richer. On the iPhone 5 some look brighter, but not washed out, others look inaccurate with color and darker than need be.

  • Nick V

    I looked at these as well, and here is what I am seeing (not that it is right or wrong, or that Charles is wrong, just what I am seeing)

    1. iPhone – It is just evident

    2. Nexus – While the Nexus seems a little over saturated, I think that it looks a little better than the iPhone images

    3. Nexus – This was about the saturation, and very close. although the sky looks way better on the iPhone images

    4. This is a draw for me. I think that they both look great, while the Nexus is a little on the warm side, but the iPhone looks a little cool for me too. I would think that the iPhone’s image is closer to how the image looked in reality, so maybe an edsge to iPhone

    5. This is probably the closet for a draw. Nexus looks a little more saturated and brighter.

    • Tom Wolf

      HDR+ makes the clouds look better and the photos look insanely cleaner. Would be cool to compare the HDR+ photos with the iPhone 5s photos instead.

      • Nick V

        Absolutely, but since there wasn’t any image using that, and the test was base don Out Of Camera images, I didn’t bring that up. But yes, the images from HDR+ are really nice.

  • Chris York

    HDR+ is the killer feature of this camera. Do that comparison next 🙂

    • Tom Wolf

      Yeah… I took some awesome shots with HDR+ on. Even some night shots. Also the Photosphere aspect was fun.

    • Mojo

      the HDR+ function on my Nexus 5 is the least impressive “HDR mode” feature I have ever used on any phone or point-and-shoot camera. The effect is minimal – so subtle as to not really be able to tell it works in side-by-shots that I do. I much preferred the simpler, but more effective, feature on my old HTC One S.

      The Nexus 5 HDR+ also goes overboard with the color correction and “corrects” the pictures into awful hues that are not natural at time.

      Yes, sometimes it works, but its just terrible. I prefer the normal pictures. I’m praying for a software update, as the most important gripe is the awful autofocus algorithms being used. Perhaps 50% of the time the phone autofocuses itself into bluriness with me and my subject being perfectly still…. with no edges in ANY depth of the picture snapping into focus as a result. Just infuriating.

      • Dan

        YES! The problem, Mojo, is that we who had the HTC One S were absolutely blessed with a camera that is AWESOME. True HDR, burst/best shot, fast focus… totally spoiled. It is ruining the Nexus 5 experience for me not to have a camera as good as the one I just had. As far as I can tell, the Nexus 5 isn’t actually taking multiple photos. Not sure how they can imply that they are.

  • Sérgio Oliveira

    iPhone camera appears to be as clear and true as it can be to what you are seeing. This is the basis for everything else, and this is what was compared here. A camera as tested here has to provide true depictions of a scene. Software camera tuning that makes that photos “nicer” to start with is trying to make reality look better and thus IMO are on the side of other “killer” features like HDR, or apps, or filters or whatever you use to modify and make an image look better. They may all be very fine but have to be judged as photo enhancements, and not as the camera itself. If you have a good camera, you should let it show, and then provide the user with camera presets, features, filters and whatever so the user can shoot “nicer” shots. But never mind purism. Think of it this way, you can have “real” images with the iPhone, then use “whatever” to make photos nicer and have both. But if you like “real” raw images, apparently you can’t have it with the Nexus 5. Which is just fine for mostly anyone, they just like “nice images”.

    • tolop

      uhh… the iphone does as much “Software camera tuning that makes that photos” as much as camera phone out there, it is just done automatically in the background. google should have had HDR+ on all the time. I think the only reason they didn’t is is that in some situations, HDR+ takes slight longer to capture. This will supposedly be addressed in upcoming update.

      • Sérgio Oliveira

        You’re missing my point. iPhone tries to make photos look real. Others try to make them look “good” and improved. It’s like shooting with a Canon DSLR or a Fuji X100. Like I said, it’s not “wrong” and most people do prefer the latter, and that’s what counts in the end. But I for one can’t wait to trade the HTC One for the 5S, just for that reason.

        • DasithWijesiriwardena

          the iPhone increase color warmth in every outdoor photo. So argument is not entirely true. The nexus selectively increase exposure in certain areas of the image. How can an iPhone photo be made HDR later when there is only one photo. Look up what HDR means.

          • N4 Enthusiast

            I agree with you, but I don’t think you understand what he means. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he described a want for the HDR+ mode to be on all the time, but due to the capture time it was not released like that. However, as stated by Google, the next update/iteration of the camera app for 4.4 will feature a faster capture time on HDR+ plus mode.

            That said:
            I think the purpose of a point and shoot camera is to make photos look good. At an 8mp resolution, you can’t do any real editing with the photo anyway, other than add filters. As the iOS7 camera features built in filters, the expectation is that you will find the filter that makes the photo look the best in your opinion, where the N5 does that for you by adding adjusting hue/saturation/exposure. IMO, I repeat, IMO, that is what a point and shoot should do. I don’t want to have to fidget with filters afterwards (or during in the case of iOS7, where the filter overlays) when honestly, the photo could just be taken and done with.
            This coming from someone who has a N4, where I always take HDR photos and they turn out better than my friend’s iPhone 4/4s/5/5s with HDR on. As for “action shots” no shutter is fast enough to get no blur on a photo most people would like to take with a phone. Get a DSLR if you really want pictures like that. Honestly, my point and shoot cameras could never capture those kind of shots anyway…
            All of this is just IMO. 😀

          • Sérgio Oliveira

            Obviously I was assuming you take 2 or more photos and edit them later. But you can even make an HDR from one photo. The Nexus 5, the HTC One and mostly any other phone besides an iPhone SUCK at being true, even with HDR off.

        • TomTomTom

          Your point is irrelevant in regards to the above photos. Reason being that unless you took them yourself and are able to show us exactly what your EYES saw whilst taking them, it is impossible to say which one is more like ‘reality’. Different peoples eyes see different things and for this reason camera comparisons are pointless.

        • DasithWijesiriwardena

          You are simply showing how clueless you are. You said before how you can take two photos from the iPhone and make a HDR photo and quickly deleted the comment I assume because you realized that’s the stupidest thing ever said on a forum. Photographers use tripods for a reason when multiple photo are required for HDR. iPhone has an HDR option but it isn’t as nice aas on Android. IPhone camera is great but you sir seems lack the knowledge or understanding about photography to comment. The Nokia Lumia series camera are better than the iPhone for me. The nexus takes better shots than the iPhone in certain lighting conditions too. At the end of the day if you use a camera to take a photo expect it to be of substandard quality. No one buys a smartphone just for the camera. As it stands the Android OS is leagues ahead in terms of functionality and the above comparison shows that the 350$ phone can match a 800$ phone’s camera. End of story. You can rant all you want but the evidence is in the plain for everyone to see,

          • Sérgio Oliveira

            I edited it to add info, but comment was subjected to moderation. Lets try again then: 1 – You CAN make HDR from one picture (something you ignored) 2 – You can take 2 shots or more with the iPhone and create an HDR later. Just because you don’t know how, doesn’t mean it’s not possible. The iPhone camera IS superior. Maybe the only thing it has better than any Android currently. But it is miles ahead, and those that actually appreciate and know anything about photography, and aren’t looking through fanboy eyes know it produces the best images.

      • tiger

        No, HDR+ on all the time means blurry pics all the time. HDR+ is ONLY for stationary objects with no movements whatsoever. Any little movement will be blurry. HDR speed is very important. And this is why iPhone HDR is better than any other phone because of its speed (due to processing power of A7 chip). The speedier HDR is, the less blurry on moving objects.

        • LOL

          You have no clue. Read what the HDR is.

          • tiger

            Educate me.

          • LOL

            I said you to read about it, I have no time to teach fools

          • tiger

            Lol, your name is true…you’re just another ignorant phandroid who has no idea what they’re talking about!

            You claim that HDR is not affected by movement…show me.

            You’re a classic dumbass.

          • LOL

            If you think the DR of the single shot is enough and you don’t need in NR based on the statistical analysis over the several images then the Apple approach may be better sometimes indeed.
            It is all about balance: with iPhone you will likely have less motion blurring (the difference will not be tremendous since google camera software tries to detect these and then choose presumably appropriate, ublurred pieces – not perfect, but good enough in practice), but with Android you will end up with much better shadow/highlight recovery and less noise. I also doubt there will be significant gain from the more powerful A7 CPU: image processing operations are generally quite easy to implement at GPU and this thing is more powerful in Nexus 5.

          • tiger

            Hmm, that is kinda what i wrote initially, no?

            HDR mode, just FYI, combines several exposures to recover details etc. If you have motion, then HDR pics are blurry…that is just plain fact. On every camera, from smartphones to DSLR (if avail).

            I have played with N5 with HDR+. Motion = blurry. FACT. In addition, N5 HDR+ takes a long time to compose, which makes it more susceptible to motion. FACT.

            iPhone 5S has a separate processor dedicated to camera…so that camera processing does not eat into A7 power.

            Therefore, HDR mode on 5S is much faster, allowing you to use it more often since motion blur is better (but not eliminated of course).

            Noise? Low light?

            Let me educate your dumbass on how camera works…iPhone 5S has BIGGER SENSOR (1/3.0″ vs. 1/3.2″), BIGGER PIXELS (1.5 vs 1.4), and BRIGHTER LENS (f/2.2 vs. f/2.4) than N5. Physics dumbass. You cannot get around physics with camera stuff.

            Really? You want to compare chips? A7 vs. your S800? I am all for it. Hint: A7 is much better.

            Oh well, i thought that i would get something intelligent from you…but typical phandroid dumbass! LEARN your stuff FIRST before calling someone out!

            Typical Android dumbass.

          • tiger

            Not sure if you know this, but HDR on iPhone works just like your HDR+, except that it takes the different exposures lightning quick! In fact, on all other modes, the iPhone does that also, except that the processor in REAL TIME is able to pick the best exposure and present it. In HDR mode, iPhone takes the exposures and combine them, like your Nexus 5.

            Go to Apple store and try it out…you will be shocked at how fast iPhone 5S can do HDR!

            HDR is not unique to N5.

          • LOL

            I’m sure iPhone takes the only shot: Apple uses 8Mp 1/3″ Sony sensor and its readout speed should not be faster than one of Nexus (Sony, 8Mp 1/3.2″).
            iPhone takes the only shot and then applies some tonemapping operator. Nexus takes several shots and blend them with something like exposure fusion. That’s why Nexus’ HDR+ generally shows more realistic results than iPhone. With much lower noise levels.

          • tiger


            Based on what result? Dude, DPReview ranked N5 among the WORST phone of 2013. Bar none.

            You’re a “camera” guy…DPreview legit, no? Lol

            Got any proof of your idiocy?

            Noise? Lol. iPhone has brighter lens, bigger sensor, bigger pixels. Yeah, ok….

          • LOL

            I have no experience with iphone camera and I based only on your BS about less blurry HDR images with iphone. Haven’t you cheated yourself?
            Brighter lens: it is only 2.4 vs 2.2, i.e. about 0.4 stops of advantage
            Bigger sensor: it’s just 17.3 vs 15.5 area, i.e. about 0.2 stops of advantage.
            Thus, we have 0.6 stops of advantage.
            But Nexus has optical stabilizer, which gives at least 1 stop.
            So, pure win for Nexus.

            Dpreview (in fact DPR uses DxO ratings, because those dpreview itself is just a bunch of incompetent clowns) ranked nexus with the first firmware. Google improved their processing A LOT since that.
            HDR+ is totally superior (thanks to optical stabilizer at first place)
            Guided panorama modes just destroy toyish iphone implementation: cylindrical, fisheye, rectangular, spheric.

          • tiger

            I did NOT know that OIS can result in improvement in highlights and noise level!!! Wow…did not know that! Lol

            DIS (digital IS) is also quite good on iPhone.

            Fisheye? Really>>WTF?!

            Panorama…really, you want to compare PANORAMA? Lol.
            What happened? Want to compare chips too?

            Those DPreview clowns does not base it on DXO. Dumbass.

            In addition, why don’t you read ANY Android review…and even Android folks consider 5S camera to be superior. Dumbass.

            I find it funny that you had NO FREAKING IDEA how HDR works on iPhone, yet still open your mouth! Dumbass.

            Lol…you thought HDR on iPhone was taking ONE shot and post-processing. Idiot. READ dude. Stop with this ignorance of yours! Yes, HDR on iPhone 5S is SUPER fast and yes it takes 3 exposures lightning quick.

            I can’t help if your N5 is so damn slow and blurry-ridden. Wait, you admitted that N5 HDR+ suffers from blurry mess…so much for OIS, huh!

            The sad part is that you argue about camera stuff from past postings! Dude, you know jack shit about camera. STOP with this nonsense!

          • tiger

            Show me ONE review (from Android folks even) where N5 beats 5S in the camera department! Just ONE.

            And are you still arguing that HDR on 5S is one exposure???? I wonder how long you have been making that “argument”??? Dumbass.

          • tiger

            In HDR mode, my iphone does have blurring with moving objects…wouldn’t that go against your “theory”?

          • tiger

            Teach what? You don’t even know how iphone HDR works yet trying to teach me?! What a moron!

            Explain to me how HDR can avoid motion blur. I am still waiting.

            Dumbass. Classic phandroid dumbass.

  • kym

    Intomobile is located in Hartford?

    • No, but I am.

      • IckyMuck

        You sir, need to clean that nasty mildew from around your office window!

  • Josh Jessup

    The Iphone 5s shots look WAAAAY better, simple.

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