Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5 cameras

See if Samsung's latest can beat out Google's 6-month old entry

Every time a new phone is released touting drastically improved camera hardware and software, we naturally jump at the opportunity to put it through its paces. We've done just that with the Galaxy S5, and it's clear that the phone can produce some great shots in the right conditions. Sometimes the best way to see how a phone's camera performs is to put it head-to-head with another familiar device, and we've done that twice now with the Galaxy S5 versus the iPhone 5s and the HTC One M8.

Those are the latest leading flagships from Apple and HTC, so what about Google? The Nexus 5 at $349 unlocked has more than a handful of owners out there very impressed with the camera prowess of the latest phone from Google, and I tend to think it's camera has gotten a bad rap over the half-year since it was launched. It's time for a good 'ol fashioned camera comparison, folks, this time between the Galaxy S5 and the Nexus 5. Let's shed some light on this comparison and see which one picks up the highest marks.

Testing method

Dual phone tripod mount

In order to get the most accurate representation of what these cameras are capable of, we've enlisted some specialized hardware. I strapped the phones into mounts that place them directly next to each other on a platform with the camera sensors mere inches apart, and placed that mount onto a stable camera tripod. I went to a variety of scenes, placing the tripod down and then taking two pictures with each camera — one in "auto" mode, and once again in HDR mode. Where applicable, I used tap-to-focus to get the best shot from each camera. I then selected the better of the shots on each camera — whether its HDR or not — and compared them head-to-head for each scene.

I then took both phones around in my pocket and simply pulled them out and shot freehand. This is far less scientific as there are more factors at play here, such as hand shake, wind (when outside) and slightly different composition. But this is more like real life — we very rarely have tripods with smartphone adapters on them with us at all times, and in many ways if a smartphone can't produce good shots when held in your hands, there's little point to it having a camera at all. Again, there's a mix of HDR and standard pictures here — I just put the best picture from each on display.

While the Galaxy S5 takes 16MP photos in a 16:9 aspect ratio by default, for ease of comparison I set the phone to shoot 12MP 4:3 photos because the Nexus 5 has no option other than 4:3. (It's either that or shoot at 16MP and crop manually, and I think that gives an unfair shake to the Galaxy S5.) I used the stock camera app on the Galaxy S5, and the latest update of Google Camera on the Nexus 5. You may also notice that the Galaxy S5 pictures seem a bit "zoomed in" compared to the Nexus 5 — this is simply because it has a longer focal length, which shoots a slightly narrower field of view than the Nexus 5.


When you're trying to show off the absolute maximum quality of photos that a camera can produce, you set it up in the best conditions possible. And particularly when we're talking about smartphone cameras, the sensor and lens size really lend themselves to photography in great lighting. Our first comparison between the Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5 cameras comes in good lighting conditions.

Tripod-mounted daylight pictures

From top to bottom in each set: Galaxy S5, Nexus 5.

Galaxy S5 daylight tripod sample 1Nexus 5 daylight tripod sample 1

Galaxy S5 daylight tripod sample 2Nexus 5 daylight tripod sample 2

Galaxy S5 daylight tripod sample 3Nexus 5 daylight tripod sample 3

Galaxy S5 daylight tripod sample 4Nexus 5 daylight tripod sample 4

Galaxy S5 daylight tripod sample 5Nexus 5 daylight tripod sample 5

Galaxy S5 daylight tripod sample 6Nexus 5 daylight tripod sample 6

Galaxy S5 daylight tripod sample 8Nexus 5 daylight tripod sample 8

Galaxy S5 daylight tripod sample 9Nexus 5 daylight tripod sample 9

Galaxy S5 daylight tripod sample 10Nexus 5 daylight tripod sample 10

Based on the samples here and my experience overall, under perfect conditions on a tripod the Galaxy S5 bests the Nexus 5 in just about every scene, with the one exception of the green pipe mounted in the wall (second photo set). The Galaxy S5 regularly produces brighter pictures in both auto and HDR mode, while the Nexus 5 often needs HDR+ simply to keep up and take "normal" looking pictures by comparison. Sharpness is about on-par, but the GS5 produces a better range of colors that were on the whole more accurate than the Nexus 5 as well. The Galaxy S5's white balance was often much more accurate, while the Nexus 5 tended to produce warmer images than the actual scene.

If there's one knock on the Galaxy S5 here it's that the camera often produces images that are a step or two too bright, making things unrealistic even in auto mode. Now that's a better problem to have than images being too dark, as the Nexus 5 is prone to doing, and I prefer having bright images that you can edit to be darker than vice-versa. While you could say the Nexus 5's darker scenes often produce more "realistic" photos that are simpler and not as punchy, the shots just aren't as appealing as the Galaxy S5's on any given picture.

I've been able to take some pretty wonderful pictures with the Nexus 5 in my time using it, and any of the above images from the phone would be more than acceptable to anyone's eyes when not compared directly to another camera. But it's clear the minimum and maximum quality of the Galaxy S5 under perfect conditions are just higher. Not only does the camera have more megapixels to work with (even cropped to 4:3), it has a solid several months ahead of the Nexus 5 in terms of camera hardware and software development.

Tripod-mounted daylight winner: Galaxy S5

Freehand shooting daylight pictures

From top to bottom in each set: Galaxy S5, Nexus 5.

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 1Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 1

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 2Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 2

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 3Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 3

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 4Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 4

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 5Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 5

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 6Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 6

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 7Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 7

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 8Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 8

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 9Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 9

Galaxy S5 daylight handheld sample 10Nexus 5 daylight handheld sample 10

In the daytime when the phones come off the tripod things get a little closer together in terms of quality. Simply taking each one out of my pocket and snapping a picture, the Galaxy S5 again took consistently brighter pictures than the Nexus 5, but it seemed to go overboard with colors, contrast and brightness even more so when handheld. Although the HDR mode captures very quickly, I still seemed to often get sharper pictures out of automatic mode on the GS5.

The Nexus 5 offered up more realistic looking pictures again compared to the Galaxy S5, and while they were a couple steps too dark in some cases they were consistently good — likely due to the inclusion of OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) on the camera. The white balance of the Nexus 5 shots seemed to be the same handheld as on a tripod — pictures tended to be a little too warm. You can easily fix the brightness problem with using a +1 manual exposure control and making use of tap-to-focus, so long as you're okay stepping away from HDR+ mode.

Which pictures you like between the two when shot handheld comes down to the style you prefer, really. With the exception of the first and sixth pictures in the set, I think the Nexus 5 is comparable or better than the Galaxy S5 in each of the pictures. The Galaxy S5 provides brighter, more vibrant colors even without HDR, but often goes overboard with the contrast and brightness. The Nexus 5 will give you realistic shots at the expense of often being slightly darker and warmer. Walking around in the sun and taking pictures I can say I was pleased with the results from both.

Freehand daylight winner: Tie

Low light

While these daylight shots show off some impressive camera prowess, a large portion of what we use smartphone cameras for involves taking pictures in less than ideal lighting conditions. It's unfortunate then that these scenes are also where phones with incredibly small camera sensors really come up short compared to even your average $99 point-and-shoot camera. It's an area where even the latest and greatest phones struggle — let's see how the Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5 do when the lights go down.

Tripod-mounted low light pictures

From top to bottom in each set: Galaxy S5, Nexus 5.

Galaxy S5 low light tripod sample 1Nexus 5 low light tripod sample 1

Galaxy S5 low light tripod sample 2Nexus 5 low light tripod sample 2

Galaxy S5 low light tripod sample 3Nexus 5 low light tripod sample 3

Galaxy S5 low light tripod sample 4Nexus 5 low light tripod sample 4

Galaxy S5 low light tripod sample 5Nexus 5 low light tripod sample 5

Galaxy S5 low light tripod sample 6Nexus 5 low light tripod sample 6

Galaxy S5 low light tripod sample 7Nexus 5 low light tripod sample 7

Galaxy S5 low light tripod sample 8Nexus 5 low light tripod sample 8

Galaxy S5 low light tripod sample 9Nexus 5 low light tripod sample 9

The results from these cameras are generally reversed once the sun starts to go down. Taking pictures in relatively low light, around 7pm to 8pm, even on a tripod the Galaxy S5 quickly deteriorated to lots of noise and blur in each of its shots. Interestingly, almost all of the "best" shots I picked from the GS5 were in automatic mode rather than HDR, as HDR seemed to introduce even more noise and weird discoloration in dark scenes. Samsung's phone bested the Nexus 5 in just a couple of the selected low light scenes, but even then it wasn't by much.

The Nexus 5, by contrast, was smooth and far less noisy than the Galaxy S5 in nearly every low light shot, with better shot-to-shot consistency overall. Also in contrast to the GS5, the Nexus 5's best shots were primarily in HDR+ mode, with only one or two automatic shots making the cut as the better of the two from the phone. White balance was far more accurate in these low light shots than in the daytime, and it should also be said that it never produced an overtly blurry photo which can't be said of the Galaxy S5 in these scenes.

The last four shots in this low light section are in dim light indoors late at night, and this is where the Nexus 5 completely runs away with things. None of the Galaxy S5's HDR shots were picked as they looked like they were taken with a 4MP camera from 2005, and the Nexus 5 took drastically better photos in each and every scene. It isn't even close in these situations.

Tripod-mounted low light winner: Nexus 5

Handheld shooting low light pictures

From top to bottom in each set: Galaxy S5, Nexus 5.

Galaxy S5 low light handheld sample 1Nexus 5 low light handheld sample 1

Galaxy S5 low light handheld sample 2Nexus 5 low light handheld sample 2

Galaxy S5 low light handheld sample 3Nexus 5 low light handheld sample 3

Galaxy S5 low light handheld sample 4Nexus 5 low light handheld sample 4

Galaxy S5 low light handheld sample 5Nexus 5 low light handheld sample 5

Galaxy S5 low light handheld sample 6Nexus 5 low light handheld sample 6

Galaxy S5 low light handheld sample 7Nexus 5 low light handheld sample 7

Let's be honest — neither phone does a fantastic job when shooting handheld in dark situations. That being said, the Galaxy S5 really shows its weakness in these situations. Whether its outdoors or inside (though indoor seemed to be the worst), the GS5 just doesn't seem to be able to figure out what to do in lower light. It will often focus incorrectly or just leave the shutter open too long in order to try and brighten the photo, in either case causing an intolerable amount of blur in the picture. Whether it was in automatic or HDR mode didn't seem matter when it came to brightness or grain — every photo was exceptionally noisy in low light. The poor man's version of OIS, called "picture stabilization" mode, seemed to help in some situations but hurt in others — proving that there's really no substitute for true hardware OIS.

The Nexus 5 does a bit better in these low light and indoor situations, but relies heavily on its HDR+ mode to provide smooth and well-lit shots. Unlike the GS5 it has the ability to use a longer shutter speed and HDR+ to take a better picture because it has OIS, and it really shows its worth in these kinds of pictures. As long as there isn't a lot of movement (a requirement for the GS5 as well) and you use HDR+, you'll get some acceptable results. Of the two phones, the Nexus 5 is the one that will take low light pictures that look good on anything more than a 5-inch phone screen.

While you definitely won't be trusting either one of these to take dedicated camera-quality shots in low light, I'd take the Nexus 5 in a heartbeat if these were the two choices to take a picture.

Handheld low light winner: Nexus 5


Nexus 5 Camera UI Galaxy S5 Camera UI

If you've spent any amount of time with these phones, you can tell there's a big difference in the way the camera software was designed. While Samsung has definitely taken a step in the right direction with its previously-bloated camera software, things are still a bit jumbled and confusing. Hitting the settings button in the interface reveals several options that aren't entirely clear what they do, and you can really get in and tweak things (whether it's a good idea or not). When it comes to actually taking pictures, the software is very responsive, with incredibly fast autofocus and capture times. HDR capture was so fast it's almost indistinguishable from automatic mode.

Google Camera on the Nexus 5, on the other hand, is almost too simple. Even once you dive into the settings to enable manual exposure controls and grid lines, there are very few shooting options when using Google's software. The new animation for HDR+ helps remind you to keep steady, and in the latest software version the auto focus and shot-to-shot speed have both been notably improved. If you don't need lots of tweaks and manual controls (most people definitely don't), you won't be missing much by choosing the Google photography suite.

As a point of comparison, I also chose to install the Google Camera app on the Galaxy S5 to see how it changed the experience. Other than the ability to take Photo Spheres, panoramas and Lens Blur shots as Google intended it, I found no difference in the quality of photos — you just get the simpler capturing interface and a drastically longer capture speed when taking HDR photos. Because it is unable to access the camera hardware in the same way as Samsung's own camera app is, there's something to be said for keeping to the stock app for the best possible photo quality.

Drawing final conclusions

Dual phone tripod mount

After dozens of pictures, special camera rigs and lots of testing, we have some final results to look at. Diving in, the Galaxy S5 comes out on top when the conditions are right and you're taking pictures during the day. How big the GS5's lead is to your eyes depends on what kind of pictures you're drawn to — be it the GS5's punchy colors or Nexus 5's lifelike representations — but it's clear Samsung's offering has an overall higher quality of photos to offer.

When the amount of available light goes down, the table is turned completely. The Nexus 5 takes the lead in just about every low light situation, and unanimously wins when shooting in those situations without a tripod. The inclusion of OIS on the camera and a far superior HDR+ mode mean you'll get bright, grain-free shots even in tough photo conditions. The Galaxy S5 comes up short with an HDR mode that tries to do too much at night, and a picture stabilization mode that doesn't do a whole lot.

The software choices are a bit closer than in years past, and really come down to your personal preference. Samsung's camera suite is unmatched with the number of available features and tweaks, and on the Nexus 5's side Google Camera is simple and efficient for just getting good pictures without the frills.

So which one do you pick? Really, there's far more than just camera performance that should make up your mind on a phone — and there are a whole lot of differences to be noticed between the Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5. But if you're purely looking for a phone to take pictures, the choice simply comes down to what scenes you shoot in most — Galaxy S5 blazes the trail during the day, and the Nexus 5 shines brightest at night.

For a closer look at all of the photos used in this comparison, you can head to the Android Central Google+ page and view each photo in full resolution.


Reader comments

Comparing cameras: Galaxy S5 versus Nexus 5


Um, in the green pipe mounted in the wall picture the S5 wins clearly, if for no other reason than the N5 has a huge pink splodge in the middle of the frame! This is visible on most of the N5 pictures.

Frankly in low light the N5 just edges it in one or 2 shots, but the S5 wins some of them. As for the daylight handheld being a tie.. come on its not even close! The S5 is miles better.

The N5 pictures are to soft, and often the dark areas are too dark. Its black crush, and ruins most of its photos.

Just an FYI, I don't have a Samsung device, in not pro-Samsung.

Not seeing a 'pink splodge' there. The GS5's pic is too warm and the colors are all wrong. It's the one pic where the N5 was actually much better than the GS5 on a tripod in the day. The rest have the GS5 in the lead, as I noted.

In the process of uploading full-res versions of all these to Google+ (will be linked at the bottom of this post) so you can see in better detail. The GS5's lowlight pictures are bad, really bad, and look even worse when they're full resolution. Not sure how you can ever look at those low light pictures side-by-side and say the GS5 is clearer or less grainy than the N5.

We are talking about he picture with the hydrant point right? Huge pink splodge, clear as day on my calibrated screen.

I did say the S5 only wins some of them, however I suspect its more of a settings issue on the S5, an update will fix it, try low light with HDR mode for now. Camera software is almost always wonky on new devices.

Yea there's a clear pink hue to the middle of the photo on the green pipe pic. I do think the N5 photos look better than the S5 photos at night though.

I see it in that one picture but I am not seeing it in any others. Which makes me thing it is not a hardware thing.

Actually there's a subtle pinkish bias in many of the shots. Some of the more obvious:

The pic with the white restroom sign - pinkish cast on the sign background and lettering in More Shops sign.

The image of the stuffed animals (both the wall and the white patches on the animals).

The shelf with the Easter goodies

The bezel of the laptop.

No dude...I looked closely this time and was looking for the pink splotch...I don't see it in any of the other ones.

In the low light shots the Nexus just annihilates the S5 in that shot of the lamps...look at how noisy the S5 shot is.

I don't know what to tell you except to look once more in the image with the white restroom sign and the "More Shops" sign, as this is one of the better examples. The white of the sign has a pink cast. Look at the lettering in the "More Shops" sign. "More" clearly has a slight pink bias that's not there in the S5 shot, and "Shops" also has the same bias except that it seems to fade in the letters that are farther than the center.

FWIW my daily driver is an N5 - ordered it within about 20 seconds after it became available. I haven't bothered to check my phone to see if it behaves the same way because the effect is so subtle I couldn't care less. But in the images above the effect is unmistakably present.

Exactly. That pink is really on the wall.
And like dwd- I think ALL the night shots look INCREDIBLY better on the N5. It isn't even close. The GS5 is practically embarrassing. In daytime, they are pretty close.

Dude, no. Just no. I'm looking at these on a 32 inch 1080p Samsung HDTV, and the Nexus 5 absolutely annihilates the GS5 in low light. It's not even REMOTELY close. I also fail to see this "pink splotch" you keep referring to. Most of the daytime shots the GS5 wins. But at low light, no. EDIT: Ok, I see the splotch now. Had to go back and look again. I was looking for it in the wrong picture :P

Failing to see it on a crap low end tv didn't really help your case. It's clear to see even on my phone screen.

I assume you didnt use HDR on the S5 at night then? Makes a huge difference on almost all devices.

Looking at the shots again all the N5 pics that have a light background show the pink splodge. I thought that was something we left behind a few years ago. Probably down to a poor sensor on the N5.

Read through my thoughts. At night, HDR makes no difference on the S5, and in many cases makes photos worse with more grain and discoloration.

Your best shot at night on the S5 is to brace yourself against something, use picture stabilization mode, turn HDR off, and pray.

Then is suspect a firmware revision will sort it out, the N5 camera was absolutely terrible when launched, its improved a lot, but its still got over pumped contrast and poor detail.

I agree the N5 is better in low light right now, but in the daylight its not even close frankly, I cant disagree with your assessment more and I cant believe you cant see the pink splodge on almost every light backgound on the N5 shots..

Poor detail on the Nexus 5? You've got to be kidding me. Maybe if you're going to print on a billboard. Its detail is close to the GS5 shots in the day and it's working with only 8MP. At night, it has better detail than the GS5.

Please look at the full res photos...

Outdoor photo with open sign. Zoom in on the electricity meter. The numbers on it are more clear on the Nexus 5's shot.

Indoor photo of wooden stairs. Zoom in on the brown blinds at the top of the image. On the Nexus 5 image, you can see lines separating the individual blinds. On the GS5's photo all you see is a brown blur.

Indoor photo with the little colored takeout food looking boxes. Zoom in on the Cookie Dough box on the left. Look at the words below cookie dough and tell me what they are by looking at the GS5 photo. Now look at the N5 photo.

Photo of the iPhone billboard and parking deck. How much does it cost to park there? Can you tell from the GS5 photo? Nope. N5 photo? Yup.

Sure, in bright daylight the GS5 takes slightly more detailed photos in some cases, but it should! Its photos are twice as many megapixels. The fact that the 8MP photos from the N5 are even close to the detail of the GS5 means the N5 is taking some awesomely detailed shots for 8MP. Saying it has poor detail is a flat out lie.

Ah the nexus apologists are out in force again. Don't know why I bothered really, I forgot that the nexus is perfection and any word against it will be hammered down. Silly me.

Sometimes this place is pathetic.

Funny, you're the only one comming off as the most defensive and butthurt reading thus far down. Just close your eyes and say "nanny nanny boo boo Andrew I disagree with your entire review." I own a N5 and know it capable of VERY good shots, just a bit surprised it still hangs with or destroys the GS5 (low arguing from this test). That said, I shouldn't be because it beat the 5s in many reviews and the 5s did the same to the GS5 in a few I've read.

Obviously there's truth to what you say. However, the fact of the matter is, I can grab an HDR+ shot of my son outdoors and get it in one shot and it's a beautiful photo. Unless I use tap-to-shoot on the S5, it can take a couple of shots b/c of the lack of OIS and some auto-focus issues that I'm hoping will be fixed in an update. The S5's shot will look great as well, but the N5 is more consistent. And I tend to agree with others (and have since the N5 was released) - the N5 does a great job of minimal noise on low-light shots. The S5 is pretty weak in this area right now unless you have pic stabilization on, which ends up being either too muddy, or takes 4 seconds to shoot.

Wow, sorry in full res the N5 pictures are just awful. So soft and dark. Black crush ruins them. I cant even photoshop correct the one I chose. Terrible in this day and age.

I dont have either phone so how can I? The picture arent in question, the interpretation is. The N5 pictures all have a dark cast on them, its the same as on the G2, so obviously something about LG software.

I also note that most of the N5 pictures with a light background have a pink splodge on them. On some its quite subtle, on others its very obvious.

Really, I have a G2 and I call BS. I have compared my LG G2 side by side with my Nikon DSLR and I am not seeing this "dark cast" you are claiming.

I have a G2 as well, if you dont see it I guess you arent one to judge photos..

Its simple black crush, like a poorly calibrated TV. Look at the N5 images above, detail in the dark areas is gone and they are generally too dark in the dark areas anyway. It looks like contrast is too high, crushing the top and bottom end, its probably a deliberate setting compensating for the inability to capture black correctly, as it on a cheap TV.

It was far worse when the N5 was released, but its improved a bit with software revisions, but its far from gone.

Ever think that quite possibly YOU could be wrong? And you shouldn't judge photos? I see the pink hue in 2 photos from the N5, I know for a fact my G2 does not do that. As for the dark areas, mostly the N5 outperforms the S5.

You know the N5 is the bottom image right? :P

My G2 doesnt have the pink splodge either, i didnt say it did, I said they both, G2 and N5 have issues with dark areas. I see the pink splodge in 4 N5 images.

You really cant see the black crush on the N5 pictures? Wow. Is your monitor calibrated?

Ever think you could be the one that's wrong Joe? Cause its definitely happened many times before.

Posted via Android Central App

Actually I think the GS5 tends to over brighten things compared to reality, which makes the N5 pictures look dark side by side, but really they're probably more accurate.

I agree, I was looking at those daytime tripod photos and thinking the Nexus 5 did a better job.

Posted with my Nexus 7 LTE (2013) via Android Central App

You'll always see a "pink smuge" on older phones, reason is there is no shutter to protect the sensor from photons wearing it out. That's something I've noticed ever since I had the RAZR v3, just watch out during the summer.. You'll really notice it if you leave the phone on its face with the sun blaring on the sensor.

Now compare the S5 to the G2 now.... So we can see how the G3 will blow the S5 away once its released.

Posted by me somewhere on my phone.

As a Nexus 5 owner I'm pleasantly surprised. The value of the Nexus 5 for me far outweighs anything else. I do envy the microSD and removable battery of the S5, but I don't think I can justify the price difference to buy a phone for $700 any more. However, I'm waiting patiently for Moto x+1...

The Nexus 5 has one of the most underrated cameras in the industry. It's not the best but it is significantly better than most people think it is.

Yep. They just needed a little software fix that's all. It does much better job in lie light then Note 3 that's for sure - i did a side to side comparison
VZW Moto X

The N5 autofocus is a joke. This is why the images are soft. I can pull the camera away from the subject and get the preview to look far more crisp and defined than anything the autofocus can create. Then of course it re-focuses when I hit the capture button. Awful IMO.

N5 autofocus is a tad slow, but better with the Google Camera update. Don't think the focus is off, though. It simply processes photos a bit much and softens them in the process.

The issue with the N5 for me is how often it flat out misses focus. In the old app (before google camera in the play store) it would sow green circle like it Locked focus but be dramatically out of focus. This issue is all over the google product forums. With the new app it still happens, just no green ring to make you think the camera thought out was in focus. Happens most often indoors with human subject (ie slightly moving and with out hard edges to use for edge detection AF).

Anyway, nice write up, looks like a lot of work went into it. In the future you a should think about including a segment about taking pictures of moving subjects like pets or babies..

They look soft in the viewfinder and in the default photo app because those apps don't use the native res of the display (stupid), making them look soft. Open them in an app like QuickPic and you'll see that they are anything but soft.

Honestly either of those cameras would be good enough for my uses. But if I had to lean towards one it would be the S5, I am more likely to take a picture in good conditions and would rather have a better result in good well lit conditions.

I agree that the noise in low light on the S5 is not ideal, but it seems like something that can be improved somewhat with a software update. One thing I have been very impressed with, and which shows up in these pictures as well, is the lack of streak artifact from light sources in low light - compare the street lamps above. Not having OIS was a conscious decision on Samsung's and HTC's part this year - they both wanted to market rapid capture speeds.

Right I have to think that Samsung could tone down the noise at night as well, but they didn't as of the current software. It'd be interesting to see if they tone that down a bit in future updates.

With those tiny 1.12 micron pixels, I doubt a software update is going to improve low light shots on the GS5 much.

Action shots would have been good to try to do. As most photos we take aren't of inanimate objects, but of you know, people.

One of the better phone camera comparisons I have seen. Good job. From what I see, there isn't enough difference in image quality on display here to really matter. Both do a good enough job for a phone camera.

One thing I would be interested in seeing is what the ISO and shutter speeds were in the low light pictures, just to get a feel for how low the light really was. If shutter was 1/40 and ISO 400 that is a lot different than if 1/10 and ISO 1200, and I would judge the perfomance differently depending on just how low the light was for these pictures.

Head to the Google+ post linked at the bottom of the post now, where I uploaded all of the full-res versions of the comparison pictures. The EXIF is all in tact, showing ISO and shutter speeds.

Hope that'll help.

I think the galaxy S5 does better when it comes to dynamic range and colors but the nexus 5 seems to do better on exposure, but for some reason the reds are always over saturated (I notice this on my nexus 5 that I own)

Posted via Android Central App on my LG Nexus 5 (Sprint)

Yeah I think the Galaxy S5 definitely has the advantage on colors, but can go overboard. As far as the Nexus 5 colors go, I think it's simply a white balance issue causing the reds to be a tad overblown — though I'm not entirely sure.

As a Nexus 5 owner who doesn't take a lot of pictures (seriously it's like a couple of photos per week) I'm pretty thrilled that the camera is keeping up with the latest and greatest in the android scene. Just nice to know it's in my pocket when I need it.

My question is, other than low light, why would you ever turn HDR off on the S5? There's no noticeable difference in capture speed and the result is better 95% of the time. Do you agree?

Posted via Android Central App

I agree there's little to no reason to turn off HDR on the GS5 in basically any daytime situation if you only plan to take one shot and move on.

It was interesting to see the automatic mode turn out better photos at times when compared side-by-side to HDR photos from the exact same spot, though. HDR sometimes went overboard with the brightness and contrast, and just didn't produce as accurate or pleasing photo. Some of the shots above from the GS5 are in automatic, not HDR, and were the better shot.

Nice comparison. Makes me feel good about N5. In most cases except some of the low light ones, I thought they were all good. N5 is so much cheaper when buying off contract.

A couple of things I'd like to see included:
Indoors Flash photography
People pictures -- those might be a little less scientific but lets be real - people use their phone cameras all the time to take pictures of their kids and friends at events.

honestly i love my N5 camera and thats coming from the S4. out of all the smartphones ive had (s2-4,note 2,all evos,one,nexus s,galaxy) the n5 is still my favorite camera

It's kind of sad for Samsung that a phone like the Nexus 5 has a better camera. I got an iPhone 5 and a Nexus 5 and my iPhone has a much better camera. The S5's camera must be very bad if the Nexus 5 beats it. Well, Samsung most likely threw in a camera with a high megapixel count just to make people think it's good.

My wife has an iPhone 5 and I assure you that Galaxy S5 has a far superior camera. The iPhone 5_s_ and S5 are comparable in most situations per online reviews (more details outdoors with the S5, less noise in low light with the 5s). Your experience with the Nexus 5 camera may be before the various upgrades, as the pictures above are generally quite good.

Thats nuts. I went from a iphone 5 to the Galaxy S5 and this camera blows my old iphone way and I loved my Iphone camera. I take most of my shots in daylight situations so I might be biased but the Samsung camera is great. I wonder what the motive is in posts like this....

The nexus did much better than I thought it would and seems like a great camera.

In my opinion, the Galaxy S4's camera was better than the Nexus 5's camera. This is not at all surprising to me.

Frankly, the low-light images and that awfully zoomed-in crop would really annoy me. Phone cameras need to be more wide-angle, if anything, for the close-up type pictures they're typically used for (read: bar photos of 3-5 people).

It was somewhat alluded to, but I didn't see a whole lot of talk about the consistency of both and how difficult the shots were to get (unless I missed it?). I know for a fact that the S5, while superior outdoors, still occasionally has issues with blur after auto-focusing, or causing blur if there's even the slightest hint of movement upon capture - let alone lower light shots.

So far, in general, I like the S5's camera more. But if I'm inside needing to take a shot of my kids, or heck, even outside but rushed, the N5 tends to actually be easier and more consistent, even if a tad slower - I'm assuming thanks to OIS.

No OIS on the S5 is a complete showstopper for me.. It's the difference between being able to take usable photos and not. Arguing over barely perceptible differences pales in comparison.

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You should write these type of articles as "phone A" vs "phone B", then a day later reveal which is which after everyone has commented which one they think is better.

They look pretty equivalent though the thing that stands out the most to me is how much noise there is in the S5 low-light pictures. That would definitely bug me but either phone does a good enough job for me for the infrequent occasion where I need to take a picture and don't have a real camera.

I'm probably the only one, but I prefer the n5 pictures over the s5. They just look more realistic to my eyes. I don't like over saturated colors, they make everything look fake. The s5 clearly beat it in some pictures but overall I would choose the n5 shots, especially in low light.

Let the flaming begin!

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Why compare? Only thing they have in common is the "5" in the name. The GS4 has a better camera then the Nexus 5 lol

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Great comparison! I think you nailed it on point. It is clear on the images that the N5's camera is able to compete with the S5's camera toe to toe. I agree with one of the comments that it would be nice seeing a comparison between the two cameras with pictures with flash and with people in them.

Wow, the N5 has a much wider field of view (more wide angle). This will be a huge benefit to most people trying to do indoor shots, group shots, or even (shudder) selfies...

It looks like the photos taken in "The tripod mounted low light pictures", the lens of the Nexus 5 was dirty. Other then that, I don't know if I'm crazy, but the Nexus 5 was the winner. There were only a handful of Galaxy S5 pics that I perfered over the Nexus 5.

Kept thinking that too, but i religiously cleaned each lens before taking pictures — guess it was just the way the light hit the lens that night.

Tripod daylight pictures from the GS5 are stunning. Very impressed.
And on the other hand, the Nexus 5 did prove to hold its on in low light. The pics are consistent with what I get when I take low light pics

Largely happy with the N5 camera. HDR mode doesn't stick on for me, which is annoying since the picture quality is hugely improved with it. Focus is improved but could be improved yet more. Keep it up Google, it's a better experience than before but already looking forward to the next update ;-)

Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 via Android Central App

The Nexus 5 has a very good camera and I've impressed a lot of my friends with iPhones with the pictures it takes. The only caveat is you have to leave HDR mode on all the time.

Yes, whole power of Nexus 5 lies in HDR+
HDR+ shots look like they are made with camera who has much bigger resolution. (something similar to oppo F 7 supperzoom)

As I always say, if you had a dslr shots in the comparison it would be better. That way we can see which one out of the S5 and n5 comes closer to a pro camera. Don't think anyone can deny the low lights on the n5 were better but then your just picking the best of the worst photos. Ie neither are great and you wouldn't want to use any of the low lights but if you had to it will be the n5 shots.. Having said that, the S5 you could still see what the photos are to my surprise, I expected it just to be blurry noisy dark mess as it has no ois and has smaller microns.

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People keep saying that the S5 takes terrible low light pictures, but iMore's comparison of the S5, One M8, and iPhone 5S came to the conclusion that the S5 took the best low light pictures. I'm thinking that could be true, but in actually dark pictures - not low light or indoor light - the S5 sucks. Then again, my last two phones have been the S3 and Optimus G. The Optimus G's camera flat out sucks, and I'm sure I'll be extremely happy with the camera in the S5. It's all relative. Anybody that compared the S5 to the Optimus G or S3 should say that the S5 dominates in all aspects.

I prefer the Nexus 5 images.. I always prefer shaper images over brighter images.. Colors were much more accurate on nexus 5.. There are many sites on internet which say that s5's camera crushes nexus 5's camera.. How?? No way.. If not better its as good as s5's camera.. Thank you androidcentral :)

If u are not blind androidcentral has clearly mentioned that nexus 5 had more natural images.. Brown on s5 was totally yellowish?? Come on, except the truth

If you are not a moron, you will understand that without a reference image, it's impossible to judge colour accuracy. Commonsense.

Dude androidcentral completely specifies that nexus 5 was more natural.. Just accept that s5 sucks.. U cant challenge the decision of androidcentral.. U talking as if u are a professional photographer.. Read the comparison and then comment..

I'm actually quite surprised at how well the Nexus 5 did. Though the S5 was definitely the winner at least in my eyes, I didn't think it would be so close though.

I own the N5 and haven't owned a Samsung phone since the S1, so no Samsung Fanboy comments please.

I can see the differences in the pictures offcourse. But for me both of these cameras take good enough pictures. I use my phone to take snapshots of wherever I am, becasue I always have the phone with me. Take quite a bit of pictures. Mostly I just view them on the phone, or share them on social networks. Most camera's in phones serve that purpose well enough. If I really want to take better pictures, I bring my dslr.

At the moment I have a nexus 5. My so has a galaxy s3. When I compare pictures of those two phones, the ones taken with the nexus 5 overall look better. Before the n5 I had an xperia s. The camera on that was able to shoot some very nice pictures, but at other times it was really difficult to get a good shot. The nexus 5 in the state it is in now, takes a decent picture 8/9 times out of 10.

So many people on here acting like they know what they are talking about. Bunch of idiots.... AC is just become a annoying joke with no real input...

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What is that tripod mount that you have for mounting the cell phones? I really like that and want one.

Hi Andrew, about the mounting - where did you get the horizontal piece by which you have mounted the 2 mounting devices to the tripod?

Another desperate attempt to show how good Nexus is. Now do another test to show how N4 batterylife is far better than any other phone.

These android blogs and their fanboyish love for nexus. Give it a rest, not worth it.

Thanks for posting! Just out of curiosity, were the S5's low light pictures any better in full 16 MP 16:9 aspect ratio? I agree with your overall conclusions though - S5 seemed noticeably better in daylight, while the N5 was the clear winner in lower light.

Power of Nexus 5 is HDR+.
Photos taken in this mode look like they were taken with a camera that has a much higher resolution - the details are much cleaner than the classic 8mp photo.
Something similar, but not as good HDR+, is oppo F 7 supperzoom.

I see an immense amount of detail out of the s5 but the colors are a little wrong

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first off, gotta say i love seeing the pics you shoot in your reviews Andrew! reminds me of home (tacoma but live in CA now)....

As far as the review goes.. HOLY CRAP!! I almost laughed when i saw the title thinking the s5 was going to obliterate the nexus... WOW was i wrong! I do tend to like the puchier colors of the s5 but DANG, its REALLY close IMO.

That makes me feel better about returning the s5 and getting my G2 the other day (which should be a similar experience to the nexus)!!!

Based on a number of those comparisons, I would say the Nexus 5 takes better shots of clouds. And I like clouds.

Man, I wish I read this before I sold my nexus 5 to buy an S5.
I am so disappointed with the S5 camera, it is absolutely terrible indoors, it reminds me of a digital camera from the 90's!

I'm a technician and I regularly take pictures indoors with one hand of machinery parts or of text in manuals, I can't get a single clear pic with the S5! Plus all the pictures come out upside down or sideways when you copy them over to a PC, depending on which way you were holding the phone when you took the picture!!

I miss OIS in the nexus 5 big time. And I miss being able to take pictures with the camera in any orientation and simply transferring them to my PC. I can't believe the S5 has such good reviews when the camera is so bad indoors and file transfer is so 1990!!

I've had the S5 for 2 days now and I'm gonna return it and get another nexus 5, it was my perfect phone and I didn't even know it!