Landscape

In our sunny landscape scene, the cameras turned in similar performances. Exposure is essentially identical across all three shots. Color is pleasant, nicely saturated without going over the top and also very consistent across the phones.

The photos also show very similar detail and noise characteristics. There’s a lot of detail here, with restrained noise reduction keeping things from looking too smeary in the darker, low contrast parts of the scene. At the phones’ base ISO of 100 (which is about a stop faster than much of the competition), noise is visible but not intrusive in areas of even tone like the sky, but largely masked by the busy detail of the rest of the scene. We should note that software upgrades seem to have improved overall image quality for the 920 since we originally reviewed it earlier this year.

Nokia 920, ISO 100, 1/885 sec. Click to see images at full size and ratio.
100% center crop
Nokia 928, ISO 100, 1/945 sec
100% center crop
Nokia 925, ISO 100, 1/864 sec
100% center crop. Note the 925’s soft spot in the center of the frame compared with the sharpness of the 920 and 928.

Despite these similarities, there’s no mistaking the fact that these photos were taken with different cameras because of the variations in lens sharpness. Quite a few phone camera lenses get soft at the edges and corners of the frame and these Nokias exhibit the flaw to varying degrees: lower right for the 920 and 925, lower left for the 928 and 925. The 928 is also soft on the upper right edge and whole left edge, and the 920 exhibits some left side softness.

Ironically, given the bragging rights of the sixth lens element, the 925 is noticeably soft in the exact center of the frame. We have to think this is a quality variation issue rather than a flaw inherent to the lens design since center sharpness is typically prioritized. Nonetheless, it’s there in our sample and it’s not particularly subtle, so we recommend that pixel peepers make sure their copy gets the bull’s-eye sharp before the exchange period runs out. That said, the 925’s edge and corner performance generally outdoes the others, so that extra lens element is doing something right.

Corner and edge softness in the 920 and 928 are more apparent in 16:9 mode because the wider imaging circle that the multi-aspect ratio sensor requires really stresses the lens. Here, the 925’s edge superiority is particularly evident, but the soft center remains.

Nokia Lumia 920, ISO 100, 1/3322 sec. Click to see images at full size and ratio.
100% left edge crop 
Nokia 928, ISO 100, 1/3125 sec
100% left edge crop 
Nokia 925, ISO 100, 1/2941 sec
100% left edge crop. Note that the 925 holds sharp while the other two phones go soft.

Night scene

All three phones chose the same exposure for this scene: 1/6 sec at ISO 800. Combined with the fast F2.0 lenses, this makes for a fairly bright photo from all three devices. It would be very hard to avoid blur from camera shake at 1/6 sec without the phones’ optical image stabilization systems, but with OIS getting sharp shots was pretty easy (though moving subjects tend to blur at this slow shutter speed). These samples represent the best of three shots from each phone: the 928 and the 920 flubbed one shot each (not shown), but that was due to focus error rather than shake-induced blur. The best 920 shot shows a trace of blur, but it’s still totally usable.

Nokia 920, ISO 800, 1/6 sec. Click to see images at full size and ratio.
100% crop
Nokia 928, ISO 800, 1/6 sec
100% crop
Nokia 925, ISO 800, 1/6 sec
100% crop

Compared to the competition as a whole, all three phones did very well on this test, capturing a good amount of detail and avoiding the worst excesses of high ISO noise reduction. Noise appears as a fine-grained speckling that’s not objectionable: there’s no banding or nasty chroma splotching.

Though exposures were identical, there are subtle variations in color balance, with the 925 appearing a little greener in some areas, most noticeable in the orange wall of the cafe.

The most interesting takeaway from this test is that the newer 928 and 925 don’t have an obvious edge over the older 920. Their OIS systems may be a hair more effective, but by and large it’s a wash.