The contenders from left to right: Sony Xperia Z1, Nokia Lumia 1020, LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom.

It's only been four months since we published our shootout between Apple's iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and Nokia Lumia 920, but four months in the mobile technology universe is like an eternity. Since then we've seen some interesting innovations, especially in the mobile imaging field. It seemed the time was right for another shootout with a slew of new devices. The candidates are:

Launched in July, the Nokia Lumia 1020 is the long awaited first device that marries Nokia's PureView imaging technology that we first saw on the 808 with a current mobile operating system, Windows 8 in this case. With its 1/1.5-inch 41MP CMOS sensor, optical image stabilization and a fast f/2.2 lens, the Nokia boasts an impressive spec sheet and has already demonstrated in our full review that it is capable of delivering excellent image results.

The Sony Xperia Z1 was only announced at the beginning of September during the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Germany. From a design point of view it is very similar to its predecessor, the Xperia Z, and also comes with the Z's water- and dust-proof shell. However, the Z1's imaging unit is brand new and looks, at least on paper, impressive. The Sony's 20.7 MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor is of the 1/2.3 variant, which is the same size you would find in most consumer level compact cameras. The Sony comes with a fast f/2.0 lens but it's the only device in this test that has to make do without an optical image stabilization system. If you want to see more images from the Xperia Z1, check out our sample gallery.

 Device Sensor Aperture Optical IS  Focal Length Flash 
 Sony Xperia Z1    1/2,3" 20.7MP  F2.0  no  27mm  LED
  Nokia Lumia 1020   1/1.5" 41MP  F2.2   yes  27mm (4:3)
 25mm (16:9)
 LG G2    1/3" 13MP  F2.4  yes   29mm  LED
Samsung S4 Zoom    1/2.33" 16MP  F3.1-6.3  yes   24-240mm  Xenon

The LG G2 is the Korean manufacturer's latest flagship device. Its 5.2-inch screen is framed by an impressively thin bezel and the G2's other specs place it firmly in the high-end bracket of the market. Its 13MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor comes in the smartphone-standard 1/3 format, a more conventional approach than the high-resolution units in the Nokia and the Sony. That said, the LG is one of the currently very few Android phones with an optical image stabilization system. 

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is arguably the most unusual device in this test. It is a fully functional smartphone that comes with a 10x zoom lens and a 16MP 1/2.3 sensor.  Due to the optical zoom it's inevitably thicker than the other phones in this comparison, but compared to its bigger brother, the Galaxy Camera, which we reviewed in February, it's much more pocketable and a potential alternative for those mobile photographers who cannot live without an optical zoom.

Now that we've had a good look at the specifications, let's see what these devices can deliver in real life situations. Like in our previous shootout we've taken pictures in various test scenarios: a landscape shot and portrait in good light, a night scene, a low light portrait and a flash portrait. To simulate realistic use cases all images were taken hand-held in Auto modes (M-Mode on the Xperia Z1 to enable maximum image size). Scroll down to see the results.