Smartphones have become the go to camera for most people. The images they produce are stunning considering the tiny optics and small sensors that are packed into mobile entertainment devices. What does this mean for the tried and tested Point and Shoot camera? Most Point and Shoots offer Smartphone equivalent sensor sizes and megapixel counts but they set themselves apart with better optics and in some cases optical zoom lenses. Then there are Action Cameras, they take still photos too. These are 3 budget friendly options for a quick comparison.
The LG G4 Smartphone, the Samsung WB350f Smart Camera, and the Optex Safari HD Action Camera (a re-branded SJCAM SJ4000). The LG and Samsung have similar sensor specs, 1/2.3″ 16MP for the Samsung, 1/2.6″ 16MP for the LG. The Safari Action Camera claims to have a 2/3″12mp sensor but it actually has a 3MP sensor. If you choose 12MP the images are the same resolution but it creates bigger files. Ok enough tech talk, lets look at some pictures. All shots are unedited out of camera JPEG files.
In daylight these 3 cameras produce wildly different results. The LG (left) defaults to HDR in bright light producing dreamlike images with tons of colour. The image is sharp and fairly clean. The Samsung (middle) overexposes in bright light. The colours are a little on the yellow side and the details aren’t as crisp as the G4. The Safari Action Camera (right) looks like security camera footage. Grainy, dull, unimpressive. That being said with a little post processing they make very usable files for Instagram. Winner – LG G4.
Indoors with mixed lighting the results are a bit closer. The LG (left) and Samsung (middle) do a decent job with the exposure but the G4 pulls out a lot more detail in the shadows. If you open the images and look at the detail on the wall tile you can see how much better the G4 renders it. The Safari Cam (right) puts out a lot of noise, colour fringing around the windows, and muted colours. Winner – LG G4.
In harsh lighting situations the LG (left) picks up good detail in the shadows while controlling the exposure in the bight areas. The detail in the copper lead is quite good and the colours are accurate. The Samsung (middle) handles this situation well. The shadow detail is very good but the light areas are slightly over exposed. It loses some detail on the copper lead as well. The Safari Cam (right) actually does a nice job with the tricky exposure here. Too bad the colours are washed out and that 3MP sensor doesn’t give much detail. Winner – LG G4
Macro shooting is something a lot of cameras struggle with. The LG (left) produces sharp details and a nice shallow depth of field with its f/1.8 lens. The Samsung (middle) is an impressive macro shooter. It produces great detail and it focuses faster than the laser autofocusing G4. The Safari Cam (right) doesn’t do macro, not even a little bit. Winner – Samsung WB350f.
Shooting in low light is a gamble with all three cameras. The LG is good for city lights and dim restaurants but the LED flash is weak. The Samsung is awful in low light, anything over ISO400 is a disaster but the built in flash makes up for it in indoor situations. The Safari Cam should stay home at night. There’s no winner here, so much so that photos aren’t necessary. If you shoot in low light do some research and spend some money.
The clear winner here is the LG G4. Does this mean that Point and Shoot cameras are pointless? That’s a tough question to answer. Entry level Point and Shoot cameras are fairly pointless but spend a few extra dollars and you get a decent zoom like the Samsung WB350f. 21x optical zoom on its small sensor is equivalent to 483mm in 35mm terms. That’s impressive. What does this mean to the average traveler or casual shooter? It means wildlife photography and cool telephoto shots are possible with a camera that fits in your pants pocket.
All of these cameras are still available but there are newer models with higher specs and different features being released regularly. There are also similar devices available from dozens of manufacturers. The choice comes down to your personal tastes. Can you get by without a big zoom? If so most modern Smartphones will be all the camera you need. Do you want a little more control and like the options a zoom lens gives you? If you do then a Point and Shoot with a decent zoom might be for you. If you do a lot of action sports and take HD video the Safari Cam is a great choice, easily keeping pace with much more expensive Action Cameras in video quality. It doesn’t really have the goods to replace your Smartphone or Point and Shoot camera for still images though.
If you like what you see here please share and comment below!
Disclaimer – I didn’t include an iPhone in this test because the images they produce are very underwhelming. I know some people have very strong opinions about the iPhone and that’s ok. I have a 6 Plus which does a decent job in most situation but the G4 is noticeably better.