Sony Ericsson Satio vs. Samsung Pixon12: 12MP shootout
Speaking of resolved detail, it's very important to have the different focal lengths in minds. The 30mm lens of the Pixon12 might give it the advantage of fitting more in the frame, but can also make it seem like it resolves less detail at 100% viewing magnification.
To make a proper judgment on this one we took all photos with equal framing, meaning that we took some steps closer to the subject with the Pixon12. That way none of the cameraphones has a resolved detail advantage or a disadvantage due to its focal length.
As it turned out the Pixon12 slightly outdoes the Satio, producing slightly more detail, as you can see from the 100% crops.
Winner: Samsung M8910 Pixon12 (only just)
The next photographic test is dynamic range. Dynamic range is one of the most important aspects of the photo quality of a camera and it's used to describe the light range (from near-black to near-white) that can be captured by the sensor.
There is no way to fix the blown highlights, or underdeveloped shadows, which are the most prominent result of limited dynamic range.
The two contenders in our test performed very similarly in this aspect throughout our test. That means that unless they've got the light metering wrong, they usually deliver one and the same level of detail in the shadowy and highlight areas of the photos. Thus we're going to assume that their dynamic range is pretty much equal (and we wouldn't be surprised if they use one and the same 12MP image sensor).
The two cameraphones have taken a different approach to reducing noise in their photos. While the Pixon12 works mostly on the chroma noise, doing as little noise suppression as possible, the Satio goes the other way round.
As a result the photos produced with the Satio have a lot of fine detail lost, due to the aggressive algorithm. While the difference might not be as obvious in some real-life shots, it will be pretty prominent in foliage or other similar fine detail patterns when shot under the same lighting.
The worst part is that the Satio noise-reduction still doesn't deliver completely noise-free photos despite its aggressive setup. There's almost the same amount of noise as in the Pixon12 shots - it's only that it's of the worse looking chroma type (notice the color blotches in the sky).
For people who aren't much into photography it might seem that the smooth chromatic (meaning that it is colored) noise of the Satio photos is not as much as the luminance (the white grain) noise in the Pixon12 shots because it has somewhat finer structure. The problem is that the colored noise is virtually impossible to get rid of and is preserved to a much larger extent when downsizing the images, while the film-grain-like luminance noise is both more tolerable to have in your photos and easier to hide with noise suppression on the computer.
Winner: Samsung M8910 Pixon12
Low light performance
This test aims to show how the contenders fare under low light, when the subject is out of the flash range. Since the Satio doesn't have an ISO setting we shot with both cameras set to auto.
In the first shot, taken at dusk, the Pixon12 decided to increase the ISO to 100 (its base ISO being 50) and gave us a shutter speed of 1/28s. The Satio, on the other hand, used its base ISO 80 and went down with the shutter speed to 1/15s, which made it almost impossible to hand hold without inducing camera shake blur. Still both cameraphones exposed the scene equally thanks to the slightly faster lens (F/2.64 vs F/2.8) of the Pixon12. That however was not the case in the next low light shot.
When faced with almost complete darkness the Satio went for 1/8 s and ISO 320 (virtually impossible to hand hold), while the Pixon12 chose ISO 250 and a speed of 1/15 s. That way the Samsung image came up with a less noise and easier to hand-hold, but the scene got underexposed. Which approach is better for you depends on what exactly do need the photo for, so we will leave this one as a tie.
What we can conclude from our low light test is that despite the increased maximum resolution, the two cameraphones low-light performance is not sacrificed as compared to the previous batch of 8 megapixel shooters. They're even better than their predecessors rather than worse.