Unless otherwise stated, all the photos for this article were made using the highest 5MP resolution, lowest compression (highest quality), automatic mode and all settings at their default values. Samsung G800 is used at its widest lens position in order to be comparable to K850.
Our first test is where the cameras usually are at their best - shooting outdoors with more than enough light. What we will be looking in these tests is: resolved detail, noise, dynamic range, color and exposure accuracy, lens issues (purple fringing, corner softness, barrel distortion).
You can see the difference in the color reproduction in this photo. With the crop however we want to focus your attention on something else - the way two mobiles handle the contours. G800 does a significantly better job - cleaner contours and a lot less prominent halos (the white lines along the contours, check the K850 photo).
Samsung G800 shows more pleasant colors, but the main thing here is how much more detail it preserves in the shadow areas.
Since the photos are taken just before sunset, the yellow cast of Samsung G800 looks quite realistic and it's not a problem at all. The crop shows better details for G800.
In this scene, both contenders produce unrealistic colors. The reds are way off in both mobiles and the yellow is overexposed with G800.
Here Samsung G800 loses the battle because of the overexposed image. We took the scene several times with the same result. Of course, photographers can use exposure compensation in cases like this one, but to do so they should be familiar with the camera. The combination of overexposure and yellow cast produces bad results for G800.
If you're viewing the full size photos on your computer screen you won't notice much difference in them. If you zoom in 100% or beyond, you will see how much better the tree branches look with G800. The finest sprigs look dotted with K850. On top of that, K850 shows significant purple fringing.
We decided to test how the cameras handle fine texture, like fur. Samsung G800 wins again, but with a slight margin, unlike the examples above. We also liked the colors and tonal curve of Samsung G800 better.
The red and orange paint on this photo (top left) are way off with Sony Ericsson K850. Samsung G800 colors are a lot closer to the real scene. What really impresses us here is how much more detail G800 shows (look at the crops). It seems that because of the type of the details (close to ISO noise) the noise suppression routines in K850 have wiped the paint relief out. At first, we thought that the K850 had miss focused, but this was not the case - look at the high contrast details, which clearly show perfect focus for K850.
We got exactly the same situation here. The difference is night and day. Where K850 sees only even color, G800 tells a story.
The tendency of G800 to produce yellowish photos is exaggerated here for some reason. As you see this leads to overexposed yellows and loss of detail. Sony Ericsson K850 handles this scene a lot better.
We took this photo, because of the glare on the truck. Scenes like this easily show the dynamic range of the camera. We expected G800 to be better here, but it is an absolute tie.
Resolved detail. Samsung G800 shows a lot better results here. While the contrast objects look about the same with both mobiles, the shadow details, the edges and the fine textures make G800 the clear winner. We can also note that the sharpening halos we often see in the cameraphones are almost non-existent with Samsung G800 and there is no jaggedness on the diagonal lines. Both issues are quite explicit in Sony Ericsson K850. This means that the high level of detail in the G800 pictures is achieved without the need of heavy in-camera processing.
Samsung G800 9/10 • Sony Ericsson K850 5/10
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Noise. If you look at the skies in the examples above you can see about the same amount of noise with both our contenders and you can be easily fooled that their performance is the same. It turns out that Sony Ericsson applies stronger and more aggressive noise suppression techniques. This can be proven when shooting textures with patterns similar to noise - we were surprised how much detail Sony Ericsson loses. The G800 mark is not very high here, because it produces noise too, but we welcome the Samsung "laid back" approach with the noise.
Samsung G800 7/10 • Sony Ericsson K850 4/10
Dynamic range. Since the dynamic range was mentioned in the Samsung marketing materials we expected Samsung G800 to win in this test. We chose several high contrast scenes because, however neglected by the average user, the dynamic range is a lot more important than color accuracy and noise for the single reason that it can't be fixed in any way later on. It was a surprise to us to find that the dynamic range of G800 and K850 is the same. We also tried to spot a difference when shooting with the Samsung "wide dynamic range" on and off and there wasn't any. It look like this feature is not implemented properly in beta our unit?
Samsung G800 5/10 • Sony Ericsson K850 5/10
Color rendering. It's easy to see that Sony Ericsson K850 tends to add a reddish cast to all photos, while Samsung G800 sometimes adds some yellow or green-yellow cast. As you can see in the examples above, the Samsung colors are pleasant and more real in an overcast scene, but in direct sun the yellow cast can be a problem, especially if there are yellow or red objects in the scene.
Samsung G800 5/10 • Sony Ericsson K850 4/10
Exposure and focus accuracy. When used properly both mobiles have a very reliable auto-focus system. During the whole test we had only a couple of miss-focused samples. Samsung G800 had more troubles focusing in low light, or if a low contrast area falls in the focus zone. In such cases, a red frame would only appear in the viewfinder indicating that it cannot focus. Sony Ericsson K850 in most cases shows reliable exposure results. Samsung G800 is quite good in the overcast days, but often overexposes in sunlight, as shown in one of the above examples. The overexposure combined with the yellow cast leads to almost unusable results in such cases.
Samsung G800 5/10 • Sony Ericsson K850 9/10
Lens quality. The most obvious problem is the purple fringing. Sony Ericsson exhibits this problem, Samsung G800 does not. Excellent results for G800, we expected that the far more complicated zoom lens design will result in at least some purple fringing, but we didn't manage to find even a slightest sign of that in our test photos. The corner softness is insignificant with both tested mobiles. On the sun-lit photos we noticed some lens flare over the white objects and this is the only bad thing we can say about the lens.
Samsung G800 8/10 • Sony Ericsson K850 4/10