Barrow Hosptial, Bristol – The Phone Camera Experiement

I recently took delivery of a brand new Nokia Lumia 925 on trial.¬† The reason of the trial was to test the phone and particularly the much championed 8.7 mega-pixel, multi¬† sensor pure view camera.¬† The camera is supposed to work exceptionally well in low light conditions. It was a challenge then to see how it really faired.¬† My first trial of using this would be at my local institution known as Barrow Hospital. A site I generally refer to as ‘the local’ due to its proximity to where I live.

Barrow Hospital¬† is a site I’ve been exploring for nearly 6 years now. It’s seen better days, a heck of a lot of better days but it does still provide a good photo opportunity or two.¬† So to test this camera out I thought I’d offer it a three way battle.¬† My current phone of choice – a 64GB iPhone5 and my normal camera – a Canon 5D Mk1 & 50mm f1.8 mk2 lens.

Lets look at brief specs, camera wise of these three devices.

Nokia Lumia 925

  • 8.7¬† megapixel
  • PureView technology

Apple iPhone 5

  • 8 megapixel
  • Panoramic & HDR options

Canon 5D + Canon 50mm f1.8 Mk2

  • 12.8 meagpixel
  • Full Frame CMOS sensor

Clearly the specification of the 7 year old Canon is still impressive, but at the time of release it was only bettered by the Canon 1Ds and still delivers exceptional results.

Unpacking the lumia, first impressions are good. The device is slimmer than the iphone, seems lighter and the screen is not only sharper but brighter. So much so my wife would quite happily like to steal the device and keep it for herself.

Looking at the camera settings there are a whole host of options more commonly found on a proper compact or DSLR device. I can change the ISO, exposure, white balance and aspect ratio Рon the iPhone I have one option РHDR.  This is where two photos of different exposures (one higher, one lower) and merged together to supposedly give a more pleasing result. This has had mixed results from previous use.  For this experiment I leave all settings on auto on the lumia,  HDR off on the iPhone and the Canon set to AV (semi automatic) @ F1.8 & ISO 100.

For this trial I would simply take 10 shots from Barrow, each time taking a shot with each device.¬† This proved slightly more difficult with the fixed 50mm lens on the Canon but where possible I’ve tried to match the shot as best I can.

Using the Lumia is a new experience for me, compared to that of iOS, it is a good experience at that.¬† The OS experience is smooth and much more interactive than the slightly dated and flat iOS offering I use on a daily basis. In a matter of minutes I’ve got the device up and running and, due to already having a windows 8 desktop account, my login has integrated all my social media feeds such as facebook & twitter.¬† Setting up and syncing my exchange mailbox & associated contacts doesn’t take more than a couple more minutes either.

So lets begin the trial at the start of this brief visit to Barrow.¬† Woodside was mainly used as the nurses accommodation block.¬†¬† This is the most ‘complete’ building left – quite a difference to when I first visited Barrow some 5-6 years ago.

Barrow - Photo 1 - iPhone  Barrow - Photo 1 - Lumia  Barrow - Photo 1 - Canon

I’ve put the photos in the order of iPhone, Lumia, Canon.

Barrow - Photo 2 - iPhone Barrow - Photo 1 - Lumia Barrow - Photo 2 - Canon

It’s clear to see initially that the Lumia is producing a slightly higher exposed photo, but also far wider angle.¬†¬† The Canon unsurprising offers a sharper shot due to combination of sensor and lens.

Barrow - Photo 3 - iPhone Barrow - Photo 2 - Lumia Barrow - Photo 3 - Canon

Moving inside the old mother and baby unit, which offers a lovely peely paint shot in tricky light things start to get interesting. In lower light we start to see graining and blur come into effect.  The Lumia seems to have done better than both the iPhone & Canon here, not only giving a crisper shot but also bringing out a truer colour with tinges of green from the trees outside the window.

Barrow - Photo 4 - iPhone Barrow - Photo 4 - Lumia Barrow - Photo 4 - Canon

Looking from out of the mother and baby unit back towards woodside gives us a chance to look at the depth of colour. Again the Lumia outperforms the iPhone here just giving a better depth of colours and deals with the light better showing more of the window frame and wall. The ivy on the trees is sharper too. The canon offers a very crisp depth of field shot here, focusing on the frame and glass that remains.  Clearly it (the canon) shines here but the lumia can hold its own as well.

Barrow - Photo 5 - iPhone Barrow - Photo 5 - Lumia Barrow - Photo 5 - Canon

Moving into the main administration block, the only other part of Barrow left, we get to the real good photo opportunities.¬† Corridors usually offer a special kind of shot, disappearing into the distance, with shards of light and decay along the way.¬† If you were to ask me why I love urban exploration it’s for shots like these. You can never tire of them.¬†¬†¬† Without a tripod and without raising the iso the canon struggles somewhat here.¬† The iPhone offers a sharper, darker, but more focused shot. The¬† Lumia has excelled in low light here but as a result we see a slightly blurred & grainer effort.¬†¬† I could have raised the ISO on both the Canon & Lumia here.¬† It’s difficult to test fairly if I change settings but perhaps that’s an excuse for another trip to try and get the best shot with the flexibility of changing the settings.¬†¬† The iPhone would be at a disadvantage but I can only blame Apple for the limitations.

Barrow - Photo 6 - iPhone Barrow - Photo 4 - Lumia Barrow - Photo 6 - Canon

Barrow - Photo 7 - iPhone Barrow - Photo 7 - Lumia Barrow - Photo 7 - Canon

Barrow Hospital was built in the 1930?s to release the amount of patients held at Bristol¬ís main county asylum ¬Ė It was originally called Barrow Mental Hospital.¬† Although work was completed in 1937 and the first patients admitted in 1938 it was used as a Royal Navy Hospital during WW2 before reverting back to its intentional use in 1948. It¬ís famous for being called the dirtiest hospital in the UK, after this story the hospital was rapidly closed and the last remaining patients were moved during the end of 2005.

Barrow - Photo 8 - iPhone Barrow - Photo 8 - Lumia Barrow - Photo 8 - Canon

Barrow - Photo 9 - iPhone Barrow - Photo 9 - Lumia Barrow - Photo 9 - Canon

Urban exploration has been a hobby that I have been doing for nearly 7 years now.¬† Some people will never quite understand the reasons behind it, some will appreciate the beauty of the photos, some will appreciate that the documentation of buildings that otherwise are long forgotten about.¬† I grew up near a derelict hospital, in my teens I would explore it after school and at the weekends.¬† It was only something I realised was more widely done with the introduction of the¬† internet.¬† If you’d have asked me 3-4 years ago if a camera phone would be good for an explore you’d have been laughed out of any exploring forum or gathering.¬† It goes to show the rapid improvement of camera technology on smart phones & tablets.¬† All of these shots could have been better with changing of settings and aids such as a tripod.¬† That would defeat the object of this first experiment.

Barrow - Photo 10 - iPhone Barrow - Photo 10 - Lumia Barrow - Photo 10 - Canon

So to conclude I thought I’d finish up with my favourite shot. The curved corridor that I’ve taken a 100 times before.¬† The first time I visited barrow this corridor it was nearly midnight, the true beauty of it was never really revealed till a few years later when the boards on the windows were removed and the colours shone brightly.

Clearly the Lumia has generally outperformed the iPhone in the majority of shots. It’s offered a greater angle to capture, offered much better low light response and given a better depth of colour. The Lumia also beats the iPhone on the control front giving more options in terms of adjusting ISO, exposure length and white balance. Alongside this it’s just easier to take a phone and gives much better image stability from the off.

The Canon has, where exposure times are not too long, still showed its true DSLR credentials.