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The Sydney camera shootout: Moto X vs. Samsung S4

Which one do you like better? Look at the images below, some were shot with the Samsung S4. Others were shot with the Moto X. 

Overall I like the Moto X's photos better and, the camera is a LOT nicer to use on the Moto X (you can get to the camera just by twisting the phone back and forth a few times, which turns on the phone and takes you right to the camera. You can then shoot simply by touching anywhere on the screen. So it's a lot easier to catch moments with the Moto X than with the Samsung S4. Overall I like the images the MotoX makes better than the Samsung S4.

How about you?

Tonight I'm seeing a bunch of startups here in Australia. More later.

Oh, and I have a few hours free on Thursday morning, we'll be meeting for a breakfast at 9 a.m. at the Mantra Hotel lobby in downtown Sydney. You're invited, just let me know you are coming.

Thanks to the new +Rackspace office for bringing me here.
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125 comments
 
ha! missed you in Sydney by just two weeks! hope the weather holds up and you have a great time.
 
I actually prefer the X in all those photos bar the building shot. How does the HDR of both cameras compare? I rarely use the generic point and shoot option anymore. 
 
S4 looks better but X does better with darker features. I'm in Sydney, are you planning on doing a meetup?
 
They are both pretty good, the S4 is a touch more vibrant like it has had some PP done already or a .JPG file from my Sony with some effect thrown in whereas the Moto X looks like my typical .ARW file. The Moto X seems to be wider too is that correct?
 
+Will Deasy in WHAT world does the S4 look better? Every single image is FAR WORSE on my screen. Not as much shadow detail. Colors not nearly as natural. What screen are you looking at? Geesh, it isn't even close on my Mac.
 
+Robert Norris Hills I don't know. I'm just using the camera in default mode here. I'll have to do more tests. I think Moto X has automatic HDR, by the way, and sports action is better on Moto X too. Plus it's better in low light.
 
+Darren Krusi what screen are you looking at? The images on the Moto X are FAR more vibrant. Look at the blue sky on the boat mast photo. It's not even close. I'm wondering just what kinds of eyes you all have. But, yes, the Moto X is wider angle.
 
Looks like the Moto X is better for night photos.  Less clear on daytime for me.  Colors seem more vivid on Samsung.
 
I'm on a dell U2312HM. The small boat with the Moto X looks terrible
 
I completely agree. Neither is perfect, and there are pros and cons to both, but I think the Moto X does indeed do a better job of capturing realistic looking images. Hard to say how the color reproduction is without having been there with you. I wonder how it is next to the HTC One which I currently have.
 
I found myself liking the S4 photos in all but the last series.  The moto X looked like it handled the lower light better while the daylight shots seemed much more vibrant on the S4.
 
+Travis Katz really? On my MacBook Pro Retina screen it isn't even close. The colors are FAR more vivid on the Moto X. Look at the blue sky, for instance.
 
Some look better with the X, some with the S4. #8 looks really washed out in the white areas. Some of the colors of the Samsung shots are a little to saturated.
 
I'm actually delightfully surprised. I was honestly expecting that the camera was going to be a giant letdown, given that none of these photos are being processed afterwards I don't think the MotoX camera is anywhere near as bad as I was lead to believe. 

2 seconds in Avary and those photos could be made look overly saturated like the s4 photos and still be a better quality photo overall. 
 
Moto X wins hands down. Samsung Galaxy S4 photos look unrealistic.
 
The Motorola has a magenta cast.
That is very, very bad. White balancing is not that complicated.
Why be sloppy with something like that?
 
+Will Deasy the small boat has FAR more detail and far closer matches what I saw in real world. 

+Andre Nader I'm wondering if you all are even looking at the same images I am. It's not even close on my screen.
 
+Lisa Borel really? On my screens the Samsung has a greenish cast. The Moto X is far closer to what I saw with my eye. But I must be on drugs or something or else I have a better screen than all you do (a MacBookPro Retina).
 
The  Nokia Lumia 1020 with a 41MP sensor needs to be addressed....
 
Fair enough, my monitor could well be off cal.
But suffice to say one of them has a pretty significant white balancing issue. +Robert Scoble 
 
I'm at work so the computer isn't optimised at all and I don't trust it's colour reproduction but I'm telling you how it looks at the moment. I can form a better opinion when I get home. Not saying the Moto X is bad, I quite like it just means I get to play a bit with the files in Snapseed
 
+Robert Scoble  The boats pic: the x looks like it's just a white boat. The S4 you can see the dimples in the boat. It's no way as good. Be interesting to compare next to your Mac. Come swing by our office :) I working a a backup company Commvault. Rackspace are actually one of our customers :) 
Brian E
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The Samsung wins in most of the Pic.
 
+Robert Scoble Moto X for sure. By the way. I've noticed in the photos that the moto x captures more area than the gs4? More of the scene shows up in the photo.
 
Samsung s4 clear winner. And that's coming from an iPhone 5 user.
 
+Joel Frieco well, the Nokia is a Windows Phone which has sucky apps in comparison and doesn't have the voice response features. I can't afford to buy every piece of gear just to try out the camera.
 
Well good on the Moto X. It did a pretty darn good job here in comparison to what's supposedly one of the best phone cameras out there. Some I think I give to S4, and some to Moto X. Either way you can't go wrong. Great pics all around for the most part. Moto X seems to have better low light performance. 
 
+Paul Bennett I must be on drugs. On my screen it isn't even close. The Samsung isn't as good as exposure, has a green cast, isn't as good at shadow detail, isn't as good in low light, and doesn't make blue skies blue. I have no idea what you are looking at. Makes me wonder.
 
+Robert Scoble 
Maybe I need to get a  MacBook Pro Retina screen to think that the Moto X is better ;)
Anyway I trust your jugement :)
P Brown
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+Robert Scoble Wow, it's crazy to me that you think the Moto X is better in these shots. All of the Moto X shots have a yellowish-oversaturated hue. The textures in the two boats shots are the most revealing. You think the Moto X shots are more vibrant?! This is madness. 
 
Interesting comparison. In my view, the Moto X has a warmer tone to the photos that I didn't like initially. However upon closer inspection the photos from the S4 seem to over-expose the whites which results in a loss of detail. 
 
The Moto X definitely made photos look more natural - the S4 seemed to be overcompensating by oversaturating the color to the point of making it look like a bad Zack Snyder film. Unfortunately, though, most average consumers will see the brighter color as a victory for the S4. I would personally be curious to see which blue sky was the more realistic to the person taking the shot: the slightly dimmer/natural looking one, or the super bright blue one? 

I like the shot in the park on the X better - the S4 does so much with the color that it looks almost washed out, if that makes sense.

The one Moto X photo by the water/little boat had a pretty brutal purple-y hue to it. Not sure what happened on that photo, but the S4 took that one, hands down.

That extra clear pixel definitely helped with the night shot, as the X took a much cleaner night photo than the S4. 
 
I'd hand it to the Samsung on the majority of pairs. 
 
I agree that that Moto X images look better and less fakey in the processing.  Do you have any low-light comparison shots?
P Brown
 
+V. Ellis Wade I think a lot of people mistaking dim and poor contrast for "more realistic" 

The moto X wins in the mast shot and the low light shot, but every other picture looks much worse. 
 
+P Brown I guess there is that side of the coin. Eye of the beholder, eh?
 
I prefer the S4 shots in all except the low light airport shot. Obviously I can't judge what is more true to life as I wasn't there but the S4 pics looks more pleasing. Also looking on the MacBook Pro with retina. +Robert Scoble if you can get your hands on the Lumia 1020 (even for a loan), we would love to see your thoughts on its camera; app eco-system aside as it's irrelevant if you're doing a camera comparison anyway.
 
Both are good in different areas. I left my comment on nearly every picture. At some pictures, S4 looks better because there were some brightness, and at some pictures, Moto X got the better end 
 
+Robert Scoble are you coming to Melbourne? For the record i find the S4 images much nicer to look at on the whole, but i am no expert in photography or what makes a "good" photo so meh...
 
Firstly, welcome to Sydney!

Are all those images shot on fully automatic on the cameras?

The first and most obvious observation is that the MotoX has a much wider field of view!

Clarity wise, I'd have to choose the X.  The S4 shots look oversaturated to my eye (I'm coparing across two monitors here at work).  The S4 seems to saturate the blues.  

Looking at the details of each photo, daytime, it appears that the Samsung likes to shoot in 50 ISO vs the X at 160 ISO and in each instance the Motorolla's shutter speed is doubled, which, in comparing all of those images, the X is darker.  IMHO, exposure wise, the S4 seems closer..
 
I prefer the Samsung for the most part. Better detail. Brighter picture.
 
First photo (the opera) is the worst one for X. White balance is seriously off.  
P Brown
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+Giovanni Cheng I think there's an overemphasis on the brightness of the S4 pictures. Ignore the brightness and look at how much better it captures texture and color in each picture.

The surface of the boat of in the water is just a bright slab on the moto x, but you can see the detail in the S4, and much more of the texture in the background

In the picture on street you can see so much more detail and colors in the leaves of the tree, and you can actually see the contours of the statue in the middle instead of just a black glistening mess.

The low light photo and the mast photo do look much better on the X because, but the rest of the X photos look plain awful in comparison to the S4. 
 
Which photos are more "true to life" is actually what I'm interested in. I like the tones of most of the MotoX shots, but there are a few S4 shots that definitely are more vibrant.
 
People keep bringing up the boat photo. Can I draw your attention to the details of the wall behind the boats rather than the boat? 

The X captures a much more balanced overall photo than the S4. 
 
Actually, I'm 50/50 now on clarity, looking closer at some of the finer detail, the S4 wins...
 
The Samsung photos look a lot better. Unless you posted them with the wrong labels 
P Brown
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+Robert Norris Hills Balanced as in different shades of yellow? I'm just not seeing the attractiveness of the X photos over the S4's. That wall can't be white if it's yellow. The x is obviously the inaccurate image.  
 
+P Brown like I said, both has their own ups and downs. I preferred some S4 pics and some Moto X pics. If see the comments in each picture, you can see my comments on each.
 
+Oremo Ochillo click on 'Photo Details', unless he went in and modified the 'Camera Make' in each of those photographs, the captions match the respective cameras.
 
You coming to the Worlds most livable city as well? 
 
I think the S4 is much nicer to look at.  X is too dark. S4 seemed to do a better job of adjusting the exposure to the various conditions.  I think I'd slightly overexpose the X photos.
 
On my nexus 4 I liked all of the s4 photos but one. The moto x just seems to dark.
 
i agree with you +Robert Scoble : in this album the pictures taken by Moto X look more real and colors look better than S4 ( S4 either looks made up or tinted ) : However as you take more pictures and compare we might get a better understanding : for ex : low light performance and HDR. Thanks for posting this album.
I have a question (not related to pictures or camera) : Moto X has a 1.7 dual core processor : with current smartphones featuring quad cores : how big a deal is it when we compare it to day to day usage considering some gaming,app usage browsing and videos?
 

Samsung photos looked the most 'smartphone' with the bright sky making the phone overexpose other areas, and give photos that are too washed out .moto x nice and rich with more depth. 
 
I think the MotoX has some problems with the automatic white balance.
 
I prefer the s4, except one street photo with trees. There the s4 seems to overexpose. Motorols seems off on WB and some other issues. Of course S4 isnt perfect either, but I prefer it if I choose one of two
 
Overall, most people will prefere the more vibrant pictures out of the phone without processing the picture even if we would prefere the most realistic with option to process it for artistic reasons.
 
I'm looking at them on a new Nexus 7, and they both look decent for a phone. But the X pics look warmer and the shadowing looks more natural. It's a mixed bag with colors though.
 
This post is a good ad for S4. In the boat picture the MotoX water looks murky while the S4 looks tropical and clear. Maybe the S4 has some post processing gimmick. Thanks for this comparison!
 
While the Samsung S4 pictures are more vibrant, they are all in a highly lit places. I'd like to see how the two compare in lower lighting. Perhaps the MotoX would do better. But I'm liking the S4 shots a lot more. 
 
There seems a real split in peoples choice. I wonder if it says more about the equipment people are viewing them on. Personally I like the s4 pictures, but I am viewing them on a Samsung tab.
 
Auto-awesome is off, right? It tends to make things more vivid which would put the Moto X photos right in the sweet spot should it be turned on.
 
it's kind of useless debating the colors unless you all have color calibrated screens.

in linux it's quite easy. just plug in a usb calibrator. i have tried a few brands, and they all work without any driver installs. in gnome you then go to the screen properties and start the calibration. hang the calibrator in front of the screen and go for a cup of coffee. for a laptop you may be able to just walk into a graphics shop, newspaper it department or something and borrow the calibrator on-site for a few minutes. it looks like a mouse that you just hang in front of the screen.

until you do this, please stop talking about colors and concentrate on the other aspects of the pictures.
 
The Moto X easily looks more like a "photographer's smartphone camera" to me. The Moto X shoots more like a DSLR in terms of not having its own fun with the photos, while the S4 seems to shoot more like a compact digital that has all those "scene modes" on autoselect.

The Moto X photos are far more predictably exposed (that S4 city photo - whoa!) and seem to give much better leeway when post-processing as well. The contrasty photos from the S4 often seems to be at the verge of, or already have, destroyed shadow details.

However, for instant gratification, the S4 seems better. An experienced photographer will most likely prefer the Moto X though. I'm 90% certain a good photographer would produce better results with the Moto X after a complete photographic workflow with post-processing to add mood, atmosphere, etc.
 
Moto X technically better most of the time, while S4 is more pleasing OOC most of the time. When it comes to camera phones usually prefer OOC results. Ultimately the margins between them both aren't that significant and either would make a good travel companion. I like the wider FL of the Moto X though. 
 
+birger monsen  , it's a two sided sword :-)
Most people dont have calibrated screens or calibrated home theater systems (when listening to music). This sort of "playing games" equiptment is made for "most people". They want to instagram it, put it on G+ and on FB. You cant really use the S4 or the Moto X if you are a pro photographer.

I have an calibrated Eizo screen though (not one of the cheaper eizos). None of the pictures are excellent, but I found some of the motorolas to be a tad off (too purple). The S4 is also off on the color of course, and it's sharpened a lot. But it seems to have a tad more details and out of the two, I prefer mostly the S4. (exception beeing one of the shots in the street, where the S4 overexposes and looses the sky/details).
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ps. they are not terrible any of them ;) it's amongst the better of regular camera phones (not including galaxy zoom and nokia pureview)
 
moto x has a wider field but not so good in low light samsung wins in appearance and detail
 
Have to agree with +Robert Scoble viewing these on my Nexus 10 the balance & clarity is better with the Moto X pics. In the street scene you can actually read the sign for the Neptune Palace Restaurant on the X's pic. Looking into various areas of the skies it also becomes obvious there is significantly more random and noticeable noise on the S4 pics.

Looking at my old photos from my film cameras the X seems much closer in quality/balance to those.
 
+Olav Alexander Mjelde I agree that the perceived color at 'consumer' locations is something that cannot be controlled. People will sit at uncalibrated screens looking at photos and movies. My point is just that unless you have a calibrated screen you must be careful entering a debate on color saturation.

even two identical screens (same model, bought around the same time) can have major differences in color. the difference between my internal laptop screen and the external screen was very big. With such differences debating colors in these pictures becomes meaningless.
 
+birger monsen , sure, but +Robert Scoble asked "Which one do you like better? Look at the images ".

Eg. he wants the "regular consumers" input. Or, maybe the followers are a tad more tech savvy than the regular, regular consumers.

However, I know what you are talking about. A screen should be calibrated each two weeks or so, as the light output of the screen weakens over time. I once heard an artist say he made his music optimized for Koss porta pro. This is not a high fidelity headset by all means, but It may very well be the most sold headset out there.

Same goes for radio broadcasts, they are heavilly equalized. Some times when you buy the lossless versions of songs, it sounds quite a bit different. You get sortof "addicted" to this factor. The same of course goes for tv's... They should be used in the "movie" mode and preferrably be calibrated. A spyder calibrator is not overly expensive.
 
I have the SGS4 btw and where it flaws the most, is taking pictures in very sunny conditions. Then you "have to" use the HDR mode. The HDR mode is not always that bad actually. This picture I shot with the SGS4:
https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/15635_10153078144615504_1307863531_n.jpg

of course it's not perfect.. And it would have looked my better on my system camera, but I was on a quick trip to the grocery store and didnt bring the camera. I knew the weak sgs4 camera would overexpose the clouds, so I used the HDR.

Even though the picture can be said to be flawed, compared to a DSLR or a compact camea like sony rx100, it captures the mood of the scenery. It would be cooler of I brought the camera, but you know how it goes...
 
I say it a tie. The S4 picture of the blue sky with the boat looks better than the Moto X shot. On the other hand, the Moto X picture looking down the street is far better than the S4.
 
+Robert Scoble Do you just rent yourself out to whoever gives you the most crap?Or do you just need that much attention - 0h wait, we all know the answer to that
 
overall, both are good.   S4 is better ,however some of photos looks like over exposure. 
 
I saw same post on FB, but it looks dramatically better here. 
 
Based on wandering around in Sydney today I'd say that the Moto X pics look far more correct. Some of the S4 pics appear more vibrant, but you could easily achieve the same effect on the Moto X photos with a little tweaking if desired.
 
The Moto X looks more realistic, however I think that the Samsung looks more like the photos we are use to seeing, which maybe where the problem lies, sometimes realistic is not what people are looking for.  Personally though I like the Moto X pictures, they seem richer and not as saturated. 
 
+Robert Scoble The S4 pics all seem like someone turned up the contrast and brightness in them. 
 
2 - 6 - 7 - 10 -12 +Robert Scoble are those taken with the MotoX?
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Now I went back and checked each picture and those were taken with the Samsung S4. I think these pictures are better, more crisp...
 
The S4 pictures are brighter and more vibrant, however the Moto X pictures are more life like.
 
I looked at the photos on my Thunderbolt monitor and the S4 photos did look better for all but a couple of photos.  Not impressed with the Moto X photo capability.
 
Good picture and sydney.
 
I'm looking at them on the new nexus 7. You may be right that the colors are more natural on the X but the colors definitely look more vibrant on the s4. At least on this screen.
 
I have to agree with +Nathan Towers (comment on picture 2). If you zoom in the S4 retains the detail although it seems a little bright. With the wide lenses of phones you are more likely to want to crop so you'll want the detail and you can take the edge off the brightness then. Seems like there is a lot of variation in experience with screen and maybe even application.
 
I don't know, but I like the S4's better.
 
When viewing the pictures on my phone(Nexus 4), I tended to prefer the S4's brighter colors. The S4 photos stood out a bit more.

However, when I viewed them on my PC screen, the S4 pics were off-putting. On PC, the only S4 pic I preferred was the boat pic. 
 
+Robert Scoble I managed to be away while you were in Sydney! How are you enjoying the Sydney winter? I've spent the last weekend in San Francisco and I have to say that despite the longer summer days I wasn't noticing too much difference temperature-wise.
 
Have to agree with what some viewers said.  I prefer the S4 for the day photos and X for the night one.  Looked at them both on PC as well as on Galaxy Note 2 with the same conclusion.  Seems like we need day gear and night gear. LOL.
 
No way, the Moto-X is darker and has way less color. I definitely don't trust Motorola on the camera front. Fool me once...etc.
 
The S4 seems so washed out though, I like the richer, if darker, colors of the X
 
Seem like the Moto X pics could use a little bit more saturation while the S4 pics could use bit less.
 
What is the actual focal length of each lens? view is completely different in each shot
 
+Robert Scoble you and Rocky held up well last night at the event considering the jetlag. Kudos! and it was great meeting you. Thanks for the knowledge share.

Hey +Brian Solis look who I met last night here in Sydney ;) 
 
+Robert Scoble I like how easy it is to take a shot with the Moto X, but the results are mixed. A lot of getting a great pic is being able to take the shot quickly. And NOTHING beats Glass for that! I've gotten a ton of pics with Glass that I wouldn't have been able to shoot with any phone... just taking your phone out of your pocket and framing the shot can make the difference in getting that pic. Plus the POV of Glass is very cool as well... so, even though the Glass camera isn't that great spec-wise, the usability of it trumps any camera I've ever owned... so, yes Moto X is easier than the S4, but Glass trumps them all!
#glass   #motox   #galaxys4  
 
+Robert Scoble ...and just when your body is getting use to the change in time zones, you get put into the mix again. Safe travels back mate.
 
Prefer the S4 pics. Moto X seems to take better pics in low light though. 
 
Now that I'm home on my iMac and Apple monitors I still think you all are nuts. The Moto X pictures are better all the way through. But the Samsung ones are more contrasty, so I guess lots of you fall for the high contrast trick. 

More later this weekend. Now I have a Nokia Lumia 1020.
 
So far, all the good light samples that I've seen from the Moto X are subjectively stronger to my eye than the S4 and iPhone 5.  But, surprisingly, the low light samples haven't been as good.  There may be some software issues where the sensor isn't being used optimally yet.
 
An American once said to me "Australia has more megapixels" :)
 
+Marcus Cyganiak

Better in these photos. The other post he states that the camera lens on moto x was filthy and greasy. 
 
Moto X did the best with the low light shot. I'm still getting the Moto X but I just wish the camera was better.
 
Looks like a tie to me too with an overall preference for what appears to be a wider field of view on the MotoX.  Sadly I need a new phone right away so I am getting a Nexus 4 and waiting until MotoX grows into its shoes.
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