Windows Phone Camera Faceoff: Nokia Lumia 920 vs. HTC 8X

The latest crop of Windows Phones, the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X, bring together some of the latest technology with their cameras. Windows Phone cameras have progressed nicely through the years. We've seen new sensor technology to improve low-light performance, better software enhancements, and new stabilization mechanics come into play. 

While the Nokia Lumia 920's Pureview camera has garnered a good bit of the Windows Phone 8 spotlight, the HTC 8X's camera has been lurking in the shadows. The 8X has a capable camera within its own right but how does it compare to the Lumia 920's heavy weight camera?

Let's look at the specs of both cameras.

  • The Lumia 920 has a 8.7mp BSI sensor with optical stabilization. The Lumia 920 is fitted with a Carl Zeiss 26mm f2.0 lens.
  • The HTC 8X has a 8mp BSI sensor without any stabilization. The 8X has a 28mm f2.0 lens. The HTC 8X also has a dedicated imaging chip that gives the 8X a smidgen more speed in acquiring focus, capturing the image and processing it. I can see this being a significant advantage as imaging chips develop but for now, the 8X is maybe a blink quicker than the Lumia 920.

Where Nokia has rather limited settings and relies on the Pureview processing algorithms, the HTC gives you control over effects filters (grayscale, negative, sepia, solarize), resolution (VGA to 8MP), white balance, exposure compensation, contracts, saturation, sharpness, ISO and face detection (on/off). It's a nice selection of controls and if you don't like messing with a cameras settings, each has an "auto" setting.

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Indoor Low-Light Photo Sample

The key feature that separates these two cameras is optical stabilization. While the BSI sensor combined with the fast f2.0 lens (lets more light through the lens) gives the 8X nice low light performance, without stabilization motion blur becomes a concern. The slower the shutter speed, the more slight motions (breathing, finger twitch, shuffle of the feet, etc) will blur your subject.

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Night Photo Samples

The Lumia 920 has optical stabilization that keeps the camera sensor steady when such slight movements occur. This helps reduce (if not eliminate) motion blur when you use slower shutter speeds. For low light pictures, the Lumia 920 gets the nod. While the night photos from the 8X weren't bad at all, the Lumia 920 pulled in more light giving way to more detail in the images.  Opened up more of the shadows if you will.

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Night Photo Sample

But what about photos taken where lighting isn't such a concern? Well... this is where the comparison of these two cameras gets interesting.

Images were taken at full resolution, at default settings and the Lumia 920's aspect ratio was set to 4:3 to be consistent with the 8X's aspect ratio. The only editing performed on the images was resizing for publication purposes. No sharpening, color adjustments, exposure or other adjustments were made (except for the last four images that I made a few minor adjustments to).

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Outdoor Photo Samples

With outdoor images, I found the 8X have colors that were a little cooler than the Lumia 920. The Lumia 920's colors were warmer and more representative of the subject.

With indoor images it was the Lumia 920's turn to have cooler colors. Similar to the comparison with the HTC Titan II, the Lumia 920 created a slight blue color cast with indoor images. The HTC 8X on the other had had the warmer tones indoors. However, when the indoor lighting was more natural, the Lumia 920 regained it's warmth while the 8X turned a little cooler.

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Indoor Photo Samples

Can't really knock either camera on the color tones or color cast. It isn't an issue uncommon to digital cameras. The auto white balance on the Lumia 920 leans more towards natural lighting while the 8X leans towards artificial lighting. Luckily, the differences aren't major and if inclined, easily corrected in the cameras settings or with editing software.

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Outdoor Photo Sample

As far as sharpness is concerned, the 8X gets a slight edge over the Lumia 920. It may be minor and I don't mean to be overly critical, but I still see a slight softness to the Lumia 920. The softness isn't enough cause panic in the streets and many won't pick up on it. Still, I think the Lumia 920's camera's performance would improve if Nokia bumped the sharpness setting just a tad.

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Outdoor Photo Sample

So which is better? Tough call. Collectively, I've taken over five hundred photos with the Lumia 920 and HTC 8X. The results I found in this comparison are consistent with the other photos that have been posted in other reviews/comparisons or that are sitting on the cutting room floor.

While both cameras performed well and captured quality images, I still have to give the edge to the Lumia 920 because of the optical stabilization. The color cast, sharpness and exposure issues can be adjusted either by editing software or tweaking the camera settings. Motion blur can't and that's where the benefit of optical stabilization becomes key.

The decision on which Windows Phone to purchase goes beyond the camera. With the 8X and Lumia 920 you have design differences, color choices, screen sizes, and manufacturer support to consider. The nice thing about the 8X and Lumia 920 is that whichever way you go, you'll be pleased with the camera's performance.

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Night Photo Sample

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Outdoor Photo Sample

Nokia Lumia 920 (left) and HTC 8X (right) Indoor Photo Sample

Nokia Lumia 920 Indoor Photo Sample (edited)

HTC 8X Outdoor Photo Sample (edited)

Nokia Lumia 920 Outdoor Sample (edited)

HTC 8X Indoor Sample (edited)

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

  • Lumia 920 camera is severely over-rated. Yes its awesome under low light, but outdoors its equal to or a little worse than iPhone 5 or even the 8X
  • Don't bring up the iphone 5 camera its shitty
  • Wow, just wow. I think I will soon just read the articles and ignore the comments because the fanboys here make it really inhospitable. Sure it's a WP site but the stupidities you read about iOS and android are beyond this world.
  • I like iOS on my iPod, however, the camera of the i5 isn't so great. It's almost the same as the 4s.
  • It definitely isn't a shitty camera though.
  • exactly. It is by all means NOT a shitty camery. And it does perform a little better than the 920 outside on a normal day. It is better in low-light of course.
    And i agree: just because we love WP does not make iOS or Andriod any less awesome...
  • It is the same, the glass covering it is just better quality and clearer.
  • The iphone 5 camera is the exact same one as the 4S.... talk about lack of innovation. Should not be on same page as the 8x and 920
  • I came from an iphone 4S to the nokia 920.   The 4S hands down clowns the 920 in normal light settings and it REALLY upsets me.   
    920 photos are overly soft, lack detail and the white balance is incredibly inaccurate.  I really hope a software update fixes this.
    The iphone 5 camera is the same as 4S with better low light photos.  Trust me, the 920 is NOT on par with these in day light shots or even well lit indoor.  I'm pretty disappointed at this point with the 920 camera. 
  • Thanks for this. I've been thinking hard about moving from the 4S to the 920 and the camera is really important to me. What a shame. The 920's low light results are fabulous but the majority of my shots are during the daytime and I think I would be disappointed overall. Dangit! 
  • <p>Uhm. All reviews use AUTO FOCUS. Do not. That&#39;s where the 920 kills ALL camera phones out there. iPhone 5 and SGS III are only 2nd to them. You have to know how to use the settings though. You&#39;ll get the best results ever.</p>
  • Not really, unless you're blind.
  • No one ever said it was much better than the competition for outdoor photos. The pros of 920 camera are:
    - Great low light photos
    - Stabilisation. So photos are less blurry  and the videos are less shaky than the competition
  • Not true Nokia said it's the best smartphone camera on the planet. 
  • Yeah! Because it is..... Amazing Low light shots, Non-Shaky Video recording with toip quality and above-average daylight shots..... sounds like the all in one best smartphone camera to me.
  • BS.  My old iphone 4S takes WAYYY better photos in most settings.  10x more sharp with accurate colors.  My 920 camera blows in nearly every catagory except night scene mode.  Add a moving person and its all a blur.  
  • Which would be true if the 808 and N8 didn't exist.
  • The 808 is in another, specialty category all of its own. It's difficult to compare a 41 megapixel camera that happens to be attached to a phone with a mass marketed phone that has a camera attached. The 41 megapixel with in image clarity, lossless zoom, etc. I'm not sure about low light, but regardless I think that comparison is looking at two totally different classes of device.
  • Great low light scenery you mean.  Try adding any slight movement to the photo and it comes out horribly blurry.  Use a flash and your guaranteed to have red-eye.   Really disappointed in this camera. 
  • Overrated my butt, you're over-estimating 8X camera when the truth the image quality is crap, just like One X.
  • ¿Que? The One X was the phone I had before my Lumia 920 and it took awesome pictures.
  • Agree. 8X is clearly overrated here. BSI? Come on. Nobody takes good shots with just a blink of an eye. good photos are always being slow and easy.  my TITAN II ( with no updates from HTC until now) takes pictures way better than 8X. 
  • The short amount of time the 920 had been out and your saying it's overrated?? LOL! Have you not been paying attention to the hype over that stupid iPhone since its appearance?
  • IPhone what? The iPhone 5 is a mess.
  • IPhone 5? Don't you mean iPhone 4ss? Lol!
  • 4ss as in ASS?
  • Agreed.
  • I have the 920 and I would say that it's worth the hype.  My pictures routinely come out better than my friends shots with their iPhones and GS3s.  We live in a day and age where ALL of our choices are amazing so unless you are constantly doing side-by-side comparisons, you'll be happy with how you spent your money. 
    I'm doubly happy because I did a lot of research and I'm faily certain that I have a the best camera available on a smartphone in the US. (The 808 is in another class, altogether)  I do hope that a firmware upgrade is in the works to address the minor issue with JPG processing of the images in bright light.  It has been stated many times that a bump in sharpness (and probably contrast) would fix the issue, and I agree.  Of course, I'm getting really great shots and if I have a prized treasure, I just add a little post sharpness and all is well.
  • Witch photos belong to witch phone?
  • My thought exactly, but after reading the article and looking at the descriptions of the images respective to the cameras, I assume that the 920 was the left hand side, 8X the right.
  • I thought they were labeled consistently with the Lumia 920 pics on the left, the 8X pics on the right....
  • There are captions in the article... reading is important....
  • There are no captions in the WPC WP app.
  • Snarky insults aren't helpful or clever. The labels that you see clearly here in the website are not visible when reading via the WPC app.
  • It only makes sense for a witch to have pictures of herself on her witch phone.
  • Witch??? I think someone needs go back to school. lol....
  • Yes. Which witch is which?
  • Which, a witch is a person that practice Wicca.
  • Well, thanks to Nokias stupid decision to have exclusivity with the extortionate overcharging EE in the UK you will find the majority of people don't have a choice to choose the Nokia anyway, they have lost a lot of customers with that crazy decision , i myself would have had 2 lumia920's for me and my wife but as it stands O2 can only offer me the HTC8x so that's what I got, I bet HTC are benefitting from nokia's crazy decision Anyway, nice review and attention to detail and specifics! :-)
  • I think everyone rearized that Lumia is the better camera.
  • The difference is only worth it in the dark.
    Side note: The HTC X is drop dead gorgeous from the back but sooo ugly from the front with all that top bezel and cheap look.
  • Look outside sometimes. It's dark quite a lot.
  • You forgot about Nokias software that allows you to take out objects in the pic and decide whih face a person should have. Its only fair if you give htc it's filters.
  • True. Those are some truly differentiating features.
  • Those apps have to be installed separately. Only then you see those lenses. And with those lenses enabled, you cannot change any settings. Can't even enable/disable flash.
  • Seriously? Isn't the flash setting part of the baked-in camera UI?
  • One thing I have found with the 8x is that it does NOT choose the right whitebalance when set to auto.  If you want consistent GREAT pics with the 8x, make sure you manually select your lighting condition under whitebalance.  If you are indoors and are not 100 percent certain of what to choose, go with florescent. 
  • Effects like grayscale and sepia. That's what we have lenses and associated applications for. Stupid reason to decide which camera is better. Though I can agree that 8x will be more convenient as it offers them beforehand.
  • as a photographer, clearly Lumia has more of an advantage between the two. 
    #1. notice how the blue skies is blue, and not washed out. thanks to the low light field.
    #2. the wide angle lens, which makes great landscape photography .
    Nokia is working to improve daylight sensor for the daylight mode, to bring sharper image when shooting in brighter light.  hopefully they wont ruin the dept of field and ruin the blue skies.
  • while Nokia is working very hard to present their window phones, I just feel like other manufacturers(HTC & SAMSUNG) are too busy with android section. Even their websites show android phone in great highlights. So regrettably, I will go with Nokia on this
  • Plus infinity!
  • Overall I like the 920! I am an amateur with the camera business but this phone is really good. The camera seems to better than most phones I have ever owned.
  • If Sharpness is a concern then you can always change it in the settings, and if the lights, you can change iso or exposer. lumia 920 is the best camera when you can find the right setting for these. I have and its bounds better than the Iphone or the 8x.
  • The Lumia 920 doesn't have a sharpness setting, hence the need for a firmware update for the camera to boost sharpness slightly or add the setting to do it manually.
  • I can't compare my Lumia 920 to the 8X, but compared to the iphone 5 (my wife's) it seems to consistently take better photos. That's not to dismiss Apple's effort which is still a great camera, but for taking snaps of an increasingly mobile six month old baby, the Finn wins every time. Plus Skydrive integration means that the rest of the family get to see the snaps straight away, a procedure which is much more faffy on icloud. The 920 camera is also light years ahead of the rather underwhelming lens found on the Lumia 800.
  • just want to let you see what Nokia L920 capable of (with a pro touch and software)
  • These are beautiful.
  • can you tell me how did you edited them in the computer? using photoshop or just an "auto adjust" feature?
  • Actually, these are not mine, just showing you guys his work. I thinks someone asked him about the post processing.
  • Thanks for the link these pictures are so WOW!
  • Wow, I have been taking photos with it for two weeks and can tell you I don't have the talent to get photos like that.
  • I've had the 920 for two weeks now (after iphone 4) and can honestly say that while I love the phone and am duly impressed with the OIS and low-light results, I'm also very, very disappointed in the daytime camera results. The iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 all take *much* better photos in the daytime. SO much sharper and more more dynamic. I honestly find it incredible that anyone who actually owns a 920 and has owned an iPhone would think otherwise. I miss the ability to select which part of the frame I want the camera to use in determining exposure... 920 seems to consistently lean towards exposing for the brightest areas, making a darker photo, and I miss the creative control. A lot. I miss no HDR apps (unless there's one out there that actually merges two exposures, not just simulates HDR) I miss the more "manual" controls, the 920's controls are totally dumbed down. I'm keeping the 920 because otherwise I LOVE it, and love WP8, and because I'm hoping that all of these issues are software-fixable. But to be blind to the very real shortcomings is just silly.
  • Agreed... all things considered, both cameras are EXCELLENT with a nod to the 920 in night conditions. I can recommend both phones to anyone and know they will be better off than the iPhone or Galaxy S3.
    If Nokia releases an update to tweak the sharpness, then all the better.
  • Still life only!?!??!?!!??!??!??! FAIL!!!! I suspect the 920 kills the 8x outdoors on a moving subject like a dog. But how would I know? Please amend this comparison to include living beings
  • It'd be pretty much impossible to do a fair comparison on moving subjects because its completely dependent on the autofocus which on camera phones is universally bad, so it'd just be a matter of luck.
  • I want to see moving objects too! Because the HTC has the ImageSense chip that should make it faster, so it should capture the object faster than the Lumia 920..
  • The difference in the 920 and 8X as far as speed is concerned is measured by a blink of the eye.  I really didn't see any major difference in acquiring focus or lag time with these two cameras.
  • The 920 is just better, IMO. I regularly edit my photos anyway, so for me the slight softness shouldn't be an issue. The 920 gives me better material to work with.
  • My biggest gripe with the 920's camera is that it it seems to lean way to heavily on its optical stabilization and use long shutter speeds even when its not that dark (like indoor day time). It also likes to over expose images even when I set it to -1 or even -2 ev. It would take much better photos if it didn't do this, great potential held back by poor implementation.
  • Lumia 920's camera is better.
  • If the 920 is getting so much attention. I wonder if it got the attention of Verizon. I want a Nokia but I don't want the 822. I have to wait until my contract is up unless I want to pay full retail. Wish it was out for all major carriers in the USA. Only time will tell if a variant of the 920 will come to Verizon. I so wish it did. Then there would be a much selection of phones.
  • So this tells me that the Lumia 920 has an amazing camera and I wouldn't be dissapointed with it.
  • I would actually be happy with photos from either of these phones, but the 920 is better hands down at night and low light.
    Maybe you guys want to consider a sequel to that article by comparing the front facing cameras under similar aspects? Or at least focused on a video chat test setup (indoor & low light). I am really curious whether Htcs’ is that much better as the specs suggest.
  • Even though i've had to send my 8X back and am thinking of trying the Lumia 920 out this just confirms for me that when it comes to daytime photo's theres really not much in it the Lumia is deffinetly not leagues ahead shame really that they did'nt give it the big sensor like in the 808 because then it really would be the smartphone camera to rule them all.
  • The colors on the Lumia 920 and contrast are much better, easily seen in the no pets allowed picture, while the 8x isn't a bad camera, I prefer the images and the night shots of the 920.
  • Couldn't you compare cameras with iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3? Why post another Nokia-vs-HTC troll baiting article?
  • It really isn't his responsibility to use other operating systems, although he can certainly choose to.
    If you want a photo comparison of phones that use different operating system, perhaps you should visit sites that regularly review and post articles on said devices.  This is a WP centric site - it only makes sense to post comparisons of devices using the said OS.
  • Sad if HTC had added stabilization I would have gone HTC. This was the comparison I was waiting to see.... The softness of the 920 is not enough to go 8X
  • I'm thinking that the problem with Lumia 920 daytime photos beeing on the soft side has something to do with a bad focus.
    Lumia 920 can clearly take photos with bokeh effect, so I think that those soft photos that ppl talk about are actually slightly out of focus. Just look again at those photos in this article. Allmost every Lumia pic have a slight bokeh effect in them. The flower, bricks, frog, they all have bokeh. If the camera is so sensitive for that effect, it easily can cause a "soft" photo, if camera is fired when out of focus.
    So, if you don't focus correctly, your pics will be out of focus, and seem more like "soft", right?
  • All the 920's look better to me.  I think the colors are better.  I'm guessing this whole "softness" business is because the lens has a lower F stop.  That makes for a shallower depth of field. Which makes the non-focused areas more blurry.  I don't have the camera, but my guess is that if you could increase the F stop, you would get more areas in focus.
  • Not sure... I haven't found anything definitive with the design of the 920's camera but most digital cameras have an anti-aliasing filter in front of the imaging sensor.  Some call it a low pass filter.  I couldn't tell you what it filters out but it creates a slight softness in the images.  Softness that is adjusted for when the sensor processes the images. My guess is that the 920's softness isn't due to depth of field or a focusing issue but rather the in-camera processing doesn't adjust enough for the low pass filter softness.  Had Nokia kept the sharpness adjustment in the camera's settings we could take care of this softness by tweaking the settings.  As is, we'll need a firmware update for the camera. The softness isn't deterimental but holds the 920 back just a little.
  • ignore this...  the web made a second comment when I edited the first.
  • I don't know what the problem is,but my old E71 runs circles around my Lumia 920. It was almost impossible to get even a half decent photo during the thanksgiving holiday. The focus was terrible on all my photos. Even after replacing the phone for other reasons,photos still look subpar on the new L920
  • Incredible! Who'd thought that a 3MP camera phone could out image a 8.7MP camera phone. If you couldn't get better shots using the L920, you either don't know how to use the advanced L920, or you have a defective unit. Back to AAS, you.
  • So it is a focusing problem. Either the camera button dosn't work as it should (half press for focus), or it just can't figure it out without the flash assistant as in the dark.
  • Somebody compare some pics versus DLSRs?
  • I'm working on that angle.... give me a few days.
  • Nokia Lumia 920 owner (previously owned Nokia Lumia 900, Samsung Focus, and iPhone 3G).  Here are my observations: Out of the box settings for L920 seem sub-optimal for daylight photography, it seems that I need to add 1/3 or 2/3 stops to get enough light in, otherwise if the subject is in the slightest shade it will be underexposed, a metering mode setting is missing here, and center-spot metering should be the default on a consumer device; Out of the box settings on L920 lacks the control available on L900, so I cannot pick a metering mode, and the default seems to be frame average; The camera on L900 was a joke (with or without update), worse than the Samsung Focus one, with a proeminent reddish area in the center of every picture; The camera on L920 seems fine, night pictures are more crisp than those on iPhone 4S, I tested that last night. Overall, I fail to comprehend how Nokia just cannot get the camera setup right for consumers.  It needs to have center-spot metering set by default, worm up the colors a little bit, sharpen them a little bit, c'mon, common sense photography rules pretty much dictate those.  It feels like they got the hardware wrong with the L900 and tried to fix it with software and failed, and now it feels like they got the hardware right with the L920 and got the software settings wrong, not sure how long people will have patience, especially since the competition seems to get it right.  I tested 8X in-store and it definitely picked up the right amount of light.
  • The problem was that Damian Dinning was a photographer at heart. Things will change no doubt.
  • Hang on George, in this camera evaluation where's the video comparison? What a stitch up.
  • My nokia 920 camera compared with my friends iphone 5 in daylight , iPhone won on all the occasions :( , Hope nokia fixes this so that i can win again , But video is awesome on my lumia 920 , I dont understand why it cannot take good pictures when it zoom , Do you guys tried to zoom an object , Mine looks absolute blurry when ever i zoom , But iphone 5 given clear picture , The object means less than 3 feet.,
  • since none of them has an optical zoom, both of them do add blur in your picture when digitally zooming.  You need to consider that, unlike the iPhone 5, the lumia 920 has a wide angle camera, which means that you'll need to zoom more with your lumia and of course add more blur.
  • by the way, not being myself a grammar nazi, I didn't correct you but... my eyes hurt. English isn't my native language, though.
  • iphone has a better camera at this point.  That's a fact and Im a 920 user.  
    I say this in hopes of Nokia pullin their head out of their ass and updating the camera software.   
  • @shap2012
    Nope ! It has not ! Get your facts straight ! In terms of hardware the lumia 920's camera is better than any other smartphone camera (some will argue that the 808 is at least as good and might not be wrong). The fact is that the pureview software is definitely not finished yet.
    So, at this point, AND THIS IS A FACT, if you want to take a picture on a sunny day using Auto mode, you'd better use an iPhone 4s or 5.
    BUT, if you actually try this using custom settings,, then the lumia 920 will provide a better picture (because of optical stabilization).
    If you need to zoom, read above.
    PS: if this is the only reason why you don't like this phone, then wait for an update that will fix it very soon.
  • Would like to have seen a picture of both phones side by side.
  • Instead of showing pics side by side and mentioning which one was taken with what phone, it would be better to randomize similar pics anonymously and let users pic the best ones as a poll, the pics from phone with the highest hits will win
  • I seriously can't see a single scenario in the above photos where the 8X comes out on top. I know it's your job to promote all WP8 handsets, but the Lumia 920 wins hands down.
  • I now own and use the 920 exclusively.  Let me tell you.  My old iphone 4S takes MUCH better photos  90% of the time.  Day light photos are WAY more focused, sharp and provide accurate white balance.   The 920 photos all have a slight blur, soft and are never really focused sharp on any object and the white balance is a joke.
    I really wanted to love this camera and phone, but its been a disaster.  
  • One big difference is the 32gb for the Nokia Lumia 920 vs the 16 gb for the HTC 8x. Given that people will take higher quality photos and videos, as well as download more apps, offline maps, and games, do you think 16gb is enough? Or to put it another way, do you think users will need a lot more storage for the new phones vs phones with lower-quality cameras?
  • Im a new owner of a Nokia Lumia 920 and I like it so much! Its the best smartphone I ever has have.