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Best smartphone cameras compared: Google Pixel XL vs iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, LG V20

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Best smartphone cameras compared: Google Pixel XL vs iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, LG V20

Did you know that in the Australian Outback, temperatures can reach over 110 °F (45 °C) during this time of the year? That's hot enough to melt a soda bottle on the sand while the Mountain Dew inside it turns into steam, green dust, and crusty, caramelized sugar crystals. Okay, maybe it isn't that hot, but it still sounds like going out for a stroll in that kind of weather isn't the best idea. Meanwhile, temperatures over at our part of the world have been stuck well below freezing for the past couple of weeks, yet someone still had to go out and take a bunch of photos for the camera comparison below. So much fun, I tell ya!

Anyway, let's get on with it. The phones that we've chosen to compete in this camera comparison are some of the best phones around. Google's Pixel XL is one of the candidates for the top spot, but it will be running against a trio of tough opponents, namely the iPhone 7 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, and the LG V20. Here's what all four have to offer in terms of camera specs:

Camera Specs
Google
Pixel XL
iPhone 7
Plus
Galaxy
S7 edge
LG V20
Resolution,
aspect ratio
12.3MP@4:3
4048x3036px
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
16MP@4:3
4656x3492px
Sensor and
pixel size
1/2.3"
1.55μm
1/3"
1.22μm
1/2.5"
1.4μm
1/2.6"
1.12μm
ApertureF2.0F1.8F1.7F1.8
Focus and
stabilization
PDAF
Laser AF
No OIS
PDAF
OIS
Dual-pixel AF
Object track
OIS
PDAF, OIS
Object track
Laser AF

Now, you might be wondering what the Google Pixel XL may have to give it an advantage over its rivals. It clearly doesn't pack the most megapixels – that would be the LG V20. It doesn't have the widest aperture either – the S7 edge leads in that respect, which could later give it the upper hand in low-light scenes. No less importantly, Google's handset doesn't even have optical image stabilization – again, a potential drawback in poor lighting conditions. What the Pixel XL does have is the largest sensor out of the bunch, and that sensor has the largest pixels. This could translate to clearer, noise-free images no matter the situation. On top of that, its super-fast Auto-HDR mode should be able to capture both light and dark areas in the same shot in utmost clarity. Now let's leave theory aside and look at some actual photos. 

Disclaimer: The photos in the galleries have been scaled down to a resolution of about 2MP to make them load faster. Full-resolution images are available at the end of the article.   

Scene 1: Old Timers


Photo taken with the Google Pixel XL

Photo taken with the Google Pixel XL


My guess is that very few of you have seen one of these in real life. You're looking at a Moskvitch 403 – a 4-door saloon car produced in the Soviet Union during the '60s. And the one in the background is a 407, which used a more powerful, 45-horsepower engine. Yeah, I know these two old-timers have seen better days.

Anyway, what we have here is a scene that's quite cool: both literally, with temperatures stuck below freezing on that day, and visually, with the snow on the ground and overcast sky together creating a cold tone. This cold tone is best represented by the Google Pixel XL and the Galaxy S7 edge, although I have to admit that the iPhone has also produced a great-looking photo by adding a tad of warmth and contrast to it. The LG V20's photo could use a bit more exposure to make it more lively, but the camera may have chosen not to do so in order to preserve details in the sky. For the record, the phone was set to use HDR automatically, yet it chose not to use it in this scene.

I must also say that I'm impressed by the amount of detail the Pixel XL has managed to resolve. Take a close look at the melting snow on the car's hood to see for yourself. In that respect, Google's handset comes first, followed closely by the V20. 
 
Scene 1: score
Google Pixel XL8.5
iPhone 7 Plus8.0
Galaxy S7 edge8.0
LG V207.5


Scene 2: Ivy


Shot on the Galaxy S7 edge

Shot on the Galaxy S7 edge


Hedera helix, more commonly known as English ivy, is a remarkable plant. It stays green all year round, it looks great on the wall of an old brick house, and its extract can be used to treat certain illnesses, such as asthma and bronchitis. 

About the photos that we have here, the first thing to stand out is the warmer color tone of the iPhone's image. Sure, it's a good-looking photo, but it is also a bit off from the way things looked to the naked eye. The other three phones deliver a much more realistic representation of the scene. 

As far as details go, I'd say that all four phones did a remarkable job. Not a surprise really, as most phones can do close-ups like this one just fine. Only with the LG V20 there are more areas in the photo that seem softer and out of focus, but that is noticeable only when you zoom in very closely.

Scene 2: score
Google Pixel XL8.0
Galaxy S7 edge8.0
LG V207.5
iPhone 7 Plus7.5

Pixel XL
iPhone 7 Plus
Pixel XL iPhone 7 Plus
Galaxy S7 edge
LG V20
Galaxy S7 edge LG V20

Scene 3: The Mansion


We took this photo with the S7 edge

We took this photo with the S7 edge


In the right situation, HDR can make a striking difference to how an image looks. The Galaxy S7 edge chose to enable the mode for this scene, which is why its photo is well exposed in all areas – detail is seen both in the sky and in the shadowy areas near the hedge. Plus, the colors are very realistic. Close behind it is the Pixel XL, which also delivers an accurate-looking image, with plenty of detail and realistic colors. As for the iPhone 7 Plus and LG V20, we were expecting better. Their images are detailed and definitely usable, but lack the accurate colors demonstrated by the Pixel XL and S7 edge.

Scene 3: score
Galaxy S7 edge8.0
Google Pixel XL8.0
LG V205.5
iPhone 7 Plus5.5



68 Comments
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posted on 25 Jan 2017, 04:35 1

1. enzotarece (Posts: 83; Member since: 14 Aug 2013)


Pixel xl did a great job

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 04:44 1

6. sgodsell (Posts: 4643; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


The Pixels EIS makes its video stabilization the best one here. Sure it doesn't have OIS, but it still doesn't hurt its video stabilization.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 05:13 3

8. R-vjn (Posts: 255; Member since: 07 Jan 2013)


The EIS is cool, but try taking video in low light or something, there is stutter and i don't know how to describe it, but it is definitely not smooth. Also, the problem while panning... but while taking video with normal straight walk, its great..almost like on a gimbal.
Then the flare issue..

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 10:44

42. TheStanleyFTW (Posts: 249; Member since: 20 Feb 2013)


Things I hope they improve on for the next Pixel:
1. Flare issue
2. Wider aperture, though might be difficult with that sensor size (regarding compactness)
3. OIS. Maybe just for stills only or even for video but then again, might be difficult with that sensor size.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 14:41 1

50. marorun (Posts: 5029; Member since: 30 Mar 2015)


1- flare issues dont happen on newer software only the software its came out with had it.
2- agreed thats would be quite hard and to be truthfull i prefer they sacrifice thats than sensor size.
3- same as number 2.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 10:54

43. vincelongman (Posts: 5004; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)


True, EIS is not as good in low light or when running

But I wouldn't say being almost like on a gimbal isn't a problem, if anything its a postive
I'vde shown some of my friends, they were impressed by the gimbal-like smoothness and asked how I stablised my videos

The flare issue isn't a major problem
It basically only happens when there's an light source from an angle, so you know when its going to happen
And you can also see it in the viewfinder
When it happens, just use one of your hands as a lens hood
Also HDR+ reduces it too

The main issue with lack of OIS is that you need to hold your phone more stably
But its not a big deal since HDR+ fuses many short exposures, its only a problem if you try manually do long exposures

That being said, OIS would still be a big benefit to the Pixel 2
Since it would:
Make videos even more stable, especially low light/running
Allow better manual long exposures
And allow HDR+ to fuse more pictures

posted on 26 Jan 2017, 06:32

69. R-vjn (Posts: 255; Member since: 07 Jan 2013)


using one of our hands as a lens hood won't solve this issue, my friend. I'll be posting a blog post soon on this issue and a review on the camera on that phone and maybe I could share with you guys. The pixel has a wonderful camera, no doubt, but it is definitely not the best for sure. The EIS, like I said is not always useful and the flare issue correction by using HDR+ is not that effective. :)
OIS is the way to go, and I simply do not understand why Google skipped it in their most premium phone ever.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 04:38 1

2. Plasticsh1t (Posts: 1893; Member since: 01 Sep 2014)


I hope the HDR+ could be applied to all phones.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 14:06

49. phonearenarocks (Posts: 530; Member since: 26 Mar 2015)


Best thing is that iPhone came last. #Epic

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 14:43 1

51. marorun (Posts: 5029; Member since: 30 Mar 2015)


Yes there must be something wrong or apple did not pay what they should lol

posted on 26 Jan 2017, 03:54

68. phonearenarocks (Posts: 530; Member since: 26 Mar 2015)


Hahaha lol yeah! That could be the best explanation. It is a fact that iPhone 7 plus deserves this place but iPhoneArena rating in that way is an after effect of just what you have said, the second part of it. Lol again!!

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 18:54

64. chenski (Posts: 526; Member since: 22 Mar 2015)


So much for iphonearena

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 04:40 4

3. ReyAmin (Posts: 5; Member since: 27 Sep 2015)


What about htc 10, huawei p9/p9plus?

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 05:29 11

13. Bankz (Posts: 1630; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)


The title says "Best smartphone cameras compared".

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 05:55 3

20. Clars123 (Posts: 932; Member since: 16 Mar 2015)


lol..savage

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 09:13

37. Darkkracker (Posts: 233; Member since: 11 Jun 2016)


those phones are irrelevant.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 04:40 2

4. ReyAmin (Posts: 5; Member since: 27 Sep 2015)


And xperia xz?

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 04:46 2

7. sgodsell (Posts: 4643; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


Poor Sony always gets a bad rap from PhoneArena. I love their flagship smartphones.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 05:30 3

14. Bankz (Posts: 1630; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)


Read comment 13.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 09:13

38. Darkkracker (Posts: 233; Member since: 11 Jun 2016)


that phone is irrelevant.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 04:44 2

5. bugsbunny00 (Posts: 2195; Member since: 07 Jun 2013)


I bet G6 will have HDR+,..well here we go with pixel hope to see a XL2 this year and crush the competition.again.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 05:15

9. Joms_US (Posts: 194; Member since: 02 Oct 2016)


Whoa...Is this iPhoneArena or am I just hallucinating? =D

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 05:32

15. Bankz (Posts: 1630; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)


well, here goes our hope of a phone actually dethroning the pixel in 2017.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 05:16 1

10. Bankz (Posts: 1630; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)


Pixel >>>>>>>>>>>>>> every other smartphone camera in existence.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 05:26 1

11. iDroidPhony (Posts: 19; Member since: 21 Sep 2016)


Google does a good job in Pixel XL. This year, go Samsung and Apple! :)

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 05:27

12. Bankz (Posts: 1630; Member since: 08 Apr 2016)


So, PA, actuall y thinks there'll be an HTC 11? lol, think again. btw the moral of this is that 1. you would never go wrong with any of the top end cameras you choose today 2. That I'd rather have a little bit more inferior camera like the V20 with all the other tech bells and whistles than have a lil better one without proper manual controls or current tech features like the iphone. 3. That Google pixel will safely remain undisputed king of the camera segment for the foreseeable future, lol.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 08:04

28. sissy246 (Posts: 3683; Member since: 04 Mar 2015)


The pixel did great, they all did , but the 7 edge was better.

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 14:45

53. marorun (Posts: 5029; Member since: 30 Mar 2015)


Nope sorry but its was indeed better than iphone and LG V20 but not than pixel.

the pixel XL have a better colors reproduction and often more realistic detail ( aka no oversharpening artifact )

posted on 25 Jan 2017, 15:09

60. sissy246 (Posts: 3683; Member since: 04 Mar 2015)


Have to agree to disagree lol

posted on 26 Jan 2017, 17:33

71. ebilcake (Posts: 899; Member since: 16 Jul 2016)


He's a Samsung hater, no need to be polite to him.

Nobody gives a s**t what he thinks.

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