Best smartphone cameras compared: Galaxy Note 7 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7 edge, HTC 10, LG G5, OnePlus 3

Guys, you are never going to believe what happened to me last evening! As I was walking the pup, a blindingly bright beam of light shot down from the sky. Then a magical creature – half griffin, half centaur – descended and placed a gilded box in my hands. "Use it wisely", it said. In the box was a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, along with its charging cable and accessories. I was on the verge of giving it back because it wasn't the Coral Blue model, but then I realized that even a Silver Note 7 would do if I wanted to do a camera comparison. 

Okay, I might have made up the entire story, but the part about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was legit. There's already a unit in residence at the office, and we've been playing with it for the past week or so. During that time, we put the phone through our battery test, we ran a set of benchmarks on it, and we measured the various quality aspects of its display. You know, the usual stuff. We also shot a bunch of photos to compare its camera against those of 5 other high-ends. 

For this demonstration of photographic prowess, we've chosen to pit the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 against the Galaxy S7 edge, the iPhone 6s Plus, the HTC 10, the LG G5, and the OnePlus 3. Here's what these six phones have to offer in terms of camera specs:

Camera Specs
Galaxy
Note 7
iPhone 6s
Plus
Galaxy
S7 edge
HTC 10LG G5OnePlus 3
Resolution,
aspect ratio
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
12MP@4:3
4000x3000px
16MP@16:9
5312x2988px
16MP@4:3
4640x3480px
Sensor and
pixel size
1/2.5"
1.4μm
1/3"
1.22μm
1/2.5"
1.4μm
1/2.3"
1.55μm
1/2.6"
1.12μm
1/2.8"
1.12μm
Focal length
and aperture
26mm
F1.7
29mm
F2.2
26mm
F1.7
26mm
F1.8
28mm
F1.8
29mm
F2.0
Focus and
stabilization
Dual-pixel AF
Object track
OIS
PDAF
OIS
Dual-pixel AF
Object track
OIS
Laser AF
OIS
Laser AF
OIS
PDAF
OIS

Looking at specs alone, several peculiarities stand out right away. One is that the cameras on the Galaxy Note 7 and S7 edge are practically identical, meaning that their photos should look more or less the same. Another is that the two have the widest apertures – F1.7 – which should prove beneficial in low-light situations. The HTC 10, on the other hand, has the largest sensor and pixels, which is always a good thing. Then there are the LG G5 and the OnePlus 3, both of which pack more megapixels than the rest of the gang. Indeed, this camera comparison will be fun!

Before we proceed, however, we must make one thing clear. We decided to leave the phones' HDR feature on Auto for this camera comparison instead of manually turning it off. The reason is simple – that's how all phones come pre-configured out of the box, and that's how most people will end up using them. Now let's look at some actual photos.

The slideshow galleries below contain full-resolution photos which might take a few moments to load.

Scene 1: The Opera House


Best smartphone cameras compared: Galaxy Note 7 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7 edge, HTC 10, LG G5, OnePlus 3

Like we stated above, the cameras on the Galaxy Note 7 and Galaxy S7 edge are pretty much identical. Hence, it comes as no surprise that their photos look more or less the same – detailed, colorful, with an ample amount of sharpness applied to them. But it is worth noting that the Galaxy Note 7 has added less sharpness to the image. That's a sign of hope, as recent Galaxies tend to sharpen images too aggressively – something we've pointed out on multiple occasions in the past.

As far as ranking goes, we're finding it hard to pick a favorite in this scene. All images have come out quite nicely, with only minor differences in color balance, exposure, and sharpening setting them apart – differences that don't necessarily make one photo more pleasant to look at than the other. Except for the image we took with the LG G5. For some reason, it lacks the fine details we've come to expect upon zooming in. Weird. Let's hope that's just an isolated case.

Scene 1: score
Samsung Galaxy Note 78.0
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge8.0
iPhone 6s Plus8.0
HTC 108.0
OnePlus 38.0
LG G56.0


Scene 2: The Garden


Best smartphone cameras compared: Galaxy Note 7 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7 edge, HTC 10, LG G5, OnePlus 3


Bright sunlight and bright colors don't always play together well, as this scene demonstrates. Looking at the images from the HTC 10 and the LG G5, we see overly bright highlights in well-lit areas. In contrast, the iPhone 6s Plus has preserved the highlights in all their richness, which in turn gives its image a very natural, eye-pleasing look. 

Again, the images from the Galaxy Note 7 and Galaxy S7 edge look nearly identical, with accurate colors and plenty of details. What's interesting, however, is that the OnePlus 3 has preserved details a bit better, especially the finer ones, visible upon zooming in. This could be due to its higher megapixel count or because of the fact that the OnePlus 3 doesn't sharpen the image as aggressively. 

Scene 2: score
iPhone 6s Plus8.5
OnePlus 38.0
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge7.5
Samsung Galaxy Note 77.5
LG G57.0
HTC 106.5


Scene 3: The Horseman


Best smartphone cameras compared: Galaxy Note 7 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7 edge, HTC 10, LG G5, OnePlus 3


By now it should come as no surprise that the images out of the Note 7 and the S7 edge look so similar to each other. They have the same neutral color tone, they're rich in detail, and there's plenty of sharpness applied to both. And yes, they do look fine to us, considering that dynamic scenes, such as this one, can be tricky to capture. 

As for the rest of the photos, they're also pleasing, with only minor differences to be seen here and there. The OnePlus 3's picture, for example, has superior detail, but the overall color tone is slightly warmer. The LG G5 also excels when it comes to details, but the shadows have this blueish tint to them. Highlights in the photo from the HTC 10 look a tad brighter, yet colors are mostly pleasing. And the iPhone 6s Plus could use a hint of extra exposure in its image to bring out the detail in the shadows, as well as to render the sky's blue tone more naturally.

Scene 3: score
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge8.0
Samsung Galaxy Note 78.0
OnePlus 38.0
iPhone 6s Plus7.5
LG G57.5
HTC 107.5




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67 Comments

1. sarcastic_nerd unregistered

PA's inconsistency at its best. Didn't the S7 lose badly in the last shootout. Please, for the love of god don't flip sides every 6 months.

9. verbalize

Posts: 150; Member since: May 03, 2013

It's sad that they use a 1 year old iphone to compare. It's typical phone Arena trying to cause drama.

10. technitude

Posts: 259; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

Should they have left the iphone out?

19. neela_akaash

Posts: 1239; Member since: Aug 05, 2014

Jokes apart.... But OnePlus 3 is a serious contender at almost half the price....

67. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

no it can not be a contender versus Galaxy S7

70. vampyren

Posts: 22; Member since: Apr 26, 2013

Any why not? Its the same CPU, GPU, OP3 has more RAM, has dual sim, take as good photos as any, metal body and stands its own. I say its for sure better then any other phone in the list. Maybe Note is better but it depend on the person. I have ordered the Note7 myself but i'm getting more and more intrigues about OP3. At that price nothing can beat it.

38. verbalize

Posts: 150; Member since: May 03, 2013

Or wait 3 weeks to do a informative artical . It's like doing reviews on a year old product and have 5 out of 6 being just released. It's call poor journalism.

65. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 948; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

Not with the absolute popularity of the device. I find with my S7 Edge, the colors are very hit and miss when it comes to accuracy, whereas my 6S Plus gets the accuracy right just about every time.

12. WPX00

Posts: 508; Member since: Aug 15, 2015

Is there any newer iPhone to test? Would you rather they use the OIS-lacking SE?

35. ebilcake

Posts: 1188; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

iPhone 7 is not released yet so you would prefer they never included an iPhone at all? Please. That's just your personal bias talking.

43. sissy246

Posts: 6823; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Then isheep would have said. Where's the iphone.

14. uzimafioso

Posts: 467; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

Hahaha exactly. HTC 10 was above OnePlus 3 last time around and thankfully they haven't touched the camera during their update fiasco. I think they should have added a Moto Z/Force for comparison even if they cheat like they always do somehow.

22. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Well before the LG G5 came out, PA had 5 article saying the S7 was the best. Then one writer flip-flopped and claimed the another phones was better. Basically, some PA employees are more honest vs others. But when 5 writers say the S7 is best, and only one claims otherwise, who are you going to believe?

42. chenski

Posts: 726; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

Regardless, nowadays flagship camera difference are negligible, you won't really go wrong with most of them anyway

27. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3925; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Well since they didn't take the exact same pictures as the last comparison it is only logical that the scores be different. I went back and looked at the other comparison and the S7 really did do better here with the shots taken. If you asked me tho the HTC 10, OP3, and iP6s plus took the best overall photos between both comparisons. I will say the N7 seems to take better photos than the S7 tho.

28. sarcastic_nerd unregistered

Doesn't matter. They just frame shots so that in the one they want looks better. And they get more revenue from all the sheep. The note 7 has removed the sharpening the S7 had. So it's obvious it is a better camera phone. Also the exynos hate continues to grow. They got one with a bad display sample and are quick to point out, but no mention of it on performance or battery section of the note 7 review. Needless to say, PA reviews and comparisons are absurdly biased and utterly misleading. They cover the news well though, which is the reason I'm coming here.

69. Leo_MC

Posts: 5875; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

That doesn't explain why are you reading their reviews and comparisons, if you think they are biased.

33. ebilcake

Posts: 1188; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Camera comparisons are always like this, depending on the scene it can be pretty random. All these devices have strengths and weaknesses, some more than others. OnePlus 3 seems to be a good all rounder so far. :-)

66. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 948; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

With photography, it's up to the user to make adjustments to the photo, or re-take the photo, when the image doesn't come out right. These comparisons can easily have random results each time, since the meter is adjusting camera settings a little different each time the image is taken. You can take 3 photos using an S7 Edge and all 3 look slightly different. I've tested this several times. All cameras are like this, including DSLR's. I take these sorts of comparisons with a grain of salt each and every time.

51. SmartFix

Posts: 32; Member since: Aug 05, 2016

Just don't take them seriously.. they just want comments.. We have to just laugh at them and shake head when they trying to praise an year old iphone to newest phones.. We have to ignore their iphone VS's or iphone pathetic photo comparisons where is no drastic difference AT ALL.. If I would mix up labels everybody wud believe this sht..

53. robocopvn

Posts: 504; Member since: Mar 10, 2010

As a frequent reader of Phonearena, I suggest you go here to read news only. Reviews, comparisons, analysis are just the joke

71. wessam_yamani

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 30, 2016

actully I'm not defending don't gets me wrong.but s7 & htc 10 received an important update for the camera . i don't know about the rest . and i really don't like the way they did the score

2. Bankz

Posts: 2442; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Oops! Moral of this story: you'll never go wrong with any smartphone camera you choose.

17. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Exactly this. One thing I will point out is this: many newer phones are following the trend of dropping the MP count and going with bigger pixels, which has advantages, but you also lose potential detail. Looking at the TechRadar review of the Axon 7, the bridge walkway scene between the S7E, Axon 7, and iP6S+ shows that in daylight the 12MP cs they employ can't match the 20MP cam of the Axon in grabbing detail. Look at the pole in the distance covered with posters, the people near the bench/trash can, and the stickers/posters on the support beams. No contest whatsoever.

34. ebilcake

Posts: 1188; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Just because it's 20 MP doesn't automatically mean it captures more detail, from the comparisons I've seen sadly it's probably equal to the 12MP shooters in terms of detail and it's not very good in low light. Not a high quality 20MP shooter, that's for sure. The 16MP devices like the Note 5 and OnePlus 3 capture more detail.

36. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Actually, look at the photo samples that TechRadar took. Download the full res pictures. In all the day photos, there are these areas that the Axon definitely gets a lot more detail. I'm not saying this because of the 20MP, it does in these photos. The GS7E does well in macro situations, but as you move out, the photos they have clearly show greater detail with the Axon.

61. Furbal unregistered

If the sensor can capture enough light, the higher pixel count sensor will almost always have more detail (pretty much only broad daylight)

3. domen151

Posts: 34; Member since: Sep 13, 2012

They are all pretty good.

4. kerginaldo17 unregistered

Sorry but the scene 7 the part badly we can see the woman dressed in red in OnrPlus 3.The others phones show that detail better.

29. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4764; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

That scene wasn't meant to compare detail...it was to check the strength and accuracy of the flash with respect to the natural tone.

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