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Best smartphone cameras compared: HTC U11 vs Galaxy S8+, iPhone 7 Plus, LG G6

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Best smartphone cameras compared: HTC U11 vs Galaxy S8+, iPhone 7 Plus, LG G6

Those of you who have read our HTC U11 review already know what makes this smartphone worth owning. It is fast, it is loud, it is shiny, and right on top of this stack of goodies is one of the best cameras you can get on a smartphone today. And we only used "one of" there because we've yet to compare its 12MP shooter against those on other high-ends. Actually, that's what we're about to do right now. We took a Galaxy S8+, an iPhone 7 Plus, and and LG G6 out for a camera shootout against the HTC U11, and we're now going to comment on the results. 

But before we proceed, here's a quick look at the specs:

Camera Specs
HTC U11Samsung
GalaxyS8+
iPhone 7 PlusLG G6
Resolution,
aspect ratio
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
12MP@4:3
4160x3120px
Sensor and
pixel size
1/2.6"
1.4μm
1/2.55"
1.4μm
1/3"
1.22μm
1/3"
1.12μm
ApertureF1.7F1.7F1.8F1.8
Focus and
stabilization
Dual-pixel AF
OIS
Dual-pixel AF
OIS
PDAF
OIS
PDAF
OIS

At a glance, all four phones appear to be in the same technical ballpark. All of them pack 12MP image sensors, so they should all produce equally clear and detailed photos, right? Well, not necessarily. Аs the rest of the numbers indicate, the HTC U11 and the Galaxy S8+ have larger sensors, larger pixels, and wider apertures, meaning that they absorb more light and with greater fidelity. This should translate to clearer images with less noise, especially in low-light situations. Now let's see if that's the case.

Scene 1: The pond in the park


Best smartphone cameras compared: HTC U11 vs Galaxy S8+, iPhone 7 Plus, LG G6

Let's start with a set of images that I took in the late afternoon, about an hour or so before sundown. What's interesting about the photos is that they show how the image you end up with depends not only on the camera hardware, but also on its software – image processing algorithms don't always go for the most faithful appearance if they decide that a few tweaks could make a certain scene pop. For example, notice how the Galaxy S8+'s photo is more colorful than the rest. Too colorful, perhaps. 

The HTC U11 and the iPhone 7 Plus deliver a much more natural representation of the scene. While the iPhone has captured the highlights in the trees a bit better, the U11 shines with the amount of detail it has preserved. Meanwhile, the LG G6 has produced a slightly colder photo, neutralizing the natural warmth of the setting sun, so we have to knock down a few points for that.

Scene 1: score
HTC U118.0Galaxy S8+7.0
iPhone 7 Plus8.0LG G67.0


Scene 2: The field of flowers


Best smartphone cameras compared: HTC U11 vs Galaxy S8+, iPhone 7 Plus, LG G6

As it did in the previous scene, the HTC U11 sticks to a natural image representation. In fact, its photo is the most pleasing to look at with its neutral tone. The other phones didn't do so well. For example, the G6's photo could use a bit more warmth, while the shot out of the iPhone has an excessive amount of contrast. But our least favorite image of all is the one shot with the Galaxy S8+ – unnecessarily saturated beyond all boundaries. 

Scene 2: score
HTC U118.0Galaxy S8+6.0
iPhone 7 Plus7.0LG G67.5


Scene 3: Fun by the fountain


Best smartphone cameras compared: HTC U11 vs Galaxy S8+, iPhone 7 Plus, LG G6

We're starting to notice a pattern here. Once more, the HTC U11 delivers a detailed, faithful image – the blueness of the fountain blending with the warmth of the setting sun have been captured very accurately. Meanwhile, the iPhone is a little heavy on the contrast, and even though its image looks fine, details in the shadows appear to be missing. The LG G6, again, went for a slightly colder look than it should have. As for the Galaxy S8+, its photo looks pretty good this time around. The only thing we would have changed about it if we could is the amount of sharpening – there's a bit too much of it in the shot.

Scene 3: score
HTC U118.5Galaxy S8+8.0
iPhone 7 Plus8.0LG G68.0

Story timeline

This story is part of: Camera comparisons(12 updates)

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