Best smartphone cameras compared: OnePlus 3, Xperia X Performance, Galaxy S7, iPhone 6s Plus, LG G5, HTC 10

It is the middle of July. Days are warm, long, and sunny. Weekends are dedicated to tent camping, showing off those beach volleyball skills, or just plain ol' swinging in the hammock while sipping on a cocktail mixed in a coconut shell. Or at least that's how people like to enjoy the summertime. But the year is 2016 – if you don't have the pics, then it didn't happen. And to have the pics, you need a phone with a camera. One with a good camera, preferably.

But what is the best smartphone camera out there? This question is more difficult to answer than it seems, but we can at least try by having a camera comparison. And this one's going to be huge. We're about to have a race between the 5 most exciting phones of H1 2016, namely the OnePlus 3, the Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10, the Sony Xperia X Performance, and the LG G5. We're also throwing in the iPhone 6s Plus to spice things up. Here's what these six have to offer in terms of specs:

Camera Specs
OnePlus 3iPhone 6s
Plus
Samsung
Galaxy S7
HTC 10Sony Xperia
X Perf.
LG G5
Resolution,
aspect ratio
16MP@4:3
4640x3480px
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
12MP@4:3
4032x3024px
12MP@4:3
4000x3000px
23MP@4:3
5520x4140px
16MP@16:9
5312x2988px
Sensor and
pixel size
1/2.8"
1.12μm
1/3"
1.22μm
1/2.5"
1.4μm
1/2.3"
1.55μm
1/2.3"
1.12μm
1/2.6"
1.12μm
Focal length
and aperture
28mm
F2.0
29mm
F2.2
26mm
F1.7
26mm
F1.8
24mm
F2.0
28mm
F1.8
Focus and
stabilization
PDAF
OIS
PDAF
OIS
Dual-pixel AF
Object track
OIS
Laser AF
OIS
PDAF
Object track
No OIS
Laser AF
OIS

So, as the figures indicate, the Xperia X Performance has the most megapixels at its disposal, and by popular demand, we've used them all during the shootout. Yes, we'll be showing you 23MP stills out of Sony's handset, even though it is set to shoot at just 8MP by default. But megapixels aren't all that matters in a camera. Samsung, for instance, has gone with a 12MP camera with larger pixels and a very wide aperture – all factors that allow more light to hit the sensor. Such is also the case with the HTC 10. The OnePlus 3, iPhone 6s Plus, and LG G5 don't set new milestones with their camera specs, but we know from experience that these can also take excellent photos and will be tough to race against. So, without further ado, let's take a look at some actual photos. 

Scene 1: At the park


Best smartphone cameras compared: OnePlus 3, Xperia X Performance, Galaxy S7, iPhone 6s Plus, LG G5, HTC 10

Remember that "beach volleyball skills" part we mentioned in the beginning? We did show them off alright! Later that day, however, we had to interrupt our fun-having session to take some comparison photos. Here's a scenery we found perfect for the task. 

In this case, the OnePlus 3 is definitely one of the better performers. We won't call it the best, but the plentiful detail, accentuated by a moderate amount of contrast, contributes to a very likeable photo. Color accuracy could have been better, though. The frame is dominated by a hint of green, which explains why the marigolds have turned out yellowish, not orange. 

The Sony Xperia X Performance delivers a detailed photo, but color accuracy leaves a lot to be desired. Again, we see a greenish tone cast all over the image – enough to steer the color of the sky and flowers away from reality. Not a good start for Sony's contestant. 

The best thing about the photo out of the iPhone 6s Plus are the colors. Sure, there's a hint of warmth added, but the flowers have retained their natural hue, and the image looks quite pleasing overall. The score would have been greater if details were preserved better.

We're strongly drawn by the LG G5's photo. Its colors are pleasing, but not exaggerated. Details are plentiful, but not oversharpened. This would have been the perfect image of this scene had colors been captured more accurately.

As for the HTC 10, it also delivers solid results – colors are mostly accurate and detail has been captured well. Disturbingly, there's a sharp drop of detail near the corners and edges of the frame.

In contrast, the Galaxy S7 is leaving us disappointed. Aggressive sharpening has destroyed much of the fine detail, and the excessive contrast doesn't make matters any better. The image looks acceptable, but only if you don't zoom in. 

Scene 1: EXIF data
OnePlus 3iPhone 6s
Plus
Samsung
Galaxy S7
HTC 10Sony Xperia
X Perf.
LG G5
ISO
sensitivity
ISO100ISO25ISO50ISO100ISO40ISO50
Shutter
speed
1/10471/12021/24561/20001/12501/1363

Scene 1: score
LG G58.0
OnePlus 38.0
iPhone 6s Plus8.0
HTC 108.0
Samsung Galaxy S76.5
Sony Xperia X Performance6.5


Scene 2: The clock tower


Best smartphone cameras compared: OnePlus 3, Xperia X Performance, Galaxy S7, iPhone 6s Plus, LG G5, HTC 10

We headed home once we were done with our coconut shell cocktails. On our way back, we snapped this series of shots for the needs of our comparison – the blend of shadows, highlights, and sunrays sipping through the leaves made for a great scene.

Again, the OnePlus 3 is demonstrating some solid photography skills. Its image is nice and detailed, with a moderate amount of contrast preserving the atmosphere of the scene. Colors have that natural warm tone provided by the setting sun.

The Sony Xperia X Performance delivers decent results, although it has toned down much of that warmth we mentioned. Exposure has been dialed up a notch to bring out the detail in the shadows. Highlights have slightly suffered as a result.

Interestingly, the Samsung Galaxy S7 has taken the opposite route. Its photo is underexposed, which is why shadows appear too dark. Details aren't great either. 

From the looks of it, the iPhone 6s Plus is the best performer in this round. We're impressed by its camera's dynamics range, which has allowed it to capture both highlights in the sky and details in the shadows. Colors are also quite pleasing.

The LG G5 and HTC 10 have taken the same approach when exposing the scene. Both have captured the shadows well, but the highlights in the sky have been compromised because of that. Nevertheless, we're content with both images.

Scene 2: EXIF data
OnePlus 3iPhone 6s
Plus
Samsung
Galaxy S7
HTC 10Sony Xperia
X Perf.
LG G5
ISO
sensitivity
ISO100ISO25ISO50ISO100ISO40ISO50
Shutter
speed
1/3921/5531/12481/5301/3201/400

Scene 2: score
iPhone 6s Plus8.5
OnePlus 38.0
LG G58.0
HTC 108.0
Sony Xperia X Performance7.0
Samsung Galaxy S76.5


Scene 3: Flowers


Best smartphone cameras compared: OnePlus 3, Xperia X Performance, Galaxy S7, iPhone 6s Plus, LG G5, HTC 10

Here's the mandatory close-up shot. In this case, our subject is a pretty bunch of yellow flowers. There's not a whole lot to say about the images, other than that they all look great. The best thing about close ups is how much detail they reveal, and we'd say that all six photos reveal a lot. Color accuracy, on the other hand, tends to drift from one side to the other. 

In terms of color fidelity, the best photos have come out of the HTC 10 and the LG G5. These two phones have preserved them naturally, without rendering the image too warm or too cold. The OnePlus 3 is only a step behind in this respect, with its slightly greenish image. The iPhone 6s Plus is also treating us to an eye-pleasing image, although it is a bit warmer than what our eyes could see. 

Disappointingly, the image from the Galaxy S7 is slightly colder than it should be. But at least it isn't as bad as the Xperia X Performance's photo. The latter leans too much to the cold side, not to mention that the petals in its photo look washed out. 

Scene 3: EXIF data
OnePlus 3iPhone 6s
Plus
Samsung
Galaxy S7
HTC 10Sony Xperia
X Perf.
LG G5
ISO
sensitivity
ISO160ISO32ISO50ISO100ISO40ISO50
Shutter
speed
1/1001/1001/1411/1011/501/120

Scene 3: score
LG G58.0
HTC 108.0
OnePlus 37.5
iPhone 6s Plus7.5
Samsung Galaxy S76.5
Sony Xperia X Performance5.0

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134 Comments

2. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

Impressive by the iPhone 6S plus and HTC 10!

3. Phonehex

Posts: 697; Member since: Feb 16, 2016

Totally biased article. Chose worst pics of the S7 . I have the OP3 and The S7 Edge. S7 edge is definitely far superior when it comes to pictures.

16. thegeneral7010

Posts: 437; Member since: Dec 10, 2014

Don't be a sheep just look at photos and u will see that in those scenes 6s was better than s7 but in over all performance of course s7 is better.

26. Settings

Posts: 2940; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

The only time reviews are said biased is when Samsungs belong on the bottom of the list, which is quite rare knowing this site. To be fair, the smallest details draws who will be on top and depending on the users if they want to choose saturation, sharpening, color accuracy, aspect ratio or MP count, but in general all cameras did great. It only matters on whose OEM we are invested and rooting for, so fanboys.

136. rca30178

Posts: 6; Member since: Jul 25, 2016

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44. hadilev

Posts: 6; Member since: Jan 26, 2016

Almost every camera test on the web uses tripod for consistent results, When the phone is steady, slower shutter usually results in better picture. In real life (when you hold your phone in hand) longer exposure sometime leads to blurry images despite of OIS.

131. SuperPotato

Posts: 13; Member since: May 26, 2015

do you carry a tripod with you all the time while taking photos with your smartphone? No? Then why a comparison should do it? You wouldn't be getting real life results.

7. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

And once again Lumia 950 XL is not included......lame.

32. cryptonx

Posts: 59; Member since: Jan 05, 2016

They said best smartphones. Not abandoned phones.

39. libra89

Posts: 2024; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

It is one of the best smartphone cameras though.

42. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

It still has one of the best cameras ever.

46. pureviewuser

Posts: 501; Member since: Nov 11, 2012

Well I suppose we have to give the androids and iPhones a chance !! Hell my 950xl and even my Nokia 808 would easily slaughter the opposition and I also have a Samsung galaxy s7 but it doesn't stand a chance against those two ABANDONED smartphones.

58. DoggyDangerous

Posts: 1028; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

I hope Foxconn will come up with a pureview tech in nokia branded phones.

62. IAMBLCKJ3ZUS

Posts: 395; Member since: Sep 29, 2015

They're afraid to let the world know lumia 950xl has the best camera. Microsoft is life praise Panos!

76. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Yeah, I was saying that the camera samples for the lumia are more impressive than the S7. The OnePlus is killing it, though. The little refinements to build quality, software, and the great execution of a lot of the aspects makes the 3 feel great. There are many great cameras out there that don't start with "Samsung Galaxy"

9. Barney_stinson

Posts: 672; Member since: May 30, 2016

Op really have some great package this year!! 1+3 just waiting for gold edition!!

10. 27satz

Posts: 158; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

Only site saying 6s+ camera is superior than S7!

11. libra89

Posts: 2024; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Wow, the OnePlus 3 and the HTC 10 are beasts!

13. Konger

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 15, 2016

LMAO, i bought the HTC 10 last week despite the ugly samsung fanboy comments. I'm happy with my HTC, so should anyone with their phones too, even if it's a sammy...

15. Firestorm

Posts: 44; Member since: Jun 27, 2015

I think u all know phonearena just for latest tech news not for reviews.. even a toddler can take better photos than these so called reviewers..

18. manojmcn

Posts: 631; Member since: Jul 16, 2015

The results indicate what happens when an idiot is at the back of the camera even if it has all the best features.

19. legiloca

Posts: 1673; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

Because Samsung didn't win instead it's HTC which I really did NOT expect at all! I mean WOW!! what am not surprised is how many butthurt folks I'm seeing right now. Competition is cool :)

20. kiko007

Posts: 7379; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Good Lord, some of you have no clue what "subjective" means despite being grown men. If you don't agree with the findings, post your own. Otherwise you are simply blowing hot air into an open furnace. Continue to post "OMG biased iPA!" all day and see where that gets you. It sure as hell won't be an apology :D. Speaking of PA: I see you've banned Serpent or whatever. That's all well and good, but there is a much more aggressive troll on the loose here that has slipped past your vision for weeks now. Be more stern when using your banning powers, and be more vigilant as to what actually constitutes "trolling".

37. maherk

Posts: 6522; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

You're the last one to talk about respecting other's opinions. You go on crazy rants at everyone when they dare to criticize Apple. Practice what you preach for buddy, and stop it with your hypocrisy.

53. perfectnine

Posts: 201; Member since: Mar 11, 2016

I have tried convincing people in the comment section. It never works out well. PhoneArena's comment section is one of the funniest I have ever seen. S7 gets top in some comparison- OMG PHONEARENA IS BIASED TOWARDS SAMSUNG. S7 loses in some comparison- HOLY s**t iPA CLEARLY BIASED AGAINST SAMSUNG. Just let these people be. As long as you don't support Samsung, you never will win the argument with them.

70. kiko007

Posts: 7379; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Ain't that the truth lol :D.

23. reza76

Posts: 8; Member since: Jul 15, 2016

Unfotunately, this comparisin is wothless. The writer has not used a DSLR camera as a reference and just stated his opinion. Moreover there is no mention to noise of images and No blined test!!! The scores are tendentious When you look at the images .

54. perfectnine

Posts: 201; Member since: Mar 11, 2016

then just give your own scores lol

134. Niva.

Posts: 434; Member since: Jan 05, 2015

The problem is that when PA did use a DSLR, the phone photos actually looked better. I think they had the DSLR on full auto while completely failing at properly focusing, or choosing zoomed in shots of the sample photos that were clearly out of focus on the DSLR. Based on previous such articles I came to the conclusions that DSLRs should be benchmarked against other DSLRs, in the hands of a PA article writer the DSLR was generally more useless than a phone camera.

24. rsiders

Posts: 1767; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

LG G5 for President 2016!

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