Some say that the best camera is the one you have. Perhaps that's why point-and-shoot cameras are on their way to extinction, while smartphone photography is more popular than ever. Smartphones are always at an arm's distance. Dedicated cameras aren't. On top of that, smartphone cameras are fast, easy to use, and take great photos; they've improved dramatically over the past few years, both in quality and features. 

However, while it is clear that most of today's smartphones are very capable shooters, it is not easy to say which one's the best among them. At the same time, most people are very, very interested to know how well a phone's camera performs prior to getting it. Of course, comparing a whole bunch of smartphones to find out which one's camera is best can be hard work. But not too hard for us.

By now you should know where this post is headed. Yup, it is camera comparison time! We've chosen to compare the cameras of six very capable smartphones in attempt to pick the best in the bunch. These are the iPhone 6s Plus, the Google Nexus 6P, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, the LG G4, the Moto X Pure Edition, and the HTC One A9. As far as camera specs go, here is what these phones have to stand their ground with:


And now comes the really interesting part. Let's have a side-by-side look at actual images taken with these six handsets. Keep in mind that we've shot the images for each scene under conditions as identical as possible. However, there could be slight variations in the framing of the shots due to the different aspect ratios, fields of view, and focal lengths of the cameras being compared. 

Scene 1 – the comfy couch



Fun fact: while the Android mascot has no official name, it is internally referred to as Bugdroid. Here we have him resting on our comfy couch, posing for our first test image. Right from the start, we have a trio of phones standing out – the Nexus 6P, the LG G4, and the iPhone 6s Plus. In this particular scene, they have produced images with very good details and mostly realistic colors. We have placed the G4 behind the Nexus for the burned highlights in certain areas and for its slightly overblown colors. The iPhone 6s Plus also stands a point behind, having captured details that are a tad lacking in clarity. 

Surprisingly, the Galaxy Note 5 did not perform as well as we expected it to. Details in its photo could have been clearer and there's some burning going on in lighter areas. Same can be said about the Moto X Pure Edition. It has gone for the highest ISO level of all phones in this comparison, ISO400, which could be an explanation as to why details in its photo are softer. As for the HTC One A9, its image is detailed, but unnaturally cold and with too much contrast.




Scene 2 – the peaceful pathway



Daytime scenes, where natural light is plentiful,should be handled with no troubles by any modern camera. Images in such cases are shot at low ISO and high shutter speed, which results in little noise and lack of motion blur in the produced photo. Sure enough, the cameras we're testing did not disappoint. Or at least most of them didn't.

Overall, the Moto X Pure Edition grabs the cake – details in its photo are nice and clear, colors are rather faithful, and dynamics are handled pretty well. The image from the Galaxy Note 5 is also one our eyes quite like, although a closer inspection shows that the camera has sharpened the image a bit too aggressively, thus hurting fine details. The Nexus 6P has also snapped a really, really pretty picture, with great details and very likable colors.  

The iPhone 6s Plus and the HTC One A9 are presenting us with a slightly different look of the same scene, although the passing clouds could be to blame for that. Color representation aside, both cameras have captured a really good amount of detail.

Surprisingly, the LG G4 did rather poorly in this scene. The image it produced is overexposed and blurry across the right side for some reason. Could this be a glitch related to its OIS setup?




Scene 3 – The honorable hobbymasters



And that's another strike for Motorola's flagship! Overall, the image that the Moto X produced grabbed our attention the most with its pretty, natural colors and plentiful details. Seriously, zoom in on the photo and see for yourself – details are clear across the entire frame and noise is pretty much absent. The iPhone 6s Plus, Note 5, and LG G4 come in close behind Motorola's flagship. All of them have done a great job at capturing the scene faithfully, although there's the noticeable, and a bit too aggressive, sharpening present in the Note 5's image.

Then comes the Nexus 6P. The good thing is that it has captured a very, very detailed photo. The not-so-good news is that the image needs a tad more exposure and its colors are slightly off. And in last place we have the HTC One A9. Its photo looks fine, at least at a glance, but once you zoom in, it becomes clear that details aren't as good-looking as they are in other phones' photos. Besides, colors are somewhat inaccurate, with a slight greenish tone to them. 



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122 Comments

1. bistech

Posts: 59; Member since: Jul 23, 2015

Whoo iphone is always the winner

3. Kratos7

Posts: 62; Member since: May 15, 2015

Which article were you reading???

12. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

The same article, just with Apple colored goggles. Dat Nexus 6P though, Google going from okay to pack leader almost.

49. Penny

Posts: 1858; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

Yeah a coworker just got the 6P...he's taken some really nice shots with it. It especially handles low light a lot better than my Note 5.

89. j2001m

Posts: 3061; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

Sorry I have both (edge plus anyways) and the note 5 is way better in low light and is 100% better in good light

94. greenrolaids

Posts: 56; Member since: Feb 04, 2012

sorry that your a childish troll. 100% better.. f**king child.

137. Emacs244

Posts: 9; Member since: Oct 29, 2015

Sorry, HDR+ makes wonders in lowlight. There's just no hope Note 5 can match it in low light.

136. Kratos7

Posts: 62; Member since: May 15, 2015

Yep. That 6P is no joke.

72. cheetah2k

Posts: 2265; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Wheres the Sony Z5?

80. Jango

Posts: 376; Member since: Oct 24, 2014

Z5 camera is terrible. I'm a Z3 owner who has seen every review online for the Z5 and I feel sorry for them. Now a proud owner of the Nexus P. In fact, they wrongly gave the iPhone the top place in the car park scene with the 4x4. It performed badly, blowing out the sky and not preserving details. What was iPA thinking?

82. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

How so? Camera interface? Post processing issues with the ISP? Just curious.

95. Jango

Posts: 376; Member since: Oct 24, 2014

1. The app is super slow to open up, slow to shoot, slow to open gallery due to background processing of the app 2. The images are often too soft, too cold toned or suffer from loss of detail in some areas. Then there's the pink spot issue on white backgrounds. 3. Multiple shots are required to avoid motion blur and to get that right picture. 4. Videos simply lack too much detail, although their DIS is the best in the industry. 5. At least a few of these above weaknesses have crept into the Z5 camera also. Just check Supersaf, Recombu and Btekt on youtube for real comparisons.

118. ogee4life

Posts: 105; Member since: Apr 12, 2014

Have you seen the reviews with the updated software? go to btekt and get information. All that slow to fire up and slow processing is a thing of the past. It has the overall best quality images and is the undisputed leader in video recording

119. ogee4life

Posts: 105; Member since: Apr 12, 2014

Recombu did a supertest camera comparison and the z5 beat every rival, the s6, the g4 and moto x. I guess u watched another video apart from the one on recombu. I also emply you to search for btekt's video after the camera update and see it has no more issues with slow firing up or processing images.

126. TMach unregistered

Yeah, whatever! Doubt you actually own a Z5......! Hate trolls. The camera on the Z5 Premium, same as the Z5 is super fine but my daily driver is the Nexus 6P as I am absolutely fed up with waiting for updates from OEMs.

117. ogee4life

Posts: 105; Member since: Apr 12, 2014

The Z5 is terrible indeed, u could have fooled us really. I can send u tons of reviews that show it beating all its rivals. So enough with the authoritative comment. That's just your opinion which isn't based on any fact but from only what you have seen according to u.

125. Jango

Posts: 376; Member since: Oct 24, 2014

Actually, all the youtube comparisons of the z5 proves me right, from supersaf, btekt, recombu amongst many others. Now go away, fanboi.

105. crazycompact

Posts: 17; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

LOL Z5 AND LUMIA 950 NOT TESTED, WHY PA?

116. LovesCameras

Posts: 51; Member since: Dec 02, 2015

The bigger picture is that the article is not about the best camera phones at all but the best cameras among the best smartphones. In other words, not any of these is designed for their cameras to be their selling point but one more item in a long list of features. Those interested in camera-centric smartphones and are willing to deal with compromises such as bulkier size and added weight should try the Lumix DMC-CM1, Galaxy K Zoom or Lumia 1020.

134. DialtoneHumm

Posts: 28; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

You just went full retard...

4. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

Funny, I see a three-way tie. And I'm perfectly happy with that.

20. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Not really, in a tie situation the tie breaker us usually the one that took 1st most which would be the 6P. Coincidentally the 6s, 6P, Note 5 tied....very suspicious, as if to please all main groups...hmm

22. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

I would defer to DxOMark, which ranks the S6/Note5 above the 6P followed by the G4. They haven't reviewed the 6S Plus yet though.

35. nodes

Posts: 1160; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

Xperia Z5 the #1 spot is a joke.

37. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

Maybe in manual mode, which PA doesn't test.

44. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Manual mode is much better than superior auto, even of you leave everything on automatic. Why PA refuses to just use this mode astonishes me. And don't say that SA is how most will use the phone, as a single button press will bring you to manual and you can snap away from there without any changes...

69. jckc92

Posts: 29; Member since: Nov 28, 2012

You are right. I bought the Z5 compact and doesn't even compare to my prior LG G4 phone. Laggy, slow to open camera,slow to open picture apps. I'm so glad I didn't sell my G4. Wanna buy a Z5 lol. Take the DxOmark with a grain of salt.

121. ogee4life

Posts: 105; Member since: Apr 12, 2014

if u truly have the z5 as u claim u'll know there's an update which u should have and u won't make these comment. So nice one there trying to deceive others.

120. ogee4life

Posts: 105; Member since: Apr 12, 2014

a joke to you that has limited knowledge

50. Penny

Posts: 1858; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

I prefer real world testing to DxOMark. When you're in the market for a good camera, there is a lot more to consider than pure sensor performance. I'm a Note 5 owner btw, but from what I've personally seen of the 6P, it takes better shots.

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