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. 



135. ygorcortes

Posts: 4; Member since: Apr 19, 2016

You didn't even use HDR. What???

133. glenm

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 22, 2016

Does it say anywhere which shots are handheld? If any? With as much as vendors talk about optical vs digital stabilization, some discussion of the real world effectiveness of the approaches would be much appreciated. Also, since we make photos of subjects and are presumably trying to compose the same image, the subjects should be zoomed to the same scale in the side-by-side crops. In my opinion, anyway. For example, in scene 7 the second crop image showing the little flowers .. the Nexus comes across as a really sharp image compared to the Note 5, but the Note 5 crop shows the flowers much larger. If one scales so the flowers are the same size, which is better now? Very good review overall.

129. Coguar

Posts: 6; Member since: Dec 14, 2015

For people that consider the best camera phone, take look at this video:

128. slannmage

Posts: 289; Member since: Mar 26, 2013

The iPhone 6s looks best to me, I'm impressed by the Nexus 6p though.

127. bijak_riyandi

Posts: 3; Member since: Dec 02, 2015

good thing they didn't add Lumia 950/XL because it would single-handedly win the low lights and will be at least on top 3 on daylight photos

124. ogee4life

Posts: 105; Member since: Apr 12, 2014

I take anything from PA with a pinch of salt really. But from the pictures displayed the Nexus 6P is the overall best performer followed by the Samsung and Lg tied respectively. The i phone closely follows then the Moto and Htc coming last. Impressed with the nexus 6p results though, but like i said i don't take much of what PA displays as anything credible. Will need to see more comparison reviews from so many more including you tube videos to say which is the best overall from these.

114. djmuzi

Posts: 23; Member since: Oct 12, 2009

I would say the iPhone 6s wins this hands down. There are phones with wider lenses, more details in 100% view, richer colors and sharper results but the iPhone 6s is the best in terms of dynamic range and overall balance. Look at the sky and the shadows. The iPhone hits the nail perfectly! The sky is rich and blue and the shadows are still visible. The competition blow highlights away and darkens shadows, especially Samsung; too much contrast added in post processing. Sometimes I even would throw my Nokia 808 and my Lumia 1020 in the bin because of a totally bad photo where the 808 captures the sky well but leaves the shadows too dark and adds a cool cast all over the picture and the 1020 concentrates on the shadows and blows the sky and clouds completely away plus adds a yellowish cast which is simply disgusting. My iPhone 6 takes in comparison a not so detailed grainy picture BUT it preserves the sky and leaves the details in the landscape visible enough. Long story short: the most pleasant photos are coming from my iPhone 6. I used to love my 808 and 1020 but the mentioned flaws are too obvious.

113. zakijesk

Posts: 4; Member since: Nov 21, 2015

weird results

112. soldier820

Posts: 115; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

in my opinion the note5 wins

108. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

Truthfully, since 2014, I haven't seen to much advancement in mobile cameras. Their steadily getting better, but, slower than in the past.

107. Baluds

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 18, 2015

WTF.. Why? Sony did not pay enough to have a review?..

106. StreetNerd

Posts: 870; Member since: Dec 08, 2010

waiting for the Lumia 950 XL :)

115. djmuzi

Posts: 23; Member since: Oct 12, 2009

I hope this will be a game changer!

104. johnokl

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 17, 2015

Great article. I would love to see one comparing video quality too. Will that be coming?

97. marcolero

Posts: 18; Member since: Aug 28, 2015


93. najib1312

Posts: 155; Member since: May 08, 2013

3 things missing from this comparison: 1) Portraits of People - since we'll end up taking more photos of people rather than flowers and buildings. It's also easier to compare image quality between different phones with photos of people. 2) Selfie test - I know it's childish but in most occassions we're taking group selfies nowadays. 3) Ease of Use - camera speed, auto mode etc. This is where iPhone triumphs all others with its fast and consistent camera and Sony lacks severely. From my experience, LG phones take the best photos of people. In a wedding, we took thousands of pictures with LG G Pro 2, iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Note 4. And LG took the best shots, not one of them became blurry or shaken and colors were accurate. The shooter is fast too. Samsung cameras have this oversharpening problems like PA mentioned and they're not nice when viewed on computer screen and definitely not that nice (compared to LG) when printed out.

92. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

To be honest all these phones take good pictures. I would look at the other features to decide what fits your needs.

85. cawafuoshi

Posts: 5; Member since: Nov 14, 2015

Have been considering the Moto X Pure as a replacement for my current iPhone but wasn't sure about the camera. To see it doing pretty well and at this price point, I am now considering to custom-built one. Anybody on here who got the Moto X and can confirm its awesomeness (or any drawbacks that stand out that you are considering to get rid of it?)

83. robocopvn

Posts: 504; Member since: Mar 10, 2010

The only tech-page that ranks the Iphone over the note5 and LG G4. Thank you Iphonearena, whenever I need to have a laugh, just go to this website =)) ha ha ha

79. bugsbunny00

Posts: 2267; Member since: Jun 07, 2013

sometimes i just don't trust PA in comparing these high end devices.

84. robocopvn

Posts: 504; Member since: Mar 10, 2010

sometimes ?? =DDD do you mean always ?

77. Amiga1k

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 13, 2015

Nexus 6P Scene 2 should have got 8.0, Moto X sky is blown out! The Nexus has HDR+ I don't think any phone can touch it when when used in low light conditions. Would have been interesting to see it used on scene 5.


Posts: 2819; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

iPhone camera sucks!

73. Fire5

Posts: 315; Member since: Feb 13, 2015

When taking out a winner pro mode always works in favor of LG and Samsung this way makes a big difference in the low light photo quality difference.

68. rsiders

Posts: 2068; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

I'm not even sure why they had to include the HTC One A9 but whatever. All these phones performed admirably and we are becoming so spoiled by the increasing quality of our mobile cameras these days. The Lumia 1020 was a marvel to own. Now I own the LG V10 and I love it even more. You can't go too wrong with any phone these days especially for simple sharing to social media sites. If you want to print photos or garner some acclaim on Flickr though the top tier phones are where you want to go. I love the V10.

102. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

I agree, 95% or even 99% will do well with any flagship this year, its only when you really want to show off, that something like the 1020 shines.

67. arsz3811

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 13, 2015

m5 sensor score is 6.8 z5 has 8.8 in this test

66. TypicalGeek

Posts: 220; Member since: Feb 19, 2015

No Z5 or Lumia 950/XL, and you call it a "Best smartphone camera test"?

101. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Shoot no 950/1520/1020... comparing the 1020 to the note 5 right now in some quick shots I took out at my work, and you can see even now how MP matter when you pull the larger 38MP files from the device. In one shot of head lights, the note 5 is clear, good algorithms and all, but the 1020 actually pulls the groove of the internal headlights in detail compared to a shadow blob on the note 5 picture. And that is evident in all pictures I took between the two. The downside is I love raw files so comparing the 5MP file of the 1020 to the 16MP of Note 5 is a win for the Note. (unless I shoot in 5mp jpeg + 38MPjpeg, vs the raw capture option).

65. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

1 persons opinion is pointless in picking what's best, there's always gonna be that bias, especially on iphonearena. Have a blind camera comparison and have 1000s decide...

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