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.
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.
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?
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.