Fastest camera phones in 2016: quickest to take a picture

These days a smartphone camera is judged not only by the quality of the pictures, but - because you always have your phone in your pocket and can capture those impromptu moments - by how fast you launch the camera and take a picture.

After all, photography is a lot about capturing that one special moment, and those moments tend to last a very short time.

And after you've read all of our detailed camera comparison and reviews, if you are serious about your mobile photography, speed will probably be your last, but not least important, concern. That's why we've put all the important phones from the major phone makers through a custom test that we traditionally perform: we measure the time it takes to take a picture. We use a phone that is unlocked and from the home screen, we tap on the camera icon, wait for the phone to focus and tap to focus. We measure this tens of times to get an accurate average result and the method is equally effective on both iPhones and Android devices.

Now that you know how we test, it's time to take a look at the fastest camera phones so far in 2016.

Camera Specs
HTC 10iPhone 6s PlusSamsung
Galaxy S7
Resolution and
aspect ratio
12MP @ 4:3
4000 x 3000 pixels
12MP @ 4:3
4032 x 3024 pixels
12MP @ 4:3
4032 x 3024 pixels
16MP @ 16:9
5312 x 2988 pixels
Sensor and
pixel size
1.55 μm
1.22 μm
1.4 μm
1.12 μm
Focal length
and aperture
26 mm
29 mm
28 mm
Focus and
Laser AF
Optical stabilization
Phase detection AF
Optical stabilization
Dual Pixel AF
Optical stabilization
Laser AF
Optical stabilization

#1: Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

Unsurprisingly, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge ran away with the victory in our test for the smartest camera on a phone so far in 2016. They were just a bit faster than their iPhone rivals, as they were able to capture a picture in just 1.5 seconds. Quite notably, it took just a bit longer - 1.6 seconds - to capture a high-dynamic range (HDR) picture. Both the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge were identically fast and that's really no surprise, as both phones run on the same system chip, the Snapdragon 820. It's also important to know that Samsung is keeping its camera app in system memory at all times, a neat idea that saves quite a lot of time when starting the application. It also allows the Quick Launch feature, where you double click the home key to start the camera from any place in the interface. So far, this is the fastest and most enjoyable way to start the camera on any phone. Kudos, Samsung!

We also measured the speed of image capture in very challenging conditions: in a very dark room (brightness level of just 2 lux), we took the Galaxy S7 to the test, comparing it against the Apple iPhone 6s. The Galaxy S7 was noticeably quicker to focus: it took it just an average of 2 seconds to focus, while the iPhone 6s averaged 2.6 seconds.

#2: Apple iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

Then, there are the iPhones. The world's most popular smartphone has long captured leading ranks with its fast and reliable camera, but this year it has stepped down from its leading position.

It's still a close runner-up, taking fractions of a second longer than the Samsung Galaxy S7 family with camera speeds, but as we've already told you that difference gets multiplied in challenging lighting conditions.

We miss having the double-click to launch camera shortcut on the iPhone. It still has the camera shortcut in Control Center as well as from the lockscreen, but nothing feels as fast as Samsung's Quick Launch feature. It's also worth pointing out that the iPhone 6s Plus is a tad bit faster than the regular-sized iPhone 6s when it comes to camera speeds.

#3: Sony Xperia X

Quite surprisingly, Sony has managed to secure a top spot with its new Xperia X. Sony's new phone, equipped with a 23-megapixel camera, takes quite a while to start when you use the physical shutter key, but if you just tap on the camera icon it tends to open faster. It's a close runner-up to the leading phones out there, but we still find many issues in its camera interface that are in a need for a polish (the camera interface does not rotate as you rotate the phone, there is no dedicated video recording button, and so on). You can read all about its camera performance and issues in our detailed Xperia X review.

#4: Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

Another surprise comes from the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL. The Windows 10-based smartphones is at the top of the fastest camera list, despite the fact that it is not being actively promoted by Microsoft and despite the grim situation around Microsoft's mobile platform. The Lumia camera has long had huge ambitions, but we found high-performance cameras like the iconic Lumia 1020 to be depressingly slow. We're happy to see that Microsoft has ironed out all those speed issues.

#5: The big tie: Nexus 6P / iPhone SE / LG G5

We measured an average time of 2.2 seconds to take a picture on not one or two, but all three phones: the Nexus 6P, iPhone SE and LG's G5. All are noticeably slower than the leading Samsung phones and iPhones when it comes to camera speeds and all are fighting for the fifth spot in this ranking.

The Nexus 6P has the neat new double click the lock key to start the camera shortcut, but it's quite poorly executed: the phone produces a loud and annoying vibration when you use that shortcut, so much so that it's disturbing.

The iPhone SE, on its part, has the typical Apple camera interface and speeds with no surprises, while the LG G5 scores on par with the above two with its interesting new dual camera setup.

Taking a pic Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec) Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6s 1.7
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 1.6
Samsung Galaxy S7 1.5
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 1.5
HTC 10 2.4
LG G5 2.2
Huawei P9 2.7
No data
No data
Xiaomi Mi 5 2.9
Sony Xperia X 1.7
No data
No data
Apple iPhone SE 2.2
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL 2
Google Nexus 6P 2.2
Google Nexus 5X 2.8



43. Remmy

Posts: 191; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

Can you re-test the Z5 with Marshmallow?

41. MingLiangChen

Posts: 329; Member since: Jul 06, 2012

Twisting to launch camera is by far the most exciting way of starting the application! XD

35. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

Why would the SE be slower in camera VS the iPhone 6S when it has the same camera and same processor??? What the hell!! Are you sure you guys din't use an iPhone 5S instead by mistake because this makes no sense!!

21. HomerS

Posts: 419; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

What does the Camspeed score measure?

31. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

I think its measure the speed to open the app and take first picture but also the time its take between pictures i might be wrong..

20. gadgeteer

Posts: 45; Member since: Sep 06, 2014

At pains to justify the iPhone.

18. Sidewinder

Posts: 515; Member since: Jan 15, 2015

Shouldn't it be 'lower is better' for the cam speed score with and without flash?

11. Bankz

Posts: 2555; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

GS7 #Monster

10. Eraman

Posts: 164; Member since: Dec 13, 2015

Really?? My Z30 take a picture in less than 2.2 seconds and I found PA said here that it needs 4 seconds !! WTH!?

23. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

No idea.

30. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Well you cant take the information from a biased website at truth. They will always put Apple and samsung first here by example. Even if other OEM beats them they will lie about it... Still its a good source of info if like me you compare with other tech review website and look at comments you can easily see when its biased and when its not.

9. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Where are the pics? The speed test only answers a small portion of the question. Does the images look good?

13. tedkord

Posts: 17544; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

They've done several comparisons. The S7 generally tops the list, but they're close.

24. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

Interviewer: Your resume says, You are quick at maths, what's 19x17? Me: 36 Interviewer: that's not even close. Me but It was quick, right?

29. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Around the web the G5 usually top the list followed by the S7. Nice try ;)

8. Bankz

Posts: 2555; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

GS7 #Monster

3. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I can't even focus on the S7 Edge's camera, due to being totally blinded by its beauty. That phone is smoking hot. I'll call it the Beyoncé phone.


Posts: 2819; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Beyonce sucks!

16. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Didn't comment on her performances idiot. I insinuated she's hot!


Posts: 2819; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

I know you insinuated that you dummy, and that's why I said she sucks! Have you seen her without make-up and hair.......yes she has fake hair! I would run like hell she is totally a dude!

38. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Bad attempt at a comeback. Your dumb ass got owned.


Posts: 2819; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Hahah I would say the same......because deep down inside you know that beyonce sucks.......she is just a hype! But no worries everyone can have a own opinion!

6. PhoneCritic

Posts: 1382; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

Lol... SBey

15. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Lmao! The SBey7.

14. phonearenarocks

Posts: 607; Member since: Mar 26, 2015


2. Ezio2710

Posts: 548; Member since: Aug 22, 2015

Which phone takes fastest photo from lockscreen( while screen is off)

5. jellmoo

Posts: 2714; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Can't say for sure, but my guess is S7/S7 edge. Double tapping home opens the camera ridiculously fast.

27. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Jellmoo double tapping home screen dont open camera if phone is asleep... so you have to wake it up first. From sleep i would say probably the HTC 10 because with a double swipe down on the screen ( even if its sleeping ) its will boot up camera in less than 1.5 sec and then take its picture. Its slower than S7 to take the picture but would be faster overall ( from sleep to the picture taken )

34. joeytaylor

Posts: 957; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

Double tap the S7 from sleep opens the camera should know this.

7. Charlie2k

Posts: 180; Member since: Jan 11, 2016

This is the most interesting question. Victor is talking about how important speed is for serious photographers - by testing from unlocked phones. But WHO carries their phone unlocked? Test with locked phones and see which phone's the fastest. THAT's what matter. (guessing it won't happen, iPhones too slow)

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