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
LG G5
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
1/2.3"
1.55 μm
1/3"
1.22 μm
1/2.5"
1.4 μm
1/2.6"
1.12 μm
Focal length
and aperture
26 mm
F1.8
29 mm
F2.2
26mm
F1.7
28 mm
F1.8
Focus and
stabilization
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
1.9
485
293
Apple iPhone 6s Plus 1.6
1.9
485
285
Samsung Galaxy S7 1.5
1.6
315
281
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 1.5
1.6
283
261
HTC 10 2.4
3.2
616
534
LG G5 2.2
2.7
505
480
Huawei P9 2.7
3
No data
No data
Xiaomi Mi 5 2.9
3.5
600
522
Sony Xperia X 1.7
2.2
No data
No data
Apple iPhone SE 2.2
2.5
720
399
Microsoft Lumia 950 XL 2
2
352
307
Google Nexus 6P 2.2
2.9
346
464
Google Nexus 5X 2.8
3.2
623
568

FEATURED VIDEO

43 Comments

1. iushnt

Posts: 3105; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

I am just wowed with s7's overall camera experience

25. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

I'm just amazed that the author is mentally challenged. iPhone SE and Nexus 6P tied at 2.2s and Droid Turbo and Moto XPE both take photos at 2s. Plus half the phones in the list are 2015..

26. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

S7 camera has auto photoshoping included. Personally i dont like the end result. Its get much more realistic when using other third party camera like Camera FV-5 then its really look good for picture. LG G5 still beat it. HTC 10 is about as good but both S7 and HTC 10 have there advantage and disadvantage. for speed the S7 is terribly fast! but speed not everything.

37. mohi315

Posts: 13; Member since: Aug 08, 2013

G5 is the best of all in overall performance

2. Ezio2710

Posts: 548; Member since: Aug 22, 2015

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

5. jellmoo

Posts: 2597; 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 app......you should know this.

7. Charlie2k

Posts: 133; 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)

22. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Launching the iPhone camera from lock screen is actually quit fast.

39. Ezio2710

Posts: 548; Member since: Aug 22, 2015

How ????

42. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Hit the power button and slide the bottom right of the screen up, literally takes less than 3 seconds to open the camera app and take a pic.

12. IAMBLCKJ3ZUS

Posts: 414; Member since: Sep 29, 2015

Lumia 950 or Xperia x because camera button no double tap.

17. ph00ny

Posts: 2033; Member since: May 26, 2011

you make it sound as if double tap is that much slower than hitting a button

28. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Double tap dont work if phone asleep. Physical camera button wake up the lumia 950 directly to camera. dont know for xperia X did not try it. HTC 10 also can open camera with screen closed with double swipe.

36. Codyjack

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 02, 2013

Double tap does work when the phone is asleep. Just checked with my note 5.

32. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

It is, with screen off, you have to unlock then either be waiting with the other hand to tap the camera icon, your take the time to readjust the hand to do so. I tested the 950xl, no fancy equipment, from flat out lock, pressing the camera and snapping off two pics took 5 seconds, give or take +- tenths of a second.

19. Furbal unregistered

Pin the camera (keep from clearing memory on recent apps page), triple tap down button on the G5 and it will take a photo in under 2 seconds easily.

3. darkkjedii

Posts: 31101; 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.

4. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Beyonce sucks!

16. darkkjedii

Posts: 31101; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

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

33. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; 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: 31101; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

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

40. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; 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: 1354; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

Lol... SBey

15. darkkjedii

Posts: 31101; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Lmao! The SBey7.

14. phonearenarocks

Posts: 606; Member since: Mar 26, 2015

Lol!!!

8. Bankz

Posts: 2548; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

GS7 #Monster

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: 17362; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

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

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