HTC 10 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7, LG G5: low light camera comparison

HTC is back, and it is back with a bang! It finally delivered the no-compromise flagship smartphone we've been hoping to see for the past two years. Not that the HTC One M8 and One M9 were disastrous. Quite the contrary – both were solid smartphones overall, but they were dragged down by a common weakness. As previous comparisons demonstrated, competing high-end phones ran circles around the M8 and M9's underwhelming cameras, especially in low light situations. 

The HTC 10, however, is unlike its predecessors. As you might have read in our HTC 10 review, its camera delivers terrific results, both during daytime and when light conditions are tricky. This should make today's camera comparison quite interesting, to say the least. HTC now has the opportunity to drop its underdog status and establish itself as a formidable force in the camera department. But first, it will have to endure a race against three very capable opponents, namely the iPhone 6s Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S7, and the LG G5.

For today's camera comparison, we've chosen to do things differently. We'll focus solely on these four phones' low-light performance, as that seems like a great way for their cameras to show their potential. Any modern phone can take a decent photo given plentiful light. When light is scarce, however, it takes a quality camera to shoot an image worthy of admiration.

Before we comment on any of the images we took last evening, let us take a look at what these four phones have to offer in terms of specs.

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

Technically, the HTC 10 does not have the most megapixels at its disposal, but this isn't something you should care about anyway. What matters more is that it has the biggest sensor with the biggest pixels. In theory, this should translate to less digital noise and better light sensitivity. The Galaxy S7 stands out with the widest aperture among these four phones, and that is another factor affecting how much light a camera can pick up. Furthermore, we see that all four cameras take advantage of optical image stabilization, allowing them to shoot using longer exposure times, thus absorbing more light. All in all, the HTC does not bring a knife to a gun fight, but its opponents can surely stand their grounds. Let us now see how these four perform in real life.

Note: the high-resolution images in the galleries below are smaller than the originals. We've scaled these down to make them load faster. If you insist on seeing the full-resolution photos and don't mind some of them being over 10MB in size, they're in a separate gallery found at the very end of the article.

Scene 1: The museum


HTC 10 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7, LG G5: low light camera comparison

By the time we arrived downtown, the sun had already set. Street lamps were about to go off as the little remaining sunlight scattered across the sky was weakening by the minute. The moment seemed right to start shooting.

Disappointingly, the HTC 10 couldn't quite handle this first scene well. Its photo lacks exposure, which gives it a gloomy, unnatural look. Besides, the colors are far from accurate, as evident by the purplish hue dominating the sky. The iPhone 6s Plus yielded a photo with better colors, but it could still use some more exposure. The Galaxy S7 got the colors right and exposed the scene enough to accentuate on the museum's façade, but left the shadows overly dark. It looks like the best image overall was produced by the LG G5, which may have overexposed the sky, but has made everything else in the photo appear close to the way it did in real life.

Scene 1: EXIF data
HTC 10iPhone 6s PlusGalaxy S7LG G5
ISOISO250ISO100ISO200ISO400
Shutter speed1/251/81/191/12

HTC 10 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7, LG G5: low light camera comparison


Scene 2: Silhouettes


HTC 10 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7, LG G5: low light camera comparison

It was getting dark quickly, and the streets were starting to look bare. Lights of all kinds were already blending with the twilight when we snapped this set of shots. 

This particular scene was no challenge to the HTC 10, obviously, as it managed to capture a splendid image. Just look at the detail! Sure, the image is a bit grainy from up close due to the higher ISO setting, but we'd take some digital noise over smudged details any day. The iPhone's photo is also looking great. Detail in it isn't quite as sharp, but the image has an overall pleasing, natural look. It is only the Galaxy S7 that managed to mess up the colors by adding too much saturation and not hitting the right white balance. At least details look okay despite the rather aggressive sharpening. As for the LG G5, it is treating us to a very faithful reproduction of the scene – one rich detail and accurate in colors.

Scene 2: EXIF data
HTC 10iPhone 6s PlusGalaxy S7LG G5
ISOISO640ISO100ISO200ISO400
Shutter speed1/141/41/101/11

HTC 10 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7, LG G5: low light camera comparison


Scene 3: At the bar


HTC 10 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7, LG G5: low light camera comparison

It was a long day at the office, so we stopped at a favorite place of ours to chill out, and while doing that, we shot this set of images. Analyzing the HTC 10's photo confirms a pattern that we noticed – its camera is not afraid to shoot at high sensitivity levels. This explains the graininess seen in its image. But the good news is that the noise is tolerable – text on the labels, for instance, is still legible – and the high ISO value allows the HTC 10 to keep its shutter speed high, thus reducing the chance of motion blur spoiling the image. And overall, its image looks presentable. It is not the best in this set, but it looks decent nonetheless.

The iPhone 6s Plus took a slightly darker, duller image, but we'd still rank it above average in quality. There's a good amount of detail preserved in it, if you take a closer look. But the photo from the Galaxy S7 definitely draws more attention. The phone drew in more light to produce a brighter, more vivid image. Same is the case with the LG G5, which captured fine details even better than the S7.

Scene 3: EXIF data
HTC 10iPhone 6s PlusGalaxy S7LG G5
ISOISO3200ISO250ISO1000N/A
Shutter speed1/101/41/101/9

HTC 10 vs iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7, LG G5: low light camera comparison

FEATURED VIDEO

180 Comments

1. bucky

Posts: 3771; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Gotta be honest here, you cant really go wrong with any of these phones in the camera department.

2. tedkord

Posts: 17043; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Yep. It's amazing how far these things have come.

20. 2.5GHz

Posts: 270; Member since: Apr 03, 2016

Espcially amazing how HTC has closed the huge gap which seperated them from Samsung in the photography side of smartphones. Really impressed!

31. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4766; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Would've loved to see Nexus 6P with the rest.

67. TheUnbiasedGuy

Posts: 50; Member since: Apr 21, 2016

I would like note 5 to be added to the mix, to see how previous generation Samsung hold their own against these new guys.

97. vincelongman

Posts: 5585; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

I'm waiting for the 2016 Nexus Lots of reviewers are saying HTC's camera software is still quite inconsistent Would be nice to see HDR+ and the IMX377+OIS+f1.8

78. Jango

Posts: 369; Member since: Oct 24, 2014

The G5 outdid the others. I have the 6P and would have loved to see how it performed

175. WGACA

Posts: 121; Member since: May 08, 2015

Watch some more reviews will ya, like their own blind comparison or ANY other review. And DxOMark.

121. refillable

Posts: 1071; Member since: Mar 10, 2014

That's too kind to HTC. They're still inferior. Anyways, I like how HTC stepped their game but isn't really 'amazing' to be honest.

144. doejon

Posts: 411; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

for me is the s7 still the king of these phones cuz its overall the best cameraphone non of the other phone has the crazy fast focus hands down the s7 destroys every phone on the market when it comes to focus speed ;-) and actually its less noisy then the others (in low light)

155. Beijendorf unregistered

The S7 is "less noisy" because it applies a CRAZY amount of sharpening to the image - to the degree where it actually destroys image information. You're better off getting a photo with gentle noise and clearing it up with proper photo editing software at home if you really feel its necessary.

176. WGACA

Posts: 121; Member since: May 08, 2015

You nobody does that. 99% of pictures taken are for social media and S7 makes them look good instantly and does it for you. That's why it's called a smart phone.

33. bucky

Posts: 3771; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

I know some disagree but I use my phone as the family camera now. Having shared albums between family member, cloud syncing to pc and Apple TV/android box automatically, portability and 2 seconds from pulling it out of your pocket to taking a pic makes it so easy to enjoy photos. I still print out important pictures for albums though.

61. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Google photo do the same you take a picture and all device with google photo or google drive ( pc or mac by example ) you take the picture and everyone can look at it. And wana know what best? its work on all mobile and desktop OS :)

77. Jango

Posts: 369; Member since: Oct 24, 2014

Not forgetting unlimited cloud storage

81. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

When I sold phones my selling point was the fact that they're more than just a phone now. I'd even ask customers when was the last time they bought a wallet with a picture holder in it.

9. hung2900

Posts: 966; Member since: Mar 02, 2012

You're right, but the differences can affect the opinion. There are many points that i can't agree with PA. In scene 4, S7 produced the best photo, sharpest and nice colour to me. In scene 1, I prefer the balance of S7 than the overexposed G5.

29. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4766; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Well, personal preference i guess.

84. valiymt

Posts: 10; Member since: Dec 23, 2015

Wow buddy you have overexposed eyes to say that S7 is natural colors ... Samsung does most processing

100. hung2900

Posts: 966; Member since: Mar 02, 2012

I said scene 4 only, and I say the colour was nice, not natural.

106. dimas

Posts: 3240; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

I think PA should give us the links to raw, sooc files so we can download, compare and see them all in one device, an FHD tablet or maybe a calibrated pc monitor.

177. WGACA

Posts: 121; Member since: May 08, 2015

They won't, because then it would show the S7 is actually the best and they don't want that. iPhone Arena hates Samsung. Always has been that way.

10. shaineql

Posts: 516; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

But like , S7 ALWAYS sharpest , most detailed pic and still low score , wtf ?

13. LikeABauss

Posts: 29; Member since: Mar 03, 2015

I think people often confuse the sharpness of focus with excessive sharpening to the point where it looks unnatural. Some images here the S7 has a sharper focus (a good thing), but in others it goes further and applies an additional level of sharpening in post that look unnatural.

24. 2.5GHz

Posts: 270; Member since: Apr 03, 2016

Yes, also Samsung's colour-boosting algorithm. It makes the S7's photos look nicer, but it's fake and unnatural.

120. refillable

Posts: 1071; Member since: Mar 10, 2014

There is actually no such term as "colour-boosting algorithm", you made that up. It's just saturation and vibrance.

134. 2.5GHz

Posts: 270; Member since: Apr 03, 2016

Okay... But still, you get my point.

172. WGACA

Posts: 121; Member since: May 08, 2015

So when the G5 overexposed and captures an unrealistic scene at night it's a good thing, yet it doesn't work that way for Samsung?

178. WGACA

Posts: 121; Member since: May 08, 2015

S7 colours are often more true to life than the G5. G5 colour sensor often incorrectly compensates.

102. hung2900

Posts: 966; Member since: Mar 02, 2012

Sharpening cannot make the photo more detailed. Details don't lie, it's what the sensor capture.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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