The best selfie phone: Desire EYE vs Note 4 vs iPhone 6 vs LG G3 vs Xperia Z3 vs Galaxy S5 vs One M8


Check out the 2015 edition of our selfie comparison featuring the Galaxy S6, LG G4, HTC One M9, Sony Xperia Z3, iPhone 6, Note 4, and Nexus 6!


#Selfie


While the self-portrait predates all of us by several centuries, its modern incarnation, the selfie, is, by some accounts, barely a decade or so old. The word "selfie" has been traced all the way back to a forum post from 2002, and it wasn't until 2004 that anybody, reportedly, made use of #selfie (on Flickr). Obviously, the origins of the word are still up for debate, but the important part is that the selfie culture has gone mainstream – at least mainstream enough for the Oxford Dictionaries to not only note a whopping 17,000% spike in usage between 2012 and 2013, but to also formally recognize it as the "international Word of the Year 2013".

When we published our first front-facing camera comparison back in the beginning of this year, we noted that mainstream manufacturers, while paying attention, are not exactly committed as far as selfie cameras are concerned. We can't say that an overwhelming change of landscape took place since, but we're definitely seeing more and more consideration being given to a category that might just end up as a compelling selling point for a certain demographic. Just look at HTC and its all-new Desire EYE, with its 13-megapixel front-facing camera with dual LED flash! The 5-megapixel shooter of its definitive 2014 flagship, the One M8, is also not at all lacking, and Samsung, too, took a step forward by incorporating an unusually high-res, 3.7-megapixel front cam with the Note 4.

Of course, camera resolution is far from a defining attribute when it comes to the overall quality of a snap, and front-facing cams are no exception (though more pixels here are definitely comparatively more welcome). To that end, for the purposes of this selfie camera comparison, we'll be looking at a number of variables (like exposure, color reproduction, detail) and then combine the scores into a singular value that represents the performance of each of our seven contestants. Get to know them by examining the table below.

ResolutionVideoFeatures
HTC Desire EYE13MP1080p@23fpsBeauty shot, Dual camera, Face detection, Voice shutter, Effects, HDR, Anti-shake, Backlight, Lens blur, slow-mo video
Galaxy Note 43.7MP1440p@30fpsBeauty shot, Burst shot, Dual camera/Dual video recording, Selfie panorama, Sound & Shot, Voice shutter, 
iPhone 61.2MP720p@30fpsBurst shot, Face detection, Effects
LG G32.1MP1080p@29fpsBeauty face, Burst shot, Dual camera/Dual video recording, Voice shutter
Xperia Z32.2MP1080p@29fpsBeauty shot, Burst shot, Dual camera, Smile shutter, Image stabilization, HDR, Sound Photo, AR effects,
Galaxy S52.1MP1080p@29fpsBeauty shot, Face detection, Dual camera, Best shot, Burst shot, Image stabilization, Voice shutter, Effects
HTC One M85MP1080p@25fpsBeauty shot, Dual camera, Face detection, Voice shutter, Effects, HDR

Did your homework? Good, let's do this then!

Outdoor selfies: daytime


Let's start with an easy scenario – outdoor selfies during the day when there's abundant light. 

The front-facing shooters of all our contestants capture well-exposed stills with minimal error for the most part, along with sufficient detail. It's not all fine and dandy, though. For example, the Desire EYE captures richly-detailed photos, but color reproduction leaves something to be desired on the whole – overly-red skin tones are an almost inescapable reality. Indeed, the EYE is outdone by another HTC device – the One M8 – which consistently netted the best results outdoors in our experience, with natural color reproduction, plentiful detail, and correct exposure. Also offering great performance across the board is the LG G3, which proves a tad better than the Note 4 thanks to the slightly more natural skin tones it delivers.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Galaxy S5's 2.1-megapixel selfie cam, which has a whole myriad of problems, including severe issues with focus, a tad too high levels of noise, and slightly washed-out colors. Thankfully for Samsung, the iPhone 6 and Xperia Z3 fared even worse: Cupertino's flagship insisted on a sickly-yellow skin tone that is altogether off-putting, while Sony's darling is almost exclusively held back by the nasty purple tinge it introduces to selfies.



Outdoor selfies: nighttime 


So what about if we go to the other extreme and force these tiny cams to perform in the harsh conditions of nighttime? This being a tough category for even the best of rear-facing shooters, we obviously had to lower our expectations and expect disappointment – after all, with the exception of the Desire EYE, every other phone on the list lacks a front-facing LED flash, and it's got two of them.

As you can imagine, this gives HTC's selfie-centric device a very clear and well-deserved advantage, as it makes selfies in previously-unfeasible scenarios possible. This wins the EYE the first spot on our ranking in this category, but keep in mind that it's not flawless. For example, sometimes you're better off turning the flash off, as the camera software algorithms aren't sophisticated enough to factor in for bright sources of light in the far background. 

Second and third on our list are the Note 4 and the LG G3, the second of which handles bright light sources during the night quite poorly. Last on the list, again, sit the Xperia Z3, the Galaxy S5, and the iPhone 6, respectively. Quite frankly, the iPhone handles color reproduction surprisingly well in such challenging conditions, but its teeny-tiny sensor just cannot capture enough light, handicapping the resulting photos in the process.



Indoor selfies: medium and low light


After freezing our behinds off, we thought it's time we went inside for the next part of our examination – performance in limited and very low light conditions. It meant a clean slate for all our contestants and another shot at proving what they're made of. We're happy to note that several of them took that the opportunity to shine.

The prime example here is the iPhone 6, which, despite its poor outdoors showing in terms of color reproduction, feels right at home indoors. Indeed, Apple's new flagship impressed with spot-on color reproduction in both decently- and poorly-lit environments, earning itself a sizable lead specifically in the latter scenario. 

The HTC Desire EYE proved to be the runner-up – its shooter, too, offers natural colors and its flash is a welcome side-kick in some scenarios (though we prefer to keep it off in others). As before, the amount of detail offered by its 13 megs is second to none.

The Note 4 and the One M8 landed next, with the former disappointing a bit after its overall encouraging performance so far. Still, the overall pale colors of the Note 4's selfies were preferable to the sometimes overpowering artifacts plugged in by the One M8 at the corner of images. Were it not for its dreadfully-soft low light and color-incorrect selfies, the G3 would have had a better chance landing near the aforementioned two, but, alas, that is not the case.

Lastly, based on the images the Xperia Z3 and the Galaxy S5 produced, it should be no surprise to see them finish last – the Z3 again has critical problems with color reproduction, while the Galaxy S5 continues to struggle with what are, objectively, two of its camera's defining "features": washed-out colors and impotent focus.




Field of view and its importance



Whether you call it a usie, wefie, or groufie (careful, Huawei might object!), the appeal of snapping group selfies (perhaps we should just call it that) is there. Unfortunately, save for the Galaxy Note 4, no other phone on our list has the ability to shoot panoramas with the front-facing camera. And even if they all did, one could argue that having a wide-angled lens for selfies is still beneficial. Just ask Jarred Leto.

Anyways, with the exception of the HTC Desire EYE, the HTC One M8, and the Apple iPhone 6, who churn out 4:3 snaps, all other phones in our comparison shoot in a 16:9 aspect ratio when using their marketed resolution. But there's more to it – their cameras also have different (sometimes vastly) field of views, or, in other words, can capture relatively less or more of the scene in front of them in a single snap. 

A clear victor emerged from our tests, and that's the One M8, challenged only by the Desire EYE – HTC is keeping it in the family. The rest are essentially stacked in pairs of two – the Galaxy S5 and Note 4 are bunched up together and occupy the third and fourth spot in our ranking, and so are the iPhone 6 and Xperia Z3 (who finish last). The LG G3 sits somewhere in the middle of those two pairs.

Video


Snapping selfies might have turned into a commonplace activity, but taking video with the front-facing camera isn't quite so popular an option. Nevertheless, folks still use the camcorder for video calls and vloggers are also tapping it frequently. Besides, so long as we're going in-depth, it makes sense that we test this aspect, too, though do have in mind that we're keeping these scores separate from the conclusive rank list at the end of the piece.

So, video capture. First off, let's start by pointing out the two outliers here: the Note 4, which shoots in 1440p, and the iPhone 6, which is still stuck at 720p. The rest of our contestants all produce 1080p footage. The frame rate at which video is taken also differs in some cases, with the Desire EYE only capturing 23 framers per second (FPS), while most others do 30 frames.

As for overall quality, we've got to give it to the HTC One M8 (which does 25 FPS), for it juggles exposure well, renders natural colors, and captures rich details and sound. The iPhone 6, despite its 720p clips, landed second, for it, too, managed exposure expertly, all the while checking the rest of the boxes as well. The bronze was grabbed by the Note 4, which manages exposure very well, but excellently.

Next up, we have the Desire EYE and the LG G3, both of which perform equally well. Last on our list are the Galaxy S5 and the Xperia Z3, as both exhibited the same kind of issues that were impossible to miss in the previous sections: issues with focus and relatively washed-out colors with the former and aggressively-tinted (purplish) footage with the latter, which also proved to have the greatest troubles with sound recording. Take a look and see for yourself.



Conclusion and final thoughts


So where does all of this leave us? With the Desire EYE on the top, that's where. Indeed, HTC's selfie-maniac of a child proved well-equipped to handle pretty much each and every scenario we threw at it, and you can expect the same. It shines with its incredible level of detail and great low light performance, and this second part has a lot to do with its dual LED flash. 

But details aren't everything, and the Note 4 showcased as much time and time again. Some of you might be tired of hearing this, but keep in mind that most people will be looking at your otherwise super-detailed selfies through a tiny window on Facebook, and an even smaller one on Instagram and Twitter – the three most likely destinations for your selfies, all of which compress your photos, too. This notion is further cemented by the One M8 and its relatively high-res, 5-megapixel cam. Admittedly, the M8 performs admirably, but it still does have some issues with bright light sources during the night and its shots are not immune to errors when light is limited. In other words, its high-res sensor alone was not enough to ensure the silver.

The LG G3 and iPhone 6 landed fourth and fifth, respectively, and that's not surprising, for the two offer middling performance overall. The exception here is the G3's great sound quality during video capture, while the iPhone 6 impresses with the shots it pulls off indoors. As for the last two slots, those are occupied by the Galaxy S5 and the Xperia Z3, and deservedly so. The truth is that even when they were on their best behavior, they still simply produced unpleasant photos that have little to no appeal and will likely end up in your gallery's trash bin. 

And with that, ladies and gents, we conclude our overview of the present state of affairs. Discuss!

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56 Comments

1. nwright94

Posts: 211; Member since: Oct 14, 2014

Note 4 didn't do bad for a 3.7 mp camera when there's others higher than it. I don't use it often on my Note, but when I do it looks great.

30. steodoreben

Posts: 379; Member since: Sep 26, 2013

Have you seen the author's stank face on Samsung GALAXY Note 4 and LG G3. He's not fond of these devices. You can tell. HAHAHA! XD

60. newsman

Posts: 21; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

Development of new technologies is certainly striking, I do not think so soon will create a new model, I pokamist except that this model seen last favewallpapers.com/66053-night-computer-wallpaper-​laptop-keys-nikon-grey-black.html

2. mixedfish

Posts: 1563; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

I've used the front facing camera 3 times, once for every new phone I buy. That's as useful as it gets.

10. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

Every time I use front facing camera is when my gf wants to take selfie together. Other than that, I never use it. Front facing cameras are for teens and girls....

19. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

The main time I use the front camera is for Face Unlock Face Unlock on Lollipop is really fast and convenient Only problem is it doesn't work at night, but that's not as much of problem now with Trusted Places

28. srgonu

Posts: 565; Member since: Feb 13, 2012

I use dual cameras on my note 3 when taking pics with my kids and use front camera for webex (office) and hangouts with parents and siblings. For me good cameras on both sides are important.

3. fouadqr

Posts: 326; Member since: Nov 21, 2012

730 ..

21. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

Oppo N3!

22. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

ZTE Nubia Z7!

4. Derekjeter

Posts: 1546; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Front facing camera is for ladies only. There's no need for it. I don't remember the last time I used it. My 6 plus ans my Note 4 take really good pictures. Each have their good and bad. I Love having best of both. Side note: remember when all the android/ Samsung fans used to say the Galaxy S5 had the best camera? Lol. It never did. Not until the Note 4 did Samsung have a horse in the camera race.

7. ManusImperceptus

Posts: 724; Member since: Jun 10, 2014

Actually, the S5 DID have the best camera on an Android phone in it's time. Bested the iPhone 4 and 5 as well... Only the Nokia 808, the Lumia 1520, and later the 930/1520 could put it in it's place.

17. UglyFrank

Posts: 2194; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

I don't see the hype behind the lumia 1520/930, they only beat the S5 in low light.

24. SemperFiV12

Posts: 949; Member since: Nov 09, 2010

No my friend... not "only".

61. jojon

Posts: 435; Member since: Feb 11, 2014

...really Frank..?

8. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

i use the ffc when taking pictures with family members or friends. I use it roughly the same as I use the rear camera. Sidenote: S5 DID have one hell of a camera at launch.

5. nenadmitrovic

Posts: 64; Member since: Aug 01, 2014

Lumia should be there

45. runzlord

Posts: 245; Member since: Oct 13, 2013

phonearena are gradually avoiding wp. most comparisations of nowadays has no lumia in it

6. ManusImperceptus

Posts: 724; Member since: Jun 10, 2014

Yeah, no need to feature the Lumia 730... After all, it only sports 5 mp with a wide-angle f2,4 aperture and superior algorithms... Lets just ignore that! Tsk, tsk...

9. pitzy

Posts: 42; Member since: May 15, 2014

have anyone listened how natural and real is the sound recorded by the note 4 and s5? there are the only phones where you can listen the wind and the footsteps on the leafs. Nice!

12. ManusImperceptus

Posts: 724; Member since: Jun 10, 2014

You obviously haven't tried Nokia's rich recording tech... Nokia's stereo recording is the only one I'd trust during a concert!

11. Atrixboyyy

Posts: 613; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

It's all good my Z3 wasn't meant for selfies.

32. RajRicardo

Posts: 502; Member since: Feb 28, 2014

I have the Z3 :( Even the rear camera sucks :( :'( Why Sony Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!

34. Atrixboyyy

Posts: 613; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

Lol your buggin the rear camera is amazing you probably got bad photography taste or can't shoot.

36. RajRicardo

Posts: 502; Member since: Feb 28, 2014

No. I'm talking about the superior auto mode. Sony did mess it up. My friend has a MI3 and frankly speaking, it takes better photos. :( I agree that it's amazing but the algorithms are a bit messed up. Sony needs to fix it.

37. Atrixboyyy

Posts: 613; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

SA is simply for people who can't or don't know how to use manual everyone knows they screwed up SA mode but that doesnt equal a bad camera. Like I said "or can't shoot". They'll never fix those algorithms

13. Tycoon

Posts: 28; Member since: Nov 10, 2010

I think the iPhone now has the capability of taking pictures by using the volume buttons and I know I can do it on Android with apps such as Snap Camera and Camera Zoom FX. Yeah, I know that I can't see myself, but it's not that hard to know where my face is and since I know how to smile (or not), I generally use the rear camera so I can get a higher quality picture. I do like that high end phones are trending towards higher megapixels on the front. I'd love to see a minimum of a wide angled 5MP for the front facing cameras in 2015, but make sure that the aperture is more than adequate to ensure we get lots of light coming in for better pictures. I'd hope for at least an F1.4 aperture.

20. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

The stock Google camera has had that for a while now, most OEM camera apps have had that for even longer

14. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

You call that a selfie?http://i496.photobucket.com/albums/rr325/BattleBrat/Mobile%20Uploads/IMG_20140917_111507_PerfectlyClear0001_1_zpsfheusphi.jpg Narrow depth of field selfie, front camera of an HTC M8. Thats a selfie!

23. hallihallo.87

Posts: 54; Member since: Jul 07, 2014

But a hell of a face ;)

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

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