Which phone has the best front camera: iPhone 7 vs Galaxy S7 Edge vs LG V20 vs Sony Xperia XZ selfie comparison


It seems that phones have become the main cameras for many people: after all, the main cameras have improved tremendously in the past few years, and hardly anyone wants to carry a big, dedicated camera around.

But there is one more camera on your phone that gets a lot of use and little consideration apart from the mention of how many megapixels it has. Truth is: it does not matter much. What matters more is what a particular phone does with those megapixels, not how many of them are there.

To find out which phone has the best front camera, I got ready for some selfies, practised my best duck face... well, maybe not, but I did take a bunch of pictures with four of the best phones around: the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, the LG V20, and the Sony Xperia XZ. What I will not do here is discuss specs, megapixels and pixel sizes: you can look them up easily on our phones specs page. Instead, let's focus on the actual quality and things that matter like color, dynamic range and detail.

Disclaimer: We have used default settings and this is why the orientation of the images is different. By default, the iPhone and the Xperia show selfies in the correct orientation: what was on your right while you were taking the image appears on your right. The Galaxy and the LG, however, flip the image and show a weird mirror reflection, so that what was on your right when you were taking a picture appears... on your left. Luckily, you can change this in settings for both the Galaxy and LG, but it's strange that it is not the default option.

#1 The grass is greener on the other side



There is not much to be said and analyzed here: it's clear that one image stands out above all the rest. It's the first selfie, the one taken with the iPhone 7 Plus. It has cheerful, lively colors, without going to any extremes to achieve that look. It is just very slightly overexposed, but it's also the only image of these four that we would actually want to share. What about the rest? 

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is the complete opposite: the dull, depressing colors and blotchy skin detail ruin this image and it's not one we would be proud showing to anyone. 

The LG V20 probably does best of all three Android contenders: it has smooth skin tones that liven up the image, but definitely make me look worryingly bleak and there are noticeable dark spots around the edges of the picture. The wide perspective also reveals my extebded hands taking the selfie, which is not something that I ideally would like others to see.

The Sony Xperia XZ does a decent job: it is the only one with face detection for the selfie camera, and this makes a world of a difference to ensure your face is in perfect focus. Unfortunately, it also has depressing colors and trouble with the white balance as colors appear way too cold. Again, resulting in an image we would not want to share around.

#2 Same person, same light: huge difference



Here is one more selfie of the same person, with equal light conditions, but hugely different results. The first image from the iPhone again stands out: it has the right perspective for a selfie, not showing any weird arm extensions, but most importantly, it has balanced exposure and sharp detail. There is a slight natural blur to the background that makes my face stand out as it should. Colors, however, are definitely on the yellow-ish side, but still this is our favorite image of this set.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge disappoints again: it has problems with darker exposure again, the oversharpened look of the image looks artificial and adds blotchy artifacts to my skin, while the background appears as sharp as my face, which makes it confusing: where should the viewers' eyes be focused? 

The LG V20 again does better, but far from great: it does relatively well with the overall exposure of the picture, but whitens my skin strangely and if you look closer, you will find detail lacking.

The Xperia XZ captures a decent, but not great picture here: my face is in focus, but the white balance is clearly too blueish and exposure is too dark.

#3 A difference of perspective



The front camera can be used for a variety of things, but it's hard denying that selfies are its main use. That's where perspective matters: when you want to take a selfie portrait, a wide perspective can ruin the image by showing too much. It's usually your arms stretched towards the camera in some weird position. Technically, it is possible to shoot from very up close with a wide-angle camera, but then your face start to look elongated and images get that unflattering "potato nose" look.

You can see the difference in the field of view of the cameras clearly in this set of images. The iPhone shows a much closer perspective that is perfect for selfie portrait. It focuses on the face, which is what matters.

We shot at the same distance that we consider comfortable for selfie shots and got a picture that shows more of the person taking a selfie. Yes, they also show a lot more around the image: you can see the ground, you can even see the shadow of my legs, but is that really something that you want in a selfie? You have to make up your mind and decide what's right for yourself.

#4 Group selfies



What about group pictures, though? A wider perspective is definitely nice to have in cases where you need to fit more people in the frame. It was just two of us here that fit fine on the iPhone, but if it was a larger group of people, the wider Android phones would have had an advantage.

When it comes to picture quality, though, we see some glaring issues. The Galaxy S7 Edge has harsh detail, blotchy skin detail and a bit of a trouble with darker-than-optimal shadows. It's not a terrible-looking picture, but that's not a compliment we would like to receive for our photos.

The LG V20 has softer look that is more flattering for pictures of people than the harsh and over-sharpened S7 Edge, but it goes in a yellow rage with skin tones, which destroys detail in the faces that are the focus of this picture. Again, it's not downright terrible, but not great either.

The Sony Xperia XZ uses face detection to get sharp focus on the faces and does a good job showing detail and nuance in the face, but the image is noticeably underexposed and skin color is slightly orange.

The iPhone has a bit of a faded-color look to it, but its clearly the best image of the bunch: the exposure is well balanced - both highlights and shadows are preserved - and detail is pleasingly sharp (but not oversharpened).

#5 Look ma, I have a banana head



Looking at these selfies there is only one proper reaction: "Really? Those are real pictures?" Yes, all three Android phones with their wide cameras make your head look disfigured every time you move out of the center of the frame. It's particularly worse with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, where I look like a banana head cartoon hero rather than a real person. The LG and Sony show similar crazy distortions.

Only the iPhone is able to preserve sane proportions in this selfie.

For all else, we see the trends from before: the well-balanced iPhone picture with a slightly faded look; secondly, the unnaturally sharp picture from the S7 Edge with blotchy skin tones and issues with handling of the shadows; thirdly, the bright skin color on the LG V20 with some loss of highlights; and lastly, the Xperia XZ with its perpetual exposure problems and unnatural orange-reddish skin color.

#6 Indoors



While outdoors we saw some truly shocking differences in quality, indoors the differences are less stressful. 

The trends from the earlier images are preserved, but under natural lights all phones handle the less intense shadows and highlights better, and do better with exposure. 

All these indoor selfies actually look good, which cannot be said about many of the outdoor shots.

Conclusion


Image quality is always somewhat subjective and a topic of endless debates, but when the differences are so obvious, one has to admit that some companies have to do some serious job on improving their front cameras.

Do we really need such wide angle selfie cameras in most Android phones? This is one hugely important question for phone camera makers.

But most importantly: more work has to be done on color, the single most quintessential element of photography. When you have dull and depressing colors, it does not make much sense to go and discuss any further details. In many pictures, exposure turned out completely wrong and front cameras seem much more prone to white balance errors. While many are quoting high megapixel numbers, the detail in selfie pictures from the Android phones present is blotched. Phone makers should also seriously consider adding face detection for the front camera: Sony has it and it does wonders to keep our face in focus.

For all else, one thing is clear: the iPhone currently stands clearly above all others. It delivers pleasing pictures with impressive color and sharp detail that one can proudly share. The others differ, but mostly don't live up to the expectations from a high-end phone camera.

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97 Comments

1. tedkord

Posts: 17198; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I guess you've got to take whatever victories you can get.

11. StopTalking

Posts: 69; Member since: Mar 14, 2016

iPhone 7 has the best performance out of any smartphone, which is the most important victory a smartphone can have. Best phone out.

25. sissy246

Posts: 7035; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

LMAO Its not a bad phone, but best LOL

52. chenski

Posts: 755; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

What's your opinion of best phone then?

56. sachouba

Posts: 264; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

Best display, best battery life, best camera, and best features (fast charging, wireless charging, Samsung Pay, Always On Display...). But I guess everyone has their own opinion on this topic. :)

64. sissy246

Posts: 7035; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

sachouba just told you so no need to repeat

28. Awalker

Posts: 1968; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

Does it matter when 99% of users won't notice a difference in performance among flagship phones?

53. chenski

Posts: 755; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

Exactly, I don't even notice performance diff between 810 and 820

96. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

0.1s faster is matter when your phone have huge bezels, low-res, inferior camera (among other flagship), high pricetag, and didn't' have any special feature.... I mean, It's really expensive, so we need to find someting to brag about it, right?

35. tedkord

Posts: 17198; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Not even in your most fevered dreams.

37. robcar

Posts: 110; Member since: Jan 18, 2011

"Performance" is a very general designation. I know there are lots of phone that perform way better i many aspects with a lower price tag and better designed.

42. danny_a2005

Posts: 354; Member since: Oct 06, 2011

Put any of this against pixel, and they suck, even against nexus 6p, in any case this is biased, that field of view of the iPhone is unforgivable due to the price tag, a $1000 phone with that "wide angle lens?" but people buy it anyway. Guess the label is all that matters, for brainwashed people

59. Michigan

Posts: 246; Member since: Nov 19, 2016

Now you've got something to say finally best selfie ever, from apple, kidding me?

61. dazed1

Posts: 789; Member since: Jul 28, 2015

Oh please gtfo with this false claims. iOS 10 is full of stutters and frame drops.

69. Klinton

Posts: 1408; Member since: Oct 24, 2016

The front camera is about wide angle pictures. Right? iPhone is the worst there. V20 and Edge are the best choice for selfie takers. Period. All other ''features'' of iPhone7 are also far behind. Right? About 'performance' of the jackless iPone7 I could give you many proves that it's just a media myth, too. So now could it be best phone. LOL.

82. SmartPhoneMobiles

Posts: 176; Member since: Oct 16, 2016

U so brainwashed same like this site iPhone Arena.. Why the F this iCrap site asking this bullsht article question when they ALREADY have on their shagging phone answer ? I fkin didn't have to read this sht I already knew what they picked.. Which stupid ppl still believe this apple slag site ? Dat poor guy on picture is controlled by apple otherwise he wud end up on streets

87. Martin_Cooper

Posts: 1774; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

iPhone: - Huge 2009 bezels. - Mediocre to s**tty battery life. - s**tty old tech screen. - No always on feature thats extremely useful. - No wireless charging. - No fast charging. - Mono audio recording. Welcome to 2005 Apple. - No audio jack - No real file manager when connected to PC. Transferring images is a mess outside of apple apps. S7 Edge: - Mediocre speaker - Mediocre android skin If a phone has so many negatives, on thing is for sure, its nowhere near being the best.

15. sgodsell

Posts: 7029; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

If you want more content in your selfies shots. Then you do not go with the iPhones, period. Also what's to stop iPhonearena from changing any of these images before they post them. Also if you are doing a test, then you should keep the same position, but a number of these shots you are moving around, which can also effect lighting and balance.

19. sissy246

Posts: 7035; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Agree I will never trust iphonearenas camera test. It wasn't that long ago they did a blind test and readers voted Samsung the winner and then iphonearena did a test and said that was iPhone the winner even though readers said different.

26. phonearenarocks

Posts: 606; Member since: Mar 26, 2015

Absolutely!

39. ctdog4748

Posts: 797; Member since: Mar 05, 2016

Crybabies mad that Apple won. Waaaaa iphonearena!!! LMAO at you fools.

63. sissy246

Posts: 7035; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

You know damn well the blind test done by the readers that Samsung won.

60. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Also, there have a lot of super biased pro-iPhone articles recently. From reasons to buy the iPhone 7 Plus, to s**tty portrait mode demos, to even worse overexposed front camera comparisons (minus the Pixel of course), to seven useless features of Touch ID, etc. Sales must be down again, memo is out to increase exposure (no pun intended) or risk getting on Apple's bad side.

29. Awalker

Posts: 1968; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

I don't think it matters. It comes down to personal preference. In some of those shots I wouldn't have put the iPhone on top.

34. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

I'm not sure why the OnePlus 3T isn't in this selfie shootout...I got mine today, the selfie look great!

2. RoboticEngi

Posts: 1251; Member since: Dec 03, 2014

No wonder This is iphonearena....

8. maherk

Posts: 6749; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

All of a sudden they like saturated pictures, their hypocrisy level is unmatched. Anyways, I think the XZ took the best pictures put of the bunch

55. vincelongman

Posts: 5653; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

And they conveniently left out the Pixel, which destroyed the iPhone 7 in their previous comparison IMO best to worse XZ >> S7 > iP7 >> V20

88. Moses87

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 26, 2016

I agree... And it was not used on 13 mp only 8mp of auto mode

3. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

Victor, are you on Valium? First rule of photography: under-exposed is workable, over-exposed is wasted. The Xperia XZ consistently gave the most detail and the most accurate skin-tones. The iPhone didn't even capture the detail in grass. You must be on some Afghan Kush or something mate. I'm not even a Sonyboi but the bias was astonishing to say the least.

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

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