Apple iPhone 7 Plus vs LG V20
Both are excellent camera phones. Secondary cameras are also great, but different: the wide-angle secondary cam on the V20 captures stunning landscapes, while the telephoto secondary cam on the iPhone is great for portraits.
While processors and other technologies are rapidly improving, it seems that it is the camera department, where we see major improvements and changes in recent years. This year has been particularly fruitful: the iPhone 7 Plus and LG V20 both feature dual rear camera systems, something practically unheard of before. However, their systems also differ substantially: Apple adds a secondary rear camera with 2x zoom and a nice bokeh mode for portraits, while LG’s secondary rear cam goes in the other direction to a super wide viewing angle that allows for stunning landscape pictures.
Technically, here are the camera specs: the iPhone 7 has a 12MP 1/3" main sensor with an f/1.8 28mm (35mm equivalent) lens and a smaller, 12MP 1/3.6” sensor with an f/2.8 56mm lens, while the LG V20 features a larger-than-the iPhone 16MP 1/2.6” main sensor with an f/1.8 29mm lens and a secondary, 8MP 1/3.2” sensor with an f/2.4 12mm lens.
Both phones feature noticeable camera bumps: the iPhone has embraced the bump with a more streamlined design, but the V20 takes the bump to the next level with a huge visor-like design. Early tests show that the glass protecting the whole camera setup on the V20 is easy to shatter, so we recommend extra caution with it.
The camera app on the iPhone 7 Plus is delightfully simple: you can easily tweak exposure, but there are no further manual controls (but there are third-party apps for that). The LG V20 camera app comes with different modes: you can use the similarly simple auto mode, or go for full-on manual controls for maximum flexibility.
What you’ve come here for, however, is to learn not about just specs, but about the actual image quality.
Let’s do this differently this time around: we will comment on a few pictures one by one to point out the differences.
#1: Landscapes: the woods, creating space with a wide-angle camera
We captured a few pictures on our way back from lunch. The office is located just outside the city in an asphalt-laden industrial zone, but there is this small strip of trees that almost looks like you’re in the woods. Color on both pictures here look beautiful: the cold blue winter skies, the warm foliage, it’s a good-looking picture on both phones. However, you can really underline the scale of the place by capturing it all with the secondary camera on the LG V20. The 12mm super wide shooter allows you to capture something that is much more memorable than the regular cameras. Sure, that picture has a ton of distortion at the edges and is not technically as perfectly detailed, but it’s much more impactful.
#2: Portrait mode: one big difference
Let’s jump straight to the iPhone 7 Plus secondary rear camera now. Apple calls it a telephoto lens and bundles it with a Portrait mode that blurs the background to make your subject stand out. In reality, it’s not a telephoto lens in photographic terms, it’s a normal, 56mm lens, where normal in photog’s lingo means that it gives you a perspective close to what your eyes are seeing. While this lens is of little use in landscapes like the previous one, you can use it for people portraits and shots of flowers, pets, toys, and a ton more. It’s particularly good in those cases because a wider lens like the ones usually used on phones distort facial features and make for ugly, oversized noses in portraits (for example).
While you can use it in the regular photo mode, we strongly recommend you use the new Portrait mode. It gives beautiful, creamy backgrounds and makes a dramatic difference. Portraits look stunning. Pets looks stunning. Flowers looks stunning. Portrait mode is technically for portraits, but you can use it for much more. See what it can do in the samples, it really is something special.
When you’re shooting against the sun (you should try to avoid that, but people do it all the time), it’s usually extra hard to get a good image. The reason is that the sun is too bright and it makes all other objects look way too dark. Being able to capture a balanced image where the phone sees that and adjusts accordingly, means that it has a good dynamic range, the ability to capture a lot of subtlety between the very brightest and darkest of an image.
The iPhone is a clear winner here: notice how the V20 makes the building indistinguishable, which turns the image to be almost unusable, while the iPhone judges the situation correctly and produces a good-looking image.
#4: Challenging color: getting the white balance right
While we got good colors on most pictures with both phones, we saw a few pictures, where the LG V20 got confused. The Porsche badge in particular is bad: the V20 made it overly cold, with unappealing and unrealistic colors, while the iPhone was able to get much more pleasing colors. In a few other cases, the LG went for unrealistic, way too cold colors.
The LG supports a wide capture for group selfies, as well as a regular view and it captures fairly good-looking images with pleasing colors. The iPhone lacks a group selfie view, but the regular selfie looks better than what you get on the V20: detail is much sharper, you can actually see the skin detail (while it is almost completely blurred on the V20) color is a bit better balanced, and there is a lot more background blur that is crucial to a good selfie.
The iPhone also has the Live Photos option that captures a moment before and after the image, and animates your otherwise still photograph memories. The V20 lacks such a cool feature.
In terms of video quality, both phones record 4K video at 30 frames per second. The bit-rate on both is around 45 Mbps, but the iPhone has the much better looking footage. Its big advantage is in the faster and more consistent auto-focus that does not hunt for focus, but locks on your subject quickly and changes fast when the situation requires it. Video stabilization is also superior on the iPhone, and overall it does a bit better in terms of detail and has slightly punchier colors. The LG V20 is definitely not far behind, though: it has one of the most pleasant and realistic colors on a smartphone, and unlike many other devices, it does not go for a ton of artificial oversaturation.
Multimedia and sound quality
Hi-res audio will please music professionals, but for the regular users, the difference is almost imperceptible. Then again, the iPhone does not have a 3.5mm jack. #donglelife
The big story about the LG V20 is that it has not one, but four DACs (digital-to-analog converters), a key component for good audio quality, with low noise and less distortion. The audio amplifier inside the V20 is also capable of driving professional-grade headphones, which require a lot of power. This is a nice thing to have, but it will affect mostly audio professionals and enthusiasts that listen to lossless or very high quality audio files on expensive headphones. With regular phones and regular music services, the difference with the iPhone 7 Plus is very hard to notice for the regular user.
It’s also nice that the V20 has three high-performance microphones that are fine-tuned to be able to record loud music without clipping. This makes the V20 a great tool for capturing not just videos, but also the audio at a concert, club or other loud venues.
Apple has a new speaker system in the iPhone 7 Plus: along with the traditional bottom-firing speaker, there is now a secondary, forward-facing speaker built right in the earpiece. This helps make sound louder and more impactful. The LG V20, on the other hand, has a single bottom-firing speaker that provides decent quality, but is a bit less loud and clear than on the iPhone.
Then again, we go back to the lack of a 3.5mm headset jack on the iPhone 7 Plus. It’s an omission that will affect many: those who already have a set of good 3.5mm headphones, those who plug in their phone to the AUX port on their car, or those who play to their home sound system directly via a phone.