The great thing about a smartphone is that you can leave a lot of paperwork and electronics at home and always have it at hand in your pocket: for example as a music player, agenda, reader, calculator... or as a camera. A good smartphone has long since surpassed the compact camera, but which phone serves as the best replacement for your outdated camera? I tested the best smartphone cameras of the moment.
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With the exception of Apple, major manufacturers release their latest top devices in the spring, with one crowing marketing texts even louder than the other. However, there is only one way to find out which phone takes the camera roll the best. So I went with the smartphones that impressed me the most in individual tests, namely Apple's iPhone 7 Plus, LG G6, Samsung Galaxy S8 and Huawei P10.
There are quite a few dropouts on the list. Sony and HTC, for example, who unfortunately can no longer keep up with the competition with their latest top devices - although HTC will soon present a new smartphone, which unfortunately we could no longer include in this test. OnePlus and Motorola, who offer a smartphone with a more than excellent camera for a much better price. The Google Pixel and Chinaphones, which only have to be imported very laboriously at extra cost because they are not available here. Or last year's top devices, where the Galaxy S7 effortlessly shot the best pictures, followed at a great distance by LG's G5 and the Huawei P9. Despite the fact that the aforementioned devices all have a neat camera, it would still result in some skewed proportions, while I am looking for the answer to the question of what the best smartphone camera is at the moment.
To properly test the cameras of the devices, I went out and put them to the test by shooting the same photos with each device in different lighting situations. In the sun, against the sun, cloudy, in the evening, with moving objects... landscape, macro and portrait photography. But of course also indoors, during the day and in the evening. And don't forget the flash!
To keep the photos as fair as possible, I turned off all the frills in the camera apps, only turned on the HDR function on all devices in some situations. Of course, as an advanced photographer, you can play around with sliders to fine-tune the exposure and other things for the photo. I have not done that, to keep the situation as realistic and comparable as possible, I have set the recording function to automatic on every device, so that the device itself determines what produces the best result. Also, I don't have any photography or editing apps installed.
That in any case guarantees a lot of pictures. Which can be compared on a good monitor, on color reproduction, contrast, dynamic range, detail, motion blur, noise, focus, and so on.
In this test, I emphasized the primary camera(s) on the back of the device. The camera on the front of the device is a lot less advanced and has a fixed focus distance, on other nearby objects than a face, this camera usually does not have to aim. Samsung stands out with some dull Snapchat-like filters. The Huawei P10 has a portrait mode enabled by default, with which the device softens the background and polishes the facial tones. The results look a bit plastic, unfortunately this function is always on when you activate the front camera of the P10.
Apple iPhone 7 PlusSensor 12 megapixel dual cam
Pixel size 1.3 m
diaphragm f/1.8 and f/2.8
Review 9 Score 90 When I went out for a similar test a year ago with the best smartphones of the moment, the iPhone scored remarkably poorly. Less than the other three lenses I'm testing this year. With the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple has in any case made significant progress. The device has a double camera, which is used quite innovatively. However, this dual camera is not present on the regular iPhone 7, so for the best iPhone camera you should go for the plus-size model. The problem with cameras in smartphones is that devices are too thin to allow a zoom lens to fit into the housing. Only digital zoom is possible, which is basically the same as zooming in on a photo. Apple has ingeniously used its dual camera to bring a kind of optical zoom: the dual camera consists of a wide-angle lens and a regular lens. By default, the wide angle is addressed, but when you press the zoom button, it jumps to the regular lens. Incidentally, when making images, both cameras are used for the end result. This can be seen, for example, in portrait mode, where the depth is perceptible thanks to the two lenses in front of the device, and is used to blur the background. Thanks in part to the realistic color reproduction and the many details, the iPhone 7 Plus is the best smartphone for photographing people. The iPhone's camera app is simple, it mainly wants to determine the best ISO values for you? Shutter speed? raw? Forget it. You can turn the flash on or off, turn on HDR, choose a color filter and turn on a timer, but that's about it. A shame, because that makes the iPhone a point-and-click device, while it has more to offer. In the dark colors appear a bit faded. Despite this, the iPhone 7 Plus is always able to deliver an impressively good photo, with little motion blur. Apple has made quite a bit of catching up when it comes to cameras!
Aim and shoot
Huawei P10Sensor 20 and 12 megapixel dual cam
9 Score 90
When I went out for a similar test a year ago with the best smartphones of the moment, the iPhone scored remarkably poorly. Less than the other three lenses I'm testing this year. With the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple has in any case made significant progress. The device has a double camera, which is used quite innovatively. However, this dual camera is not present on the regular iPhone 7, so for the best iPhone camera you should go for the plus-size model.
The problem with cameras in smartphones is that devices are too thin to allow a zoom lens to fit into the housing. Only digital zoom is possible, which is basically the same as zooming in on a photo. Apple has ingeniously used its dual camera to bring a kind of optical zoom: the dual camera consists of a wide-angle lens and a regular lens. By default, the wide angle is addressed, but when you press the zoom button, it jumps to the regular lens. Incidentally, when making images, both cameras are used for the end result. This can be seen, for example, in portrait mode, where the depth is perceptible thanks to the two lenses in front of the device, and is used to blur the background. Thanks in part to the realistic color reproduction and the many details, the iPhone 7 Plus is the best smartphone for photographing people.
The iPhone's camera app is simple, it mainly wants to determine the best ISO values for you? Shutter speed? raw? Forget it. You can turn the flash on or off, turn on HDR, choose a color filter and turn on a timer, but that's about it. A shame, because that makes the iPhone a point-and-click device, while it has more to offer. In the dark colors appear a bit faded. Despite this, the iPhone 7 Plus is always able to deliver an impressively good photo, with little motion blur. Apple has made quite a bit of catching up when it comes to cameras!
Pixel size 1.25 m
Review 6 Score 60
- Dynamic range
- Pro mode
- Weak in low light
- Manual mode selection
The Huawei P10 also uses a double camera, but the technology behind it differs considerably compared to the other two double-sighted smartphones. A regular lens and a monochrome lens work together to produce a photo. The monochrome lens would allow the device to better analyze depth and improve contrast and detail. You don't have to worry about that with the P10. The device is capable of shooting beautiful pictures very quickly, where contrast, sharpness and color transition are indeed fine. It is also definitely worth trying out just the monochrome camera.
However, the P10 scores remarkably weak when the light becomes scarce. Outdoors, but especially indoors. Dark areas, little detail and a lot of motion blur because the camera has to use a slower shutter speed to capture more light. To test it out, I went to a concert with the P10, where all my photos failed. Even when I activated the night mode, which meant that there was more to see, but also more shutter lag occurred, resulting in even more motion blur. The results were even more disappointing than the photos of my own Nexus 6P, which is another (older) Huawei smartphone. That could have to do with the higher aperture of the lenses (the lower the aperture, the more light the lens captures) of the P10. But I suspect that Huawei can put things right with a software update.
Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the dual camera can make use of depth, allowing you to blur the background in portrait mode. This works nice, but is certainly not as good as Apple's. You will see all setting options when you swipe the camera image to the right. It is a pity, however, that the HDR and night mode are not activated automatically, but must be done manually. As a result, you quickly have the idea that you are not always using the right mode for your photo. When you swipe up the camera image, you have advanced settings available at lightning speed, for setting, for example, the white balance, light sensitivity and shutter speed.
Two eyes see more
LG G6Sensor 13 megapixel dual cam
Pixel size 1.12 m
diaphragm f/1.8 and f/2.4
Review 8 Score 80
- wide angle
- Focus camera
- Low-quality wide-angle lens
The LG device is the thickest of the four. In terms of design, you score fewer points with this, but when you tilt the device to take photos, you have a much better grip. The only thing that would complete this is a shutter button.
Like its predecessor, the G6 has a dual camera, one with a wide-angle lens and one with a lens with a very narrow viewing angle. LG doesn't use this quite like Apple to mimic an optical zoom. The wide angle is used as standard and with a button at the top of the camera app you can immediately switch lenses. Incidentally, it also switches when zooming in and out.
LG still lives up to its good reputation with the G6 (after all, the G4 was declared the best camera phone two years ago). When I tested the camera, I still preferred the camera with the small viewing angle, where photos came out a bit better. With wide-angle photos, I often suffered from some noise and a somewhat less dynamic range. But especially in low-light situations, the wide angle falls short. Moreover, with this lens there is (inevitably) some curvature: the photo seems to walk around a bit. The other extreme occurs with the focused lens, where you get less in the picture with your camera at the same height than the other devices. This small viewer can also take better photos with less noise in more difficult lighting conditions.
Like the previous two camera tests, LG's camera app offers the best options for advanced photographers. HDR can be adjusted automatically and many advanced settings can be adjusted manually. Shutter speed, white balance, focus: it's all adjustable and individually set to automatic. In addition, you have everything set up very quickly. Because you can also shoot in RAW, you can even post-process this to your liking.
Samsung Galaxy S8Sensor 12 megapixels
Pixel size 1.22 m
Review 9 Score 90
- Beautiful colours
- Setting options
- Strong in low light
- All round good
- Bixby and filter buttons
- Colors sometimes a bit saturated
Last year it was very boring to test the cameras of smartphones. The Galaxy S7 won by far the best on all fronts, especially due to the low aperture, the camera was extremely well able to shoot beautiful photos in low-light conditions. Compared to its predecessor, the camera of the S8 has not changed much and has improved slightly here and there. While the competition is now catching up with its double camera violence. It is not enough to knock Samsung off the throne, but especially compared to the iPhone 7 Plus it is no longer so easy to designate an absolute test winner.
The difference in dark environments with the iPhone is striking. The Galaxy S8 photos are a lot warmer and more detailed, while the photos from the iPhone look a bit whiter and have less noise. Although the photos look quite different, you can't really say which photo comes out best. However, if you want to shoot the best pictures all-round, then you will return to the Samsung Galaxy. Colors are slightly saturated, but that makes them really splash off your screen. The beautiful (curved) AMOLED screen of the device also helps of course. But also in terms of detail and sharpness, the double-sighted competitors can't keep up yet, that difference becomes clear with macro photography.
The Galaxy S8 automatically takes good photos, where the device itself is already able to apply HDR when it deems it necessary. But advanced photographers also have all the advanced camera settings at hand with a swipe on the screen. In that respect, too, this smartphone is more suitable for photographers than the iPhone, which does not offer the photographer any setting options. It is sad that Samsung also found it necessary to build in two extra buttons in the camera app for the failing virtual assistant Bixby and some childish snapchat-like filters. It's fine to offer them, but if you don't need them and can't turn them off, they get in the way.
If you're looking for a smartphone with the best camera, today you end up with the Galaxy S8 or the iPhone 7 Plus. A slight preference is given to the former, because the camera takes slightly more vivid photos and offers more setting options. It is also a nice bonus that the first mentioned comes out better than the iPhone in terms of hardware and price. The iPhone, on the other hand, is very true to nature in terms of reproduction and has portrait photography as a strong asset, but unfortunately a bit too limited.
You can't go wrong with the G6 from LG, especially the focus lens is very strong. The wide angle is nice, but falls a bit short. Still, if you look purely at cameras in the smartphone, it is better to invest those few bucks more in the test winner. The only camera that is somewhat disappointing comes from Huawei. In good lighting conditions, the dual camera can compete with the competition, but when it is a bit darker, the results are unfortunately significantly less.