With so many great smartphones lying around the office we had a great opportunity yesterday to pop into the City of Sydney and throw four smartphone cameras up against each other in a battle most prospective buyers would never get the chance to undertake before buying.
Let’s face it, we’re relying on these cameras now to be our primary camera – people are taking compact cameras less and less when they travel so the camera on the top corner of your smartphone is pretty darn important.
No, I didn’t seek out low-light circumstances, or try a bunch of macro photography. All I did was hold one phone in my hand at all times and whenever I felt compelled to take a happy snap, I grabbed the other three and took the very same photo.
The phones I had were:
- LG’s new G5 – released next month – $1099
- Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge – Now available – $1249
- iPhone 6s – Now Available – $1079
- Alcatel Idol 4 – Available soon – $400
The Alcatel Idol 4 isn’t in market yet, but given it’s their premium product and comes in at a much much lower price I thought it would be interesting to see how it would shape up!
I should also add that while I have the LG “Friends” “CAM Plus” adaptor I didn’t take it with me – even though it doesn’t add anything to the photo itself, it does allow faster camera access and easier shutter control – I didn’t want it to have any perceived advantage.
So, how did they shape up.
Lets look at the City of Sydney from Circular Quay:
You’ll notice above the fifth image is a wide-angle – that’s using LG’s second lens which gives you a huge viewing angle. I didn’t use that in all the tests but you’ll see it now and then.
You’ll also notice one other key difference – the aspect ratio – or size – of the LG photos. They are much wider. Because LG has in its wisdom – and I mean that, started taking photos in 16:9 resolution. Yep, the same ratio as your TV and smartphone. Seems logical really:) Who’s printing photos any more? that’s the only reason to keep the pics in the old format really.
Next up, the sails of the Opera House – those tiles are quite small, so how do they show up?
Looking though these was where I was first impressed by the Idol 4 from Alcatel – that’s no slouch when it comes to detail!
It should be noted that these slide shows are reduced images, so we’re still not looking at print reproductions here, but the idea is to see the colour comparison and detail comparison because all the pics are going through the same display here.
I thought these were interesting – snapping the kids with a bright sky behind them
Dead heat between the LG and Samsung here, with iPhone needing to work on the darker areas and the Idol 4 losing with some lens flare.
These images with lots of water and sky really brought the iPhone back into the race, it handles most circumstances really well – but again have a look at the Idol 4 below:
That’s nothing to complain about from a $400 phone!
Here’s a great example of that second lens on the LG G5 – great wider angle view of the harbour:
Again here, with Garden Island in the distance and some planes in the air, you’d expect the Idol to suffer but it doesn’t terribly – and the others are all doing a great job.
These side angle shots of the Opera House were great
And in my view the iPhone outperformed the rest there.
Finally, in the City and these shots of the 2016 Anzac Day March.
I intentionally took a lot of crowd and trees in this, to give a contrast to the bright sun on the building.
I think the LG handled that situation best, with the Galaxy also performing well.
No complaints about the iPhone or Idol 4, but again, you can see there’s room to improve.
If you look up close here, you’ll see how the real detail can vary – as can colour reproduction:
This may be somewhat unfair on the iPhone – but in reality I picked up, pointed and shot the photo. A tap on the screen somewhere may have given a better result – but that wasn’t the point.
In my mind, this reinforces the camera dominance of LG and Samsung.
What about Social Media?
Ok, so now lets consider the real use case here – Social Media. Let’s be honest, the main use of smartphone photography is for posting on Instagram or Facebook. So what we’ve done here is taken a similar photo from each phone, and posted it directly to Instagram. No Filter. No cropping. Direct upload.
Here they are:
Phone Number 1:
Phone Number 2:
Phone Number 3:
Phone Number 4:
So, what do you make of that?
It won’t surprise you to learn that Phone Number 4 above is the LG G5 – the widescreen aspect ratio will likely give that away.
Likewise, the Alcatel Idol 4 really stands out in this test – the washed out colour in photo #3 is an example of the slight lack of richness in the camera, though again – it really isn’t a disappointment – that’s still a great shot and try tell me after you add a quick automatic filter that it’s not going to impress your followers?
To me this just muddies the waters even further. From where I sit, this just goes to prove that if you spend more money it’s not a guarantee of social media brilliance. In fact, if we went to the trouble of doing some image edits on Snapseed or a similar app – I’m pretty confident you could manipulate any of these into an on-screen winner.
Phone #1 – Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Phone #2 – iPhone 6s
Phone #3 – Alcatel Idol 4
Phone #4 – LG G5
Well – you be the judge – from where I sit, the LG G5’s aspect ratio is impressive. It’s great to see images in full widescreen – this helps on the device but also when you’re casting or viewing them on a TV – you get the full picture.
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 camera is its most impressive camera yet, and leaps it ahead of the iPhone on overall measure – Samsung should be shouting that from the rooftop as long as they can, because they are a half-year ahead of Apple here, and Apple is likely to again focus hard on its camera.
The iPhone 6s is a fantastic all-round camera, I was surprised by the Anzac parade photos which didn’t do it great justice, and perhaps that demonstrates an area for improvement in the iPhone 7 – bright contrast within a photo and distant resolution are where it seems behind to me now.
The Idol 4 from Alcatel punched well above its weight. If outright price is the measure then the Idol 4 at well below half the price of all the others has to be taken seriously. No, it’s not going to win you large print photographic awards, but I’m tipping your mates on Social media would have no idea you saved over $600 on the phone you’re using for those Instagram pics.
For my mind, the LG G5 comes out on top. And this really is one of the most subjective areas of review possible. All the lab tests in the world can examine pixels and colour reproduction, but it’s the human eye making this judgement when your friends see the photos and when you look on-screen.
The 16:9 aspect ratio is not a gimmick, it’s logical, you get more in your picture and they look great displayed on-screen – big screen or small. Plus, the colour reproduction, focus and overall outcome is impressive to say the least.
Without question that’s a tight battle with the Samsung Galaxy S7, a personal choice for me to take the LG ahead of the Samsung – but Samsung owners and prospective buyers rejoice – I can’t imagine for a moment you’ll be disappointed, though the S7 Edge I used did frustrate me some with accidental screen touches on the edges causing zoom, and distortion on the curved to the edge when viewing the photos – I’d take the standard S7 over the Edge any day.
iPhone 6s is a great camera, nothing to be disappointed by, but we wait with interest until September/October to do this all over again and see if the iPhone 7 can take the crown once again.