Our ultimate smartphone camera test: 10 Phones head to head

Apple, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Oppo, Huawei, Sony all put to the test

“Which smartphone has the best camera?” The question I get a lot – more often than almost any other.  But with so many smartphones to choose from, how can you make a decision on that!

So I took ten of the latest and greatest smartphones with cameras their manufactures stand proud of.

  • Apple iPhone 8
  • Apple iPhone 8 Plus
  • Samsung Note 8
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Nokia 8
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
  • LG Q6
  • LG G6
  • Huawei P10
  • Oppo R11

For this test I took the same photo with each.  If I chose a focus or exposure point I did so only with a tap on the screen, and did that with each one.

I’ve removed the iPhone 8 from the results, because in almost all circumstances it produced the same result as the iPhone 8 Plus.   Low light being the main exception.

It should also be noted the vast difference in photo resolution and ratio from each:

Phone Image Height Image Width
Note 8 3024 4032
Xperia XZ Premium 3096 5504
Galaxy S8 2268 4032
Oppo R11 3456 4608
Nokia 8 3120 4160
LG Q6 3120 4160
LG G6 2080 4160
iPhone 8 Plus 3024 4032
iPhone 8 3024 4032
Huawei P10 2976 3968

So – onto the photos. Here they are.

Bright Sydney Harbour

For these shots, I chose to stand in the shade on the edge of Sydney Harbour, with the bright sun beaming onto the Opera House, and a ferry in partial shade, it seemed a good chance to see the capabilities of each camera.

Best: Tough call, while the LG G6 gives a bright colour, it’s not entirely a true colour. The iPhone does a great job of the overall picture, while the Sony and Samsungs offer a very true representation of the day. The sky in the Samsung shots offers just a touch more clarity.  For this one, the Samsung Note 8 and Galaxy S8 take the points.

Looking through the trees

Walking down Dawes Point park toward the Harbour, in the late afternoon you are struck by the setting sun shining on the trees while the shadow of the Harbour Bridge covers much of the tree canopy. Through the trees the brightly lit Opera House presents further challenges for a camera.

Best: For this one the Huawei P10 and Nokia give the best colour representation of the green grass.  However the Samsung Note 8 and Galaxy S8 do a great job with overall tone balance. You need to look at the large originals (click through) to get a total sense, and when you do the iPhone 8 Plus takes the points.

Looking into the Sun

Green grass, trees, the pylon of the Harbour Bridge and the sun directly beaming into the camera.

Best: This one is a bit easier to decide.  The Samsung Note 8 takes it on almost every measure, with the iPhone 8 Plus a close second.

Under the awning at the railway station

A bit of classic Sydney Railway architecture, with the shadows on the platform and bright sun across the tracks.

Best: For this my eye goes straight to the HELP sign on the awning.  LG, iPhone and Huawei do it very well. However the Huawei’s bright trees are blown out and over exposed, while the iPhone gives a great mix of that bright area and the shaded platform.  iPhone 8 Plus takes the win.

Flowers and Champagne

Happy Birthday! Snap a shot for Facebook and the colours should pop.

Best: The clarity of the LG G6 is exceptional, the Samsung’s do a great job of almost artificially enhancing the photo for clarity, but once again the iPhone 8 Plus gives a very true representation of the scene.  iPhone takes the points.

Roadworks

Boring right – but some depth of colours and the movement of the vehicle could put some cameras off.

Best: For a shot like this, with tonnes of natural light right across the scene, there is no clear winner.  The Samsung’s do an amazing job of contrast, while the Huawei probably comes into it’s own here.  The LG gives a bright colour, but I’d probably take the Sony Xperia XZ Premium on this one if pushed.

Night Photos

Tough to find the right shot that will demonstrate the genuine low light capabilities of a phone camera. But here you have the colours of the stairs and building, the very specific lights and the dark night sky.

Best: Samsung, Sony, Oppo and iPhone give the best colour performance, but the iPhone 8 Plus wins this hands down without challenge.

The Verdict

Apple has done it again, the iPhone 8 Plus has the camera to beat all smartphone cameras. These are all excellent cameras – make no mistake. For many situations the have their own strengths and weaknesses, however, when people ask me which is the best smartphone camera – I maintain a simple answer.

Samsung and Apple are doing the very best cameras out there, Apple has taken it to a new level with the iPhone 8 Plus.

High commendation for the Sony Xperia XZ which takes the challenge up strong, while the Oppo R11 can’t be overlooked for it’s value proposition.

Right now though, Apple have the best smartphone camera on the market.

Categories
Tech

Trev produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He hosts a nightly radio show on Talking Lifestyle, 8pm Monday to Friday in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.

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