Best of Android 2015: Camera

by: Team AADecember 12, 2015

What is Best of Android?

In Best of Android, we take the hottest devices of the moment and compare them in-depth. For this first edition, we picked up the following Android flagships:

  • Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
  • Nexus 6P
  • Motorola Moto X Force
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5
  • LG V10
  • BlackBerry Priv

What about the Galaxy S6 or the HTC One M9 or the OnePlus 2, you ask. Those are all great phones. But, to keep this comparison manageable, we selected only the phones we feel are the most representative for the ecosystem right now.

Read more about Best of Android. Thanks for being a part of Android Authority!

The next section in our Best of Android 2015 series, where we put the latest and greatest Android phones through a series of tough tests, is our camera shootout. For a recap, we have the Blackberry Priv, LG V10, Galaxy Note 5, Moto X Force (Droid Turbo 2), Nexus 6P and the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium at hand, and we took them out for a spin around London’s Southbank to put the handsets through a selection of lighting environments and shooting scenarios.

Photography results can be pretty subjective, so we sent the pictures around the office for everyone to vote on their favorites. There are some split opinions on some and consensus on others, but in the end we have been left with a clear winner.

A quick note on the pictures before we jump in. Each of the phones was left on their default settings, but we made sure to set each phone to Auto HDR, with the exception of the Z5 Premium which has Auto HDR always on. We also shot each of the pictures in a 4:3 aspect ratio because for some reason a 16:9 option was missing on the BlackBerry Priv until a recent update, which didn’t come in until after our tests. Manual modes were not used, this is an “out of the box” test.

Daylight Shots

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the pictures. Starting from top left, we have Z5 Premium, and moving right, we have Nexus 6P, Moto X Force, then on the bottom left we have LG V10, then right we have Note 5, then finally on bottom right we have the BlackBerry Priv.

We’ll start off with some daytime shots on a typically English overcast day, which offers a tough challenge for our phones to balance the bright skies with darker details on the ground. Right off the bat there’s a notable blue tint to the LG V10, Nexus 6P and Z5 Premium’s images, while the Priv, Moto X Force, and Note 5 have a warmer tone. There’s certainly no lack of detail in any of the pictures, but the Note 5 and X Force seem to produce the brightest results from this scene.

Moving on to a different picture in similar lighting conditions, we can see some softening on the images produced by the Moto X Force and Xperia Z5 Premium, although the Premium’s colors really do pop in this picture. A closer look at the Note 5 reveals some sharpening on the building details that is considerably stronger than on other phones.

The best looking results come from the LG V10, Priv and Nexus 6P, but each seems to have judged the picture worthy of slightly different exposures. The V10 loses some detail in the brighter clouds, while the Priv is perhaps a little too dark and is slightly off with the color temperature. The Nexus 6P produces a good all-round result, with details and exposure holding up well in the clouds, the foreground and background, without any distracting noise or sharpening.

With a close up focal point, we picked the “International Brigade” plaque, and we can again see each phone exposing the pictures quite differently and overexposure in the background is a key thing to look out for here.

The Z5 Premium is the standout phone in this regard, managing to retain detail and color in the clouds and background trees. However, the subject is lacking some detail. The Moto X Force performs reasonably well, but the image is very soft, verging on blurry as soon as we look beyond the plaque.

The Note 5 seems to have again over sharpened the image to try and bring out foreground detail, but this worsens the look of the background and both it and the Nexus 6P struggle with the bright sky. The LG V10 produces a lot more detail on the statue than these phones without the sharpening problems. The Priv also offers excellent detail, albeit with a very different color tone to the picture, but the Priv’s results are quite impressive.

For our fourth daylight shot we are trying to capture the distant detail of Big Ben across the river. The Priv really isn’t as clear this time around, there’s a distinct lack of focus when we crop down the image for a closer look. The Moto X Force is sharp and contains some additional detail over the LG V10. The foreground and sky color is lovely with the Xperia Z5 Premium, but Big Ben, our focal point, just seems a tad less detailed than with the Moto X Force. You can see this more clearly in the cropped images below.

The Note 5’s sharpening is better in this picture, although perhaps it’s still a little heavy, and there’s still a notable warm color shift. The Nexus 6P offers up some finer detail thanks to its sharpening, and has a better color balance and nice exposure.

A modern camera shootout wouldn’t be complete without a selfie and we aren’t surprised to see that these front facing sensors can’t keep up with the main rear cameras.

The Moto X Force is incredibly blurry, while the Priv and the Premium have this fuzzy noisy look about them and highly overexposed backgrounds. Here the 6P is better, but also suffers from an overly bright background.

This leaves us with the V10 and the Note 5, which are far better exposed. However, the Note 5 seems to have added some bizarre skin softening “make-up” effect which just looks weird, leaving the V10 as the winner, despite not quite offering optimal detail.

Lowlight Shots

Low light is where small smartphone camera sensors have historically struggled. We’ll be keeping a keen eye out for decent exposure and low noise in the next series of tests.

Our first low light test reveals a considerably darker picture with the BlackBerry Priv than all the others, followed by the Z5 Premium. The Moto X Force and Note 5 look ok, although don’t quite offer up the full color and details we can see in some of the other pictures, with the latter looking oddly foggy compared with the rest. The LG V10 and Nexus 6P are the best performers in this shot, with excellent colors, but the detail and depth on the wooden floor captured by the 6P really is a cut above the field.

The next set of shots are quite tricky as there are several light sources, lots of color and the sky in the background to try to balance correctly. We took this shot twice, first with the darker background bush as the focal point and then again by selecting the four foreground lights.

Beginning with the lights as the focal point, we can see that the Xperia Z5 struggles with the exposure, resulting in too much bloom from the lights. The Moto X Force suffers from the same problem, although not quite to the same extent, and we see some slight blurring on closer inspection. The Galaxy Note 5 performs better, but again we see a warm color tint and some very distracting sharpening on the leaves behind the lights, which really ruins the depth of the picture. The Priv handles the lighting much better but the picture is too dark, washing out much of the color. The crops below provide a closer look.

Again the LG V10 and the Nexus 6P are the top two performers in this low light shot, with the V10 providing excellent detail, colors and just the right amount of sharpening. However, the Nexus 6P offers up an even better exposure, which may be a little darker but still retains an incredible amount of detail and contrast.

Taking the picture with the focal point on the dark spot behind the lights sees many of the cameras correctly adjust their exposures. However, the Z5 Premium and the Moto X Force produce much the same result as when focusing directly on the light source.

The results here are much closer, but there are similar trends as before. The Priv looks a little washed out, while the Z5 Premium again seems to struggle to hit the right exposure. Here the V10 could use a bit more contrast, while the Moto X Force’s picture is perhaps a little too dark. The Nexus 6P again shows the best detail and contrast out of the bunch.

We have another tough test for our handsets with this very dark night shot of a carousel. The movement of the carousel is a real test of our camera’s ability to quickly capture light in these night shots and again it’s the Nexus 6P which comes out ahead, this time by quite a way, with the Note 5 probably coming the closest to matching it.

The Z5 Premium and Moto X Force produce much softer results with this moving shot, while the LG V10 seems to suffer from some major flare from the lights. The Priv really isn’t bad, but has overexposed the main light source a little.

It was starting to get a little chilly by this point, so we had a sit down by a fire and decided to see how well each phone could capture color and movement. There’s quite a difference in how the phones have lit the picture, with the Priv a little on the dark side and the Note 5 really washing out the colors. It’s tough to call due to the motion in the image, but the Nexus 6P seems to offer up the most detail without too much exposure and blurring of the flames.

Here’s another picture with plenty of different light sources, so keep an eye out for flare and focus. This time around, the Nexus 6P is not the best performer, as its lack of image stabilization leads to some notable blurring across the light sources and even in the foreground. The Moto X Force produces a similarly softened result in the lower half of the picture, while the Note 5’s orange tint crops up yet again and there’s notable flare on the right too.

The Xperia Z5 Premium and BlackBerry Priv do an excellent job of taming all those light sources. Both produce some nice colors in the sky, but are perhaps a little too dark and there is some very noticeable noise in the Priv’s sky. The LG V10 produces a warmer, brighter picture and there is the least amount of noise present across the image and plenty of detail in the lower half.

A longer distance lowlight shot shows off what the Xperia Z5 Premium and BlackBerry Priv are capable of, given the right conditions. The sky, colors and lights stand out on both these phones and the Z5 Premium boasts some excellent contrast and sharpness. The tree in the Moto X Force and Nexus 6P shots is less well defined, while the Note 5 sharpening filter has completely taken over in this one. The V10 just looks washed out by comparison.

Moving on to some closer shots we are looking to see how clearly the wording comes out from this sign. The BlackBerry Priv comes through very clearly, as does the Galaxy Note 5. The only notably poor performer here is the V10, which doesn’t seem to have quite focused the image properly, despite boasting laser autofocus technology.

With even less light it’s the Note 5 that manages to bring out the most detail, while the BlackBerry’s image becomes much darker. The Nexus 6P also made the most of this very dim environment, but there’s some notable lens flare, which also appears with the Z5 Premium, the Moto X Force and especially the LG V10.

To wrap up our extensive selection of lowlight pictures, here are some longer distance building shots. The trends that we’ve spotted in previous picture remain the theme here, with the Moto X Force really struggling to focus with the distant light sources. The Nexus 6P and Z5 Premium are the noisiest of the remaining phones, but it’s between the 6P and Note 5 for the best detail in the distance.

Interestingly, the Nexus 6P and LG V10 both produced darker pictures when focusing on this bright light source in the distance. However, this does allow the two, the 6P in particular, to actually pick out the minute details inside the store. An impressive feat given the distance and lighting environment. The Note 5 sits somewhere in between the two exposure extremes.

We haven’t neglected the front facing cameras in our low light test. We have another adorable set of selfies for you, which sees a number of the front facing cameras really struggle in this scenario. The Priv is just awful with very little detail and the V10, Z5 and Note 5 all offer up smudged looking images.

The Moto X Force does better in this test, although there is some noticeable noise in the darks. The Nexus 6P knocks this one out of the park, with superior detail, no blur and all round good lighting.

Panorama Mode

If you’re into your landscapes, then you’ll probably be interested in Panorama mode performance too. We a shot across the Thames in both daylight and lowlight environments, with the rippling water and moving boats providing a real test for the software’s stitching algorithms.

In daylight, the 6P offers a good balance of color and exposure, although you can spot a slight stitching error on the railing on the bottom right. The V10 also performs well, although the image is a little darker and there’s a seam on the water too. The Galaxy Note 5 offers up some nice warm colors and distant detail, and is definitely the most well balanced picture.

The Xperia Z5 Premium’s Panorama Mode is very blurry, likely down to the movement of the camera. The Priv has a different problem, as the image appears warped and bent, and there’s a misalignment on the right hand bridge. The Moto X Force has the most obvious software issues though, as there’s a strange series of lines streaking down the picture and the resolution is very poor.

In the lowlight pictures, the Moto X Force is an even worse performer, with notable blurring across the image. But it’s the Z5 Premium that completely falls apart here, producing major smearing that is quite ridiculous. This wasn’t a one off fluke either. The Priv is much better, but also shows some smudging on the left and is far too dark.

The Note 5, V10 and 6P are the best performers. Image quality holds up reasonably well across all three and they even handle the distant lights quite well. The Nexus 6P is definitely the brightest and clearest image, but this comes at the expense of some heavy noise in the clouds.

Wrap up

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the Android Authority staff tally awards the best camera to the Nexus 6P. It offers a very competitive daylight performance, but it really shines in low light pictures thanks to its HDR+ capabilities. The software does an excellent job at piecing multiple exposures together and adds just the right touch of post processing to bring out some superb detail.

The Galaxy Note 5 came in second place, followed very closely by the LG V10. Both of these handsets put in consistently good performances across the majority of our tests, but just couldn’t keep up with the 6P’s low light results. That said, any of these three smartphones are a sure to see you capturing some great looking snaps.

Best of Android 2015

All the comparisons:

Best of Android: Display

Best of Android: Audio

Best of Android: Performance

Best of Android: Battery

Best of Android: Camera

Best of Android: User Experience

And the winner is…


Post by Rob Triggs Video by: Krystal Lora
Series Contributors: Rob TriggsGary Sims, Lanh Nguyen, Joe Hindy, Krystal Lora

Series Editors: Nirave Gondhia, Bogdan Petrovan, Andrew Grush

  • Mohammad Hussain

    If Sony had included OIS, it would have been way better performer.
    The LG V10, compared to the g4 doesn’t blow out the light source so good work LG

    • Steve Brain

      Yeah and if they didn’t go full retard and include 23 megapixels on to a sensor the size of a finger tip, it would certainly help avoid the pastel water painting photos that they produce. They did the same shit with the rest of the Z line, and it’s becoming a massive joke to people that actually like to view images at their native resolutions. Sony really need to get advise from their mirrorless camera department. Case in point: Instead of simply going with a 12-16 MP sensor they go with a 23 MP and then make it take 8 MP on superior auto to avoid the terrible quality of the full size shots. Why? They’re still competing in the Megapixel Olympics which were phased out years ago when people started realising how irrelevant it was.

  • Edge of Surreality

    TYPICAL… AA chooses Nexus….gotta keep those google connections strong! Some of your new video “reviewers” leave a lot to be desired! Also your mobile site is getting unusable with all the scrolling and pop up ads!

    • Armaan Modi

      Browsing on mobile is seriously very difficult.The website looks broken while scrolling.The experience is not at all smooth.They should improve their app atleast.

    • LOL, most of the time we get accused of picking Samsung over other phones, nice to get accused of something different once in a while!

      • Airyl

        It’s come to the point where you guys can’t really pick anything anymore, huh?

  • You’re ads are ANNOYING!

    • kodn

      Your grammar is even more annoying.

      • isaac

        Dont ducking miss the point. Who cares about grammar here. You are more annoying…

        • Maxim∑

          duck you too

          • ASYOUTHIA


      • vitriolix

        I believe you mean “you’re grammer is anoying”

        • Brandon


          • vitriolix


      • Brandon

        There is nothing wrong with his grammar ftw

    • Wolf0491

      I agree. Particularly the full page one. I always scrolling down and right as I go to click something bam the full page ad in my face. I have to close it and back at the top website and page is like reloading for whatever reason. Of course this on only a bother on mobile… I know the site has to make money but don’t make the site a chore to use.

    • isaac

      i was going to write the same thing. 5 videos started playing at the same time and froze the page.

      • Jessy

        Nexus Phones and Tablets are now on sale below

    • TJ

      Ever hear of an ad blocker? Or a browser that blocks ads? You nust be using Chrome


        They’re noobs

    • pskunt

      ad blocker! dont forget to get a tracker blocking program as well.

  • Jiraboon Narktong

    The photos are really obvious. Can’t agree more than this!

  • usaff22

    Really happy with my Nexus 6P after seeing these photos :D

  • Zach Chen

    Wow Android Authority, how much did Google / Huawei pay you guys to make the Nexus 6P the winner? The Galaxy Note 5 deserves to be the winner…

    • Zach, each member of the team voted independently for what they thought were the best photos. Personally I spent over an hour flicking back and forth between the different sets and there is no doubt in my mind that the 6P won, mainly because of its low light capabilities.

      • Zach Chen

        My comment was a bit too heated, sorry about that haha.

      • abhinav

        Ur right 100% nexus 6p is better than the note 5 in low light. Most reviews say that. Also iPhone camera is not in the same league as the top 3 phones in this shootout so I understand it’s exclusion.. But I’m curious to know where the Oneplus 2 stands, as I have it and it’s low light photos seem on par with the note 5 and better than my brothers iPhone 6 plus.

        • Bob Marley

          The 6S is definitely in the same league with the top 4 (6P, Note 5, 6S and V10) being equal for all intents and purposes. The OnePlus 2’s camera is supposedly decent but not in the same league as the top 4.

        • Dark Leviathan

          I think ur extremely biased here… The iPhone camera have always been one of the best around. Image accuracy wise if not resolution. It should definitely be on this list IF IT WASN’T AN AA ARTICLE lol. That would explain why its not on this list as it clearly says that this article is “BEST OF ANDROID 2015” not smartphones…

      • Bob Marley

        While I agree the 6P excels in low light, the vast majority of your photos were also low light. Next time, try a more even balance of bright and low light pictures.

      • Andrew M

        How would the results change if you took everything off of full auto? I know Sony Samsung and Lg put some pretty nice manual settings in and LG goes as far as allowing people to shoot in .raw.

    • Nallaikumaran

      No sun (sunlight). only low light camera test. every shot is low light. They are fraud site.

    • Chris Edmond

      Its funny cus technically even if someone did pay someone (I seeeriously doubt it because i thought the 6p won and i blind tested myself) even the lg nexus 5x uses the same camera

    • Dark Leviathan

      Did you notice how overly saturated and warm the colors were on the note 5? I sense a huge amount of bias here. The Note 5 overly saturated almost every one of those photos. Even the ones that it was declared on. It doesn’t really matter which one looks nicer (color wise), but which one looks more accurate. And the Note 5 has done a terrible job at that with its post effects that are meant for marketing purposes.

  • rock1m1

    My oh my! I can’t wait for my 64GB nexus 6p to arrive.

  • john doe

    Enjoyed viewing this comparison. Some very trying situations were tested here. Good job. Honestly, I did not expect this tough a series of tests by AA. The critiques are helpful in telling the viewer what to watch out for. Additionally they tell us what to do in manual if auto does not get it right. Well done.

    The 6p did well in auto. Thing is if it does not there is little one can do to fix it. The cameras with the manual controls have the edge. Except with the selfies.

    Was surprised to see camera shake at shutter speeds between 1/30-1/40 with the 6p and x force in the cider bar. Must have been quite cold so holding steady is harder. Made the point of ois and its lack thereof quite apparent. However this shot was taken without hdr+ which would otherwise have nailed it at those still relatively fast shutter speeds.

  • Horus Jarilo

    Should have put the One A9 in the comparison as well.

  • seattle tech

    Looks like every shot is low light which the 6p excels in

  • Steve Brain

    For anyone interested in seeing what a V10 or G4 can do with its RAW capabilities.. Google: “GEAR REVIEW: A PHOTOGRAPHER’S TAKE ON THE LG G4” and click the first link. The V10 uses the same camera from the G4. You can get RAW pictures from the Nexus 6P but you need to buy an external app for that. No OIS on the N6P is a black mark, one which wasn’t discussed in this video. Big surprise there, considering how much AA likes to suck up to the big G. But yeah, who needs OIS which is quite capable of enabling a user to take 1/2 second shots? Right? This photo was taken handheld on a G4 with a 1/2 second exposure.

    • Dark Leviathan

      Nice water blurs but the green colors are soooooo overly saturated. That kinda destroys the image for me. Either post edited or just sucky image accuracy.

  • abdel

    michael fisher , mkbhd , supersaf , all preferred samsung note 5/s6 camera over the nexus 6p , i dnt want to be rude by any means , but these tests seem biased towards the 6p. The nexus has a good camera but not the best not just according to me but according to the aboved mentioned.

    • Daggett Beaver

      All the low-to-moderate quality, badly edited Android sites are pushing the 6P. Maybe Google is dangling big advertising contracts or something. The objective, more scientific, and well-edited sites are all naming the Note 5 as the best phone of the year.

      Some sites even have the audacity to acknowledge that the Note 5 is better, but still pick the 6P as #1 because it’s less expensive. That’s like saying McDonalds is a better restaurant than Ruth’s Chris, because the food is more affordable. Any excuse to pick the 6P.

      • abdel

        when jerryrigeverything bended the 6p in half, there was so many youtubers posting false bend tests just to prove the solidity.And when jerry done it again , all claimed that he is a monster .but he couldnt bend the s6 note 5 lg g4 iphone 6s etc etc. Note 5 is better whether build quality or camera or battery testing. even it it pricier , its amoled screen is better proven by jerryrigeverything. if they speak price then the one plus X is the best device

      • Airyl

        Seriously? It used to be fun reading your comments, but now they’re just piles of toxic against the website and people who like the Nexus 6P.

    • Dark Leviathan

      Did u notice how overly saturated and sharpened the note 5 was? It was absolute garbage… Its not realistic at all.

      • abdel

        MKBHD said that the note 5 camera was better , i dnt know how but only on AA the result were so bad for the note 5

  • Cuong

    So many butt-hurt LG and Samsung fans. The pictures speak for themselves.
    Where are all your complaints when AA picked V10 or S5 the winner in other categories.
    And speaking of money, Samsung and LG spend a lot more than Google on phone marketing (Does SS spent 12 billion dollar per year on marketing?) Google doesn’t make money by selling phones so there’s no reason for them to bribe AA.

    • Dark Leviathan

      Sooooo true. The samsung phone cameras are super over saturated to market to people who say: “OMG, look how vibrant the colors are!!!!” And the photos are fricking not realistic at all. I wonder when will Samsung fans realize that they are being “brainwashed” like how Apple did. Though I never could find how Apple brainwashed people anyways…

  • TinleyTime

    It seems odd to me to only compare auto modes only. Why no mention of manual capabilities? Especially when talking about a couple of the phones in particular (Most obvious being the V10) When one of a phone’s main selling points is its manual video controls, it shouldn’t be delegated to 30 seconds of video wrapup. Same goes with all of the others. Its like comparing DSLR cameras when they’re all set to auto, it doesn’t make too much sense. If this were a more casual style tech site it would, but considering how immensely in depth the performance section got, I was expecting the same here. Not a knock or anything, loving the best of series so far, just seemed odd.

  • Nice extensive comparison, thanks guys!

    I still think Samsung cameras are way overrated given the ridiculous amount of artificial sharpening going on. I mean every single picture is a pain to look at on a computer screen, they really should tone it done, it would look much better.

    Also, I would have liked to see the Lumia 950 included in the comparison, really curious to find out how it would compare to those.

  • Nallaikumaran

    no sun light, only Low light test.

  • Airyl

    So basically, G.Note 5 is best for normal lighting, and the 6P is best for low lighting.

    • Dark Leviathan

      No, the Note 5 is good if you want overly saturated and war photos with a huge amount of post effects to “prettify” it up. It may look good, but it is absolute garbage if you care anything about realism.

  • Tim Austin

    Out of curiosity, what was the native resolution used on the Z5? As a Z5 owner, I can tell you that it does a far better job in low light when used in 8mp, where it can super-sample the sensor and use a broader range of ISO. If you used it at 23MP, it’s not a terrific surprise that you didn’t get the best results from it. I have a flickr feed that details the results that you can get but Links require AA’s aproval and, like many sites, they don’t check their Disquss inbox very often.

  • EQ

    One of the worst comparisions I’ve ever seen. The photo angles aren’t even the same between the phones. The Z5 looks to have decentered lens problem as a great part of each side is heavily blurred else where there is focus it gives best detail, white balance and exposure in 8MP SA mode. Low light it gives less than stelar photos. Worse than previous Z phones going by all photos and looking at ISO and shutter speed. Minimal to no color noise and low luminance noise.

    The 6p has horrible post-processing making it look almost cartoonish or over sharpened most of the time and average exposure making for only selective types of scenes looking decent. Does quite good at low light photos but got tons of color noise and luminance noise which for example is very low or just abscent with the Z5. That this one was the winner is just..

    LG V10 has to much noise reduction making for water painting look but quite good detail, exposure and white balance making for great photos overall. Great low light perfomance but some color noise.

    Note 5 also has horrible post-proccessing making it look like the Photoshop “Plastic film” effect with a combination of over sharpening making for lots of halos where contrast is, making for overall average photos.

    Anyway conclusion is money talks! I am glad I block AA ads.

    • Dark Leviathan

      I agree with the Note 5. The post effects are just terrible and are used to market to users around the age of 20. It kinda sucks as people say that the Note 5 has a great camera when you can just compare the camera between the Z5, iPhone 6s, and the LG V10. The photos looks fricking over super saturated and warm.