big-smartphone-camera-shootout

If you’ve been following the homepage over the past week, you’ll have seen we published a big blind smartphone camera shootout to find out how the new Sony Xperia Z5 camera compares to the iPhone 6S, Galaxy Note 5 and the LG G4. Like our past blind camera shootout, we didn’t tell you which device took each image and today, we’re revealing the results – which smartphones takes the crown?

The cameras in numbers…

Before we reveal the results, let’s recap the various camera specs of each smartphone:

 Sony Xperia Z5Galaxy Note 5LG G4Apple iPhone 6S
Resolution:23MP (5520x4140)16MP (5312x2988)16MP (5312x2988)12MP (4032x3024)
Focus:Hybrid AFAutofocusLaser AutofocusPhase Detection AF
Flash:dual LEDdual LEDdual LEDdual LED
Manual controls?YesYesYespartial
Aperture:f/2.0f/1.9f/1.8f/2.2
Focal Length:24mm28mm28mm29mm
Camera Sensor Size:1/2.3"1/2.6"1/2.6"1/3"
Pixel Size:TBC1.12µm1.12µm1.22µm
Stabilisation:
Features:
Effective
Stabilisation
OISOIS
Colour Spectrum Sensor
Digital Image
Stabilisation
Front Camera5MP5MP8MP5MP

Numbers are only one part of the equation and while you could make a decision on which is best just based on the specs, we all know that cameras and images are about more than megapixels, and algorithms and processing play a large part. Clear your mind, settle down and let’s check out which smartphone camera really is the best.

The Galleries:

Let’s take a look at each gallery again and discuss which smartphone took the best shot. Before we do that however, it’s time to reveal which device is which:

  • Phone A = Sony Xperia Z5
  • Phone B = LG G4
  • Phone C = Apple iPhone 6S
  • Phone D = Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Now, let’s look through the galleries:

Gallery 1

Blind-Camera-Shootout1-EOS

This shootout proved to be interesting as it tested how each smartphone camera handled the change between a colour-rich subject and a sky with various shades of grey. No smartphone was able to capture the sky in all its details but the iPhone 6S seemed to handle the transition between light and dark the best.

Gallery 2

Blind-Camera-Shootout2-EOS

This gallery combined an interesting collection of tests; from the varying sky colours to the detail of the individual tree leaves, the sign in the foreground and the building details and colours to the right.

The Note 5 wins this test as it handles the sky well, produces a good amount of detail in the sign and has clarity in the tree outline. The LG G4 and the Xperia Z5 come second and third respectively as they both produce good all round images while the iPhone 6S comes fourth as it overcompensates for the white balance in the image.

Gallery 3

Blind-Camera-Shootout3-EOS

This gallery was designed to see how each smartphone handles the details and colours in and on the shop front as well as the details in the shop signs and the reflections in the windows.

The Xperia Z5 wins this shootout as it produces a saturated image with deep colours that is closest the image produced by the EOS 70D. Next up is the Galaxy Note 5, which slightly overcompensates for the light but still captures details, while the iPhone 6S comes third and the washed out LG G4 rounds off this gallery.

Gallery 4

Blind-Camera-Shootout4-EOS

As pointed out in the comments on the original shootout, the wide angle of the Xperia Z5 lets it down here. When evaluating this gallery, we zoomed into the Apostrophe sign, the detail on the ladies’ hair and the grille at the end of this feature.

The winner is the LG G4, which handles the range of colours better than its rivals. The others are quite close with the Xperia Z5 adding a slight hue to an otherwise good image, the iPhone 6S handling the colours in the scene quite well and the Galaxy Note 5 offering impressive detail even if colours are a little saturated.

Gallery 5

Blind-Camera-Shootout5-EOS

This gallery was an interesting test as it evaluated how each smartphone handled the colours in the two different LED signs, as well as the detail of the door stand, which can be seen just past the front door.

Each smartphone handled the scene differently and the winner is the Galaxy Note 5, which comes closest to the EOS 70D image with detail and accurate colours throughout. Next up is the iPhone 6S which offers great colour reproduction in the signs and this is followed by the LG G4. The Xperia Z5 brings up the rear as it over compensates for the light and hence, the signs are almost washed out.

Gallery 6

Blind-Camera-Shootout7-EOS

While shots of scenery and subjects are always great, it doesn’t quite cover how each smartphone handles the contours and detail of a human face. This gallery aims to test just this as well as looking at the amount of bokeh in the details on the wall and mirror behind.

This proved to be a test of two halves with the Galaxy Note 5 narrowly beating the LG G4 to the top spot followed by the Xperia Z5 narrowly pushing the iPhone 6S into last place. In particular, the Xperia Z5 would have probably done a lot better had it been in oversampling mode and the iPhone 6S seems to get the white balance all wrong.

Gallery 7

Blind-Camera-Shootout8-EOS

For this gallery, the blue sky and amount of detail in the buildings was an interesting test of how good each smartphone’s HDR mode was. From the detail in the rooftops to the Breitling sign at the bottom of the scene and the Itsu sign in the immediate foreground, there’s a lot of detail to capture.

The iPhone 6S wins this with the Galaxy Note 5 very close behind as the sky is a little less saturated than on Apple’s flagship. The Xperia Z5 comes third over the LG G4, mainly because the latter produced a darker image and Sony managed to more accurately reproduce the colour of the sky.

Gallery 8

Blind-Camera-Shootout9-EOS

Almost the same scene as the above, this gallery used the red telephone box as the subject of the photo. When evaluating this, we looked for reproduction of details on and in the box, the clarity of the Itsu shop sign to the left and the amount of bokeh in the background details.

The Galaxy Note 5 wins this just for its reproduction of details inside the iconic telephone box while the LG G4 and the iPhone 6S tie for second, as the latter captures the details in the background better and the former is better at reproducing the white balance of the scene. Sony’s Xperia Z5 comes a very close fourth as a seeming lack of stabilisation results in some noise in the image.

Gallery 9

Blind-Camera-Shootout10-EOS

This was an interesting test as the flags had varying amounts of detail, the buildings were detailed and intricate and the sky can be just seen to the left. The Xperia Z5 has a good reproduction of the overall scene but lacks detail when you zoom into the image.

The LG G4 captures the scene well and captures good detail of the brickwork on the building while the iPhone 6S is slightly darker but does better at capturing the sky. The Galaxy Note 5 is very similar to the LG G4 as it captures the scene well including details in the brickwork but lacks depth when you zoom into the image even slights. It’s too close to call a winner in this gallery.

Gallery 10

Blind-Camera-Shootout12-EOS

This was an interesting gallery as it kicked off the low light testing with a combination of varying colours, intricate detail and bright lights. The Galaxy Note 5 probably wins this for the amount of detail captured even though the colour reproduction isn’t quite accurate.

Beyond this, the LG G4 comes second for the amount of detail captured and even though it is slightly noisy, the Xperia Z5 comes third with the iPhone 6S last thanks to inaccurate white balance. Interestingly, the Xperia Z5 would probably win this or come very close when used in oversampling mode.

Gallery 11

Blind-Camera-Shootout13-EOS

A combination a dark shop sign and a low light cream building above made an interesting test of each smartphone’s ability to handle low light conditions. The Xperia Z5 overcompensated for a lack of light resulting in a bright image but a lack of detail in the overall image.

The Galaxy Note 5 and the LG G4 tie for first place here as the overall image is almost identical from each of these devices and the iPhone 6S completely misjudges the white balance resulted in a dark image that fails to capture all the details.

Gallery 12

Blind-Camera-Shootout14-EOS

The last two galleries combine to form a test of the overall night shot capability of each handset. The first gallery is the scene captured with no flash and the second gallery takes the same scene but applies the inbuilt flash of each device.

As far as details in the image go, the Xperia Z5 is the best of all four devices as, although the iPhone 6S produces a lighter image, Sony’s best captures more details. The Galaxy Note 5 comes third and the LG G4 comes fourth, although it’s worth noting that the ISO is set quite low on both of these devices (although all handsets were set to auto mode) and they would produce much better images with a higher ISO.

Gallery 13

Blind-Camera-Shootout15-EOS

Now to the final gallery – which smartphone has the strongest and most accurate flash? The EOS 70D has a significant advantage thanks to its Xenon flash and while companies such as Nokia have used Xenon in the past, a dual/triple LED flash is the common standard as it can be used for both photos and videos (Xenon cannot be used while video recording).

The LG G4 and the Galaxy Note 5 tie for first place here as the former reproduces details better (albeit with a slight hue) while the latter captures the light better but lacks somewhat in the details. Sony’s Xperia Z5 comes a close third and the iPhone 6S rounds off this shootout in a lowly fourth place.

The results:

Now to the results – which device wins the shootout? Here’s how the voting stands at the end of this shootout:

It turned out to be quite a close-run race between the iPhone 6S and the Galaxy Note 5 for the title but Apple’s latest just beat Samsung’s latest with 38.2 and 34.1 percent of the 7810 votes respectively. Sony’s Xperia Z5 comes in third with 17.7 percent of votes while the LG G4 brings up the rear with 10 percent of all the votes.

As mentioned in the original gallery post, all the settings were at their maximum resolution, which proved to be detrimental to the Xperia Z5 (which relies on the 8MP oversampling mode for its best shots). We’ll be retesting these smartphones along with a few others in the big camera shootout in the coming weeks so stay tuned! Let us know what you thought about these results in the comments below guys and head over to the original shootout post for all the galleries.

Nirave Gondhia
Nirave is one of the Managing Editors and a fan of travel. He's worked in technology for over ten years (including stints at two carriers in the UK) and reported on it for nearly nine years. In my spare time, A big football (soccer to those over the pond) fan and avid supporter of Man United for over 20 years, he reads a lot, loves a cocktails and blogs about travel.
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