big-smartphone-camera-shootout

Update: The poll is now closed!! The results are in: which smartphone took each image and which have you voted as your favourite device? Check out the results!

Original post: With every announcement of a new flagship, we hear companies claim that they have improved and advanced their camera and it is the best they’ve ever put, and there’s a good reason for that: for many people, smartphones have become the only camera they need.

In the case of Sony, LG, Samsung and Apple, each company has promised improved cameras in its latest flagship smartphones, but do any of them come close to matching a dedicated camera? Have we finally reached the stage where a smartphone can beat a DSLR camera?

To test this, we took our trusty Canon EOS 70D (with a 18-55m Sigma f/2.8 lens) into London along with the cameras found on the Sony Xperia Z5 (in full 23MP mode, not Sony’s preferred 8MP oversampling mode), LG G4, Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the Apple iPhone 6S. Read on to find out who wins.

Like our previous blind camera shootout, we’re not telling you which smartphone took each image but this time, we have an image from the Canon EOS 70D as a control shot. When deciding which smartphone camera is the best, refer to the control image and vote for which you think is the closest.

N.B. As the Xperia Z5 comes with HDR turned on by default (and no way to turn it off unless you switch to manual mode), all phones had Auto HDR turned on by default. The EOS 70D images were edited post-capture to reflect HDR and are most representative of the scene. All the images captured have been cropped to 16×9 aspect ratio.

The cameras in numbers…

Before we run through the various galleries, let’s take a quick look at 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.

Let the voting begin:

For each of the galleries below, you’ll find the EOS 70D image as the control shot beneath the gallery title and then you’ll find the four smartphone images in this order in the gallery beneath it: Phone A, Phone B, Phone C and Phone D. The same smartphone took each picture throughout the comparison; i.e. phone A is the same throughout all and so on.

Gallery 1

Blind-Camera-Shootout1-EOS

Taking a look at this image, we can see a contrast between the sky and the buildings. Do pay attention to the detail in the building on the left of the scene.

Gallery 2

Blind-Camera-Shootout2-EOS

For this image, the tree was the focus of every image but the real question was, how much detail could each smartphone capture in the sign on the left of the image and the sky. The results are certainly interesting…

Gallery 3

Blind-Camera-Shootout3-EOS

This test certainly proved interesting as it tested not only the ability of each smartphone to handle the myriad of colours in the shop front but also the reflections and, most importantly, the level of details and the colours inside the shop through the front door. Let’s see how the phones performed…

Gallery 4

Blind-Camera-Shootout4-EOS

This proved to be an interesting test, not only for the unique view but also the level of detail captured in the grille at the end, the apostrophe restaurant sign in the near background and the tree, sky and building in the background. Lots of details, which phone did best?

Gallery 5

Blind-Camera-Shootout5-EOS

From a shop that’s open for business to one that’s closed for the day and this is an interesting test as it reveals how each smartphone handles neon lights, contrasts and of course, reflections. Which do you think manages best with such a myriad of different colours and focal points?

Gallery 6

Blind-Camera-Shootout7-EOS

From outdoor shots to capturing the human face in all its detail and this is where a lot of smartphones can often be found out. After all, everyone likes to take images of themselves or their group so it’s definitely something that’s worth testing. Look, not only for colours and facial features but also the detail in the background and in the mirror.

Gallery 7

Blind-Camera-Shootout8-EOS

Another test and this time, questioning how each handset handles the varying lighting in the sky coupled with the level of detail in the buildings. Which phone blows out the sky and which captures the scene in stunning detail?

Gallery 8

Blind-Camera-Shootout9-EOS

It wouldn’t be a camera shootout in London without an iconic photo of a London phone box and there’s nothing more to say other than look, not only for details and colours in the phone box itself but also the background and the Itsu restaurant details on the left.

Gallery 9

Blind-Camera-Shootout10-EOS

Another stapleton of the upper echelons of London society and the iconic Claridges. As you can see this image was captured at a distance so look for details in the buildings and particular, details on the various flags. Which do you think handles this shoot best?

Gallery 10

Blind-Camera-Shootout12-EOS

From daylight to low light and a test of handling different colours; this is Selfridges on Oxford Street at night and there’s a lot of detail on show in the various columns and the iconic design itself. Look for which smartphone handles the detail in the buildings coupled with the colour the best.

Gallery 11

Blind-Camera-Shootout13-EOS

Another low light shot and this one looks at handling the contrast between black and light, with the Adidas store sign lit up and the building above it quite dark. Which phone over compensates the darkness and which comes closest to the EOS 70D?

Gallery 12

Blind-Camera-Shootout14-EOS

To our last two galleries and these are linked. First, we’ve got an image captured in almost darkness without the flash on and we’re looking at detail in the two statues as well as the cement bricks, fence in the background and the overall scene. The results are definitely interesting…

Gallery 13

Blind-Camera-Shootout15-EOS

The final gallery brings you the same exact scene as the previous gallery but this time we’ve fired up the flash to test how each smartphone’s reflective flash works in almost darkness. Again, look for clarity and detail in the overall scene as well as colours in the statues, cement bricks and the fence. Which smartphone will reign supreme as the king of darkness?

Which do YOU think is the best?

We could reveal which image took each picture but to ensure there is no bias, we want you to look at each image and then decide which you think is the best. Once you’ve decided, vote for your favourite in the poll below and be sure to let us know which you voted for (and why) in the comments below.

Like the last blind comparison, you’re welcome to guess at which phone is which but of course, we won’t confirm which is which until the results in roughly a weeks’ time. Get voting guys and why not share this using the links at the bottom so we can get more opinions on which is best!

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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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