Update (05/03): The results are now in! To find out which smartphone has been crowned the winner, head over to this post: Which smartphone camera is the best? The results are in!

Original post: If there’s one question we’re often asked, it is which smartphone has the best camera? In the Android space, we’ve got the reigning king from Best of Android 2015, Google’s Nexus 6P, along with new flagship challengers from Samsung (Galaxy S7 Edge), LG (G5), HTC (10) and Huawei (P9).

Of course, the smartphone industry is bigger than just Android and we all know that Apple’s flagship, the iPhone 6S Plus, can take some incredible photos but does its six-month-old camera still stand up to the Android competition. And if there’s one area where Microsoft’s Lumia range does stand out, it’s in the camera, so how does the Lumia 950 XL stand up to the best that Android and Apple have to offer?

[related_videos title=”These phones in review:” align=”left” type=”custom” videos=”651620,679646,688453,684693,686764,684690″]To answer this, we could have conducted some laboratory-based testing but as we’ve found out before, a killer score in the labs doesn’t always translate to real-world perfection. Instead, armed with these seven phones, we descended upon the banks of the River Thames in London to conduct a real world test that aims to challenge today’s smartphone cameras to capture scenes that you’re like to share.

Which smartphone is truly the current smartphone camera king and which one falls flat? Does the Galaxy S7 Edge’s dual pixel technology deliver the best overall? Is the Lumia 950 XL’s PureView lens and Carl Zeiss optics the envy of all? What about HTC’s new UltraPixel camera, the iPhone’s iSight camera or the Nexus 6P’s impressive snapper? Finally, how does the dual lens battle pan out with the LG G5’s dual lens array (of which we’ve only used the standard camera lens for this comparison) going up against the Huawei P9’s Leica-branded dual camera sensor setup.

Let’s find out and we want your help to decide the winner! Hit up the first few galleries below, vote for which camera you think is the best in the poll below each gallery and then scroll through the pages. We’ll close the voting in around a week’s time and then reveal which smartphone we’re saying is the current crop’s Smartphone Camera King.

In each of the galleries, images are in this order: Phone A, Phone B, Phone C, Phone D, Phone E, Phone F and Phone G. When conducting the shootout, each smartphone had HDR turned on and each camera was set to capture at the maximum available 4:3 resolution.

A total of 2-3 shots were taken on each phone per gallery and the best selected for inclusion in this shootout. Each image is 100% full size and unedited and you’ll find a link to a Google Photos gallery (which opens in a new tab) for each set of images for those that want to access the full resolution images.


Gallery 1

It wouldn’t be a camera shootout on the banks of the River Thames without a shot that epitomises the ever changing city. Shooting from the Golden Jubilee bridge, this shot encapsulates icons such as St Pauls Cathedral, Embankment Pier and to the right, the Shard.

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In this shot, the focal point is the two tall buildings to the left of the Shard but also look out for how each smartphone handles the sky, the cloud trails and the detail in the river in the foreground. To see how large the depth of field of each camera is, also look at the detail in the Festival Pier signage directly beneath the focal point.


Gallery 2

From a river shot to the Royal Festival Hall, the scene of many dramatic triumphs and the Southbank Centre. This shot proves to be an interesting test as not only does each phone have to capture the detail the sign, but also the sky in the background and the shopping terrace towards the bottom of the scene.

In this shot, the Royal Festival Sign is the focal point but look out for how each smartphone captures the intricate brickwork detail behind the sign. Don’t forget to also look at the green moss on the river bank at the bottom of the scene and the detail in the cloud trails visible on the sky.


Gallery 3

No smartphone shootout would be complete with out a test designed to really test how each smartphone handles blow outs and flares from direct sunlight. In this scene, you can see the Grand White Building and the results are definitely interesting as some smartphones can handle the direct sunlight while others definitely fail.

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The focal point is the spire to the right of the two in the middle on the Grand White Building but also look out for how each smartphone handles the sky to the right and the colour of the overall building (which as the name suggests, should be white). The bridge trusses on the right also prove an interesting test of detail.

Head on over to the next page to check out more images and continue voting for which smartphone you think is the best.

Gallery 4

From wide scenes and landscapes to a macro shot of a tree and with summer just around the corner, these are the last few treeless days for the coming months. What makes this shot particularly interesting, is that it offers an opportunity to check out how each camera captures intricate detail but also the amount of noise reduction in effect.

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In this gallery, the focal point is where the two branches of the tree meet the trunk but also watch out for the detail in the building on the right, the detail in the stub on the right branch and the noise reduction in each individual branch of the tree.


Gallery 5

Ok so this is rather grotesque but is actually one of the street lamps that run along the Embankment and proves to be a very interesting test of intricate detail. The fish face and surroundings have a lot of detail and the bridge and tree in the background are also an interesting test of bokeh.

The focal point in this image is the fish face in the centre of the scene but also look out for detail in the column, the colour and definition of the tree on the right, the trusses of Embankment bridge in the background and of course, the color and definition of the sky.


Gallery 6

For those that saw our Best of Android comparison, you’ll recognise this shot but under the Spring sun, it proves to be a very interesting for our smartphones. With the tan-colored building in the foreground but alos the trees, the individual windows and the sky, there’s a lot for these devices to capture.

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In this shot, the building is the focal point and in particular, the row of dark vents about half way up the building. However, also look out for the definition of the shadow over the right of the building casted by the London Eye and of course, the detail in the tree to the right and the building in the far background. Lastly, the sky proves to be an interesting test so watch out for details, color and blow-outs.

Head on over to the next page to check out more images and continue voting for which smartphone you think is the best.

Gallery 7

One of the best things about conducting a shootout on the banks of the River Thames is the presence of several weird and wonderful statues that prove to be interesting subjects. The International Brigade monument is an interesting subject as the sunlight reflects off it in a way that challenges smartphones, and the trees and building in the background also bring welcome contrast to the scene.

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In this test, watch out for the color, light reflection and the detail in the statue and also the color of the sky, the trees and the building. This test also reveals which smartphones like to cast a hue over a scene and also the field of view of each camera; in particular, at least one smartphone has a smaller field of view which means you can’t capture as much in the scene.


Gallery 8

Who doesn’t love a selfie and the London Eye in the background creates the perfect backdrop. Many smartphones claim to take amazing selfies but which is actually the best? Are bigger pixels or more pixels best for those selfie moments and does the HTC 10, which is the world’s first smartphone to feature OIS in the front camera, set the standard for selfies?

In this scene, there was no focal point set using touch to focus and instead, each smartphone took the image naturally. Although our positions have changed slightly (it’s surprisingly difficult to take a selfie multiple times on seven phones in a row without moving), Rob and I were the focal point. Also look out for detail in the background (and in particular, the spokes in the London Eye wheel) as well as the field of view of each smartphone camera.


Gallery 9

Everyone’s been there – you take an image of something interesting, zoom in and find that the detail is pretty lacking, to the point where you don’t want to share the image at all. With this in mind, which camera is the best at capturing the middle of the London Eye wheel as well as the individual spokes and the sky in the background.

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The centre of the spokes (aka cables) is the focal point in this image but in particular, look out for noise reduction along the various cables. Of course, any detail in the capsules on the Eye itself or in the sky in the background is also a big bonus so keep this in mind when picking the winner.

Head on over to the next page to check out more images and continue voting for which smartphone you think is the best.

Gallery 10

No London camera shootout would be complete without Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament but rather than get up close and personal, Big Ben proves to be a test of how each camera handles zoom and loss of detail. In this scene the focal point was Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background and the real test is the amount of detail when you zoom into the image.

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While keeping an eye on Big Ben, also look for the detail and color in the sky, the pier in the foreground and London Eye to the left of the image. With lots of detail in the buildings to capture, this is a real test of which smartphone can be trusted to take shots from further away and still deliver a crisp image.


Gallery 11

As the sun sets, London does become quite glamorous and from just outside the Southbank Centre, this shot provides a rather interesting look at the back of Charing Cross Station at dusk. With the sun setting just behind this transportation hub, the station itself is lit up with a background glow and looks quite fantastic!

Charing Cross Station is the focal point in this image but also look out for how each smartphone handles the sky and whether images are blown out or HDR actually works. Golden Jubilee Bridge to the left provides a nice side to the image but as a real test, you can also zoom in and see which smartphone captures the London Underground sign just beneath Charing Cross Station.


Gallery 12

It’s one thing to capture a landscape shot in daylight and great lighting and another thing to do so as the sun is setting and nightfall is approaching. In this test, which is almost identical to Gallery 10 above, and again, Big Ben and the House of Parliament are the focal point in this scene.

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Just like Gallery 10, be sure to look out for detail and noise reduction in Big Ben and its iconic clock face, along with the color and detail in the sky, the pier in the foreground and London Eye to the left. Does the best smartphone from gallery 10 also take the best shot of the scene in low light?

Head on over to the next page to check out the last images and finish voting for which smartphone you think is the best.

Gallery 13

The banks of the River Thames also pay host to a variety of festivals and markets all year round and while it was the Christmas market during Best of Android, Spring sees the Udderbelly festival and it’s moo-sive mix of comedy, circus and family fun descend upon the riverside.

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The iconic upside-down purple cow is the focal point of this scene and look out for the detail in the canopy along with the creases and the light reflections. Of course, the sky and the building to the right of the background are other focal points as well as intricate details in the flowers and decorations in the foreground.


Gallery 14

Another low light shot, this time on the other side of Golden Jubilee Bridge and this was a test of how each smartphone handles details at night along with the intricate details in the lit-up buildings. With the sun almost setting, the sky also takes on an interesting colour and design, which our smartphones also need to be able to capture.

The focal point is the clock at the top of the middle of the three buildings (the white building) and the real test is which image is the clearest when you zoom into them. Of course, the color of the sky, the detail in the sunset and the noise reduction in the buildings and the lights are all things to look out for when picking your winner.


Gallery 15

Our penultimate shot brings us back to Charing Cross station, albeit we’re a lot closer this time. Charing Cross Station has a lot of intricate detail in the building work and, lit up at night, it also has a lot of elements which can really challenge our smartphones in low light.

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The focal point of this image is the top of Charing Cross Station, in particular the details at the curved top of the building. Look out for how each smartphone handles the individual lines (which will make any noise reduction quite easy to spot) and also, the overall detail in the building, how each device handles the lights and the color and detail in the sky in the background.


Gallery 16

If you’re with us this far, give yourself a pat on the back and join us for the last gallery in this monstrous shootout. The London Underground sign is rather iconic with its red and blue design and lit up at night, it can prove to be a real challenge for how each smartphone automatically adjusts contrasts. Which device adjusts the contrast enough to prevent a blown out image?

The key focal point in this image is the lit-up London Underground sign just peeking through the bottom of the trees. The actual color is meant to be a red circle with white text on a blue background denoting the name of the station. Also look out for the detail in the longer ‘Embankment’ station sign just above the entrance to the station and which smartphone brings out these details the best.


And that concludes our mass camera shootout to find out which smartphone camera really does rule them all. We’re going to keep the voting open for a week or so after which we’ll reveal which smartphone you’ve voted as having the best camera on the market.

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Which handset did you vote for and is there a particular one of these handsets that you felt was a let down against your expectations? Let us know your views in the comments below guys, don’t forget to share this using the buttons at the top so more people can help decide which camera is the best and stay tuned for the results in a week’s time!