The OnePlus 5 brings with it a new dual camera that offers theoretical optical zoom as well as the largest dual camera setup on the market but with Android smartphone cameras so capable, is it better than the competition? We wanted to put it to the test and instead of just crowning a winner ourselves, we wanted YOUR opinion.

A week of voting later, the results are in, so which smartphone camera is the best? How does the OnePlus 5 camera compare to the Galaxy S8, LG G6, Pixel XL, HTC U11 (which has the highest DxO rating at the moment) and the Xperia XZ Premium? After 67,000 votes, which smartphone camera did you vote for as the winner? Let’s find out!

 

Our testing

We had the OnePlus 5 for a day for this camera shootout so while this test isn’t as in-depth as we’d have liked, it does give us an understanding of how OnePlus’ latest flagship lines up against the competition. Every shot was conducted in full Auto mode with all settings set to their out-of-the-box state, including automatic HDR and exposure.

All of these smartphones are technically capable of capturing images in manual mode, which offers the flexibility of DSLR-like controls for photographers to tweak their shot, whether natively or using a third-party app. While this feature does offer a lot of flexibility, most users won’t actually use it so instead, we’re testing the full automatic experience that each of these OEMs has worked so hard to provide.

 

The shootout

For each gallery, we randomised the order of the phones between each gallery and for the color and detail galleries, we included the six 100% crops of the focal point. Each gallery came with a poll asking you to vote for your favorite picture and below, we’ve broken the winners down per gallery as well as identified which picture came from each phone.

Color

For a test of color, this scene provides a range of colors, as well as varying amounts of detail in the leaves, the dome and pillars of the Rotunda and the lagoon. The focal point was the detail around the dome; while all phones managed to capture some detail, some definitely outperformed the rest, with better color reproduction and less noise.

Winner: Xperia XZ Premium

All smartphones can take a decent picture of a sunny static subject but sometimes, you need the one that’s guaranteed to get as much detail as possible in a snap. Whether it’s at the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas or when swimming with dolphins, which phone can you rely on in a pinch?

Winner: LG G6

One of the most iconic parts of San Francisco and for good reason – whether it’s against a clear sky or when the fog is rolling in, the Golden Gate Bridge stands majestic at all times. On a bright day like this, the red color of the Bridge provides welcome contrast against the greens of the hills behind and the bright blue sky. Which phone captures the intricate strands suspending the bridge as well as the color the best?

Winner: Xperia XZ Premium

The breakers and cliffs next to the sea can be one of the best places to think and as the water breaks over these boulders, it is also one of nature’s simplest ways to show natural beauty. From the detail in the water sloshing over the rocks to the moss and of course, the color of the water, which phone performed the best?

Winner: LG G6

Detail

San Francisco has a lot of unique buildings and impressive architecture, from the Palace of the Fine Arts to the homes of the rich and famous. The building in this photo stood out for plenty of reasons, not least the excellent full-length windows that offer a great view of the lagoon outside and the entire Palace. Look out for the details in the building’s materials as well as the chimney and the tree just in front.

Winner: Pixel XL

All smartphones can take a good picture but what about taking pictures of the forgotten, such as a gravestone, plaque or other memorial? While the detail isn’t as important as the message here, look out for the clarity in the letters. This test in particular showed us that each phone has a very different approach to white balance in automatic mode, especially when it comes to a gray subject like this monument.

Winner: OnePlus 5

From the near, to the far… very far. Alcatraz Island may be a tourist destination now – if you can get tickets that is – but it once severed as a notorious prison housing some of the most dangerous people in the world. Few escaped and most were stuck, surrounded by a large body of water. Nowadays you can pay a visit if you book early enough but if you’re in a pinch and can’t get tickets, which phone can you rely on to get you there?

Winner: Galaxy S8

A main part of the design behind the Palace of the Fine Arts, the ceiling of one of the four identical Rotundas shows intricate detail in a simplified pattern. Looking directly up from the centre of the Rotunda, this is the view that greeted us but which phone handles this somewhat mundane yet challenging scene the best? Check out the 100% crops and let us know!

Winner: OnePlus 5

If you visit any city in the world, standing across a body of water and capturing the landscape is one picture everyone seems to capture. From the skyscrapers of New York and Dubai to the beaches of Bondi and Rio, there’s a lot of reasons to have a phone that can handle this task. Look at the detail in the buildings in the crops as well as the ripples in the waves in the full images and vote for your winner below!

Winner: LG G6


Dynamic Range

A lone flower stands in front of a beautiful scene, but which phone can handle such varied range the best? From the leaves of the flower in the foreground to the color of the lagoon, the greenery and the sky in the background, which phone handles HDR and the contrast in the scene the best?

Winner: Galaxy S8

From one contrast to another and looking outside from under a shady Rotunda shows off a challenging scene, at least until HDR kicks in. Which phone handles the detail in the pillars in the foreground and the background the best, as well as the greenery, the darkness inside the Rotunda and the skies in the background? Take a look and vote below!

Winner: LG G6

From the harsh reflections of the sun’s light on the Rotunda to the darkness inside it and the blue skies behind, this scene offers multiple points of contrast and each smartphone takes a slightly different approach. Some focus on a balanced overall photo, while others prioritize the foreground or background over the inside of the Rotunda.

Winner: LG G6

From the reflections in the lagoon’s waters to the blue skies behind and the shadows inside the Rotunda, a scene like this brings with it a few challenges for smartphone cameras. The focal point was the top of the Rotunda, but each phone takes a slightly different approach and the color of the sky is rather telling. Which phone provides the most balanced image, and which do you think looks best? Vote down below!

Winner: LG G6


Selfie & Portrait

Selfies – love them or hate them but everyone takes them. So much so that OEMs often focus on the front camera to differentiate their smartphones, especially when the rear camera hasn’t changed much from previous iterations. Confronted by bright sunlight, which smartphone handles selfies the best? Consider the detail, brightness and color as well as the background and vote below!

Winner: Pixel XL

When it comes to group selfies, wide front angle cameras have a distinct advantage but even if your phone doesn’t have one, most phones can capture three people in a group selfie. Of course, with multiple focus points, which phone recognises faces the best and makes sure everyone is in focus while not blowing out the background and retaining most of the detail?

Winner: HTC U11

Lowlight

Almost all smartphones can take a great picture when the lighting is good but it’s when the sun goes down that we see where some smartphones rise while others fall. The larger the pixel and aperture size, the better that phone theoretically is in low light, but is this always the case? Take a look at this scene, including the detail in the Fort Mason Centre, the masts of the sail boats and the darkening night sky?

Winner: HTC U11

Yes. Josh delayed his Senor Sisig burrito and held this pose for a few minutes just to provide a lowlight shot with a difference. From Josh’s face and the details in the burrito to the lit up sign adorning the tent in the background and the red lanterns on the side, which phone takes the best lowlight portrait and can be relied upon to capture those memories on a night out?

Winner: Pixel XL

Ok so we took this picture just because it caught our eye as soon as we entered the food truck area! It’s a cool truck, the logo is the kind of thing you’d expect to see on the rough seas and the barbeque tasted great! Which phone handles the light of the truck against the pitch black night sky the best? What about the colors of the Curry Up Now truck (another of my favorites) to the right?

Winner: OnePlus 5


Video recording

While most manufacturers focus on image quality, video is still an important part of today’s smartphone camera, especially with the rise of vlogging, Facebook Live and Snapchat. How do these smartphones compare when it comes to video recording? We found a jazz band to find out!

Galaxy S8:

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRerreAbBS0[/embed]

LG G6:

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5XR3e_7M2I[/embed]

HTC U11:

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeWMlEfSL-U[/embed]

Xperia XZ Premium:

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yby5mBnRY38[/embed]

Pixel XL:

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX29mL3NPYs[/embed]

OnePlus 5:

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDMfiTDScYM[/embed]

Our last test for this impromptu camera shootout surrounds video recording and while we’ve already discussed that smartphones generally take great photos and video in daylight, how do these phones handle a low light recording session? Which could be relied upon to capture every minute of a headline act at Coachella or Glastonbury? Watch each of the videos, listen to the audio recording and vote for the winner below!

Winner: Galaxy S8


The Results

After counting over 67,000 votes, one thing was apparent; there results were very close. Just 2700 votes separated first and last place, 1000 votes separated second and fifth and there was less than 100 votes separating second and third, and fourth and fifth. Over the past few years, Android OEMs have made major improvements to the cameras on smartphones and if anything, this entire shootout shows that very little separates smartphone cameras.

How does each smartphone stack up? Here’s the results!

Final PositionPhoneTotal Votes% of votes
Final Position:
1
Phone:
LG G6
Total Votes:
12,873
% of votes:
20.15%
Final Position:
2
Phone:
OnePlus 5
Total Votes:
10,956
% of votes:
17.15%
Final Position:
3
Phone:
Pixel XL
Total Votes:
10,878
% of votes:
17.03%
Final Position:
4
Phone:
Galaxy S8
Total Votes:
10,084
% of votes:
15.78%
Final Position:
5
Phone:
Xperia XZ Premium
Total Votes:
9,955
% of votes:
15.58%
Final Position:
6
Phone:
HTC U11
Total Votes:
9,143
% of votes:
14.31%

So you voted for the LG G6 as the winner i our blind camera shootout, followed by a close the fight between the OnePlus 5 and the Pixel XL. Now you know which smartphone took each picture, would you still vote the same way or would another phone get your vote?

The Final Word

All photos are accurate. None of them is the truth.

Chase Jarvis’ famous quip rings true now more than ever with smartphones: The best camera is the one you have with you. The fact is that smartphones have mostly replaced dedicated cameras for the person who wants to capture memories easily and quickly and as we’ve found in previous shootouts, there’s more to photography in the modern age than just the optics. Most smartphone photos are now shared across social media, which compresses the image, rather than being printed, like photography of old.

With this in mind, smartphone photography is about more than just the optics, rather it’s about the entire package: the sensors and optics that provide the hardware as well as the software that provides the algorithms, processing and unique features that allow manufacturers to truly compete. This is why consumers will always have different opinions around cameras and pictures in general. Whereas in the past, a lot of it was about the ability of the person behind the camera, smartphones have made it about the person in front of the camera.

All photos are accurate. None of them is the truth.

As such, the best camera is now not the one that takes the cleanest photo, but arguably the one that looks the most pleasing to the eye. Over-saturation is an easy way to make an image ‘pop’ and can be a useful tool to hide grain as you zoom all the way into a photo (which is an ever dying concept), whereas a lack of noise can make an image very clean but may not look the most appealing until you zoom in. Richard Avedon’s quip comes to mind and applies more and more with each new generation of smartphone cameras: All photos are accurate. None of them is the truth.

What style of photos do you prefer and what do you do with your photos? Do you print them, share them, zoom into them etc? What do you think of the final results? Which smartphone would you have crowned as the winner? How can we improve future camera shootouts? Let us know your views in the comments below!

OnePlus 5 review - the Never Settle promise lives on