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:

LG G6:

HTC U11:

Xperia XZ Premium:

Pixel XL:

OnePlus 5:

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
1LG G612,87320.15%
2OnePlus 510,95617.15%
3Pixel XL10,87817.03%
4Galaxy S810,08415.78%
5Xperia XZ Premium9,95515.58%
6HTC U119,14314.31%

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!

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