We Tested the New iPhone Camera, and It Still Can't Beat the Samsung Galaxy
The battle for the Best Smartphone Camera is on. For a while, the iPhone 6s boasted the best in the game, up until Samsung's Galaxy S7 came along and quietly challenged Apple's claim to the iron throne. However, the dual-lens camera on the new iPhone 7 Plus is the most impressive thing to come out of Apple in years, and works wonders the Galaxy can only dream of -- most notably, some pretty slick bokeh and depth effects.
But if you can't even pronounce "bokeh" and just want to know which damn camera is the best for everyday use, we're here to help. We took the iPhone 7 Plus, Galaxy S7, and iPhone 6s out into the field to see how they stack up against one another. Unsurprising spoiler alert: the 6s lost.
Best front-facing camera (selfies!!!)Winner: the Galaxy S7
Apple knows how much we love to capture our own visage, which is why they've upped the front-facing cameras on both the 7 and 7 Plus from five to seven megapixels. We managed to get decent, bright selfies with the 7 Plus -- it has a larger sensor and produces a larger image with more detail -- but the lens on the Galaxy's front camera (at just five megapixels) still looks sharper and captured the best looking, color-accurate shot, with much less glare on the faces. Also, the front-facing camera on the Galaxy has a lower maximum aperture of f/1.7, compared to the f/2.2 on the 7 Plus, which means it will take brighter selfies in low light situations.
Farthest zoom with the least distortionWinner: the 7 Plus
The inclusion of the telephoto lens to the 7 Plus's dual lens setup means its capable of an optical zoom, which lets you zoom way in on faraway objects without losing much quality. The 6s and Galaxy S7 both only have a single lens and only offer the ability to zoom digitally, which notoriously sucks out a good deal of quality and leaves you with a more pixelated image.
Best zoom on a detailed objectWinner: the 7 Plus
This is yet another instance in which the 7 Plus's telephoto lens's abilities outshine the competition. You'll notice its shot has the most crisp detail and richest color.
Best high dynamic range in artificial lightingWinner: the Galaxy S7
With High Dynamic Range (HDR) enabled on all three phones, we tested to see how well each was able to patch together the most extreme whites and darks in one image, and in artificial light. The 7 Plus and the 6s both tend to blow out the highlights, or the brightest parts of a given image, while the S7 maintains a nicely composed balance.
The least lens distortionWinner: the Galaxy S7
The lenses on all three cameras can slightly distort the shapes of things based on perspective, but the S7 did this the least compared to both iPhones (i.e., it captured the shapes of objects most accurately). If you look closely, you'll notice the lines of the windows of the buildings line up more clearly in the S7's shot.
Best portrait in low lightWinner: the Galaxy S7
The 7 Plus is better than the 6s in low light, since it's taking in more light with an improved f/1.8 aperture, but the S7 is the standout winner here since it has an edge with a slightly better f/1.7 aperture that lets more light through.
Best close-up in low lightWinner: the Galaxy S7
The S7's aperture advantage proves itself once again in a close-up at a dark bar. The 6s and 7 Plus shots aren't awful, but the S7's is crisper, and shows better detail, color, and contrast.
Shooting outside at nightWinner: the Galaxy S7
Both the S7 and 7 Plus are significantly better than the 6s, but the S7 dominates once again in low light thanks to its optical image stabilization and slightly wider aperture, which allows more light to hit its sensor and capture more detail.
Adding an automatic depth of field effectWinner: the 7 Plus
This one isn't really a competition, since the 7 Plus is the only camera of the three that provides this feature. "Portrait mode," as it's known, uses both of the 7 Plus's lenses to automatically create an image in which the foreground/subject is crisply in focus and the background is dramatically blurred. As you can see, it looks pretty damn good.
The feature is currently only available to 7 Plus users who've downloaded the beta version of iOS 10.1, but it should roll out to everyone in the near future, along with some additional features that allow for even more control over depth of field.
Overall: Coming out on top in six of the nine tests, the Galaxy S7 is the clear MVP if you want a powerhouse daily shooter that takes solid selfies and top-notch night shots. However, the 7 Plus’s dual lenses do give it a spectacular advantage over the S7 when it comes to more specialized functions (e.g., optical zooming and depth effects), which make it the better option for enthusiasts looking for next-level DSLR-caliber power in their pocket.
For those of you stuck with the iPhone 6s camera for another year, don't feel bad. You're still a winner in our eyes.
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