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Best phone camera 2016 - LG G5 vs Samsung S7 vs HTC 10

Expert Reviews logo Expert Reviews 07-05-2016 Katharine Byrne

In the age of the endless selfie, the quality of your phone's camera is fast becoming the most important thing for new smartphone buyers. With this in mind, we've put this year's top Android smartphones head-to-head to see which one can take the best pictures.

In this article, we'll be comparing the Samsung Galaxy S7, the HTC 10 and the LG G5 in a shot-by-shot comparison in both indoor and outdoor settings using their default Auto modes. We'll also see how each phone's High Dynamic Range (HDR) setting helps out, and how each one copes with bright indoor lighting, low indoor lighting and whether the flash adds anything to the overall picture quality.

Specifications

Before we delve into our picture analysis, though, it's worth discussing what each smartphone camera has inside it. Both the Samsung Galaxy S7 and HTC 10, for instance, use a 12-megapixel sensor, while the LG G5 has a bigger 16-megapixel resolution. The G5 also has a second rear camera which has a wide-angle 8-megapixel sensor.

More megapixels doesn't necessarily mean better pictures, though, as the number of megapixels merely relates to the final resolution of each photo. The LG G5, for instance, should therefore capture more detail than the S7 and HTC 10, but there are actually far more important factors that come into play to determine overall picture quality.

S7 vs G5 header© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited S7 vs G5 header

The size of each individual pixel is particularly important, and has been a major focus point for almost every major manufacturer this year. The only one that hasn't made a big deal about pixel size is LG. Samsung, for instance, has said that it's now increased the size of the S7's sensor pixels to 1.4um, which is a big improvement on the last year's S6 camera as this only had 1.12um pixels. The HTC 10, meanwhile, has even larger 1.55um pixels. In real terms, the bigger a pixel is, the more light it receives, and therefore should perform better in lower lighting conditions.

The number of pixels and their size dictates the overall size of the sensor, again bigger means it can capture more light and measure it with a higher level of accuracy, thereby creating less noise and more natural-looking colours. Again, LG hasn't disclosed the size of its sensor, but the HTC 10 has a pretty standard 1/2.3in sensor, while the S7 has a slightly smaller 1/2.6in sensor. AS we'd expect based on the pixel sizes.

Aperture size is another consideration. A wider aperture will let in more light than a narrow aperture. Both the HTC 10 and LG G5 use an f/1.8 aperture lens, while the S7 has a wider aperture of f/1.7. It's a small difference though, just 1/6th of an f/stop for those who speak 'camera'.

HTC 10 back© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited HTC 10 back

Image quality

Taken altogether, then, the HTC 10 probably has the best specified camera based on the information available, but specs only tell one side of the story, as each manufacturer's individual image processing will also play a key role in how your pictures actually turn out once you've tapped the shutter.

You can see the results of this in our own photo tests. While Samsung favours a slightly warmer colour temperature, LG goes big on contrast, making images much punchier and more eye-catching. Our HTC 10 photos, on the other hand, look positively bland and lifeless by comparison, particularly when it came to our indoor shots.

Outside, though, it's a pretty close-run race. The HTC 10 had better overall exposure levels than the G5 and S7, particularly when it came to capturing the rather dark, moody clouds in the background, but its colours weren't nearly as vibrant as its competitors. The S7 and G5 also produced brighter photos, but they come at the cost of an overexposed sky.

Samsung Galaxy S7 camera test vs© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited Samsung Galaxy S7 camera test vs

^ The S7 produced bright, rich colours, but it struggled to expose bright patches of cloud correctly

HTC 10 camera test vs© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited HTC 10 camera test vs ^ The HTC 10, on the other hand, was darker overall, but it captured a lot more cloud detail

LG G5 camera test vs© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited LG G5 camera test vs ^ The LG G5 also struggled to capture a lot of cloud detail, but much like the S7, photos were brighter and more vivid as a result

HDR mode

Switch on HDR, though, and the G5 really comes into its own, producing much more dramatic pictures than either of its two rivals. Some might say this looks a little artificial, but there's definitely a lot more detail here than the S7 and HTC 10, showing it has better dynamic range overall. If anything, the HTC 10 actually performs the worst when you switch on HDR, as its cloud detail isn't as dark in the shadows and brighter areas start to clip much earlier than the S7's efforts.

Samsung Galaxy S7 camera test vs HDR© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited Samsung Galaxy S7 camera test vs HDR

^ The S7's HDR mode did a much better job of capturing more cloud detail than Auto mode, and it even surpassed the HTC 10 on contrast

HTC 10 camera test vs HDR© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited HTC 10 camera test vs HDR ^ The HTC 10 arguably performed worse when we switched on HDR mode, but at least the rest of the picture was a bit brighter than its regular Auto mode

LG G5 camera test vs HDR© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited LG G5 camera test vs HDR ^ The LG G5, on the other hand, produced by far the most dramatic shots in HDR while still maintaining its bright, vivid colour reproduction

Indoors

Indoors, the G5 once again proved it had the superior dynamic range, as highlights and lowlights were much more accentuated than the HTC 10 and S7 under low lighting conditions. As a result, the G5 had more contrast and punchier colours, and its colours were also a lot more natural and neutral than the warmer tones of the S7. The HTC 10, meanwhile, looked quite dull by comparison, producing softer edges and slightly noisier shadows.

Samsung galaxy S7 camera indoors© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited Samsung galaxy S7 camera indoors

^ The S7 produced great indoor shots in our low-lighting test and it showed hardly any noise

HTC 10 camera test indoors© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited HTC 10 camera test indoors ^ The HTC 10 was quite drab by comparison, and there wasn't nearly as much contrast in our still life arrangement

LG G5 camera test indoors© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited LG G5 camera test indoors

^ The LG G5 proved itself the most capable in low-light, as it not only had the highest contrast levels, but it also had the punchiest colours

The G5 also had the best flash, as our white background looked much brighter and true to life. The S7's flash was quite dark by comparison, while the HTC 10's made our white background look quite pink. I'd say the G5 also performed best in our bright indoor light test, too, as its increased contrast levels produced much more vibrant images. The S7 comes in a close second, but the HTC 10 looks diabolical by comparison, showing very little contrast and flat, washed out colours.

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

^ The S7 continued to shine when we turned on our studio lights, but its colour temperature was a little warm by comparison

HTC 10 camera test indoors with lamp© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited HTC 10 camera test indoors with lamp

^ The HTC 10 didn't perform particularly brilliantly in bright light, either, which is a bit disappointing considering its good outdoor shots© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited^ The LG G5, on the other hand, put in another great show, producing bright, rich colours with plenty of contrast

Conclusion

All three cameras have their own strengths and weaknesses, but the LG G5 consistently produces better shots under a wider variety of lighting conditions. The HTC 10 is arguably better for taking outdoor shots, but its indoor performance definitely puts it at the back of the pack overall. The S7 also puts in a decent effort, but in my eyes it can't quite compete with the G5's punchiness. You certainly wouldn't be disappointed with the S7's camera, but for those that want the very best camera that Android has to offer, the LG G5 is the clear winner.

Interested in any of these great handsets? Then see all the best Galaxy S7 deals, the best HTC 10 deals and the best LG G5 deals, all from uSwitch.

LG G5 rear cameras© Expert Reviews LG G5 rear cameras

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