Shutter showdown: which smartphone has the best camera?

Macro: Plants and stuff

Phones are not really designed for macro photography. Their lens angles are generally a bit too wide, and unless they have manual focusing, getting the camera to focus on a small, close-by object can be tricky.

Therefore, extra resolution can really come in handy, giving you the ability to crop in on an image without sacrificing too much visible detail. While at pixel level the HTC One M9 is once again a little soft, the LG G4 and Galaxy S6 are better at separating very fine detail than the iPhones.

They’re both strong. And have their own benefits. The Galaxy S6’s autofocus seems to be better at hooking onto tricky targets than the LG G4’s, but then the G4 has manual focusing through its full manual mode.

Selfies: Narcissist corner

To end on a high note: how about selfies? They may divide audiences, but they sure are popular. Here the HTC One M9 has the most impressive hardware, using a 4MP 1/3-inch sensor, the UltraPixel sensor found on the HTC One M8’s rear.

The LG G4 has an 8-megapixel sensor, but even just looking at it, you can tell its lens and sensor are relatively tiny. The Galaxy S6 has a pretty standard 5MP sensor while old stick-in-the-mud Apple uses 1.2-megapixel sensors for each.

Does HTC walk away with it? Almost, but not quite. Its issue is that the One M9 uses a fixed focus lens, and its focal point means it has to be held at full arm’s length to get a proper focus. Try and actually frame just your own face in the scene and it’ll be pretty blurry.

It may be down to there just not being enough room for the AF module. This is a shame, because in rubbish lighting the One M9 produces the least noisy selfies, without there being very obvious processing behind this.

The others are ultimately more pedestrian. The LG G4 has lots of megapixels but quite ugly processing in lower lighting and often anaemic-looking colour. Low resolution in the iPhones means that while they offer decent colour fidelity, they’re always going to be pretty scrappy-looking.

The HTC One M9 should have been the best here, but its inflexibility makes it a bit of a pain to use. I found the less-annoying Galaxy S6 to be more enjoyable to use, although it depends on your priorities.

Verdict

So which is the best camera? The only particularly clear result here is that there are losers. The HTC One M9 suffers from a bunch of fairly serious issues while the iPhone 6 Plus gets the edge over the vanilla iPhone 6, which is still pretty excellent.

Comparing the LG G4, iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S6 is a bit trickier. The LG G4 and Samsung Galaxy S6 are clearly superior if you start using the zoom, and generally provide more detail. They are also almost as reliable as the iPhone 6 Plus too in terms of speed, exposure and colour.

We do say almost, though: aside from a couple of low-light slip-ups, the iPhone 6 Plus’s colour and exposure are pretty much flawless. The LG G4 takes a bit more of an eye candy-happy approach, making its photos appear a bit brighter or warmer quite a lot of the time.

All three are winners, but the Samsung Galaxy S6 finds a happy medium that makes it that bit more flexible while still being loads of fun to use. It’s the one we’ll be packing next time we head down to the zoo.

1
2
3