Best Smartphone Cameras 2016

With their high-quality sensors, powerful shooting modes and multitude of camera settings, smartphones have shown point-and-shoot cameras the door. Based on our in-depth testing, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is the best camera phone around. Its 12-megapixel dual-pixel sensor is a first in smartphones, enabling superfast autofocus so you never miss a shot. Large 1.4-micron pixels and a wide f/1.7 aperture let in more light than before for bright, vivid and sharp photos especially in low-light conditions.

Even better news: that camera isn’t limited to the Edge. You’ll also find it on the slightly less expensive Galaxy S7 as well as on Samsung’s Note 7 phablet. And if you want something that's tough and rugged, Samsung's Galaxy S7 Active offers the same sharp-cameras but with a shatterproof screen that can withstand drops of up to 5 feet and water-resistance of up to 5 feet for 30-minutes.

The S7 Edge knocked off former champ the iPhone 6s Plus, which boasts vibrant, clear pics in its own right. The LG G5's second wide-angle camera enables stunning landscape photography, and its regular 16-MP shooter is solid, earning the device a spot on this list. While it came out last fall, the Nexus 6P remains an excellent choice, thanks to the relatively large 1.55-micron pixels its sensor supports.

How We Test Phone Cameras

We put the market's leading handsets through a variety of common shooting situations, such as landscapes, portraits and selfies in daylight and at night. 

Then, we analyzed each set of images on a color-calibrated monitor to see which smartphone had the best combination of color accuracy, clarity and contrast. The Galaxy S7 Edge stood out for its superior performance both in daylight and low light, but more so for its ability to swiftly focus on subjects.

In each of our smartphone reviews, we also factor in the phone's camera performance by testing it in bright, indoor and low-light conditions, as well as by recording and analyzing video clips.

Check out all of our top picks below.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge by Carrier: AT&T | Sprint | T-Mobile | Verizon

Apple iPhone 6s Plus By Carrier: AT&T | Sprint | T-Mobile | Verizon

Nexus 6P By Carrier: Unlocked

LG G5 By Carrier: AT&T | Sprint | T-Mobile | Verizon

Galaxy Note 7 By Carrier: AT&T | Sprint | T-Mobile | Verizon

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active By Carrier: AT&T

New & Notable

MORE: Read our hands-on with the Honor 8

Related Buying Guides:
Best Smartphones
Best iPhone Lenses
Best Digital Cameras

Create a new thread in the Digital Cameras forum about this subject
19 comments
    Your comment
  • BrodaFett
    You should have included the Sony xperia z5 on here. 23 megapixels and Sony tech equals a deserved mention in this article. Samsung might have the best specs but in my experience are the least reliable and most likely to be a factory lemon. They get too much hype already so show some deserved love to other brands.
    0
  • Brian_100
    Point taken Brodafett, However You Must Have All The Knowledge of What Makes a Cell Phone Camera The Best, and its Not Havingt The Most Mega Pixls That Make The Best Cell Phone Cameras!!!!
    The Resolution Myth
    Generally speaking, the more megapixels a cellphone camera offers, the better the quality of pictures you can take with the device. However, this is not always true. While the megapixel resolution is important, it alone does not guarantee the optimal results for picture quality. Other variables such as lens quality, shutter speed, low-light performance play an equally important role in determining the overall quality of pictures taken with a cellphone or smartphone camera. Nevertheless, the best camera cellphones offer resolution ratings of at least 10 megapixels, and a few models support resolutions of 20 megapixels or more.
    0
  • bjornl
    2204995 said:
    You should have included the Sony xperia z5 on here. 23 megapixels and Sony tech equals a deserved mention in this article. Samsung might have the best specs but in my experience are the least reliable and most likely to be a factory lemon. They get too much hype already so show some deserved love to other brands.


    The above linked review is not alone in determining that that the Samsung s7 s7Edge are the best cameras in smart phones.
    http://www.dxomark.com/Mobiles/Samsung-Galaxy-S7-edge-Mobile-Review-A-new-champion
    Also pixel count, particularly in as small a sensor as phones have play next to no role at all in image quality.
    0
  • BrodaFett
    Yes, I am well aware that pixels aren't the end all be all of photography. My point was simply the Sony xperia z5 is every bit as good as any of these cameras listed. It wasn't mentioned because it is not a Samsung or Apple iPhone period. Let me ask both of you how good are Sony lenses?? Yeah they are very good. The xperia is a Sony phone with Sony lenses and camera technology. Then logically shouldn't they get mentioned on this list? Instead it's Samsung, Samsung, Samsung, Apple, Samsung. So, do you want to keep singling out one little point from my comment, or address the actual basis of my original comment? Disprove that the xperia z5 doesn't deserve to be on this list. I'm waiting.

    To the author do some research. Don't be lazy and just list the newest phones, in order, from the two biggest names in the industry. There are enough corporate sponsored fluff pieces for Samsung already.
    0
  • 098340394852
    One of three of Samsung and Apple's sensor part sources is Sony. Guess which produces the best results in tests? A good camera is low fringe and grain and best low-light handling under competitive pixel density. Three years ago Sony finish a "super white" low-light tech that nobody has yet to compete with. You think they are going to use worse parts on their own products?
    0
  • bjornl
    You guys should just check out DXO Mobile. Which unlike uninformed random noise from the internet is fact based.
    http://www.dxomark.com/Mobiles
    The Sony's do well, but aren't as magical as you might wish.
    0
  • ladinboarder
    No comment about the Lumia 950? ..maybe/probably the true winner in the categories "Best Smartphone Camera Overall" and "Best Smartphone Video"?!?!
    0
  • malaima
    The Sony's do well, but aren't as magical as you might wish.
    0
  • Faisal_15
    Well I think the sony cybershot was one off the best cell phone camera at that time.. cybershot took us to another level of photography
    0
  • Michael Trenton
    I have a Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. Best phone camera I've had ever. :)
    0
  • smith15
    Apple Iphone SE has good camera quality
    0
  • wdoutjah
    Anyone forgot Lumia 1020?
    0
  • Willa7
    I own lumia 950XL..... Nothing to say.... The best..... Sony too is the best.... It's the reality.... Rest everything is here patronized
    0
  • peterh337
    The best phone camera ever was the Nokia 808 (Symbian). No question. It was a fully functioning phone for me. I moved on only when the awful web browser (Opera was the least bad) became useless for some websites which I need to use. It had a dedicated shutter button and a wonderful 3rd party camera app which produced stunning 12MP images generated by averaging down the raw 40MP images.

    Nokia then put the same camera into the Nokia 1020 (Windows 8.1) but without the 808's coprocessor so it was slower, and they crippled the output options into (a) 40MP raw (a rarely supported version of DNG!) and a small jpeg of about 1MB in size (intended for emailing by dumb users).

    Still the two above are the best ever camera phones and if you look at the size of the lens, never mind the thickness of the camera, you can see why nobody today gets even close.

    Today, production phones, all use the same sensor, and the top Iphone is similar to the Samsung S7. I have the S7. The previous, S6, is very similar. Unfortunately, Samsung try to please the undiscerning masses on the S7 by oversaturating the images so if you want natural colours you often have to tweak them. And there is no properly functioning 3rd party app for the S7 (yet, OS version 6.x) which might enable one to get natural pics straight out of the phone.
    0
  • Cuong_2
    Have you compare your phones with Sony Xperia Z3......myself and friends try to compare witch smart phone's camera is the best.......sorry iphones - the worst among the worst....
    0
  • sgPrototype
    adding a Dark Horse to this article here.. one of the best and cheapest smartphone cameras i have found is the vivo xshot.. the phone itself has its cons in outdated OS & support.. however the camera has a very decent F1.8, OIS, 6P lens, 13MP.. this still cant match the S7, but i would say is on par with the iphone 6 plus.. **interesting thing to note is that the xshot halted production and newer models from vivo all have F2.0 cameras with no more OIS.. obviously going in line with cost reduction.. that or maybe they were making a loss with putting such a good camera in a relatively cheap flagship..
    0
  • Ciricky
    I bought the Sony xperia z5 just because of the camera and was very excited to get it. The pictures were half as good as my Samsung Galaxy S5. I tried every setting, printed the same picture with both camera phones and send tthe phone back with the pictures enclosed. Very disappointed. So I wish they would do sample pictures of the same pictures with each camera. Save us all time and money.
    0
  • Ewitte
    Cell phones can take great pictures in good lighting provided your in focus. There is only so much that can be done because the total light on the sensor is really important and the sensors are so small. A f/2 ISO 100 setting on a 1/2.5 inch sensor is comparable to f/11 ISO 1600 on an APS-C sensor and even worse with bigger sensors.
    0
  • Ciricky
    2110685 said:
    Cell phones can take great pictures in good lighting provided your in focus. There is only so much that can be done because the total light on the sensor is really important and the sensors are so small. A f/2 ISO 100 setting on a 1/2.5 inch sensor is comparable to f/11 ISO 1600 on an APS-C sensor and even worse with bigger sensors.
    I use the blond method...I shoot the exact same picture with both cameras and print them. The Sony was half as good as the Samsung Galaxy 5, and yes I tried different settings as well in the Sony and got the same results. Same photographer same picture same lighting, different cameras. Interestingly enough I just went in to test the Samsung 7 it was very contrasty with blown out highlights. I did try the LG G5 and it took great pictures. Of course I didn't print them as I was in a store, so I don't know for sure. But at least on screen the color and exposure was excellent.
    0