It's Close, but iPhone 7's Camera Still Can't Top Samsung

While their resolution may have stayed the same, the 12-megapixel rear cameras in Apple's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus look to offer a big improvement in picture quality. Not only does the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus both sport a cameras with optical image stabilization, a larger f/1.8 aperture and an upsized sensor with bigger pixels, Apple has tacked a second camera onto the iPhone 7 Plus with a 2x optical zoom.

Credit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideCredit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideBut this is 2016, and Apple isn't the only company that can put great cameras on its smartphones. So in order to see which handset is the best shooter on the market, we put both iPhone 7s up against Samsung's 12-MP S7 Edge to see which phone can claim the title for the best camera.

Close up

When I took an up close shot of some hibiscus flowers still fresh with morning dew, we can see some pretty interesting differences between the iPhone 7 and S7 Edge. While the petals on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus' picture looks a little too red, their photos were more accurate than the S7 Edge's version, which added way too much magenta.

Credit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideCredit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideWhen you zoom into 100 percent, the S7 Edge's photo looks significantly sharper, which makes it much easier to see the texture of the flowers petals and details on its pistil. And if given the choice between the two, I'd have to lean towards the S7 Edge's shot, because it’s much easier to fix colors in post than it is to recover detail.

Landscape

In Madison Square Park, Apple and Samsung faced off in an attempt to shoot a good landscape while simultaneously capturing a somewhat rare event: a short line at Shake Shack.

Interestingly, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus captured photos with pretty different color casts, which resulted in a more pleasing shot for the 7 Plus due to its warmer tones. However, as this shot and others show, the camera in Samsung's S7 Edge is slightly more proficient. It's pic nicely split the difference in color casts between both iPhones, while also capturing a bit more detail in the leaves and trees.

Credit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideCredit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's Guide

City

In a shot looking down the middle of Broadway while mounted on a tripod, I was looking to really challenge Apple and Samsung's dynamic range processing by tasking the cameras to capture both details in the stone buildings as well as the bright blue sky behind them.

Credit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideCredit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideWhile both iPhone 7s took a couple shots to nail the exposure, when they did, their photos delivered a delicate balance between the sky and the street that I was looking for. However, the S7 Edge's photos looks just a bit better, as it matched the iPhone 7's well exposed shot, while also reducing the slight white haze that you can see in both of the iPhone 7s shots.

MORE: Camera Face-Off: Can an iPhone Beat a DSLR?

Indoors

At a local furniture store, I grabbed some shots of an invitingly fluffy chaise lounge. At first, while you might appreciate the iPhone 7's bright exposure, a closer look shows that the fabric on the chair is blown out.

Credit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideCredit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideBy comparison, while it's not perfect, there's less pure white in the S7 Edge's photo, which preserves more detail in the chair. Additionally, the S7 Edge's pic, while somewhat blotchy as a result Samsung's image processing, it isn't as grainy as the iPhone 7's pic.

Low light

When the phones got a chance to make it Suntory time at a nearby bar, their photos looked extremely similar. Photos from both iPhone 7s and the S7 Edge looked impressively full of color and featured good exposure even in a low-light environment.

Credit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideCredit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideBut if I really have to pick one, the S7 Edge would take this round because the bottles in its picture look just a hair sharper than what we got from either iPhone. One more interesting sidenote is that despite Apple claiming both iPhone's feature the same camera, the iPhone 7 Plus shot is ever so slightly sharper than the standard iPhone 7's.

MORE: HTC 10 vs. Galaxy S7 Camera Face-Off: Samsung Still on Top

Flash

Credit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideCredit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideOne of the new features on the iPhone 7 is its quad-led true tone flash, which is supposed to deliver a more natural shade of light when you need to turn on the flash. In practice, however, that doesn't always seem to work, because when compared against the S7 Edge with flash in the same situation, the iPhone 7's pic looked harsher.

Zoom

This probably goes without saying, but optical zoom is simply better than digital. And when I tested out Apple's dual camera system on a statue of Gandhi in Union Square, the iPhone 7 Plus delighted with a 2x zoom shoot featuring all the crispness and detail as the standard camera.

Credit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideCredit: Samuel Rutherford / Tom's GuideMeanwhile, even at the same magnification, the S7's shot started to show the results of what happens when you essentially try to make things bigger but without the same level of information.

Bottom Line

The contest between Apple and Samsung has never been closer, but in the end, the Galaxy S7 Edge comes out on top simply because its camera produces photos that are sharper and more well exposed than the iPhone 7's.

That's not to say Apple hasn't made great strides in the photo performance of its phones. It has, especially when it comes to the second camera you get on iPhone 7 Plus. It works almost like magic, produces super detailed shots, and is a way more elegant solution to the providing optical zoom on a phone than past attempts, such as Asus' Zenfone Zoom.

Overall, though, if you are looking to get the phone with the best camera on the market, Samsung's line of Galaxy 7 phones is still the one you want.

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11 comments
    Your comment
  • kickme22
    I'd like to point out that Samsung phones are known to oversharpen in their post-processing which would explain why they appear to have more 'detail' in the same shot.
    -1
  • JeffKLass
    Hey Sam, you have your head up your ass! Pull it out and you might see more clearly. ALL of the above iPhone7 photos that you provided are much better: better color, better contrast, better overall looks. Slightly sharper Galaxy shots don't make up for their poorer color, poorer contrast, and poorer overall looks.
    -1
  • Jason_177
    This is a purely subjective review. There's no quantitative measurements at all. It turns out, Sam, that cameras can actually be measured for quality: color, sharpness, white balance, etc.

    You did none of those things. Instead, you took a few photos and then said "I like Samsung more." My eyes say the iPhone photos are better in every case, so what's the value of this article other than trolling?

    Please go learn how to do a proper camera review and try again. Thanks.
    0
  • Tryst0
    Almost all of the iPhone pictures actually look better than the Samsung's ones (except of the white chair, that one look better on Samsung)
    -1
  • Goodfella212
    The Apple fanboys are NOT happy with this revelation. Samsung includes far superior cameras for sure in their phones It's just a fact. Apple seems to be catching up a little however, but continues to fall short. Maybe next time?
    0
  • Jon_48
    I've done the same kinds of tests with my S7 and iPhone 7+. In my testing the iPhone has better dynamic range with it's HDR photos than the samsung, which uses Auto HDR by default.

    Are you showing the HDR or non HDR iPhone pictures in this test?
    0
  • bakshi
    I don't see any mention of Wide Color. Was that considered in the review?
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  • Askolotlo
    That's a nice test with indeed very challenging scenes. However, this test is also mixing the camera hardware and the software (=the app).

    The app is responsible for selecting the basic parameters (focus, exposure time, aperture, ISO) and for doing the postprocessing (expecially light color).

    And that camera app is basically exchangeable.

    However, in order to compare the pure hardware, you would need to make manual shoots with the exact same settings (focus, exposure time, aperture, ISO), and then compare the RAW files.
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  • Alex_285
    on the bar scene picture he clearly focused in on the light on the left hand side which gave the s7 an advantage since it detected light through the lens. where as the iPhone was 6-7 bottles focused in on the right hand side where it was clearly much darker.
    this guy clearly has his head up his ass! I own both phones and Iphone Hands down produces and always has produced sharper cleaner images! and I am a photographer as well and I am not a fanboy of Apple or Android! I just like the best and will always seek out for the best. and in this case Apple has never let me down in so many ways!
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  • LRDFNDR16
    As Jason_177 pointed out, this is not a tech review. It is merely an expression of a personal opinion and very biased on top of it. Some of the photographs are taken at different moments (street pics) as well as from a different direction (bottles in the bar), hence changing the light conditions all together - very poor approach, no quantified measurements at all. This is indeed trolling only, sorry mate. Maybe next time you can do it better. Your personal opinion can be widely accepted because it is YOUR taste and opinion but do not confuse it with a pro-review and comparison. All the best from Australia!
    1
  • LRDFNDR16
    As already pointed out by Jason_177 earlier, this is a very unprofessional, personally biased and non-technical review. You like Samsung camera and that's perfectly clear. It is your PERSONAL opinion. However, comparing it to something else and making pictures under different conditions with either camera or even in more-or-less different directions and presenting it as some sort of technical comparison is a bit funny, really. No quantification, merely a cheap-ish personal bias. Better luck next time and, please, do make some technical preparation before conducting any comparative review again. All the best from Australia!
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