I took over 200 photos with the iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 — here’s the winner

iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy s24 200 photo faceoff
(Image credit: Future)

With apologies to Google and its photo-centric Pixel devices, the battle for best camera phone usually comes down to Apple's latest iPhones and the Galaxy S models from Samsung. The respective Pro Max and Ultra models in those lineups typically compete for top camera honors, yet it's the entry-level flagships from Apple and Samsung that are the ones most of us can afford. With that in mind, who wins an iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 camera face-off?

When we compared the two phones shortly after the release of the Galaxy S24, the photo segment of that competition was awfully close. In the end, the camera testing in our Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. iPhone 15 overall comparison found that Apple's device just inched past the Samsung flagship on the strength of image quality. The iPhone 15 was "the camera phone I'd turn to if I had the choice between either device," I wrote at the time.

But that opinion was based on just half-a-dozen or so photographs captured by either phone. When we expand the number of pictures taken by each phone, do the results change any? To find out, I grabbed an iPhone 15 and Galaxy S24 to head out and take hundreds of pictures. That's the kind of sample size that allows us to draw more definitive conclusions about the strengths of a particular phone's cameras.

Here's how our 200-photo iPhone 15  vs. Galaxy S24 camera face-off went down and what it means for how either camera phone performs. (And if you are interested in how the top Apple and Samsung phones fared in a similar showdown, check out our Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max 200-photo face-off.)

iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 camera face-off: How the cameras compare

iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy s24 200 photo faceoff

(Image credit: Future)

Though both the iPhone 15 and Galaxy S24 start at the same $799 price, they deliver different camera experiences out of the box. For starters, the Galaxy S24 offers a three-lens rear camera array, with a dedicated 10MP telephoto lens joining the 50MP main camera and a 12MP ultrawide shooter. The iPhone 15 has just two rear cameras — a 48MP main sensor and 12MP ultrawide lens.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone 15Samsung Galaxy S24
Main camera48MP (f/1.6) 50MP (f/1.8)
Ultrawide camera12 MP (f/2.4) with 120-degree field of view12MP (f/2.2) with 120-degree field of view
Telephoto cameraN/A10MP (f/2.4) with 3x optical zoom
Front camera12MP (f/1.9) 12MP (f/2.2)

All is not lost when it's time for the iPhone 15 to zoom in on a subject, though. Because of that 48MP main lens, the iPhone can crop in on a shot to approximate zooming in on an image. It effectively creates the equivalent of a 2x optical zoom, albeit with an image that's scaled down to 12MP. The Galaxy S24 supports a 3x optical zoom, so to match that, the iPhone 15 needs to switch over to a digital zoom.

Up front, the Galaxy S24 offers a 12MP selfie cam, matching the resolution of the TrueDepth camera on the iPhone 15. The two phones also offer the usual array of portrait and night modes for enhancing your photos.

Camera comparisons cover more than just hardware. There's also photo processing tools that highlight details, enhance colors and reduce blur long before you ever see the finished shot. In recent years, Apple has enjoyed a big edge via computational photography, though the S24 leans more heavily on AI-enhanced features to help improved its photos through better processing. (Galaxy AI features introduced with the Galaxy S24 also included suggested edits made by the phone itself as well as generative editing tools that let you resize and move around people and objects in a photo. Because these features deal with editing a captured shot, we're not really going to address them in this camera face-off.)

To test the cameras on each phone, I took a couple hundred shots of a variety of subjects and in a variety of conditions (outdoor, indoor, in low lighting, etc.). I also tested out the night and portrait modes on both phones. For each group of photos, we'll declare a winner between the iPhone 15 and Galaxy S24, with top camera honors going to whoever wins the most categories.

iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 camera face-off: Landmarks

Let's start off by taking some shots of notable landmarks around San Francisco, the kinds of things anyone would photograph on a trip out here. In this collection of photos, we see a few general trends, led by the fact that the iPhone 15 photos tend to look a bit darker compared to what the Galaxy S24 offers. 

In a handful of the samples, this works in the S24's favor. the dark colors provide enough contrast for the cables on the western span of the Bay Bridge to remain visible in the S24's photo rather than fade into the clouds as they do in the iPhone 15 shot. The Lefty O'Doul bridge is a better balanced photo in the Galaxy S24's hands, too.

But the iPhone 15 offers richer colors, like the dark green grass in front of the Cupid's Span statue or the warmer tones of the Hills Bros. Building. Plus, the iPhone 15 does a better job with focus as the edges of the Three Dancing Figures statue look a little fuzzy to my eye in the S24 shot.

Winner: iPhone 15

iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 camera face-off: Buildings

When training the cameras strictly on buildings, I think the iPhone 15's advantage in contrast in balance is more apparent. Whether it's the way the blue and green paint on the HiDive bar pop out against a gray sky or the bronze Marriott Hotel looming over San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens, colors really pop in the iPhone shots, and the buildings don't blend into their backgrounds the way they do in the S24 photos.

If you want to levy a criticism at the iPhone 15 shots, there's a yellow cast to some photos — it's very apparent in the St. Patrick Church photo. And I do think the Galaxy S24 does a better job with the movie theater image, though it pumps up the colors on the theater at the expense of some patches of blue in the sky.

Winner: iPhone 15

iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 camera face-off: Ballpark

Time for a trip out to the old ballpark, even though weather conditions would have gotten the game called on account of rain the day I visited Oracle Park. The Galaxy S24 and iPhone 15 would have gone to extra innings, so evenly matched were the shots. The photos that look good — like the entrance to the park at Willie Mays Plaza — looked good on both phones while the ones that didn't look so hot — I'm not a fan of how my photo of the Juan Marichal statue looks on either phone — had similar problems regardless of which phone took them.

In the end, I give the slightest of edges to the iPhone 15 for the way it handles text in the photos. A plaque marking Barry Bonds' 500th home run is more visible in the iPhone 15 photo thanks to higher contrast. I also find the Willie Mays Gate sign more legible in the iPhone 15 shot, as the S24 loses that wording in shadows.

Winner: iPhone 15

iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 camera face-off: Outdoors

With some of these outdoors shots, I noticed a distinct pattern any time I got close to the water. In the S24 photos, water definitely has a darker tone to it, whereas the iPhone puts an emphasis on bright, reflective surfaces. This matches the S24's approach to some other photos here — the outdoor dining area, the sun decoration hanging off a green fence — where Samsung produces a much darker shot than the iPhone's brighter effort.

While the iPhone 15 once again takes this category, there is an S24 photo worth calling out — it features a heart sculpture with some hillside homes painted on the surface. That decoration is not really visible in the iPhone 15 effort, due to glare from the window; the S24 is able to account for that glare in its photo.

Winner: iPhone 15

iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 camera face-off: Indoors

Once we move indoors, the Galaxy S4's cameras make a better show of things, possibly due to Samsung's focus on having them handle challenging lighting situations. I think the S24's shot of the interior of Ferry Building marketplace is bright and inviting, and a bull wood carving standing among assorted kitchen gear is more appealing thanks to the S24's brighter framing. (One notable exception where the S24 didn't handle light well — a ferry depot sign where light streaming in from behind over-exposes the background of the image.)

Ultimately, this category comes down to whether you like your color tones warmer or cooler, as seen in the photo of a bar festooned with assorted bobbleheads as decorations. The blue cast of the S24 shot seems more inviting to me than the harsh orange glow that the iPhone 15 produces, even if the latter is probably a more accurate reflection of the real-world lighting in that room.

Winner: Galaxy S24

iPhone 15 vs. Galaxy S24 camera face-off: Statues