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.
But 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.
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.
When 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.
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.
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.
While 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.
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.
By 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.
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.
But 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.
One 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.
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.
Meanwhile, 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.
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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Sam is a Senior Writer at Engadget and previously worked at Gizmodo as a Senior Reporter. Before that, he worked at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag as a Staff Writer and Senior Product Review Analyst, overseeing benchmarks and testing for countless product reviews. He was also an archery instructor and a penguin trainer too (really).