Camera Shoot-out: Samsung Galaxy S7 vs iPhone 7

The iPhone 7, reviewed here, has imaging that’s distinguished from that in the iPhone 6s by having a larger aperture and OIS, Optical Image Stabilisation, which should both significantly improve its low light photos. But how far does this spec bump take the iPhone 7 in the wider smartphone imaging world? I pitch it here, by popular demand, against the
populist mass-market champion, the Samsung Galaxy S7, shot for shot, pixel for pixel.

* I should also add a small header note in that people will know my imaging comparisons from other sites and, in particular, that the much acclaimed Galaxy S7 isn’t actually top of the heap, in that it’s defeated in my tests by the Microsoft Lumia 950, but it’s fair to note that this is something of a niche device and OS (Windows 10 Mobile) in 2016 and to discount it here.
The comparison of the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 should be fairly straightforward, at least – the phones are the same size, form factor, and indeed camera resolution (12MP). The Galaxy S7 should outgun the iPhone 7 slightly in that it has a larger sensor (1/2.5″ versus 1/3″) and optics, but there shouldn’t be an awful lot in it, with both having OIS now and similar apertures.

Test 1: Lakeside, in sun

The closest I get to an easy shot, but by looking in detail with 1:1 crops, I still intend to be picky! Here’s the overall scene, as shot by the iPhone 7:

Test 2: Indoor macro

Still quite an easy shot, in good shop lighting. Here’s the overall scene, as shot by the iPhone 7:
And here’s a central crop at 1:1 from the iPhone 7, followed immediately by the equivalent from the Galaxy S7:
To me eyes, the iPhone again does a better job of representing colours and detail – the Galaxy S7 makes such a mess of both. Although the iPhone gold watch was arguably a little too pale, the Samsung version is far too gaudy and there’s no contest when it comes to looking at small details, such as the numerals on the watch face. Oddly, the reflected colours of the hands were also different, but I’ll be kind to the S7 here and say that perhaps a slight difference in framing was to blame here. Still a big win for the iPhone again, I’m afraid.


I have, in fairness, been hard on both phone cameras – I’ve hammered them with scenarios that really push the boundaries of what the tech is capable of and I’ve also been looking at the details, at the raw pixels in the 12MP images. For 90% of people 90% of the time, both phone cameras will do a fine job, viewing the snaps on the phone screen, for example. However, for the wannabe photographers out there, those who really want to know which camera phone is ‘best’ for image quality then there’s no doubting the winner here. Adding up the points gives us:
  1. Apple iPhone 7 – 53/60 pts
  2. Samsung Galaxy S7 – 46/60 pts
Without the OIS and with smaller aperture, i.e. running at the level of the iPhone 6s, the two phone cameras would have come out roughly level overall. But with the iPhone 7’s much more competitive aperture and with OIS built in, it draws ahead. And, as usual, the Apple phone camera is notable for more natural images, for exemplary image processing.



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