Does The iPhone 7 Really Have The Best Camera?

Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
One of the iPhone 7's big selling points is its new camera. Apple upgraded the phone's back camera to 12 megapixels, with a larger f/1.8 aperture lens for capturing more light in your shots. On the front, it has a 7-megapixel camera, up from five in last year's model.

But if taking photos is one of the most important things you do with your phone, then you want to know for sure: Is the iPhone 7's camera really the best one out there? There are, in fact, other good smartphones in the world — and they have good cameras, too.

To see just how good this camera is, we pitted the iPhone 7 against its predecessor, the iPhone 6s, Samsung's flagship Galaxys S7 (no, not the one that explodes), and the recently launched LG V20, which sports a wide-angle lens on both the front- and rear-facing cameras.

Depending on what type of shots you take and where you take them, you may actually find that one phone better suits your needs than another. And if you've already purchased a new iPhone 7, now you'll know how it stacks up against the competition.

Ahead, we compared shots from these four phones in seven different scenarios. Read on to find out how each one fared.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
A Succulent Outdoors
iPhone 7

This is the only plant I can keep alive, so naturally, I used it for my first test shot: up close and outdoors. The colors are rich, the image is in focus, and there's a little depth-of-field action going on.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
A Succulent Outdoors
iPhone 6s

The iPhone 6s' version is overall softer and warmer in tone — there's less contrast in the lights and the darks and the shades of green.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
A Succulent Outdoors
LG V20

The LG V20 has a wide-angle camera. So by default, it shoots at a different aspect ratio. While the overall image is darker than the iPhone 7's, it's no less vibrant. The image is slightly cooler in tone.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
A Succulent Outdoors
Samsung Galaxy S7

Of all four shots, I like the Galaxy S7's image best. It's the brightest — almost to the point of being overexposed — but the colors really pop.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Side-By-Side Comparison

Clockwise from top left: iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S7, LG V20.

The purpose of this shot was to compare how the phones handled detail and color in natural sunlight.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Knickknacks In Low Lighting
iPhone 7

My living room has terrible lighting, so it's the perfect place to test low-light scenarios with some of my office-desk knickknacks. The iPhone 7 performed admirably — this photo is totally usable, although if I posted it to social media, I might brighten it a tad with a photo-editing app.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Knickknacks In Low Lighting
iPhone 6s


The iPhone 6s was the worst performer here, by far, although to be fair, this is perhaps closest to how dark the scene was in reality. (Told you my living room had terrible lighting.)
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Knickknacks In Low Lighting
Samsung Galaxy S7


The Galaxy S7's image is warmer than that of the other cameras tested. The focus is also softer and there's an odd haze around the bow.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Knickknacks In Low Lighting
LG V20


The LG V20's rendition, while less bright than the iPhone 7's, does make the red in the bow look very rich.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Side-By-Side Comparison

Clockwise from top left: iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S7, LG V20. I'd say the iPhone 7 won this test.

The purpose of this shot was to examine how well each phone performs in low light.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Knickknacks In Low Lighting — With Flash!
iPhone 7

To be fair, using a flash for such an up-close shot is awkward, but it does give a sense of how powerful each flash is. The iPhone 7's flash was perhaps over-strong here, but it still didn't wash out the colors too much. It does end up feeling like a spotlight, though.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Knickknacks In Low Lighting — With Flash!
iPhone 6s


The flash on the 6s warmed the image, but also eliminated shadows and the sense of depth in the bow.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Knickknacks In Low Lighting — With Flash!
Samsung Galaxy S7


The Galaxy S7's flash has a cooler tone. While a little harsh, it did a good job of evenly illuminating the photo-capture area.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Knickknacks In Low Lighting — With Flash!
LG V20


I liked this shot best. The flash evenly illuminated the photo area, while keeping the colors vivid and true-to-life.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Side-By-Side Comparison

Clockwise from top left: iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S7, LG V20.

The purpose of this shot was to compare how well each phone's flash works in low light at relatively close quarters.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Traditional Bathroom Selfie
iPhone 7


And now: my face! Apartments don't always come with the best lighting, but that's where a lot of selfies get shot. On the iPhone 7, you can see my freckles, make out some blemishes and forehead wrinkles (totally fine with me if you don't look that closely), and the colors feel true-to-life.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Traditional Bathroom Selfie
iPhone 6s


The 6s' front-facing camera makes me look very pink. But the good news is that hides some of the redness in my skin.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Traditional Bathroom Selfie
Samsung Galaxy S7


Look at that baby-smooth skin! Both of the Android phones I tested come with a Beauty filter that automatically softens selfies. It defaults at a level of two (out of 10). While I don't mind the smoothing, it does look enhanced.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Traditional Bathroom Selfie
LG V20


The LG had a similar beauty-enhancement filter (as a default). This phone's wide-angle lens made cropping the bathroom towels out of my shot difficult, but would be perfect if I were trying to squeeze two to five other people into the frame. Because of the selfie camera's positioning, I had a tendency to snap a portion of my hand in the frame, as well.

Also interesting: The LG V20's front-facing camera flips the image, taking a shot you would "see" in the mirror.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Side-By-Side Comparison

Clockwise from top left: iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S7, LG V20. I kind of hate all of these, why is my face so pink?

The purpose of this test was to check out each phone's front-facing camera in a common situation.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Low-Light Selfie
iPhone 7


The photo is definitely usable, but colors are darker and muted in my partially lit hallway.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Low-Light Selfie
iPhone 6s


Here the iPhone 6s' lower-quality camera really makes itself apparent. In general, things look blurry and blotchy. But surprisingly, it seems slightly brighter than the iPhone 7's shot.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Low-Light Selfie
LG V20


LG's front-facing camera did a terrific job of capturing every bit of light in the space — you almost wouldn't know the lighting there was bad. Once again, the wide-angle lens captures a lot more of the wall than I'd prefer (but that's easy to crop out after the fact).
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Low-Light Selfie
Samsung Galaxy S7


Once again, I used the default Beauty filter here and it gives the photo an interesting, almost ethereal effect. Am I an angel? MAYBE.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Side-By-Side Comparison

Clockwise from top left: iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S7, LG V20. I prefer the iPhone 6s' selfie here.

The purpose of this test was to see how the front-facing camera handled lower light.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Low-Light Selfie — With Flash!
iPhone 7


The iPhone 7's flash does a good job of keeping my skin tone looking natural (and thankfully, doesn't turn me into a ghost). However, as we saw before, the light is very focused and looks like I'm shining a small spotlight on my face.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Low-Light Selfie — With Flash!
iPhone 6s


The iPhone 6s' flash is more subtle and less yellow than that of the iPhone 7, but has the same spotlight effect.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Low-Light Selfie — With Flash!
LG V20


In this lighting scenario, the V20 didn't need a flash at all. Using the flash was overkill, illuminating my face too much. (And the V20 doesn't actually have a true flash — it just illuminates its screen to simulate a flash.)
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Low-Light Selfie — With Flash!
Samsung Galaxy S7


Once again, angelic. Like the iPhone 6s, there are blotchy patches in the image as the camera doesn't do the best job of handling the lower-light areas.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Side-By-Side Comparison

Clockwise from top left: iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S7, LG V20. Here, I prefer the Galaxy S7's shot.

The purpose of this shot was to test the phones' front-facing camera with a flash in low-light conditions.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Through The Trees
iPhone 7


Captured on a bright, cloudless day, both the up-close leaves and more distant apartment and hills are crisp and in-focus.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Through The Trees
iPhone 6s


As we move further into the distance, the colors are slightly muted and a little hazy compared to what the iPhone 7 captured.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Through The Trees
LG V20


The V20 camera makes the blues and greens in this photo extra vivid, too. They're a bit enhanced from the coloring in real life. (But hey, that just means one less filter to use, amirite?)
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Through The Trees
Samsung Galaxy S7


While the blue in the sky is extra-bright, the yellow in the apartment in the center of the photo looks more off-white.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Side-By-Side Comparison

Clockwise from top left: iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S7, LG V20. The iPhone 6s is definitely the loser here, but as for the best shot — the iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, and V20 all took excellent, if slightly different colored, shots.

The purpose of this photo was to see how the cameras handled images in the fore, mid, and background outdoors.
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Photographed by Christina Bonnington.
Conclusions

If you were hoping for a clear-cut answer to which leading smartphone has the best camera, you're out of luck. Each phone had strengths and weaknesses. Depending on your photo brightness and saturation preferences, as well as what types of photos you tend to take, you may prefer one of these models over another — while a friend may have a different opinion. However, here are our overarching thoughts:

iPhone 7: An excellent all-around camera with good performance in low-light scenarios. Its front-facing camera may shoot photos with a little too much detail now. It shot photos the fastest.
iPhone 6s: This is last year's camera and it definitely shows. The photos it takes were generally less vivid than those taken by other phones.
Galaxy S7: While the Beauty filter is overkill, this photo did take our favorite selfies. Photos with the rear camera typically have a higher brightness than with the other phones.
LG V20: The wide-angle lenses will prove useful for both landscapes and taking group selfies, but may require extra cropping for general use. Photos with its rear-facing camera are typically cooler in hue.
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