If there was ever a year to replace your camera with a smartphone, this is it. The iPhone 6s Plus (technically a late 2015 device), iPhone SE, Galaxy S7, LG G5, and now the HTC 10 combine to form an impressive slate of pocket cameras. Even the LG G5, the worst of that bunch, features a conceptually interesting dual camera and far outshines that company’s gadgets of years past.
The new HTC 10 aims for Samsung’s current throne, strapping an f/1.8 shooter with a sensor that sits right in that 12.1 megapixel sweet spot we’re seeing on most of the best phone cameras. But can it compete with a Galaxy S7 shot-for-shot? I put it to the test.
In an easy setting these cameras produce nearly identical images. The S7 has bit more colour and contrast, and clips the highlights to white just a bit less. But the differences are really on the margins.
If you look closely though, you'll notice that the colours are just a bit faded and the highlights a bit blown out again on the HTC 10.
Android phones in general tend to go bright and bold when they shoot, which can lead to errors. It's why serious photographers have stuck with iPhones for years. The HTC 10 has a habit of overexposing images and fading colours in even easy situations like this one. The Galaxy S7 rarely makes that kind of mistake.
It seems to be a mix of a software problem and an issue of inferior lensing -- check out the harsh glare here.
Our standard roof shot, usually a breeze for these devices, showed some significant differences in colour and exposure.
Blowing up the image to full size, you can see that the HTC 10 is much less sharp than the Galaxy S7, even though both images were focused on this brick wall.
I tried several times to get a very sharp shot on the HTC 10, but couldn't get one. The S7 is sharp every time.
Part of the problem for HTC -- and every other manufacturer -- is the the Galaxy S7 sets the bar so high for getting bold colours, contrast, sharpness, and great exposures over and over again that it's hard for anyone else to seriously compete.
And in low light there's no contest. You don't need to blow the shot up to see Samsung got the brighter, clearer, sharper shot.
Once again, Samsung's Galaxy S7 retains its title as the number one photography smartphone in the world. Though the HTC 10 is the first worthy runner-up.
Once again, Samsung's Galaxy S7 retains its title as the number one photography smartphone in the world. Though the HTC 10 is the first worthy runner-up and has a slight edge over the iPhone 6s.
A quick note on methodology: When I compare cameras, I don't look for a laboratory-style analysis of the sensor. Rather, I'm trying to figure out how it will will behave when shot the way the vast majority of people, including professional photographers, will use it in the real world: On 'Auto' mode, using tap-to-focus, and no after-the-fact editing. In my opinion that offers a much more useful analysis of the actual quality of the smartphone as a pocket camera.