Cameras and their photographic capabilities are now primarily used by smartphone manufacturers to set their products aside from the competition. There are no bigger mobiles on the market currently than the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S ranges, so many consumers compare the picture-taking qualities of these two major smartphones before making a purchasing decision. And with smartphone and phablet models available, the picture is more complex than one might imagine.

So how do the two market leaders stack up against one another? Here ValueWalk assesses the photographic qualities of the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge.

jet black iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 plus camera
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Standard specs

All four of the devices share multiple specs, and there is thus minimal difference between the specs of the four devices, with both Apple and Samsung ensuring that their cameras impress in terms of pure figures. The iPhone 7 features a f/1.8 aperture, compared to the f/1.7 of the Galaxy S7. Some have recommended the former as the ideal aperture for beginners, so this may be a point of consideration.

The iPhone 7 has a slightly larger 28mm lens that its competitors, with the Galaxy S7 series featuring a 26mm lens. Apple has imbued the iPhone range with a 4-LED flash, which should be superior to the single LED flash included in the Galaxy S7. Both ranges deliver optical image stabilization, but the Galaxy S7 range only delivers electronic image stabilization in 1080p mode.

Differences between phablets and smartphones

The major difference between the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is that the latter features a dual-lens camera. This improves the performance of the Apple phablet in low-light shooting conditions. Both the S7 and S7 Edge include patented dual-pixel technology, which serves a very similar purpose. There really is very little difference between the photographic capabilities of the two Samsung snappers.

Daylight shooting

The iPhone 7 with its 4:3 aspect and 28mm-equivalent lens captures the least horizontally. The Galaxy S7 delivers a wider field in this department. Samsung has also done a good job of eliminating moire from the Galaxy S7 series – an interference pattern – and must be commended for this.

On the other hand, the iPhone 7 does an excellent job in color reproduction, and is somewhat more authentic to reality than the Galaxy S7 in this regard. It is perhaps this last quality which ultimately gives the Apple devices a slight edge in this department.

Advantage: iPhone 7

iPhone 7 vs. iPhone 7 Plus vs. Galaxy S7 Edge vs. Galaxy S7: Camera Comparison

HDR shooting

The Galaxy S certain features a nifty function which enables users to adjust the viewfinder in order to reflect on the final image. This is coupled with an instant image capture feature which provides an ideal software HDR implementation. The iPhone 7 generally has a good dynamic range, but the HDR feature included in the apple snapper has been oddly tuned according to many critics. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus struggle to shoot scenes of high contrast, pushing the exposure down to darker levels than usual.

Meanwhile, there is a noticeable difference between the auto HDR and HDR on pictures captured by the Galaxy S7, which is worth noting. But the HDR mode in the Galaxy S7 produces particularly pleasing results, and gives Samsung the edge in this department.

Advantage: Galaxy S7

Low-light shooting

The dual-pixel system gives Samsung an advantage in terms of sharpness and detailed preservation when shooting in darker conditions. This is magnified by the fact that the smartphone version of the iPhone 7 does not feature a dual-lens.

Advantage: Galaxy S7

Close-up photography

The iPhone 7 delivers a conservative color reproduction, which while realistic can sometimes seem a little dull in close-up photography. The Galaxy S7 is somewhat brighter, and this can create a striking impressions with users, while Samsung has also ensured that variety is possible with this snapper. The Galaxy S7 also does an excellent job of rendering out of focus areas of photographs.

Advantage: Galaxy S7

Panorama photos

Sony has been criticized in this department, with the sweep panorama mode in the iPhone 7 often considered fiddly. Colors can often be desaturated in the iPhone 7 when shooting in this mode, and the overall performance is a little disappointing compared to iPhones of the past.

Meanwhile, The Galaxy S7 delivers superior resolution to the iPhone 7 in panorama mode. Its motion panorama is particularly pleasing, continuously recording action as it unfolds. This is another area where the Galaxy S7 outperforms the iPhone 7.

Advantage: Galaxy S7

Selfies

Apple has made selfies a priority with the iPhone, massively improving the front-facing camera in recent generations. This results in selfies with particularly pleasing colors, although the narrow field of view can make group pictures a challenge. Nonetheless, the quality of selfie pictures produced by the iPhone 7 is outstanding. The Galaxy S7 is okay for social media, but it misses out on high-frequency detail.

Advantage: iPhone 7

Video camera

The iPhone 7 records video in particularly impressive fashion, delivering excellent quality in both 4K and 1080p modes. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S7 has an annoying viewfinder bug, namely the fact that when initiating in 4:3 mode, video framing is not evident until one hits record.

Overall, the iPhone 7 is the superior video recording device.

Advantage: iPhone 7

Conclusion

It seems reasonable to assert that the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge deliver slightly superior camera experiences to the iPhone range. This is particularly the case with the smartphone versions of the two flagship series, considering that Apple has chosen not to include a dual-lens in the iPhone 7 smartphone. However, the iPhone 7 is not without its qualities, being ideal for capturing selfies and videos. But Apple has to work to do with the iPhone 8 if it is to deliver photographic capabilities equal to those of the Galaxy S7 series, let alone the Galaxy S8 sequel.