LG, Samsung phone cameras put to the test

FLAGSHIP DEVICES: Both the G4 (left) and Galaxy S6 produce images with outstanding quality and colours. The G4's images are consistently sharper, while the Galaxy S6 handles flare better.


    Jul 24, 2015

    LG, Samsung phone cameras put to the test

    THE LG G4 and Samsung Galaxy S6 are two of the biggest flagship Android phones this year. But which one should you get if image quality is your top priority?


    Galaxy S6:

    The 5.1-inch handset has a "quick launch" camera that pops up from any screen when you double tap the home button. Samsung says the camera is ready to go in 0.7 second, so you'll always be ready for that picture-perfect moment.

    There's a 16MP rear camera and 5MP front-facing camera for selfies, and both feature f/1.9 lenses for fast low-light performance with the 1/2.6-inch image sensor. There's also auto high dynamic range built-in for rich, dynamic shots in all conditions, and the camera supports ultra high-definition 4K video (3840 x 2160) at 30fps.


    The 5.5-inch phone has a 16MP rear camera with f/1.8 lens, and an 8MP front-facing camera with selfie mode, which turns your phone's screen into a light for more flattering selfies.

    This is matched with a high-performance 1/2.6-inch sensor that supports a wide range of ISO sensitivities.

    There is a colour-spectrum sensor that ensures colour accuracy, by using an infrared-sensitive sensor to analyse the light in a scene before taking the shot. The laser autofocus system from the LG G3 has been updated to be even faster. A new optical image stabilisation system, which uses a three-axis gyroscope, helps to stabilise shaky handheld shots.


    Galaxy S6:

    Overall, the phone's camera app has an interface that users of all levels will be comfortable with. Everything is accessible from the shooting screen. Whether you're using auto or pro mode, you'll find adjustments easily.


    The phone offers more in the camera app than the Galaxy S6, but it's more awkward to take pictures with the physical buttons as the G4's buttons are located on its back, rather than its sides. The buttons are located fairly close to the rear camera, so the likelihood of getting your finger in a shot is quite high.


    To get some real-world impressions of how both cameras perform, I took them out for a day of shooting. I found that both cameras focused quickly, and could take close-up shots that could almost pass off for images taken with a true macro lens.


    I found significant flaring in the images from both phones' cameras. But the Galaxy S6 did a much better job of handling it.

    Low light:

    When it came to night scenes, the Galaxy S6 produced a more pleasing image with higher contrast, but the G4 had noticeably more detail captured, perhaps because the in-body image stabilisation system helped me to get a steadier shot.

    Looking at the images from both cameras at 100 per cent made the differences more obvious. The Galaxy S6's image was muddier, while the G4's retained more detail.

    Colour bias:

    In terms of colour, both cameras seem to be fairly accurate, needing only a slight adjustment to get a neutral colour. The Galaxy S6 leans slightly towards the yellows and greens, while the G4 has a slight green tinge.


    For details, it seems like the G4 captures slightly more detail in its images compared to the Galaxy S6, though it's likely not to be something you'll notice unless you scrutinise the images at 100 per cent. At 100 per cent, a picture taken with the G4 has more detail and texture than one by the Galaxy S6.

    Details versus artefacts:

    To get an idea of how the two phones compare, I looked at 100 per cent crops from both phones' cameras at ISO 800. Some numbers in an image taken by the Galaxy S6 were completely blurred. But for the same image taken by the G4, the numbers could still be seen quite clearly.

    While there is more colour noise in the image from the G4, the compromise between colour noise and detail is better in this case.

    Still, there is one issue that is more evident with the G4 - the appearance of artefacts that look like crosshatching patterns in the images at higher ISOs.


    Both the Galaxy S6 and G4 produce images with outstanding quality and colours.

    The Galaxy S6 produces images with good colour, detail and handles flare better. Its user interface is also easier to figure out, but it offers less manual options than the G4.

    If you like using physical buttons to take photos, the Galaxy S6's shutter button is easier to reach whereas the G4's is more awkward.

    But the images from the G4 are consistently sharper, with less evidence of camera shake. There seems to be a bit more detail in the images taken by the G4, and I like how it gives you more manual controls.

    The G4's drawback is the appearance of artefacts in high ISO images in the JPEG file format.

    It's a close call, but if you want the finest image quality possible, the G4 is the winner of our flagship-smartphone camera comparison.


    For more reports on the go, check out the "MyPaper" iOS and Android apps.