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Apple iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S7 camera comparison: the best shooter around?

|October 11, 2016 |Samsung, Apple iPhone, Apple, Smart Phones, Mobile, Camera Phones, Comparisons, Camera Review

"The cameras on both the iPhone 7 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge are equally impressive but which one wins the battle?"

The Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus finally reached Indian shores this Friday, or October 7th, to be precise. We got a review unit of the iPhone 7 Plus and the first thing that came to our collective minds was to pit the iPhone 7 Plus’ camera against the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge’s (review) 12MP shooter. We believe that the camera on the Galaxy S7 duo is the best one on an Android phone yet, or at least until we actually review the camera on the Google Pixel - which incidentally has the highest DxOMark score of 89.

In any case, let’s get right down to business and compare the two cameras.


The specifications

The iPhone 7 Plus has two cameras - a 12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture and another 12MP camera with f/2.8 aperture. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge offers a single 12MP camera, which has a slightly bigger f/1.7 aperture. The camera geeks out there will also point out to the fact that the Galaxy S7 edge has a larger 1/2.5-inch sensor compared to the 1/3-inch one on the iPhone 7 Plus.

The iPhone 7 Plus has a better selfie camera - resolution-wise. It uses a 7MP sensor with an f/2.2 aperture and can go as wide as 32mm. The Galaxy S7 edge shoots at a lower 5MP resolution but has a wider f/1.7 aperture and can accommodate more people in the frame thanks to its 22m wide-angle lens. With respect to video, both the phones can shoot UHD (2160p) videos at 30fps and 720p slow motion video at 240fps.

On paper, both the iPhone 7 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge each have their advantages and therefore we won’t rate them on the specs alone; we’ll look at the camera samples instead. 

Please note: All the images on the left are captured by a Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and on the right are captured by the iPhone 7 Plus. Right click on the image and open it in a new tab to see the full resolution image. 

Wide-angle shot in daylight

In this test, we shot the fairly busy Golf Course Road in Gurgaon. The first thing that we noticed is that the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge handles the exposure much better than the iPhone 7 Plus; the iPhone's 12MP shooter has overexposed the image making the image look duller. However, the colour saturation is a little more accurate on the iPhone 7 Plus. The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge’s 12MP shooter does capture more details, though. Overall, we think this round goes to the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.

samsung_galaxy_s7_edge_long iphone_7_plus_long

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - 1, Apple iPhone 7 Plus - 0

Close-up shot in daylight

This one is quite tricky, because on normal inspection any layman will not find a stark difference between the two shots. We’ve used a yellow flower as a sample here. Both the phones do a great job with definitions around the yellow flower’s petals.  On closer inspection you will notice that the yellow in the flower is a little more saturated in the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge sample compared to the iPhone 7 Plus. However, the iPhone 7 Plus’ sample shot is more in line with the actual colour of the flower. Having said that, the background in the iPhone 7 Plus shot has a pinkish hue that looks a bit distracting. The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge wins this round by a hair.

samsung_galaxy_s7_edge_sample_close_up_yellow_flower iphone_7_plus_sample_close_up_yellow_flower

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - 1, Apple iPhone 7 Plus - 0

Low light

For this test we used a setting where both the phones were presented with less than ideal light to play with; the staircase was only lit by the light creeping in from an open door on the right. What the iPhone 7 Plus does in this image is it uses a lower ISO 80 setting to capture the image, whereas the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge uses ISO250. This means that the Galaxy S7 edge sample has lot more noise, whereas the iPhone 7 Plus camera messes with the exposure again, over-exposing it ever so slightly. While you can use the manual mode to control the ISO setting on the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, we are evaluating both the cameras for their Auto mode performance considering that is the mode most smartphone users are going to stick to anyway. The iPhone 7 Plus edges (no pun intended) the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge in this round.

galaxy_s7_low_light iphone_7_plus_low_light

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - 0, Apple iPhone 7 Plus - 1

Night shot

This is yet another tough round where both the cameras shine in one or the parameter over the other. We used a well lit building against the backdrop of the night sky to test the cameras. The iPhone 7 Plus uses a much lower ISO setting of ISO250, compared to the ISO800 used by the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. The iPhone does a superb job of keeping the contrast in check and the colours are really balanced as well. In this test, the Galaxy S7 edge blows out the highlights thanks to the fact that it uses a higher ISO. Interestingly enough, the S7 edge manages to keep the noise in check. Also, if you take a look at the trees at the edge closely, you will notice that the Galaxy S7 edge’s sample has more details. One thing to note here is that both the cameras do a fab job of keeping the barrel distortion in check despite the weird angle. Therefore, while the Galaxy S7 edge offers a better fidelity possibly due to its larger sensor, the iPhone 7 Plus has a more pleasing image. We are using our subjective expertise here to adjudge the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge the winner here.
samsung_galaxy_s7_edge_night_shot_4 iphone_7_plus_night_shot_4

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - 1, Apple iPhone 7 Plus - 0

Night shot (with flash)

For the flash test, we used a well-trimmed bush as the subject and cast harsh light on it. The iPhone 7 Plus uses a new quad-LED (dual tone) flash system and we noticed that it tends to be a bit imposing. One glance at the two images and you will notice that the Galaxy S7 edge’s flash is a lot more uniform and the entire frame is lit adequately. The same cannot be said about the iPhone 7 Plus’ over-enthusiastic flash that is a little more aggressive at the center of the image. This round clearly goes to the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.

samsung_galaxy_s7_edge_night_shot_3 iphone_7_plus_night_shot_3

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - 1, Apple iPhone 7 Plus - 0


The iPhone 7 Plus has a higher resolution 7MP selfie camera this time around and at least on paper it is better than the front camera on the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. Having said that, the Galaxy S7 edge definitely captures the skin tone better than the iPhone 7 Plus. Furthermore, the Galaxy S7 edge’s camera sample evidently had much better details. Overall, while the iPhone 7 Plus does offer a higher resolution shot, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge pips Apple’s flagship in this round.

samsung_galaxy_s7_edge_selfie iphone_7_selfie

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - 1, Apple iPhone 7 Plus - 0

Video (4K and slow motion)

Before we get into the comparison, we’d like to tell you that the iPhone’s 4K recording has to be switched on from deep inside the Settings app - we can’t think of one ‘good’ reason why Apple would want to do this. And, no don’t tell us that Apple is doing this to save battery life or storage space; if you had the option why wouldn’t you shoot in 4K by default? Moving on, to test the 4K video performance of the cameras we decided to shoot moving cars. The iPhone does a much better job of holding on to focus and thanks to the very effective OIS system the resulting video is quite stable as well. The Galaxy S7 edge video footage on the other hand suffers from slight shakiness. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about frame drops on both the cameras even while panning at a respectable speed. However, the one thing to note is that the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge captures stereo audio whereas the iPhone 7 Plus is still stuck at recording mono audio. This could be a major deal breaker for a lot of people. Thankfully though, the iPhone does a better job of cutting out a lot of the ambient noise.

We captured a 720p slow motion footage on each phone as well and noticed that the iPhone offers infinitely better fidelity. Overall, we think the iPhone 7 Plus takes the honours in the video recording department.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - 0, Apple iPhone 7 Plus - 1

Special features and other parameters

We haven’t discussed the iPhone 7 Plus’ fancy dual camera system or its proposed Portrait mode primarily because we wanted to do a fair comparison. However, for those who are interested both the phones offer a plethora of special features that could sway your opinion either way. We quite like the ingenious implementation of a lens with a closer crop to create a close to real-life simulation of a 2x optical zoom. We can tell you that it comes in handy. Moreover, we did also test out the really cool Portrait mode in its beta state and it does produce some really impressive results if done right. On the flipside, some people might like the fact that they have manual controls at their disposal not the Galaxy S7 edge, even in the video mode.

Apart from the special features, both the cameras have very impressive autofocusing capabilities and do a stellar job in burst mode as well. Once again, it doesn’t make sense for us to rate the cameras on these parameters because some of the features that are absent in either phones can easily be achieved by installing third party apps.

Final verdict

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - 5, Apple iPhone 7 Plus - 2

In the end, if we had to tally all the points, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge scores three points more than the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and wins our camera comparison hands down. But in all honesty - subjectively speaking of course - some might prefer the iPhone 7’s results over the Galaxy S7 edge’s and we wouldn’t argue with them either because the difference in quality is almost negligible. Different strokes for different folks. 

However, since we decided to pick one phone as the ultimate winner, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge wins our comparison. What’s impressive is that the Galaxy S7 edge is at least six months older than the iPhone 7 Plus. Samsung really aced it with its smartphone this year and the Android fanboys are definitely having the last laugh this time around; at least with the camera inside the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.

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