Which Brand Has the Best Smartphone Cameras?


For most people, their phone is their primary camera, so it’s no surprise why camera upgrades are at the center of smartphone innovation these days. If you’re looking for the best camera on a phone, the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy series are two of the best options.

Of course, personal preference plays a huge role when judging which has a better camera—iPhone or Samsung—so depending on your individual needs, one might prove to be a better option than the other despite its weaknesses. Let’s take a look at how they compare.

1. Ease of Use

A hand holding a blue iPhone/

Although both iPhones and Samsung phones allow you to change the camera settings, most people rely on the auto mode to take photos and videos. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the phone has to do a lot of work behind the scenes to figure out what you’re trying to shoot.

One of the first things it does is identify the subject and focus on it as quickly as possible. This is important when taking shots of moving objects such as pets, kids, and vehicles. Both phones are quite comparable when it comes to autofocus, so no complaints here.

However, the iPhone has a faster shutter speed which helps freeze motion and avoid blur. A fast shutter speed is also useful when taking continuous shots (aka Burst Mode). Samsung’s phones have a noticeable shutter lag, especially when you switch to a higher resolution mode.

2. Color Science

iPhones and Samsung phones handle colors very differently. The former almost always goes for a neutral look while the latter tries to add flair and make your photos look more vibrant and awe-inspiring. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either approach, but photos from iPhones do look a bit boring when put next to Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra camera samples
Image Credit: Samsung Newsroom

Most people don’t edit their photos but share them as-is, so Samsung’s approach to auto-edit them for you does make sense, especially if you’re going to put those photos on social media. That said, Samsung can go overboard at times—although you can make your photos look less processed. The company is trying to reduce excessive color saturation in its most recent flagships.

Skin tones look more lifelike on Samsung too. The iPhone exposes all skin tones equally which sounds good on paper, but can make you look a bit grayish and dull. That’s also true when taking selfies. If you’re a professional, you will probably like the iPhone’s neutral color profile more, but Samsung’s color profile is more shareable.

3. Photo Quality

Both devices take amazing photos, but Samsung is more aggressive with its dynamic range. This is both a pro and a con since higher dynamic range adds character to your shots, but can also feel a bit fake at times. The iPhone isn’t afraid to let things get a bit overexposed if it means preserving the overall natural look of the shot.

The iPhone’s nighttime shots look more true-to-life but are sometimes so dark there’s barely anything worth seeing in those shots. Samsung’s nighttime shots are more presentable but can sometimes be a bit overexposed—failing to capture the beauty of the night.

What makes the iPhone slightly better is its Adaptive True Tone flash that “adjusts the pattern and intensity of nine LEDs depending on the focal length of the photo” so the person you’re shooting gets the right amount of light and doesn’t get overexposed.

For portrait shots, it’s a tough call. Samsung has excellent edge detection and can separate individual strands of hair, but it blurs the background a bit too much. The blur on the iPhone has a more gentle fall-off, but its edge detection needs more work.

Samsung does take a minor hit in quality when you switch to the ultra-wide mode, whereas the iPhone remains consistent regardless of which lens you are using. Both phones double their ultra-wide lenses for macrophotography.

4. Video Quality

iPhones are usually easier to recommend when it comes to video performance, and the biggest reason for that is that they remain consistent across all lenses—evoking a feeling of seamlessness. In other words, the lens transition doesn’t feel obtrusive and there’s hardly any shift in white balance or color calibration.

However, the iPhone’s OIS is not as wide as Samsung’s. This is a big deal in low-light environments where electronic stabilization falls apart quite quickly and the camera has to rely more on hardware-based stabilization. Because of this added stability, Samsung’s video is able to retain more technical detail.

iPhone’s video looks slightly less grainy, especially at nighttime, but Samsung’s videos have better dynamic range. This difference shrinks when you switch to selfie video, though. Samsung has 8K video capability, but it’s one of those features you’ll probably never need.

One weird thing the iPhone does is that it tries to remove any shadows from your face and light it evenly—even if you’re being lit from a light source that’s to your side. We’re not sure why the iPhone does this, but that’s thankfully not the case with Samsung.

5. Audio Quality

Audio quality isn’t the first thing anyone thinks about when judging the camera of a phone, but it is important nonetheless, especially if you shoot a lot of videos on your phone. iPhones have traditionally outdone Samsung flagships when it comes to audio quality, but that is no longer the case. Both devices sound loud and clear even in windy environments.

The only difference worth noting is that Samsung phones come with Dolby Atmos support which can improve the sound quality of your phone when listening to recorded videos.

The iPhone tries to keep its camera system as simple as possible to make it easier to navigate for the average user who is not as tech-savvy. Samsung, on the other hand, gives you everything you asked for and then some.

With the latter, you’re getting up to 200MP resolution, 10X optical zoom, 100X hybrid zoom, tons of filters, and a plethora of software features such as Director’s View, Single Take, Astro Hyperlapse, Space Zoom, Super Slow Motion, and more.

Apple has admittedly started paying more attention to this category recently, but when you compare iPhone and Samsung phones, the latter proves to be way more versatile.

iPhone Cameras vs. Samsung Cameras

Perhaps the best way to describe the camera difference between the iPhone and Samsung is this: Samsung has lower lows and higher highs. Meaning, when Samsung does something poorly, it’s not even comparable to the iPhone, but when it does something right, it’s so far ahead that it makes the iPhone look outdated.

The iPhone is still more reliable and probably the better pick for the average user who just wants a camera that works as expected regardless of where or when they are using it. But if you’re going to spend flagship money, you should expect flagship camera features too, and that’s something Samsung is happy to offer you.


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