Earlier this year when they were launched, the new Samsung Galaxy S7 and the LG G5 really caught my attention. Could the new Android flagships knock the Lumia 950 and 950 XL off of the top of the pile for camera capabilities and photo quality? People were soon hailing their respective cameras as the new standard to beat, and as someone who has been using Nokias and Lumias mainly for their camera chops, I was intrigued. Luckily, thanks to the fine, fine people at AT&T, we were sent a G5 and an S7 to try out.
I’ve been using these phones regularly for the past couple of weeks, switching between the two and my 950 XL, (and the Lumia 650!) but also using them at home just for light browsing and Facebook-type stuff. It’s nice to be anywhere in the home and know a superphone is within arm’s reach! Haha 😉
I’m not going to delve too deeply here; there have been a trillion reviews of both phones, but I will just go into my own perceptions and feelings about using them, up against Microsoft’s best offering, the 950 XL. Firstly, it’s really quite difficult to say which of the two Android superbeasts I prefer. One the one hand, the S7 has superb water-resistance ability, and on the other hand, the G5 has the removeable battery (and all those Friends!) Both phones feel great in the hand, but they aren’t the same. The G5 is silky but not glossy-smooth, and as such, it is not the fingerprint-magnet that the S7 definitely is. The S7 feels more like a polished pebble from the beach, which is lovely, but in this warm, sticky weather, a sweaty palm and some sticky fingertips are going to ruin the look of the S7 and make it look like your two year-old niece has been playing with it. The G5 wins out for me in that department. It just feels nicer to hold.
Another difference which is subtle but important are the fingerprint scanners. The G5’s is on the back, and it also doubles up as the power on/off and standby button. Going with the slightly more old school method, the S7’s home-button does not power on the device, as that is the job of the left-side button which works to put the phone to sleep. Of course you can wake the S7 by pressing the home-button and then resting your thumb on it, but I like that the G5 wakes as soon as your fingerprint is registered – no need to press first. This speeds things up a lot and while we’re talking about microseconds of more convenience, it’s these little touches that might swing someone to buy one phone or the other.
By far the biggest difference between these two flagships is the difference in the brightness of their screens. I went out into the very bright New York sunshine to snap some photos, and while the Lumia 950 XL and the S7 were both a pleasure and a joy to use, the G5 frustrated me no end as I simply couldn’t see what was on the screen (acting as a viewfinder in Camera mode of course). This was a huge let down because I like to be able to frame my shots carefully, and maybe use the onscreen buttons and sliders to tweak the settings. While I found this a cinch to do on the Lumia and the Galaxy, the G5 had me working harder, squinting my eyes and in some instances, simply snapping and hoping for the best.
Both Android phones work superbly at starting their respective Camera apps, and both are able to focus and take snaps at lightning speed. It’s a very impressive experience to be able to fire up the camera so quickly, and then go from taking photo to photo in extremely quick succession. The Lumia is, (no surprises here) a bit less snappy. But I still contend that despite it’s not-so-lightning-fast shot-to-shot time and the more “thinking time” it needs to fire up the Microsoft Camera app, the quality of the photos puts it on balance, in my view. Having to wait a second or two for the phone to process a photo might make devout Androiders baulk, but for me the results are worth the short wait.
The S7 was set to take photos in 4:3 while the other two were set to 16:9. Oops. That is a mistake on my part, but to be honest, I didn’t think to set the phones up before I left to venture outside, and the G5’s screen is so pitifully dim in bright light, I couldn’t actually find where to change the aspect ratio, so I just shrugged my shoulders and left it on 16:9. This is the only discrepancy I think. Some people might not think this is a huge deal, while others are slamming their laptops shut in disgust. Sorry about that!
The other thing that I did not utilise was the G5’s rather brilliant ability to switch between its standard 16MP shooter and its wide-angle 8MP lens. I did indeed use this feature on a recent vacation and found it superb for wide landscape vistas, but goldfish bowl-y and not ideal for other photos of subjects closer to the camera. Here’s an example of a shot using the wide-angle lens on the G5:
Anyway, the photos are arranged in the following order:
Lumia 950 XL (20MP f/1.9, OIS, Hybrid AF – contrast detection & phase detection)
LG G5 (16MP f/1.8, OIS, laser AF)
Samsung Galaxy S7 (12MP f/1.7, OIS, phase detection AF)
As you can see from the selection of photos, the differences in detail and colour are slight; this is where we are now in the top of the league in the smartphone world. No one can doubt the excellence in these photos, and I’m very glad that it looks as if people who buy any of these three superb devices will be more than happy with the imaging results. We’ve come a long way since the Nokia N8 and its ground-breaking 12MP camera six years ago. It does make one think though, that if this is where we are now in terms of camera ability, where do we go next? Samsung even dropped their mega-pixel count from the S6 to the S7, going from 16MP to 12MP, in order to keep the device slim, and in my view, that change has not worsened the experience or the photos captured. The next big thing? Who knows. But what we do know, is that with these three phones, you’ll snap and great photo.
We would like to thank AT&T for allowing us to trial the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the LG G5. (The Lumia 950 XL is mine though, so there’s that).