Not satisfied with simply upsetting our photography habits, smartphones have gone on to conquer a non-negligible segment of the photography market. While reflex, hybrid and compact cameras can still count on having their own specific strengths (luminous lenses, large sensors, etc.), it has become a legitimate consideration in the domain of photography to discuss the quality of the images that camera phone are able to produce, and to try to answer a question that many people are now asking themselves: what are the best smartphones for photography?
From adapting devices first developed for reflex cameras, to developing proprietary technologies adapted to the reduced dimensions of mobile devices, smartphone manufacturers have now entered into a competition with each other in terms of their communication strategies to bring photography to the forefront of the smartphone discussion. This marketing campaign has reached a point where it has now become difficult to differentiate between false claims and the truth – to differentiate between the hype and a smartphone’s actual photographic capabilities. 2016 was an extremely fruitful year in terms of photographic innovations – namely with the introduction of dual photography modules. 2017 has so far tended to reaffirm the respective position that each manufacturer had achieved in 2016.
While smartphones are still far from being able to compete with “real” cameras, a hierarchy is clearly identifiable within the mobile device market. It should be noted that in terms of high-quality images, a battle is being waged between the best known smartphone manufacturers. The following is a guide which will attempt to establish a classification of currently available smartphones in terms of their specific photographic abilities.
This writer’s personal crush
After having had the bright idea of integrating a very-wide angle module into the G5, LG was able to modify the experiment with the G6. The images produced by this second generation digital camera are somewhat inferior to those that the initial wide-angle lens was able to capture, and the integration of a dual photo module on this camera is fully justified. This writer has fallen in love with the LG G6 which has just about everything that it will take to convince you of the ability of smartphones to be used for photography.
The most versatile
Samsung Galaxy S8
Despite the few photographic innovations introduced by the S8 compared to the previous iterations of this high-end smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is still one of the best photophones around. While its Dual Pixel AF technology seems to somewhat limit this photophone’s ability to capture details, the speed of its autofocus and the ease-of-use of its shooting interface will make you quickly forget about its shortcomings.
Most potential for creativity
The Huawei P10 does not represent a major evolution, but rather one more step towards the perfection of a shooting system that, for now, this Chinese manufacturer is the only one to really master. If you are seduced by the beauty of monochrome images, we highly recommend the P10.
The most precise
While the OnePlus 5 is disappointing in some regards (lack of optical stabilization, imperfect software ergonomics, etc.) and does not keep its promises in terms of the second photo module dedicated to portraiture, its digital camera’s wide-angle lens is nevertheless superior to that of its more expensive competitors in terms of capturing detail. We recommend this smartphone to those photographers who are interested in gaining more precision in spite of having to cope with a less refined user interface.
Best quality to price ratio
In 2016, a year of wild photophone innovations and chaotic technological developments, in our opinion, Huawei emerged as the brand which had most successfully managed its development. Similar to the P10 in terms of its photographic characteristics, the P9 received our prize for the best photophone of 2016 and now represents the smartphone in this guide with the best quality to price ratio.