The Nexus 6P is the first Nexus device to really impress us with its camera. It performs well in most scenarios you can throw at it, and that’s saying something considering the less-than-sterling pedigree of previous Nexus cameras. With the bad mamma jamma that is the Samsung S7/Edge on the scene, there’s a decision to be made here for some of you.
The Nexus 6P has its work cut out for it when going up against some of the best camera optics and low light performance on the market right now, but both devices do have their strong suits. When it comes to the images each spit out, I think you’ll have a harder time than you realize telling some photos apart. It’s a very close match, but ultimately one camera does come out on top for me.
Color Reproduction & White Balance
When it comes to color, the S7 really knows how to make them pop. Colors are bright and vivid and that’s extra noticeable when you look at the photos on the display the camera is tuned for. When you dig a little deeper on another display, though, you start to see some of the unnatural qualities. It’s just a bit too aggressive on the saturation for me. The 6P consistently produces photos that line up with my memory of the moment, and that’s going to be a recurring point. Shot by shot, the 6P’s photos are closer to what I want out of a camera.
That said, the S7 positively nails it on the white balance. When I see the below images of my dog, Wicket, I immediately feel the S7 is closer to the white balance I felt was present on the day the photo was captured. The 6P has a strong tendency to learn towards the warmer end of the spectrum, but does have its spot-on shots, too.
They’re mostly evenly matched here due to this being true in reverse when it comes to lower light indoor photos. In that scenario, the 6P feels much cooler and truer to life than the S7 did, as you can see in the photo of this dope dragonfly.
Here’s where things start to get a little touch and go for the S7. Samsung is notorious for their over processing of images and this year is no exception. While the images that the S7 can produce are strong in many ways, they start to fall apart when you dig a little deeper than the surface. Many edges and facial features tend to shift toward the uncanny thanks to Samsung’s aggressive sharpening. This can result in an image that doesn’t quite look how I remember it.
In the above image, you can see the difference in the edges of the flower petals. While the rest of the image is strong with colors that do pop, a sharp subject, and rich contrast, Samsung’s post-processing treatment leaves the petals looking unnatural to my eye. This makes photos that seem great at first glance lose their luster as soon as you start to look harder. The uncanny valley is definitely present here for me. It’s almost as if I’m opening my eyes as wide as I can before I look at every photo, and I really don’t care for it.
The 6P rocks out on this front. Most of the images I get from the 6P are closer to what I recall to be true to life.
Both devices have good low light performance when in more careful conditions, but if you find yourself in a dark bar and need to catch a moment, the S7 won’t let you down. Most of the results in low light with the S7 are grainy and thoroughly processed to eke the photo out, but when you compare that to another device’s result, I think you’ll find the other device wasn’t able to come close to capturing the photo. The S7 compensates heavily in low light, but if you’re looking for a device that won’t miss the shot the S7 is the one for you.
Features & Front Facing
Both devices have wider angle lenses, mounted on the front, but the S7’s is a bit wider than the 6P’s by a smidge. Both are more than serviceable for most selfie conditions. Both devices also support 240 FPS slow mo video capture, and they’re both really good at it in direct sunlight. It’s so much fun to get shots of your dog playing to play back in slow mo. This is one of those features I think we’ll start to see more attention on as the industry settles into a comfortable place when it comes to what we can fit into a handheld form factor. If one OEM can do markedly better than another on this front, it’s a smart way to differentiate without going too gimmicky. On both devices, the low light footage was mostly unusable thanks to having to stop down to accommodate 240 FPS, and neither support higher than 720p, but when you’re out and about it’s so much fun to play with.
The 6P has a hard time here, too. Google’s camera software hasn’t exactly been lauded over the years, and the 6P’s really isn’t any better. You’re going to miss shots. Plain and simple. If you don’t miss them to the camera opening, you’ll miss them to the shutter lag. It’s slow. It’s frustrating. Google needs to do better. When you set that side by side with the S7’s double click the home button to open the camera, it’s staggering. You’re snapping photos in a second on the S7 and that is what really knocks out the 6P for me. Yes, I prefer the photos the 6P takes, but the software is so bad that I miss more than I’d like to and when it comes down to it, you can’t look at a photo you missed.
Despite being happier with the photos that I take on the 6P, the sheer utility of the S7 is really difficult to beat. The S7 takes more photos faster in any light condition. When you start to dig deeper, the photos aren’t as great as you thought they were, but they’re still fabulous. The 6P will serve you well, too, if you can handle slower software and inferior low light performance. Neither is a slouch by any means, but I think the S7 takes it if only for its versatility.