This will be a simple side-by-side (or top-by-bottom, to be fair) comparison of the camera image quality of Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG V30. While this may not sound like a fair test, since the S6 was released two years earlier, it’s still a common upgrade path for many, and as this test will serve as pointer to what to expect when upgrading. The S6 was probably the best camera of it’s generation, and while 2 years sound like much, cameras have not been evolving as fast other parts of the phone. What we’ve seen instead are secondary features such as better stabilization, software features and additional cameras. The V30 for example sports an additional, wide-angle, camera, which is a lot of fun to shoot with, while the S9 has an adaptive aperture.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the test!
In all the following examples, the image taken with the S6 will be presented first, followed by the one taken with the V30.
The S6 really shines in this image, producing an image with natural, balanced colors and contrast. The V30 tries to hard and ends up exaggerating the colors and contrast, and at the same time manages to give a slightly green tone. Both pictures look good however, but the point goes to S6.
Zooming in on the picture reveals that, at least in daylight, the v30 has stronger post-processing to enhance contours and contrast. Personally I find it over-the-top and would prefer Samsungs softer type of post-processing (I can’t believe what I just wrote).
Here’s a rare example of when the V30 drops the ball completely. Lots of blacks causes it to overexpose, and produces a burnt out picture. The S6 meanwhile nails it and produces a sharp and well-balanced image. In my experience the V30 tends to overexpose somewhat in many situations, although not nearly this much.
Again the V30 overdoes it with the saturation. There’s not much to say here except that the S6 produces the better result.
This is a tricky one. While the S6 captures a more inviting picture, it is actually quite overexposed both technically (blown out sky), and compared to what I actually observed. The V30 on the other hand actually underexposes, and a lot of detail in the shadows gets lost while the sky looks good. The reality was somewhere between these two pictures, and in the end it’s a matter of preference.
Looking closer at some details we see that the two cameras are similar, perhaps with the V30 pulling out the slightly sharper result. The V30 produces a slight green tint which is unfortunate, but not something that is noticeable without a reference.
Looking at part closer to the edge of the same picture reveals uneven sharpness with the S6. The V30 retains sharpness all the way out in the corners, while the S6 tends to get blurrier the further out you get. Perhaps the optics are of better quality on the V30.
The V30 performs admirably in low light. It’s almost as crisp as if taken during day, most likely due to it’s large F1.6 aperture (compared to F1.9 on the S6). The V30 captures the scene at ISO-950, while the S6 needs to step it up to ISO-1250. The S6 also exaggerates the saturation heavily, as I can attest to reality looking a lot closer to what the V30 produced.
Another night-time scenem, and the picture on the S6 turned out consistently terrible, while the V30 produced consistently sharp results. Now, I know the S6 can do better, but this will serve as an example when it simply doesn’t want to do what is expected of it. There is not much to debate here, but other than the obvious, we can at least point out that the S6 produces a picture with more atmospheric lighting. Notice that all water is orange and illuminated, while the V30 produces a completely neutral and high contrast water reflections. While one might prefer the more atmospheric depiction, the V30 produced what I was actually seeing in this case, just like before.
Zooming in on the buildings reveals a ghost-like duplication effect on the V30 image, which is probably the HDR engine failing to merge images properly at low light. This is not very noticeable fully zoomed out, but should be noted regardless.
Closing opinions and conclusion
The V30 sports a good camera, but it’s not the home-run that I expected. While it does take very nice pictures in general, many daylight pictures are cursed with a slight green tint, exaggerated colors and heavy post-processing. You wouldn’t necessarily be able to pin-point these exact issues without a side-to-side comparison, but it still drags down the overall feeling of the image quality. Looking at the pictures on the phone, on a TV, or a not-so-well calibrated screen will however make these points void. In general I found that turning off HDR will produce slightly more crisp and less over-saturated images, but with the drawback that the shadow detail is reduced, of course. After reading a bit online, it seems that LG chose cheaper sensors for the V30, compared to their other top-tier phones, hoping to make up for the difference with the unusually large F1.6 aperture. This could be the reason behind the exaggerated post-processing and the off colors; a typical hallmark of cheaper sensors.