Features

And the best smartphone camera is…

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Mirror, mirror on the wall, which smartphone takes the best photos of them all?

If you’re looking for the best camera smartphone money can buy, look no further. We’ve rounded up the best, currently available smartphones in the world today, took them on a road trip, took plenty of the same photos, and evaluated the results.


Here’s what we found…

Mechanics and Disclaimer

But wait! Before we dive in, allow us to set the stage a bit.

First, it’s important to note that these smartphones were announced at different times of the year. It’s possible that phones released later could benefit from more advanced technology.  

Second, this test wasn’t conducted in a controlled environment. We shot these photos in the real world, but did our best to keep shooting conditions as similar as possible, including framing and the position of the sun and clouds. All of these photos were taken handheld on Auto with high dynamic range (HDR) mode turned off (except, of course, for our HDR test).

And lastly the results were voted upon by the GadgetMatch team. The process involved a blind test where photos in a series were shown in random order. We had no idea which phones shot what until we reviewed the results. Some phones surprised us!

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Landscape

Winner: Google Pixel

2nd place: Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe

3rd place: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

In our very first comparison, we were already impressed by all the phones! Not a single one of them did poorly in the landscape test; each one presenting strong colors and wide dynamic range despite HDR being turned off. Still, we had to choose a winner, and it was the Pixel. Every element looked sharp, and colors popped more than the rest. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe and Galaxy S7 edge were a close second and third, but honestly, all phones passed with flying colors.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Dynamic Range (HDR Off)

Winner: Google Pixel

2nd place: Moto Z

This was another tough call, but the Pixel won out in our dynamic range test sans any HDR tricks. Again, both the foreground and background looked great, and no details were lost in the darker regions. To our surprise, the Moto Z captured second place, mostly due to its accurate rendering of the bright areas — just look at how striking the sky and vegetation are!

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Dynamic Range (HDR On)

Winner: Google Pixel

2nd place: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Was this even close? Take one look at all the samples, and it’s clear the Pixel won without any doubt. When high dynamic range is needed, Google’s HDR+ mode shines like no other. If not for the Pixel, the Galaxy S7 edge would have been the winner. Despite being a year old, its HDR mode still leaves most phones in the dust.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Portrait

Winner: Google Pixel

2nd place: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

3rd place: Moto Z

Yet another win for the Pixel! This phone does such a great job maintaining color accuracy while making everything look so crisp — check out the skin tone and details on the shirt to see what we mean. The Galaxy S7 edge did nearly as well, and the Moto Z once again impressed us despite being the oldest phone in this shootout.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Food

Winner: Google Pixel

2nd place: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Google’s flagship phone is making this look too easy. When it comes to food photography, we prefer the picture that makes the meal look the most appetizing, and the Pixel did just that. The Galaxy S7 edge did a fine job as well, producing colors that stood out but didn’t betray the actual look of the sumptuous shrimp.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Group Selfie

Winner: Moto Z

2nd place: Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Surprise, surprise — the Moto Z now has a win under its belt! We loved how everyone fit comfortably in its frame and looked lovely in the process. That’s its edge over the iPhone 7 Plus, although the latter produced our favorite shot when it came to saturation and skin tone. But we must say, the rest had their own strengths, too; it all boils down to personal preference.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Color/Macro

Winner: Apple iPhone 7 Plus

2nd place: Sony Xperia XZ

3rd place: Google Pixel

Add a check mark under the iPhone 7 Plus for this round. When it came to capturing the most amount of detail up close, none could match the iPhone’s output; however, we must commend the Xperia XZ for maximizing its subject tracking to stick to the swaying flower and maintain sharpness. The Pixel had an overall fine performance, and earned the third spot.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Selfie

Winner: Google Pixel

2nd place: Huawei Mate 9

3rd place (tie): Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and Moto Z

Turns out the Pixel has a pretty good selfie camera, too! Our subject isn’t lost in the crowded background, and each strand of hair is distinguishable. The Mate 9 performed nearly as well, if only it didn’t slightly oversaturate some of the colors. The Galaxy S7 edge and Moto Z are tied for third, thanks to well-balanced contrast and a pleasantly wide angle.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Dusk

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

2nd place: Apple iPhone 7 Plus

This had to be the most challenging scenario for all entries. There was lots of movement, colors were flashing from all directions, and the sun was setting quickly. With all these elements in place, the Galaxy S7 edge slayed the shot and brought home gold by taking in the entire scene without a hitch. We had to give second place to the iPhone 7 Plus for making the colors in the foreground look so attractive.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Night

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

2nd place: Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Here’s another tough situation in which the Galaxy S7 edge beat all its rivals. It’s clear Samsung’s specialty lies in nighttime photography, wherein all the glaring lights stay in check and scenes aren’t littered with unsightly noise. Choosing a second placer was tough, but we had to give it to the iPhone 7 Plus for nailing all the colors without blowing out the highlights.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Low-Light Portrait (Flash Off)

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

2nd place: Google Pixel

When it comes to low-light portraits, we prefer leaving the flash off, so we’re glad all the cameras produced acceptable photos. What stood out the most, though, came from the Galaxy S7 edge. Nothing looked overly dark or bright, and the subjects didn’t turn into a mesh of lost details. Despite being one of the few phones here without optical image stabilization for night shots, the Pixel managed to secure the second spot.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ

Low-Light Portrait (Flash On)

Winner: Google Pixel

2nd place: LG V20

3rd place: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Finally, we tested the flash capabilities of each camera. As you can tell, the results varied greatly from phone to phone, with the first-place finish going to the Pixel once more. It had the only photo with evenly distributed lighting and the most accurate skin tone. The V20 had a similar result, except colors were a lot more muted. Third place went to the Galaxy S7 edge for its smart illumination of the background.

High-resolution images:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus, ASUS Zenfone 3 Deluxe, Google Pixel, Huawei Mate 9

LG V20, Moto Z, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Sony Xperia XZ


And the winner is…

When the Pixel was launched back in October, one big claim was that it was the highest-rated smartphone camera on DxOMark, the world leader in camera, lens, and image quality ratings.

After 12 rounds of our own tests, we have to agree — the Google Pixel has, without a doubt, the best camera on a smartphone today.

Having said that, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 edge announced eight months prior, is a solid second and arguably still the best camera when it comes to low-light photography.

In a month, its successor the Galaxy S8 will also be unveiled; if Samsung sticks to its guns, the S8 may be the cameraphone to look out for in 2017.

Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus is third on our list. It may not have come out on top as many times, but it was a consistent performer overall, and shot some of the most color-realistic photos of the bunch.

The Moto Z also deserves an honorable mention. It’s the oldest of all the phones tested and in a slightly lower price point, but it held its own and even ruled its own category. It was definitely a pleasant surprise.  

The blind test was tough and our choices highly subjective. If you see things differently, that’s okay; it boils down to your own taste in photos. Some of us like nice saturated colors, some prefer warmer tones, and when it comes to selfies, some like the softening a good beauty mode provides.

Either way, all of the phones tested did great — a testament to how far technology has come. While thousand-dollar professional cameras will always take the best photos, when it all comes down to it, nothing beats the camera in your pocket.

SEE ALSO: Best Premium Smartphones (February 2017 Edition)

[irp posts=”10008" name=”Best Premium Smartphones (February 2017 Edition)”]

Automotive

A Father’s Day Drive Up North

Story time!

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We recently got the Ranger Raptor for the second time to use at this year’s STV ARCC and represent Ford Philippines. And since we had a free day before the event itself happened, I decided to use it and take out my dad along with my brother for a road trip. Good thing Mom had an errand to do that day!

Dad wanted to visit a certain theme park restaurant north of Metro Manila so I agreed and went for it. We already brought the Raptor to a 4×4 route for some off-road action, so now we go for long, paved roads with hungry stomachs.


That’s Dad, my brother Kiefer, and me on the road

After four hours of driving from the south, past the traffic metro, and all the way up north, we reached our destination. The place is called Isdaan Floating Restaurant and it’s at the municipality of Talavera in Nueva Ecija in the Philippines. “Isdaan,” when translated, means “fishery” so it already paints you a picture of what to expect. The restaurant is hard to miss as it has a wide, inviting facade fronted with sculptures.

The staff greeted us with a warm welcome and led us to our private floating nipa hut with koi fish swimming around and under us. Looking at the menu, there were lots of choices from appetizers, meat, seafood obviously, and even specialties that you don’t usually see in city restaurants.

“Guarding” the floating nipa huts

We got Bicol Express (spicy stew), Sinigang na Liempo (pork belly soup), and Binukadkad na Plapla (butterflied fish) from the menu. One of their signatures is a Boat Special. Basically, they offer select dishes in a long sizzling plate mounted on a wooden counter-top that resembles a boat. This was how Bicol Express was served which greatly added to the presentation value.

Food was really great especially the soup. While the service wasn’t too snappy and could definitely be improved, the food compensated for it. It has that home-cooked taste that hits the spot after a long drive.

After eating, we decided to walk around the area and check out the theme park side of the place. There were giant statues everywhere — from the Charging Bull similar to New York’s, Big Buddha of Phuket, and even prehistoric dinosaurs. It does make for great photo opportunities as you’ll see in the following photos.

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Apart from the gigantic and humorous characters, another attraction to find here is a corner to vent out all your pent-up emotions. For a reasonable price, you can choose objects like those plates or coffee mugs that you can smash onto the wall. If you ask me, I feel it’s a bit out of place in this family-friendly restaurant but it still does make the place unique.

Those are all fun but what usually entices people to visit this place is the fact that you can dip your feet in this shallow pond and have large koi fish swimming in between your legs. It might sound weird and it’s probably not for everyone, but the novelty of being able to do it was actually fun.

These koi quickly gather around you as you go near the water

Caught this little guy trying to nibble on his watch

Can’t leave the place without this obligatory shot!

After all the photos were taken and a few minor mishaps (one of us slipping trying to get in with the fish, not telling who), we were ready to go back home. It was another four hours inside the Raptor and we ended up exchanging stories and laughing our way through the expressways while the truck was mostly on cruise control. It was definitely a trip to remember.

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Features

6 best smartphones of 2019 (so far)

H1 2019 Edition

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We’re about to hit the half-way mark of 2019, and with most major smartphone launches out of the way, it’s time to pick the best models so far.

After numerous new products around the globe, it’s impossible to cover everything and provide a top-to-bottom ranking. With this in mind, these are the top smartphones we actually tested and believe are front-runners till the end of the year.


In no particular order, here they are:

Xiaomi Mi 9

Whenever a new Mi flagship comes out, people’s heads turn. The Mi 9 is this year’s first “flagship killer,” owning the specs and attractive price tag that made the more premium brands rethink their marketing strategies. Despite being one of the earliest to release this year, its price-to-performance ratio is still one to beat.

Samsung Galaxy S10+

Even though the Galaxy S10+ borrows several key features from the past generation, it does so with grace. By combining the best of the best, we have a flagship smartphone that’s more refined inside and out compared to the other entries on this list. It may not be groundbreaking, but Samsung nailed what we want in a high-end device.

Huawei P30 Pro

Controversies and trade ban aside, the P30 Pro set the highest bar for smartphone photography this year. Its zooming capabilities are unreal, and when combined with the advanced image processing and incredible battery life, this is practically a standalone camera replacement. Let’s just hope the second half of the year is nicer to Huawei.

OPPO Reno 10x Zoom

OPPO made it clear that they’re serious about the premium segment when it unveiled the Find X last year. The Reno follows up on that ambition with an impressive set of rear cameras and one of the most unusual selfie shooters we’ve ever seen. It owns some of the best internal hardware, as well, making this a lot more well-rounded than you’d expect.

Google Pixel 3a

Months of leaks and rumors eventually blossomed into the lower-end sibling of the much-loved Pixel 3. Google’s Pixel 3a makes a few compromises here and there, yet retains the features we truly want, such as the unmatched single rear camera and always up-to-date software — all in a package that costs only US$ 399.

OnePlus 7 Pro

OnePlus may have veered away from its affordable pricing strategy, but the OnePlus 7 Pro justifies the price hike with possibly the best smartphone screen in the market, along with a gorgeous design and unrivaled specifications. This gadget most definitely does not settle.

Honorable Mention: Redmi K20 Pro

We’re currently in the process of reviewing this device, but from what we can tell so far, this is indeed a winner. As the spiritual successor to last year’s smash hit, the Pocophone F1, the Redmi K20 Pro looks to become 2019’s one true flagship killer. It’s got everything, from the sharp looks and top-shelf specs, to the high-tech cameras and lovely price.

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Features

Now Playing: X-Men, Yuri!!! On Ice

Shows we’re enjoying during Pride month!

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Happy Pride month, everyone! This month’s Now Playing is a mix of the hottest in pop culture and mainstream media, as well as shows and music that celebrate love. Come and watch with us!

Movies to see

Someone Great
Chay: This Netflix Original came out a few months ago but I have been rewatching and replaying it in the background like it’s a new album release on Spotify. The story centers around how the main character Gina copes with her breakup with the help of her two best friends. The film has very relatable characters and stories, and a great soundtrack. But one of the most important parts of the movie for me was the scene wherein Erin talks to her lover Leah about how someone she used to date left her out of nowhere and went back to dating men, and made her feel like an experiment. Her admission that she’s never been able to open up about her past and sexuality to anyone else, not even to her two straight best friends, was crushing. 🌈


X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Rodneil: This film’s biggest flaw is adapting an iconic story too soon. We haven’t spent enough time with the new Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) to feel invested in this story. It’s not the worst X-Men movie though, and it’s definitely better than X-Men: The Last Stand which was the first attempt at adapting the Dark Phoenix saga.

John Wick: Chapter 3
Marvin: If you’ve watched either of the first two movies, you’d know what you’re in for here. And if this is your first entry into the world of John Wick, that’s fine too. The plot is as simple as it gets: Mr. Wick is mad and he goes after the people he dislikes. The raw action is spectacular and the pacing is spot on, making this the most refined spectacle in the series.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Dan: Godzilla is back to protect humans once again. While the critic reviews of Godzilla: King of the Monsters aren’t exactly favorable, it’s a great monster movie. Put the human element aside to fully enjoy the new Godzilla movie. It’s true that the film isn’t as good as the previous one, but you should see it for the monster action.

TV shows to binge watch

Chernobyl
Dan: If you’re a Game of Thrones fan who’s disappointed about its finale, HBO will win you back to keep your subscription with Chernobyl. The miniseries is currently the highest-rated show on IMDB and it surely deserves its title. It’s no easy task to dramatize a national tragedy, but the creators of Chernobyl were able to produce an intelligent show.

Black Mirror Season 5
Dan: Finally, the new season of Black Mirror is streaming on Netflix. It took them a while to deliver three new episodes. Thankfully, the Bandersnatch interactive film did a good job of keeping viewers entertained while they cooked up the new season. I must admit, the latest season doesn’t have the same level of horror that I enjoyed with previous Black Mirror seasons. Season 5 touches on sexuality, fanaticism, and anger issues that stem from the use of technology.

Yuri!!! On Ice
Rodneil: This was the breakout animé back in 2017. It’s a story of resilience, believing in yourself, and coming to grips with who you love along the way. It’s a story well told and the beautiful animation is just icing on the cake.

Albums/Songs/Podcasts to listen to

Heart Attack by Chuu of LOONA
Vincenz: This isn’t a new song but this is always one of my favorite LOONA songs. It’s catchy yet whimsical; all those Christmas carols feel festive. The music video depicts that a lady can still admire and show love to someone from the same sex. 🌈

new by Yves of LOONA
Vincenz: Not a new song either but the bold beats plus the refreshing vocals make this a quality song to listen to. Yves is the other lady found on Chuu’s “Heart Attack,” but in this music video, Yves symbolizes the “Opposite Eve” as she goes against the norm by eating apples, correlated with music video cuts that show a forbidden same-sex love (2:19/2:38). #StanLOONA

Lover by Kevin Oh
Vincenz: I love listening to this when I’m sad and the rain is pouring outside. The melodramatic beat with the calm vocals give me the opposite vibe — which is warming and comforting. Also, the music video is about love between two men, something you can listen to and watch during Pride Month.

Born This Way cover by TWICE
Rodneil: TWICE gave a big shout out to the LGBT+ community when they covered Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” on the first leg of their TWICELIGHTS world tour. ONCEs who attended the Seoul leg of the world tour shared clips on social media, and fans who belong to the LGBT+ community couldn’t help but feel proud that the K-Pop girl group chose to cover the song.

Places to visit

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Salzburg, Austria
Marvin: Most people are familiar with Salzburg as the main location for The Sound of Music, but there’s a lot more to it than just the film. Surrounded by classic architecture, famous bridges over the Salzach River, and loads of flowers, there is no shortage of IG-worthy spots around the city. Make sure to get a good look at the Eastern Alps while you’re there!

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Taipei, Taiwan
Vincenz: I know Taipei has been mentioned a lot on this website but I’ll be specific with how beautiful and majestic Taipei 101 is inside and out. It wasn’t a good day so I only reached the 89th floor (instead of the outdoor observatory found at the 91st floor). I would also recommend walking along Rainbow Riverside Park in Neihu to witness the colorful Second MacArthur bridge and see Taipei’s night lights (including Taipei 101) from afar.


Now Playing is the GadgetMatch team’s favorite games, movies, TV shows, and more each month. If you’re curious to know what we’re into at the moment, this is what you should check out. So grab your popcorn, get some drinks, and enjoy what’s now playing!

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