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Best Android phone camera: Google Pixel vs Galaxy S7 vs Xperia XZ vs Huawei P9 camera test

We compare the mighty 12-megapixel camera of Google's Pixel phone and Pixel XL with the best mobile cameras we've tested, to see which is the greatest smartphone snapper of the year. Is the Google Pixel camera better than the optics found on Samsung's Galaxy S7, Sony's Xperia XZ and the Huawei P9? Here's our in-depth camera comparison review.

With Christmas fast approaching (argh), Google's Pixel phone and its bigger sibling, the Pixel XL, are two of the last Android handsets to launch here in the UK in 2016. Which means that we can now try and determine which Android mobile has the best camera of the year.

Google's Pixel blowers top the DxOMark Mobile rankings list, which means that - according to some French boffins - these 'Made By Google' mobiles have the best smartphone cameras of all time. Of course, 'best' when it comes to photography is completely subjective, so we've taken the Pixel, the Galaxy S7, the Xperia XZ and the dual-lens Huawei P9 out in London to shoot our own comparison test.

Here's our Pixel vs Galaxy S7 vs Xperia XZ vs Huawei P9 camera comparison so you can make up your own mind. And check out our in-depth Pixel and Pixel XL camera review for more samples.

Google​ ​Pixel​ ​vs​ ​Galaxy​ ​S7​ ​vs​ ​Xperia​ ​XZ​ ​vs​ ​Huawei​ ​P9​ ​camera​ ​comparison:​ ​Manual​ ​controls

If you want complete control over your shots, then the Pixel phone isn’t the way to go. Google’s photo app is set up to be simple and intuitive to use, which means you only have the ability to tweak the brightness levels and add a filter based on the lighting conditions.

Meanwhile the Galaxy S7, Xperia XZ and Huawei P9 all offer up full manual controls, so you can get perfect results if you want a very specific shot. Of course, if your heart’s still set on the Pixel, you can at least download a new camera app from Google Play which adds extra filters and the like.

Google​ ​Pixel​ ​vs​ ​Galaxy​ ​S7​ ​vs​ ​Xperia​ ​XZ​ ​vs​ ​Huawei​ ​P9​ ​camera​ ​comparison:​ ​Detail​ ​levels

Sony’s Xperia XZ captures more detail than its rivals in everyday shots, thanks to that mighty 23-megapixel lens. Of course, you need to boost the resolution settings in the camera menu first, and photos then take up more storage space.

Still, the Galaxy S7, Huawei P9 and Google Pixel all capture detail-packed snaps as well, which look great when viewed back on a big screen. You really need to zoom in to start making out individual pixels.

Google Pixel:

Galaxy S7:

Xperia XZ:

Huawei P9:

Google​ ​Pixel​ ​vs​ ​Galaxy​ ​S7​ ​vs​ ​Xperia​ ​XZ​ ​vs​ ​Huawei​ ​P9​ ​camera​ ​comparison:​ ​High​ ​contrast shots 

All four phones here capably deal with strong contrast, so you have no worries when shooting against a bright sky or in a weirdly-lit room. Google's Pixel phone, with its new HDR+ processing feature, is perhaps slightly ahead of the others when it comes to detail levels in darker areas. But it's not quite the gap that Google will have you believe.

Google Pixel:

Samsung Galaxy S7:

Sony Xperia XZ:

Huawei P9:

The biggest difference is in the shade of darker areas. As you can see here, the buildings either side and the central statue are more brightly captured by the Pixel phone, with the P9 and S7 coming a close second. However, you can still make out plenty of detail on the photos captured with the non-Pixel handsets.

Google Pixel:

Samsung Galaxy S7:

Sony Xperia XZ:

Huawei P9:

Google​ ​Pixel​ ​vs​ ​Galaxy​ ​S7​ ​vs​ ​Xperia​ ​XZ​ ​vs​ ​Huawei​ ​P9​ ​camera​ ​comparison:​ ​Bokeh​ ​and depth-of-field

All four phones here can comfortably shoot something from a very short distance, so you can get just a few inches away from your subject and capture some stunning detail.

However, the Huawei P9 is the king when it comes to closies as it produces some really stunning bokeh (or in normal speak, sexy background blur). The advantage it has is those two lenses, which work together to provide a precise focal point and capture some seriously impressive depth-of-field.

Google has added a Lens Blur mode which is supposed to mimic depth-of-field, by heavily processing an image and blurring the background. Sometimes it kind of works and often it’s a bit of a mess, but either way it’s inferior to the P9’s natural results.

The Galaxy S7 offers up its own take of depth-of-field with Samsung’s Selective Focus feature, which takes several snaps in quick succession, shifting the focal range each time. The S7 then stitches these together and allows you to choose where to focus with a tap. Like Google’s Lens Blur, it’s a bit of a gimmicky mode and not much use for everyday snapping.

Google Pixel:

Samsung Galaxy S7:

Sony Xperia XZ:

Huawei P9:

Google Pixel vs Galaxy S7 vs Xperia XZ vs Huawei P9 camera comparison: Low light

The Huawei P9 is sadly the weakest phone in this comparison when it comes to night and low light photos. The dual f/2.2 lenses struggle to soak up light and the resulting images are quite murky and grainy. Thankfully you get a capable dual-tone LED flash to help brighten things up and it’s not too blinding.

Sony’s Xperia XZ and the Google Pixel camera both do an admirable job in low light, although Sony's snapper captures more natural skin tones and hues. And Samsung's Galaxy S7 is still the overall winner, producing the least grain and most attractive photos.

Google Pixel:

Samsung Galaxy S7:

Sony Xperia XZ:

Huawei P9:

Google​ ​Pixel​ ​vs​ ​Galaxy​ ​S7​ ​vs​ ​Xperia​ ​XZ​ ​vs​ ​Huawei​ ​P9​ ​camera​ ​comparison:​ ​Video

The Huawei P9 is the only phone here that doesn't shoot 4K resolution video, although it does offer up to 60-frames-per-second recording like the Xperia XZ, Galaxy S7 and Google's Pixel phones. Quality is strong in all four cases, offering plenty of detail packed into every frame.

When it comes to image stabilisation, the Xperia XZ and Galaxy S7 are the two strongest handsets. Both offer a smooth finish, eliminating shudders and shakes as you move and shoot at the same time, while the Pixel and P9 footage we shot was a little juddery with every step.

All four phones here offer slow-motion recording if you want to shoot stylish action footage.

Check out our Google Pixel camera review, Huawei P9 camera review, Sony Xperia XZ camera review and Samsung Galaxy S7 camera review for more samples and analysis of these four mobile phone cameras.

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