iPhone 7 vs. Samsung Galaxy S7 Camera Comparison: Which one takes better videos?

Following on from my look at still capture results, in which the iPhone 7 pipped the competing Galaxy S7 to the post by virtue of more natural image processing, several commenters remarked that they’d like to see a video camera test too. Do the same processing comments apply? On the whole yes, as you’ll see below…

Before going on, I should note that all of this is a notch down from the telephoto-equipped iPhone 7 Plus, arguably the king of phone-shot-video in the world right now. it’s true that the latter phone doesn’t have OIS for its 2x camera, but the Apple EIS (Electronic Image Stabilisation) is still first class and I’d pitch the video from the iPhone 7 Plus against the ‘old’ champion, the Nokia Lumia 1020, from 2013, amazingly enough (and with a 1/1.5″ lens to pull off its abilities) – and I think it might just win.

But that’s another feature for another day. In this test, I’m looking at the mainstream smartphones, the vanilla 4.7″ iPhone 7 and the standard Samsung Galaxy S7, both of which are highly specified on the video front, at up to 4K resolution, up to 120fps and with OIS onboard. The S7 does feature stereo audio capture and this might be a differentiator for some people – I do wonder whether Apple might enable this on the iPhone 7 range in a software update at some point.

Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7

So, I went for a walk with the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 both strapped to a ‘jig’, with their lenses very close, equidistant from where I was holding the jig – the idea is that any bumps and wobbles will be received equally on both phones and we can therefore directly compare the effectiveness of the OIS plus EIS.

In each case I used 1080p resolution (for bandwidth sake all round) and 60fps (to keep things super smooth). Everything was left on full auto, other than trying to use multitouch to zoom (easier said than done with a smartphone encased in a rigid jig!) as appropriate.

In addition, I shot a brief test of the digital zoom, at around 3x, and this also proves the effectiveness of the stabilisation as I tried to stand stock still in a bracing breeze. Finally, I shot some slow motion sequences using the special mode in each phone camera.

Once playing, you’ll want to click on the full-screen control to see the full resolution video (your display hardware permitting), up to 1080p. Oh, and note that the auto-focus took ages to lock ‘on’ in the Galaxy S7, its focus algorithms disappointed me here. I’ve chopped off the first ten seconds of out of focus footage to save your eyes(!), but there are a few seconds left at the start below, so that you can see what I mean:

There’s plenty to notice though:

  • Once the focus was sorted out, the footage from both phones, while walking, was equally as smooth, though you don’t get to see the full effect in real time in the viewfinder on the S7 – it just shows the results after the OIS – and the EIS (i.e. frame-based digital stabilisation) is added after the fact as the video is encoded. So, in the jig while walking, the iPhone 7 (which does show EIS in real time) looks miles better, but when reviewing footage later the stabilisation systems performed much the same in this section.
  • Audio is better on the Galaxy S7, though the phones were laid on their side and rather cosseted in the jig (I didn’t want them moving or falling out!), so I’m going to give the iPhone 7 something of a pass here – its microphone was more enclosed than the Samsung’s. In short, aside from the stereo/mono thing, don’t read too much into clarity here.
  • I have to hand it to the iPhone 7 when zooming in – the short zoom test on the plane shows that the iPhone’s two stabilisation systems together produce a zoomed video that’s almost tripod-steady. Just amazing. While the S7 footage was still wobbling slightly beside it (and yes, I’d checked that all stabilisation was ‘on’).
  • I did like the way that the iPhone 7 video capture interface limits you to about 3x zoom (there’s an on-screen slider), stopping footage from getting too lossy – in contrast, the Galaxy S7 lets you zoom and zoom and, as you saw by accident in the right side of the frame above, results can be very ugly.
  • The slow motion section of the footage was very decent on both smartphones – absolutely no complaints here.
  • The colours throughout were slightly more saturated in the Galaxy S7 footage and the edges of all details over-sharpened, exactly as with the stills that I was testing a few days ago. You can see this most clearly in the garden fences and in the greenery over the lake. I find, yet again, the effect rather ugly and would rather have the more natural colours and details in the 1080p frame of the iPhone 7 footage.

In truth then, there’s not that much to choose between the two smartphones in terms of video footage quality – the Galaxy S7 wins on the audio front with stereo capture, but the iPhone has the edge in terms of frame processing and effectiveness of EIS. Away from my artificial jig testing, I’d put money on the iPhone 7 to produce clearer and smoother video – especially as anyone who’s serious about capturing footage on a phone will probably have paid extra to have the iPhone 7 Plus and will then have that 2x telephoto lens to switch to as well. Of which more in a future feature, no doubt.

(Thanks to Clove for the loan of the Galaxy S7 for this comparison.)