iPhone 6 Plus vs S6 Sensor and Lens Specs Comparison

May 8, 2015

iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy S6 main cameras

In this article I want to talk about the differences between the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy S6 main cameras. The comparison also reflects the differences between the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy S6 Edge as both the S6 and S6 Edge has the same camera and this was also noted in DxOMark answer in their S6 Edge Review.

Before we start digging deep into the specs and features and talk about the differences, let’s first take a look at the camera specs of both the iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S6 rear-cameras.

iPhone 6 PlusGalaxy S6
Sensor8 megapixels
1/3.0-inch (4.89 x 3.67 mm)

4:3 aspect ratio
16 megapixels
Sony Exmor IMX240

16:9 aspect ratio
Max Image Resolution3264 x 2448 pixels5132 x 2988 pixels
Pixel Size1.5 µm pixels1.12 µm pixels
Lens29mm equivalent focal length
f/2.2 maximum aperture

Five-element lens
Hybrid IR filter
Sapphire crystal lens cover
28mm equivalent focal length
f/1.9 maximum aperture

Largan Precision Optics

Six-element lens (plastic)
Image StabilizatoinOptical (using a built-in gyroscope)Optical (Smart OIS)
Video StabilizationYes (cinematic video stabilization)Yes
AF SystemHybrid
phase-detection AF ("Focus Pixels") with contrast-detection AF
phase-detection AF ("Focus Pixels") with contrast-detection AF
FlashDual LED True Tone FlashLED
Video1080p 60 fps / 30 fps
720p 120fps / 240fps (slow-mo)

+ Continuous AF in video (Taking advantage of the phase-detection pixels)

+ an option to apply slow-mo to portion of the video and output as a new or apply to a portion of an existing video.
2160p(4K) 30 fps
1080p 60fps
720p 120fps
IR white balance
- Real-time HDR
Tracking AutofocusYes

(fast tracking auto-focus function)

S6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Sensor Comparison

As you can see from the above specs comparison table, there are some significant differences between the two cameras, but also some similarities.  The S6 features a 1/2.6-inch 16-megapixel sensor, whether the iPhone 6 Plus uses a 1/3.0-inch 8 megapixel sensor. The iPhone 6 Plus camera has a larger sensor and larger pixels.

I try to find the exact sensor size of the Exmor IMX240 1/2.6-inch but I couldn’t find any specific information. I did however stumbled upon the Omnivision OV16850 sensor which is also a 1/2.6-inch 16MP sensor and 1.12µm pixels. I looked at the datasheet and the image area is listed as 6092.8 x 3445.12 microns, which is equivalent roughly to 6.09 x 3.44 mm.  This stands quite well with the claims that the 1/2.6″ sensor is 15% larger than the 1/3.0″. The S6 sensor is also wider with 16:9 aspect ratio (Widescreen) whether the iPhone 6 sensor is at 4:3 ratio. **Other sources suggest that the sensor is 5.79 mm x 4.01 mm. If I have more detailed information I will update this section.

iPhone 6 vs Galaxy S6 sensor size comparison

iPhone 6 vs Galaxy S6 sensor relative size comparison

I am not 100% sure this is the exact size, but the even if it’s different, it’s not different by a large margin.

What we do know is that the Galaxy S6 capture photos in 16:9 aspect ratio by default, which are significantly wider than the iPhone. Although you have the option to change the aspect ratio,  I think that they actually look more interesting and are the best choice for landscape shots, indoors, architectural, group shots and street photography. They will also perfectly fit your 16:9 display without any black borders or overflow when view them in full screen on a widescreen display (and most HDTV and computer displays are).

The iPhone 6 Plus sensor have larger pixels than the S6 sensor. We might expect the iPhone 6 Plus to outperform the S6 sensor in low-light, due to its larger pixels. DxOMark suggests the opposite, in which the S6/S6 Edge outperform the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in terms of image noise at high ISO, exposure and contrast and texture quality.

This image shows you how good the S6 renders the reds and how good it’s contrast and sharpness are compared to the 6 Plus. I’ve seen various comparison showing the same results.

So how can the S6 perform better than the iPhone 6  at high ISO? This is most probably the results of the faster aperture lens (f/1.9 vs f/2.2), better sensor technology and improved image processing. The end results are what matters. The different is not huge, but it still quite surprising to see the S6 outperforming the iPhone 6 considering its smaller pixels.  DxOMark did mentioned that the S6 now noticeably ahead of the iPhone 6 Plus in terms of Flash, Noise and Texture performance.

I’ve also read that the S6 comes with either the Sony IMX 240 or the Samsung ISOcell sensor. According to this reddit post, the US variants use the Sony IMX240 sensor, whether the Asian/International market use the ISOcell. The post also mentioned that Anadtech testes both and found the IMX240 to perform better in high-ISO, but that comparison was made between the S5 camera which is known to use the ICOcell sensor.

S6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Lens Comparison

The Samsung Galaxy S6 camera is slightly wider than the iPhone  6 Plus. The iPhone 6 Plus has a 29mm (35mm equivalent) focal length, whether the S6 has a 28mm (35mm equivalent) focal length.

28mm is equivalent to approximately 75.38° diagonal FOV and 29mm is equivalent to 73.44° FOV. By having a wider FOV you’ll be able to get a bit more into the frame, but it’s a very small difference.

28mm vs 29mm diagonal FOV comparison

28mm vs 29mm diagonal FOV comparison

The most significant difference is in the aperture of the lens. Both the S6 and the iPhone 6 Plus use a fixed aperture lens. The lens doesn’t have any moving elements. This means that every photo that you capture will be captured using the widest lens opening (aka “maximum aperture”). This is why you don’t have any setting to change the aperture like you can do with a variable-aperture lenses.

The difference between f/2.2 and f/1.9 is 0.423 stops, which means that the S6 lens can allow approximately 1.3x times more light than the S6. This gives the S6 an advantage because you don’t need to temper with the shutter speed or ISO  to achieve better exposure when shooting the same exact scene.  If you do shoot the same scene with both cameras with the same exact camera settings and the S6 has spot-on exposure, you’ll see the iPhone 6 image underexposed by some degree.

Phone manufacturers always strive to use s faster aperture lens in order to improve the camera low-light performance. This is why we see faster aperture in new phones. I find it hard to believe that we’ll see anything wider than f/1.8 anytime soon. The LG G4 was announced with a f/1.8 rear facing camera, which is 0.156 stops faster than the S6 aperture, allowing 1.114x times more light.

To sum things up. The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a wider angle lens, larger sensor and a faster aperture, which according that what we’ve seen, it translates to better image quality, especially in low-light. The iPhone 6 Plus camera still remains one of the top performers, but pushed back by the Samsung S6/S6 Edge which as of the time of writing, positioned itself at the top position on DxOMark with the highest image quality rating. The iPhone 6 Plus is at the third place, just below the Note 4.

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