​iPhone 6S gets middling score on camera lab test

Apple's latest smartphone only tied last year's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in DxOMark Mobile's lab tests of photo and video quality.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise Processors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science. Credentials
  • Shankland covered the tech industry for more than 25 years and was a science writer for five years before that. He has deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and more.
Stephen Shankland
2 min read

DxO Labs rated the new iPhone 6S camera the same as last year's iPhones while new Android-powered devices top the list.
DxO Labs rated the new iPhone 6S camera the same as last year's iPhones while new Android-powered devices top the list. DxOMark

The camera in Apple's new iPhone 6S ranked 10th place in the DxOMark Mobile test, merely matching the photo and video quality of last year's iPhones.

The DxO Labs tests, which measure factors including exposure, color, autofocus performance, noise control and video stabilization, gave the iPhone 6S a score of 82. That's the same score the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus received in 2014, and it's a step behind the top-ranked Sony Xperia Z5 at 87, the No. 2 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge at 86 and the No. 3 Huawei-built Google Nexus 6P at 84.

Apple's iPhone line historically has had very high quality cameras, but this year's results indicate it's no longer easy for the Cupertino, California-based tech colossus to outpace rival products powered by Google's Android operating system. Photo quality is a critical aspect of smartphone quality as people ditch dedicated cameras for smartphones that let them record any moment and share photos and videos instantly through services such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Check out the impressive outdoor photos from the iPhone 6S Plus's camera (pictures)

See all photos

The 4.7-inch iPhone 6S is a solid performer, DxO Labs concluded in its Tuesday assessment: "Overall, the Apple iPhone 6S continues to offer a good balance of performance and top-notch user experience."

But the firm sounded disappointed the new 12-megapixel camera didn't outdo last year's 8-megapixel models. And DxO had some sharp words, too: "Apple's technology is unable to keep noise at competitive levels. Detail preservation in bright light has slightly improved with respect to the iPhone 6, but the overall score remains low compared to the best in its class."

There's still some room for Apple to do better. The larger iPhone 6S Plus, with a 5.5-inch screen, includes optical image stabilization that could lift its video score compared to the iPhone 6S. Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

DxO Labs is a French firm specializing in optics and image processing, and more recently is the manufacturer of the DxO One camera that plugs into iPhones. Its tests aim to objectively measure several aspects of photo and video quality.

Your own opinions may differ, of course. Real-world photo comparisons such as CNET's outdoor photography shootout pitting the iPhone 6S Plus against the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 can be instructive. Check also CNET's low-light photo comparison and selfie photo comparison.