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iPhone 6S Plus vs. Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 in selfie shootout

We put the iPhone 6S Plus' upgraded 5-megapixel front-facing camera against those of the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Apple's new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus have been given a whole host of upgrades from the predecessor, including a fancy new way to poke at the screen, a ton of extra power and a camera resolution boost. It's the front-facing camera we're looking at here, which has been upped from 2 to 5 megapixels, which will be welcome to news to those of you who just can't help but take selfies everywhere you go.

I put the new 6S Plus against the existing iPhone 6 , as well as the Samsung Galaxy S6 -- one of our favourite camera phones, which also has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. All phones were shooting at maximum resolution. Also, keep in mind that while the 6S Plus's rear camera has optical image stabilization, its front shooter, like those on the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy S6, does not.

This is one of a number of tests we're performing on the new phone's camera -- take a look at our outdoor test shots we've done already -- so don't take this result as the final verdict on the phone. We'll be doing more testing over the coming days, including low-light and portrait results so keep your eyes fixed on CNET.

iPhone 6S Plus front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET
iPhone 6 front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET
Galaxy S6 front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

All three phones took great selfies in my first outdoor scene. All shots are exposed well, with a perfect balance between the bright blue sky and shadowy shrubs. Colours are even and natural as well. The iPhone 6S Plus' shot is very similar in tone to the iPhone 6's, but the additional resolution has resulted in a much sharper image.

The Galaxy S6's snap takes the prize in this round however, as its wider-angle lens has captured much more of the scene. If you're keen on taking selfies in wide open areas or on top of mountains, this wide-angle lens will come in handy.

iPhone 6S Plus front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET
Galaxy S6 front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

With an extremely bright backlight, both the 6S Plus and Galaxy S6 struggle to maintain an even exposure.

iPhone 6S Plus front-facing camera test, with HDR (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET
Galaxy S6 front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The 6S Plus and Galaxy S6 can shoot in HDR mode using the front facing camera however which allows for a more even shot. Both scenes are much more balanced and colours remain accurate. The 6S Plus's shot has done the better job in keeping the bright sky under control. While the Galaxy S6's image still has some of the sky washed out, it has an overall better contrast.

iPhone 6S Plus front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET
iPhone 6 front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET
Galaxy S6 front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This indoor shot has been captured pretty well by all three phones, although I prefer the warmer skin tone and slightly brighter shot taken by the iPhone 6S Plus. The Galaxy S6 does make more use of noise reduction with its selfies, though, as there's less noise to be seen in the background. Thankfully, this hasn't also resulted in my skin looking unnaturally smoothed.

iPhone 6S Plus front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET
iPhone 6 front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET
Galaxy S6 front-facing camera test (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

In lower light, the iPhone 6S Plus has again achieved a brighter shot than the Galaxy S6, but the S6's noise reduction has produced a smoother, more attractive shot -- albeit with a bit of an unnatural 'soft-focus' style to it. The iPhone 6's shot is comparable to the iPhone 6S Plus, but its lower resolution has produced a less crisp shot with quite a lot of image noise. Out of the three, I'd be happiest sharing the Galaxy S6's shot to Facebook.

iPhone 6S Plus front-facing camera test, with Retina flash (click to see full size) Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The 6S Plus does have a trump card when it comes to low-light selfies, however. The screen is able to pulse quickly with three times the regular brightness, acting as a sort of front-facing flash. It's helped brighten my face here, and the shot overall has less image noise than before. Fine details on my face are still a bit soft, but it's a much brighter and more visible than the Galaxy S6 achieved.

Overall

The increase in resolution from the iPhone 6 to the 6S Plus results in selfies that are packed with extra detail, and the ability to use the HDR mode helps you capture your own smiling face in beautifully-exposed scenes. The 6S Plus is certainly the winner between the two iPhones.

It's not such a clear fight between the 6S Plus and the Galaxy S6, however, as the Galaxy S6's wider-angle lens captures a lot more of the scene you're standing in -- which will be great for those summer beach scenes. It doesn't quite have the iPhone's ability to balance extreme exposures, though, so you should think about what's most important in your selfies -- a wide view, or a perfectly captured scene.