Aside from having the famed AR Emoji, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and S9+ are earning praises and accolades for multiple features. Imaging authority DxOMark has even given the S9+ (or what I call the “jumbo” version) the highest smartphone camera rating to date.
Hot off the launch event, I got to take the S9, which is the smaller handset (I dub thee the “mini” version), out for a spin. The mini S9 supposedly has the same camera specs as the S9+ including that fancy dual-aperture feature, except, the latter has a rear dual-cam setup capable of real portrait mode shooting and zoom.
On this trip, I was packing the Google Pixel 2, which used to top DxOMark’s charts and is now second only to the S9+.
Being the curious person that I am, I took the S9 and the Pixel 2 out and around Barcelona to see just how the two compare. Here’s how that turned out.
It was unusually cold and rainy in Barcelona this year but I managed to take a number of snaps of the picturesque city.
Both phones did a great job on this shot. Overall lighting was good, even on the building facades considering these areas were against the light. The S9’s photo is noticeably brighter, but the Pixel 2 shot has more building details owing to high contrasts — something the phone is known for.
Same observations may be made with this set. Color and detail is more apparent on the Pixel photo owing to contrasts. The blue sky on the S9 photo looks more saturated while the Pixel 2 photo gives a deeper, darker sky.
These photos were taken inside famed apartment building Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí who is the genius behind Barcelona’s Sagrada Família.
The S9’s photo is brighter but this meant that color and some parts (notice the windows) have washed out details. Notice that the same photo is also more yellow. The deeper blues in the Pixel 2’s photo make for a better take.
Yet again, both photos come out well, and this is considering that this was an indoor setting. The S9 photo won this particular round, however. The brightness and color saturation just made the overall picture more appealing.
We now move on to the true smartphone camera challenges!
This photo came out with surprising results. I’m not quite sure why color differed vastly between the two pictures — might be the white balance, or the saturation — so your guess is as good as mine.
This outdoor night time shot proves that both are capable shooters (as if it isn’t obvious enough at this point), and both samples have great detail. As has been a recurring theme in these photos, the S9’s take is a little bit more saturated while the Pixel 2’s photo has more pronounced contrasts.
The S9 impressed massively in this photo. Although the stained glass windows aren’t as colorful in this sample, the S9 was able to brighten the photo so much so that the details on the ceiling are clearly seen. This was not the case with the Pixel 2 photo.
On to the part of the review that always makes me hungry.
The S9 and S9+ have a built in Food Mode specifically built for these type of shots.
As seen in the left-most photo, the tuna is definitely redder. Obviously, saturation has been upped on the S9’s Food Mode and there’s a blur effect going on — one that’s reminiscent of Instagram’s radial blur filter. The Pixel 2’s tuna looks paler and less appealing in general, even compared to the normal S9 shot.
The same goes with this yummy piece of salmon. Although undoubtedly very, very yummy, the Pixel 2’s photo looks least appealing. The S9 Food Mode, however, seemed a little too much for this naturally orange dish. The normal S9 photo looks just right (and now I want salmon).
This is where it gets interesting. The S9 houses a single rear camera which means its bokeh mode is all software; the Pixel 2 is the same. On the other hand, the S9+ (yes, the jumbo version) packs dual-rear shooters that can do real hardware bokeh with its adjustable Live Focus Mode. The results are below:
The Google Pixel 2 still does better software cut-outs, but the S9+ and its hardware bokeh are the true winners here.
Speaking of S9+ features, there’s also an optical zoom capability thanks to the second rear shooter on this jumbo phone while the Pixel 2’s single shooter doesn’t have the same thing, so we give this round to the S9+.
Of course, the S9 and S9+ have a very detailed beauty and makeup mode (something I’ve thoroughly explored in this video) — a feature the Pixel 2 doesn’t have.
On the selfie front, here’s how the phones fared:
The S9’s photo is brighter and softer — a look I’ve noticed women are more prone to liking in their selfies as it gives faces a softer look. As expected, the Pixel 2’s high contrasts give off a much sharper look; notice the seemingly overdrawn eyebrows on the Pixel 2 sample compared to the S9’s.
The verdict is not surprising: All these phones are very, very capable shooters. As to which phone is better would depend on preference. Admittedly, the S9+ would be the best overall shooter with the added camera and shooting features. The S9, on the other hand, is a great choice if you like brighter, more saturated photos in a smaller body. And despite being released months prior, the Pixel 2 is still on par with these fresh releases. It’s still a great choice if you’re fond of great contrasts and faithful color reproduction.
Which one of these phones won you over?
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs Note 8: Camera shootout
Is there any improvement?
It was made clear that the brand-new Galaxy Note 9 has the same set of cameras as that of the Galaxy S9+ — they were released in the same year, after all. But there’s a more pressing concern: How much of an improvement is there over the Note 8?
Being the curious techies that we are, we took the two S Pen-equipped smartphones around New York City to see how they fare against each other. To make this shootout more interesting, we’re turning it into a blind comparison.
How blind? All rounds are in a random order, so you won’t know which phone shot Photo A and Photo B without checking the answer sheet at the end of this article.
To make things fair, all samples were shot using the default camera app on auto settings. No post-processing or editing was done, except for resizing so that they load faster.
Here we go:
Now it’s time to see which phones you actually picked:
#1: Note 8 (left) vs Note 9 (right)
#2: Note 9 (left) vs Note 8 (right)
#3: Note 8 (left) vs Note 9 (right)
#4: Note 9 (left) vs Note 8 (right)
#5: Note 9 (left) vs Note 8 (right)
#6: Note 8 (left) vs Note 9(right)
#7: Note 8 (left) vs Note 9 (right)
#8: Note 8 (left) vs Note 9 (right)
#9: Note 9 (left) vs Note 9 (right)
#10: Note 8 (left) vs Note 9 (right)
#11: Note 8 (left) vs Note 9 (right)
#12: Note 8 (left) vs Note 9 (right)
As you can see, the differences are minor except for specific instances. The Note 9 seems to perform slightly better when it comes to portraits using either the front or rear cameras. Skin tone is more accurate and the photos look sharper up close.
Although the Note 8’s output is often too warm, it does surprisingly well, especially in low-light environments. And despite lacking the Dual Aperture feature of the Note 9, the predecessor can keep up in terms of overall exposure and dynamic range.
Do note that the Note 8 has had a year to refine its cameras, whereas the Note 9 just came out with its fresh software. These results could easily change in a few months with software updates.
Does AI on Honor 10 photos really work?
We took plenty of snaps to find out
Artificial Intelligence or AI appears to have become a staple feature on smartphones released in 2018. It’s even a headline feature on the Honor 10 with its tagline “Beauty in AI.”
Just how much can AI enhance your images? We took a stroll one afternoon and took a few photos to find out. Side note: The only editing done on these photos was resizing to make sure they load faster on the website.
Even without AI, the Honor 10’s pair of cameras does a good job of capturing the details of the buildings, but with AI turned on, the colors pop. If you look closely at the clouds, it almost appears as if the gates of heaven are about to open.
Moving on, we spotted this colorful set of umbrellas. You’ll notice right away that the photo taken with AI is more vibrant. This will be a recurring theme throughout this entire article.
This flower photo shows how color translates well even in closer shots.
Inside the mall, the photo taken with AI captured the feeling evoked by the installation better. Felt pretty bright and cheery seeing inanimate flamingos in love.
Before heading out to eat, I checked out some new kicks because apparently, that’s something I’m really into now. I’m not a fan of King James but this Nike LeBron 15 Low “Ashes” caught my eye. In this photo, I thought the one without AI did a better job at focusing my attention on the shoe.
Snapped this quick portrait of Leez right before we ate. The AI did fantastic work here, but as you’ll see later on, it doesn’t always get things right.
Here’s what I had for late lunch and the AI made it look super sumptuous. I’m crazy about Hot Star’s large fried chicken — the BBQ flavor, in particular. 🤤
We ran into a few superheroes when we stepped out. Iron Man Hulkbuster looked lackluster without AI, but he shines once it’s turned on.
Leez’s photo with Deadpool shows the Honor 10 does a decent job identifying more than one subject when applying bokeh.
Now, here’s an example of when the Honor 10 just didn’t get it right. We had more results like this than really good ones. I don’t know if it was me being a little too emo here, but bokeh on the photo went a little too far.
However, when it does bokeh right, the photo can look magical.
Took one more shot before leaving and honestly, this was my reaction after seeing how much enhancement the AI does on the Honor 10. Can it be better? Sure. But for what it does now, we were pretty happy with the results.
Huawei P20 vs P20 Lite: Camera Shootout
Double the price, double the performance?
We all know the Huawei P20 family has a fantastic set of cameras, but the questions is: How do they compare against each other?
While a P20 versus P20 Pro comparison would be interesting, I figured comparing the P20 against the lower-end P20 Lite is more compelling. Why? Because the latter is half the price of the former.
And yet, they both share a dual-camera setup, sans the Leica branding on the Lite model. But do those sweet German lenses justify the doubling in price? That’s something we need to find out in this shootout.
As usual, every photo is taken on Auto mode without any post-processing, except for resizing to let this page load faster. To make this comparison more fun, we’ll make it a blind shootout. You can find the answer sheet at the bottom.
So, was it closer than you expected? Here’s the answer sheet:
#1: P20 Lite (left) vs P20 (right)
#2: P20 Lite (left) vs P20 (right)
#3: P20 (left) vs P20 Lite (right)
#4: P20 (left) vs P20 Lite (right)
#5: P20 (left) vs P20 Lite (right)
#6: P20 Lite (left) vs P20 (right)
#7: P20 (left) vs P20 Lite (right)
#8: P20 Lite (left) vs P20 (right)
#9: P20 Lite (left) vs P20 (right)
#10: P20 Lite (left) vs P20 (right)
#11: P20 (left) vs P20 Lite (right)
#12: P20 (left) vs P20 Lite (right)
From my own experience, I’d say the P20 clearly does better at night, but they do equally well during daytime. Another thing to consider — and this doesn’t show up on the results — is that the P20 focuses on subjects faster and has a richer camera app. The P20 also has that useful night mode allowing four-second handheld photos, which weren’t included in this shootout.
So, what do you think about the comparison? And which phones should we compare next? Let us know in the comments section below.
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