Camera Shootouts

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ vs Google Pixel 2: Camera Shootout

Shootout between the two highest-rated smartphone cameras

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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.

The Galaxy S9 and S9+

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.

Cityscapes

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.

Indoor shots

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.

Low-light scenes

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.

Food photography

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).

Portrait mode

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:

It’s Joshua Vergara. What’s going on, everybody?

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+.

Selfie shooters

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?

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S9: Four fun new features

Camera Shootouts

iPhone XR vs Pixel 3: Camera shootout

Which single-camera setup takes better photos?

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In an age where dual and triple cameras have become a standard, two premium flagship smartphones with a single-camera setup can still compete. Google’s Pixel 3 is regarded by many as having the overall best smartphone camera because it produces well-balanced colors and clean cutouts on portrait mode. Apple’s iPhone XR has almost the same camera setup and features as the more expensive XS and XS Max, including the TrueDepth camera in front.

In this comparison, we pit the two against each other to find out which smartphone you think takes better photos. This is once again a blind test so get your pen and paper ready! Do note that all photos were taken on Auto or Portrait mode (when applicable) and have only been resized for faster loading times. They are labeled Photo A and Photo B randomly. Swipe left to see the photos in full and take note of your picks!

#1

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#2

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#3

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#4

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#5

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#6

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#7

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#8

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#9

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#10

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#11

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#12

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#13

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#14

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#15

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Ready to find out which phone took your picks? Here’s the answer key:

#1
Photo A: iPhone XR
Photo B: Pixel 3

#2
Photo A: Pixel 3
Photo B: iPhone XR

#3
Photo A: Pixel 3
Photo B: iPhone XR

#4
Photo A: Pixel 3
Photo B: iPhone XR

#5
Photo A: iPhone XR
Photo B: Pixel 3

#6
Photo A: iPhone XR
Photo B: Pixel 3

#7
Photo A: Pixel 3
Photo B: iPhone XR

#8
Photo A: iPhone XR
Photo B: Pixel 3

#9
Photo A: iPhone XR
Photo B: Pixel 3

#10
Photo A: Pixel 3
Photo B: iPhone XR

#11
Photo A: Pixel 3
Photo B: iPhone XR

#12
Photo A: iPhone XR
Photo B: Pixel 3

#13
Photo A: Pixel 3
Photo B: iPhone XR

#14
Photo A: iPhone XR
Photo B: Pixel 3

#15
Photo A: Pixel 3
Photo B: iPhone XR

There’s no clear winner in this shootout; both phones did a great job in capturing images even in low-light scenarios. Choosing which one is better boils down to preference.

The Pixel 3 produces photos with higher contrast and sharpness, which sometimes turn out darker so photos tend to look more dramatic than they are in real life.  The iPhone XR, with its Smart HDR technology, balances out highlights and shadows really well, so much so that backlit images look like they have more than one light source.

In the portrait mode department, neither of the phones did a perfect job — how the cutouts turn out varies depending on the hair’s texture, how busy the background is, and even lighting.

When it comes to selfies, the Pixel 3 offers a wider field of view, an option to switch to a secondary wide-angle lens, as well as a feature called Night Sight that’s also available on its rear camera. One complaint we’ve always had with iPhones is how tight selfies are as seen in sets #13 and #14, although the iPhone XR selfies look more pleasing compared to those taken with the Pixel 3, where my skin tone tends to look more dull.

What do you think of this comparison? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Camera Shootouts

Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs Google Pixel 3: Night mode shootout

Seeing in the dark

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Smartphone manufacturers have always been upping their camera games, whether it’s by adding more sensors to the setup or increasing pixel count. But one of the bigger revolutions was Huawei bringing a true night mode to the P20 Pro earlier this year.

Since then, Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro followed up on the trend, only to be challenged by another camera-centric smartphone: the Pixel 3. Google’s latest flagship also has a well-received night mode, but the feature came out a couple of months after the phone’s launch.

Now that Google’s Night Sight is official and we have a Mate 20 Pro on hand, it’s time to compare their performance and answer the question lots of people have been asking: What’s the best smartphone for nighttime photography?

For this shootout, I brought the two phones around Taiwan and took photos only on their respective night modes. No post-processing was done except resizing, so the images would load a little quicker on this page.

Here we go:

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One thing’s for sure: Both perform really well in any situation, exceeding expectations in most cases. Although, a lot of the comparisons come down to personal taste.

For one, the Pixel 3 often removes a layer of warmth and makes nighttime scenes look more like daytime. On the other hand, the Mate 20 Pro is better at preserving how the environment actually looks in low-light spots.

In the most extreme cases, however, the Pixel 3 can see better in total darkness. The secret sauce Google applied here works wonders for when sufficient lighting is out of the question. At the same time, Huawei’s phone can apply motion blur to moving subjects, making them feel more like a long-exposure shot.

With no clear winner, it’s safe to say that both sides prove that their leaders in the night mode realm. Which one do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Camera Shootouts

OPPO F9 vs Vivo V11: Camera Shootout

Which midrange contender comes out on top?

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Two brands that impressed us this year with their unconventional take on the borderless design are OPPO and Vivo. These two are always neck and neck when it comes to performance, design, and even cameras. So in this video, we set out to find which of these midrange contenders takes better photos.

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