Best smartphone cameras compared: LG V30 vs iPhone 8 Plus, Galaxy Note 8, HTC U1140
Fun fact: the first digital camera was invented in 1975. It weighed 8 pounds and it required 32 seconds to record a 0.01-megapixel image onto a... compact cassette. Today, a camera a million times better fits in a pocket. Yup, it's your smartphone we're talking about, and whether you're an iPhone user, a Galaxy fan, or a BlackBerry hipster, your personal handset is a tiny hand-held miracle.
Galaxy Note 8, the iPhone 8 Plus, and the HTC U11, all of which are highly acclaimed for their photographic capabilities.Yet not all smartphone cameras are made equal. While pretty much all high-ends can take good photos in a broad range of conditions, some go above and beyond, delivering truly outstanding image quality. Our camera comparisons aim to highlight these top performers, and today we'll find out whether the LG V30 is among them. For the purpose of this comparison, we took LG's best phone so far for a shoot-out against the Samsung
We'll start with a scene we took in the afternoon, with the sun shining brightly in our direction. Given the circumstances, it was no surprise that all phones engaged their HDR modes automatically. The results? Pretty good, we'd say, since all four photos are well balanced in terms of exposure, with a decent amount of detail in all areas.
Color accuracy, however, is lagging on the V30 and the Note 8, both of which went for a colder, more blueish image than they should have. And it was no isolated case – prior to taking this set of shots, we snapped a few more frames similar to this one and the results weren't much different. The HTC U11 couldn't nail the color tone either, giving us a slightly greenish image. As far as colors go, the phone that gets the closest to reality is the iPhone 8 Plus.
After a great start, the iPhone 8 Plus presents us with this image – a good-looking photo indeed, but quite inaccurate with its colors. The rose was pink in reality, but appears red in the iPhone's photo, presumably due to the overly warm color tone in the image. Just in case, we snapped this scene several times, but the results weren't any different.
Looking at how the rest of the gang performed, we see that the LG V30 and the HTC U11 get closer to reality than the iPhone 8 with their color reproduction. We also see that the V30 went a bit overboard with the saturation, killing some of the shadows between the flower's petals. Overall, the Galaxy Note 8 took the most faithful shot as far as colors go, which is why we're giving it the top spot in this round.
Vivid red, denim blue, and fall yellow: a lovely color combination, isn't it? This set of shots was captured in the late afternoon, as the sun was about to set, hence the warm sunlight illuminating the scene.
Picking a winner here was not much of a challenge. While all four images look pleasing, the one from the Note 8 stands out with its bold, yet accurate colors, plentiful detail, and balanced exposure. The iPhone 8 could have gone for a slightly brighter image and should have been easier on the reds. The LG V30 and HTC U11, on the other hand, have overexposed the shot, resulting in overly bright spots seen in the foliage.
Honestly, I'm quite happy with the photo the LG V30 delivers here, and that's not because I'm in it. Sure, it has some flaws here and there, but the exposure and more specifically the way my face is rendered make this photo stand out. The Galaxy Note 8 is on par with the V30, more or less. While there could have been less shadow covering my face, the background is exposed better, with more of those highlights preserved. The HTC U11 is close behind them, and perhaps its photo could have used a bit more warmth. As for the iPhone, we expected better results out of it. Contrast in its image has been given a boost, apparently, which gives it a rather unnatural look.
We're not sure if it is because of Halloween or something, but in this particular case, the HTC U11 took a richly detailed, yet dark and gloomy photo. Taking a second shot yielded the same result. But the rest of the phones managed to capture the scene accurately, with only minor deviations in color temperature. Our favorite is the iPhone 8 Plus, but the V30 and Note 8 are pretty much on par with it as far as overall image appearance goes.
This is a shot we just had to take. There was something mesmerizing about the way sunlight was bouncing off of the wavy water surface. The effect was best captured by the iPhone 8 and the HTC U11, we'd say, with plenty of highlights standing out. In contrast, the Galaxy Note 8 and more so the LG V30 went for a darker look, which just doesn't pop as much.
Looking at these four images, we're left a bit underwhelmed by the LG V30. Its photo looks darker than the rest, lacking in exposure. The iPhone, on the other hand, did really well in this situation. It handled exposure really well without overblowing the red glowing signs as the Note 8 did. Even the HTC U11 had no problems capturing a bright and detailed image in this case.
Yet this time around, the LG V30 nailed the shot. Exposure, colors, detail, everything is spot on with its photo, so there's nothing we can complain about. The iPhone also took a great image, but it could have handled the highlights near the lamps a bit better. And the Note 8 took an image that is a bit greenish in tone. As for the HTC U11, it couldn't quite capture the warm light of the incandescent illumination in the scene.
There's a lot to like about the camera on the LG V30: the feature-rich camera app, for example, or the flexibility offered by that secondary wide-angle cam. But when it comes to regular, every-day photos, LG's top phone appears to be a step behind its major competitors. And maybe it isn't the hardware's fault. The V30's main 16MP cam is fast and captures plenty of details through its F1.6 lens. Perhaps the camera's software isn't quite as reliable as it should be when handling tricky dynamic scenes or night-time situations. But then again, despite the camera's hit-or-miss behavior, the LG V30 is still a capable shooter. Maybe a software update could give its camera a boost in performance?
In any case, the Galaxy Note 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus remain the top two cameraphones around. Although the score gives the Note 8 the lead, the small difference makes it safe to say that the two are on par when it comes to general photography. And the HTC U11, well, it may not have an elaborate dual-cam setup at its disposal, but it can still give the top guns a run for their money. We're glad to know that HTC is still among the best when it comes to camera performance, and we hope that's how things are going to stay.
This story is part of:Camera comparisons (23 updates)
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