Best smartphone cameras compared: LG V30 vs iPhone 8 Plus, Galaxy Note 8, HTC U11


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. 

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 Galaxy Note 8, the iPhone 8 Plus, and the HTC U11, all of which are highly acclaimed for their photographic capabilities.

Scene 1 



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.

Scene 2



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. 

Scene 3



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. 

Scene 4



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.

Scene 5



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. 

Scene 6



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. 

Scene 7



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. 

Scene 8



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. 

Conclusion


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.

Final score
Samsung Galaxy Note 87.7
iPhone 8 Plus7.6
HTC U117.3
LG V307.1

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70 Comments

8. jellmoo

Posts: 2585; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Honestly? I think you may have undervalued the U11. I found myself favouring the shots with the U11 more often than note.

14. Busyboy

Posts: 731; Member since: Jan 07, 2015

It's subjective to the viewer, so camera comparison ratings need to be determined by blind comparisons IMO.

20. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I actually like these kind of comparisons better because the person taking the photos actually knows what the scenes look like IRL and therefore can tell which captured the moment better. This is made painfully clear by the last blind test results article.

25. bur60

Posts: 981; Member since: Jul 07, 2014

Should be double blind. Everyone has a bit of bias in him or her.

35. tedkord

Posts: 17356; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

It's been said before, ad nauseum, but they really need comparison shots from a quality DSLR taken by an expert photographer included. That's the only way to tell which was most accurate.

36. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I agree, they did a DSLR comparison before but not photos taken by a pro or with the best DSLR but I'm pretty sure the DSLR won anyway or maybe that was just my opinion.

19. killer7D

Posts: 551; Member since: Sep 18, 2014

I cant Agree more My htc U11 is having an amazing camera performance !

29. Furbal unregistered

U11 camera is damn good. Especially since it is vastly cheaper than the others

69. Cat97

Posts: 1892; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Of course, it's yours after all. It's just that the other ones are better.

11. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

The U11 has a decent shooter, liked it's photos more than I thought I would. The 7.3 score is a little low imo.

21. killer7D

Posts: 551; Member since: Sep 18, 2014

I dont know the reason behind this hate towards htc .. In addition, the U11 is the only device among all that do not have dual camera ..!!

22. Stranger

Posts: 73; Member since: Jan 19, 2017

Why no pixel there!

43. tss2009

Posts: 8; Member since: Mar 24, 2016

Maybe all the photos were blue....lol..

44. tss2009

Posts: 8; Member since: Mar 24, 2016

Maybe all the photos were blue....lol..

65. firebird820

Posts: 157; Member since: Jan 01, 2017

It might be because the HTC U11 Plus is about to come out, so they wanted to show off the old one before the new one came out.

23. jjface

Posts: 238; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

What happened to the pixel 2 XL. Too good? Even the pixel XL would have given these 4 a run for their money.

24. Tipus

Posts: 868; Member since: Sep 30, 2016

Note 8 is still the best phone. Untill Note 9 released, no other phone compares with hardware and feature combination

26. rsiders

Posts: 1954; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

With any LG phone you don't need a software update. You just need to dive into manual mode or edit in post sometimes after shooting in auto. That's just the way it is. The manual mode is so rewarding though especially on the V30 with the new haptic feedback built into the camera app. I'll take it over point and shoot any day of the week, even if I am a bit jealous of the Pixel's processing magic.

28. ph00ny

Posts: 2031; Member since: May 26, 2011

I'm confused how does haptic feedback help you take better pics?

61. rsiders

Posts: 1954; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

Did you read anything in my comment that indicated haptic feedback would help you take better pictures? I sure hope not. I was referring to the experience of interacting with the app. It's just miles better than anything else to me. Pointing and shooting is fine but when you feel those clicks when changing the focus or increasing the shutter speed, it just makes the experience of taking a picture fun and more involved.

30. Japultra

Posts: 133; Member since: May 16, 2014

After using the manual camera on the V30, I'm not sure if I want to go back to a camera without all the manual controls. Taking pictures has become much more of a creative process and feels more rewarding.

32. andriodfanboy1

Posts: 167; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Where is mate 10 or p series cmon u guys always exclude them for what? Even if they they are bad performers that doesn't mean they don't get to participate.

39. worldpeace

Posts: 3133; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Bad performers? DxO rate Mate 10 pro higher than note8 and iPhone8 (https://www.dxomark.com/huawei-mate-10-pro-oustanding-still-image-performance/ ) they really need to test it vs pixel 2

56. Recon360

Posts: 7; Member since: Nov 29, 2016

Look at dXo's Photo-only score. Not the overall score. Mate 10 and Note 8 get perfect 100s - higher than iPhone 8+ and Pixel 2...And rightfully so. These scores take the phone's true capabilities into consideration namely I'm referring to using Manual/Pro modes.

34. tedkord

Posts: 17356; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I think I agreed with most of the individual conclusions as far as what order they came in, but I'm not sure the differences were as great as the numbers assigned. Except for Scene 5, where the U11 looked almost like it was shot in black and white. It deserved to be graded well below the others.

37. jinroh47

Posts: 11; Member since: Sep 26, 2014

Where is pixel 2 in the comparison?

40. redmd

Posts: 1935; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

The iPhone produces some over saturated shots compared to iPhone 7. But I kinda like them. All are great camera phones though.

46. sissy246

Posts: 7111; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

All the phones did very good.

48. MrShazam

Posts: 987; Member since: Jun 22, 2017

Meh, give us another blind camera comparison with different scenes, and this time, include the Pixel 2XL. All photo comparisons are subjective and 1 man's opinion is useless.

50. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Hey PA how can we be assured that you're not screwing us and post the exifs to prove which photo came from the right camera?

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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