Note 10+ vs Huawei P30 Pro vs Pixel 3 vs iPhone XS Max: LOW LIGHT Camera Comparison

Note 10+ vs Huawei P30 Pro vs Pixel 3 vs iPhone XS Max: LOW LIGHT Camera Comparison
There is a new competitor in the smartphone camera race: the Galaxy Note 10+ is the first flagship phone by Samsung that comes with Night Mode built in the camera app and it introduces some improvements over the Galaxy S10+ for a more refined camera experience.

But how does it do in the most challenging conditions for any smartphone camera: in low light?

To understand how capable the Galaxy Note 10+ is in low light, we compare it directly against the best camera phones out there: the Google Pixel 3, the Huawei P30 Pro and the popular iPhone XS Max.

It's interesting that except from the aging iPhone, all the phones in this comparison have embraced the idea for a separate Night mode, plus some of the phones apply novel technology to squeeze much more light out of a nearly pitch-black photo. See all those differences and learn which phone does best at night right below.

Photo 1: Absolute darkness





The new Galaxy Note 10+ might have a ton of fancy features and options, but we wanted to start this comparison by just using the auto settings, using the default photo mode and we picked a place that we would normally not even think to photograph: a pitch black corner of the street. This is probably the most challenging scenario for any camera: there was so little light that it was hard to see for our paltry human vision. Interestingly, one phone stood out here: the Huawei P30 Pro managed to magically bring out light out of this pitch black environment and captured clearly the best-looking photo here.

All other phones captured different shades of dark (much like what our eyes were seeing). This was a very interesting test: we have to say once again that we would not usually even think of taking a picture in such pitch-black darkness, so we're impressed that the Huawei P30 Pro is able to capture these seemingly impossible conditions.

Photo 2: Auto vs Night Mode




 Next up, it was time to try out the Night Mode and see what results you get on different phones.

The thing you should know about the Galaxy Note 10+ is that using Night Mode on it is an exercise in patience as a single shot takes a long while to capture. In comparison, the Nightsight on the Pixel takes just a second to process a shot, while it takes much longer on the Note 10+ (and on the P30 Pro for that matter). The iPhone lacks a Night mode, so it could not quite match the competition here.

On all phones, Night Mode captures an image with more light and more color that looks better, but at the same time this improvement comes at the expense of detail which is artificially oversharpened and not quite as pleasing.

It's hard to say which phone captures the best picture in this case, but one thing that is noticeable is that colors on the Huawei appear much colder than on others.

Photo 3: Neon Lights




 This was an interesting shot because neon lights give a night shot unique character. We were surprised with the way the Huawei P30 Pro handled the neon signs: it basically failed to properly portray the reddish color of the sign and had less detail than the rest.

The best picture here is the one shot by the Google Pixel: it has the best dynamic range, deep colors, very good amount of detail and just looks great. The Galaxy and the iPhone captured very similar looking shots, just slightly less impressive than the Pixel.

Photo 4: Moonlit Coastline




 The moonlit coastline was really quite the sight that night and we were excited that with these phones we could capture a scene that probably a couple of years ago would have looked like one blurry mess on a photo.

We feel that using Night Mode contributed to making this image a bit better, but it also showed how Night Mode can look a bit like an overkill. Especially on the Galaxy Note and Google Pixel here, colors look downright cartoonish and overly exaggerated. We'd say that the iPhone captured the least amount of detail and light in this photo, and it's clearly the least exciting picture here, then we'd rank the Galaxy and the Pixel, while the Huawei P30 Pro actually looks like the most balanced photo in this case.

Photo 5: The Road




 Night Mode in this last scene made a subtle contribution to the image and we have to recognize that the Galaxy Note 10+ in this case is able to capture a very nice looking photo with pleasing colors. On the Huawei P30 Pro, colors look ghostly and way too cold, so much so as to reduce the appeal of the photo. The Pixel goes in the other extreme: its colors are extremely oversaturated and look cartoonish. Finally, the iPhone in all of the pictures including this one appears darker than the rest. We wish Apple found a way to let more light in to give night photos more appeal. For all else, the iPhone has a great amount of detail, but it's just not capable of capturing enough light at night.

Conclusion




It's time to sum things up and look at the total score and (drumroll) the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ wins this one narrowly. It's followed closely by the Huawei P30 Pro and the Google Pixel 3. The iPhone XS Max is far behind these three phones when it comes to low light capabilities.

What stands behind these scores, however, is what truly matters: the Galaxy Note 10+ is at number one because it is able to strike the right balance of features, it has pleasing colors, it has night mode and it has a versatile array of cameras. We were, however, annoyed by how long it takes to capture a Night Mode photo on the Note and then how long it takes to process this photo, both definitely very annoying if you shoot a lot of photos at night.

The Huawei P30 Pro might come in second in this comparison, but in some cases it is clearly unmatched: just look at that first picture in pitch black condition where it is able to capture a ton of light without using any Night mode, just press the shutter button and you get an amazing photo when all others fail. Would you start taking pictures at pitch black conditions regularly? We don't think so, but you might as well try now that a phone can do that.

The Google Pixel 3 is another great performer at night. The once unmatched Pixel now finally has some worthy rivals and we can start to see the areas where Google can and should improve. Namely, the colors which are always very oversaturated, overblown to the point of looking cartoonish. For all else, this is an excellent performer and the most pleasing one to use as its Nightscape mode is the fastest of them all.

The iPhone XS Max deservedly scores last in this elite company. It lacks the light-gathering capabilities of the rest and Apple does not offer a Night Mode to salvage things. We are looking forward to big improvements in those areas coming soon.


And this rounds up our low-light comparison of the top dogs when it comes to camera quality. Which one is your personal favorite and why? We are looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section below.

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72 Comments

1. briankeithmays

Posts: 34; Member since: Dec 18, 2013

Please stop with these comparisons. The note 10 doesn't even have its software updates and also nobody wants a damn iphone.

8. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1061; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

Can't you just relish in the iPhone falling in 4th?

17. sgodsell

Posts: 7377; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

It looks like you are pulling these scores out of your butt Victor. If your phone has night mode, then why would you enable it. Especially for the first images. Tell us Victor what warrants the Pixels score of 4 and the iPhone XS score of 5? You wouldn't even use those images in the first place, because they both show next to nothing in the images. So if anything, most users wouldn't even rate those images with a score of 50%. So I stand my ground you are either a liar, or don't know what you are doing in terms of photography. This made up test looks like it's made to put down the three smartphones that actually support night mode photography, and to try and pump up the iPhone that doesn't even have a night mode.

22. srgonu

Posts: 552; Member since: Feb 13, 2012

Looks like Victor isn't going to give up anytime soon on his brilliant articles. PA mgmt please save us.

28. slim3bdo

Posts: 173; Member since: Jun 05, 2017

Don't bother yourself with him.

44. oldskool50

Posts: 1587; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

That and Leo_MC. Just don't know zilch about what they be talking about. It's so sad.

32. Ublome

Posts: 22; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Add in the Oneplus 7 Pro and it would fall to 5th

2. alanrock

Posts: 314; Member since: Oct 04, 2018

yep , Huawei is still the low light king.

20. Papa_Ji

Posts: 852; Member since: Jun 27, 2016

Photo 1= final result There was no need of further testing. Real reason why US govt. is afraid of Huawei. Non of its spying arm can complete with Huawei growing innovation.

37. Youngquenga41

Posts: 82; Member since: Apr 03, 2017

Yea they can't compete with spyware that's for sure.

70. mahalo15

Posts: 82; Member since: Nov 30, 2018

Hello fuddu, yes Huawei is no. 1 in stealing billions of dollars worth of IP from other companies. Most shady company to have ever existed. Indian security services accused Huawei of aiding Taliban back in 2001. Cisco accused them of stealing their source code in 2003. Huawei admitted to this, but the case was eventually dropped after Cisco and Huawei reached an agreement. FBI started an investigation into Huawei’s founder for potential violations of U.S. trade sanctions in Iran in 2007, the very thing they would charge Huawei with in 2019 (pre-Trump BTW). Motorola sued the Huawei for corporate espionage in 2010. The suit was eventually settled in 2011. T-Mobile USA sued Huawei, alleging that it had stolen trade secrets concerning a phone-testing robot used by American carrier named Tappy. Poland arrested a Huawei employee on suspicion of spying and admitted it didn’t know if it’ll use Chinese tech for its 5G network.

24. Priyam009

Posts: 40; Member since: Oct 23, 2018

In almost every photo Huawei perfed better yet in some they purposely gave it less score biased level too damn high, well photography sense also matters I guess

35. alanrock

Posts: 314; Member since: Oct 04, 2018

numbers are random and fairly subjective, beside that , large sensor and RYYB filter means night time photography, so keep 'em coming Huawei.

63. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 582; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

Even with that large sensor and RYYB filter they got beat by Samsung. Hardware matters but so does software and Google and Samsung have better software by far.

69. alanrock

Posts: 314; Member since: Oct 04, 2018

nothing beats camera hardware on P30 Pro (Photo 1- proven) , other than that , Huawei photos have colder colors that author dislike so numbers are tuned for Huawei to lose ... what better software you are talking about , Huawei night mode is great ?

71. mahalo15

Posts: 82; Member since: Nov 30, 2018

Note 10+ was clearly the best out of them all. Huawei colors were washed out. Did you look at the picture with neon sign?

3. cocoy

Posts: 457; Member since: Oct 30, 2015

Very nice post processing software done by Google there. One camera that can compete with the rest except for wide angle.

4. User123456789

Posts: 925; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

I know iphone samples are crap compared to many phones, but I do not consider fair to do Auto Mode x Night Mode. It is like if you had 2 units of same phone. One is using auto mode while the other using manual (low ISO + few seconds shutter) + HDR + tripod. Auto mode is always inferior than manual, night modes simulate almost 1s for each frame.

10. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1061; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

But they did auto-mode for every device, not every phone offer manual mode, or the same options within it

13. User123456789

Posts: 925; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

The score is iphone/auto vs other/night mode. Except Pixel and iphone, all phones have manual mode. Nobody tests it just because iphone does not have.

53. almostdone

Posts: 448; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

iPhone is just bad at night. End of story.

5. JCASS889

Posts: 539; Member since: May 18, 2018

Waiting for Apple to announce a night mode and act like it's some great new thing that only they "Invented" themselves.

11. miketer

Posts: 520; Member since: Apr 02, 2015

They'll announce - 'With the new iPhones, after months of hard work by the algorithm team, we reinvented low light photography. We present "Night Vision" a completely new take on night time photography. We're glad to announce that this new feature is available in all models of iPhones, releasing this fall'

14. User123456789

Posts: 925; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Name will be Shiny Night ...

33. Ublome

Posts: 22; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

They will call it Isight or come nonsense like that.

6. sissy246

Posts: 7120; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Samsung, Pixel and Huawei kicked butt. For real, they all do a great job.

12. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1061; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

It really comes down to the rest of the phone. Samsung for now will be my go too, only because the Pixels tend to always have big flaws that show up within its 1st year. And the US government already taps our phones enough, I don't need the Chinese government doing the same

7. afrohoxha

Posts: 254; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

How does iPhone get 5 points in Photo 1 and note a 6 ( well six is kinda deserved), when checking the photos it's almost 2 or three points below?

15. User123456789

Posts: 925; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Samsung has brighter, but softer photo

21. sgodsell

Posts: 7377; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I think his point is nobody would even use those really dark images to begin with, let alone try and give them a mid score. The Pixel and Samsung both have night modes, so why wouldn't you use them. So the auto mode thing is a crap. Plus the scores are $hit.

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

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