Galaxy Note 8 vs iPhone 7 Plus camera comparison: which takes better portraits?


One of the most notable similarities between the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and the iPhone 7 Plus is the way their cameras are set up. Both sport dual main cameras at the back – one is a standard shooter for general photography in any setting, while the secondary one brings your subject closer with its 2X zoom capabilities. But the feature we'll focus on in this post is the ability of both to add background blur (also known as "bokeh") to the image – what Apple calls Portrait Mode and what Samsung named Live Focus.

Chances are you're already familiar with Apple's Portrait Mode. Basically, it uses the secondary cam to focus on the subject, while image processing algorithms detect the background area and add blur to it, thus making the subject stand out better. The Galaxy Note 8 takes a similar approach, but adds the ability to control the amount of blur - both while previewing the image and even after it has been shot. And since the Note 8's 2x zoom camera has optical image stabilization, unlike the one on the iPhone 7 Plus, images should turn out clearer. Now let's look at some photos and see if that's the case.

Scene 1


Both phones are off to a good start. The Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone 7 Plus produce a pleasant amount of blur, hence our handsome model easily draws the viewer's attention. But if we take a closer look, more rough transitions between subject and background are noticeable in the Note 8's photo. Also, the colors in the iPhone's image are more pleasing to the eye. So while the Note 8 performs really well in this scene, we think the iPhone did better.

Winner: iPhone 7 Plus


Scene 2


In this round, we feel more drawn towards the Note 8's portrait shot. Color are more vivid and the image is brighter overall, with more light hitting the subject. We must note that both phones have blurred parts of the hair that shouldn't be affected, but again, this is only noticeable once we zoom in.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8


Scene 3


The Note 8 has the tendency to give colors a boost in its images. That might work well for some situations, but we're not quite convinced this is one of them. While the iPhone 7 Plus sticks to a more natural color tone, the model's skin tone in the Note 8's photo is quite off. That aside, both phones have done a pretty good job at applying the bokeh effect, with only slight imperfections here and there. The only spot both missed is the little gap in the lower right corner. 

Winner: iPhone 7 Plus


Scene 4


And here's Joooohn V. posing for a glamorous portrait! One thing to note here is that the iPhone 7 Plus has a narrower field of view – from the same distance, Apple's handset will take a more zomed-in image compared to the Note 8. It's not a huge difference, and not necessarily a flaw or an advantage, but it is one we should mention, as it is visible in this pair of images.

Anyway, we have to name our favorite now, and that would be the iPhone 7 Plus. Its image is more realistic in terms of color reproduction, while the Note 8's looks overly saturated in comparison. The quality of the blur effect is, once again, quite good, but not perfect, with slight overlaps around John's hair.

Winner: iPhone 7 Plus


Scene 5


Light was far from plentiful in the corridor of our hotel. This is why this next set of shots is much fuzzier, though not overly so. Both phones have managed to capture roughly the same amount of detail, and it isn't a whole lot. But the iPhone's color reproduction is more realistic in this particular scene. 

Winner: iPhone 7 Plus


Scene 6


We were on our way to have currywursts and beer when we took this pair of images. This one's an easy win for the Note 8, mostly because of the overall look of the image – brighter and livelier. Though the iPhone's photo isn't bad either, we must admit. 

Winner: Galaxy Note 8


Conclusion


Although the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is technically superior, the iPhone 7 Plus won this portrait camera shootout with a score of 4 to 2. The main reason to pick Apple's handset over Samsung's top phone was the overall look of the images – the iPhone sticks to a more natural representation of the scene, while the Note 8 often tries to spice it up by boosting the color saturation. As we mentioned above, the Note 8's approach might make certain scenes pop, but with portraits, it appears that the results are rarely great. 

As for the simulated bokeh, the effect is very well applied by both cameras, and we'd easily rank these two along with the best dual-camera phones that can pull off such tricks. But when we take a closer look at the photos side by side, we notice that with the Galaxy Note 8 there's a sharper transition from foreground to background, while the iPhone produces a more gradual border between the two in its portraits. That's not much of an issue, as most of the time you won't be looking at portraits in full size and you won't be noticing any of this. Yet it shows that the Galaxy Note 8's camera could use a bit more refinement before matching that of the iPhone 7 Plus. 

Below are the high-resolution versions of the photos used in this comparison.

Related phones

Galaxy Note 8
  • Display 6.3" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3300 mAh(22h talk time)
iPhone 7 Plus
  • Display 5.5" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A10 Fusion, Quad-core, 2340 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 2900 mAh(21h 3G talk time)

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99 Comments

1. apple-rulz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Apple, as usual, FTW! Good job Apple, can't wait to see what new awesomeness the new iPhones will bring!

6. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Nah... It's more like Samsung FTW, as usual... Because Samsung flagships actually have awards to boast of, wity the Galaxy Note8 being the lastest laureate in Samsung's list of awards.

7. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Correction: with the Galaxy Note8 being the latest laureate... Those are facts, I ain't making it up.

12. Lumbergh

Posts: 463; Member since: Feb 14, 2016

Note 8 has the better Camera. Those are some incredible shots.

13. maherk

Posts: 6884; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Both looka terrible to my eyes. They're way too artificial, that bokeh effect doesn't look one bit like the real effect you get from professional cameras. LG still has the best dual camera setup, and nothing will come close to it imo.

19. Lumbergh

Posts: 463; Member since: Feb 14, 2016

Agreed. Will never let go of my Sony A6000 in favor of a limited smartphone camera. LG V30 has my full attention, but the Note 8 is tempting.

21. maherk

Posts: 6884; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Same for me, no matter how great the camera on my S8 is, I always go with my GX7 Mark II when I want to snap the best pictures I can get. You can't go wrong with either devices. We are at a point where no phone is far better than the other. I will wait for the reviews of the production variant of the V30, and the announcement of the iPhone 8 and Mate 10 before making my next purchase decision. The Note 8 is a great device, but it's competition are also great on their own.

70. NonFanBoy

Posts: 180; Member since: May 28, 2015

Its funny how in the first shot the author went with the iPhone because it was "more pleasing to the eye" with its warm colors but in the other photos he is complaining about the about the color reproduction of Note 8. Anyway, I feel that the iPhone has a slight advantage in the portrait mode with a little better blurring effect but overall the Note 8 wins it hands down in terms of photo quality.

85. dnomadic

Posts: 416; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

Love my g7.... Micro Four Third Cameras are light and can produce some great low noise shots for those on a small camera budget.

77. KingSam

Posts: 1452; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

V30 FTW

87. Trex95

Posts: 2381; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

https://youtu.be/2GPFz4gS3Gc 7plus vs note 8 https://youtu.be/5liCFE1Jkwg G6 vs note 8 Seems G6 still has better camera than both?!!

91. WGACA

Posts: 130; Member since: May 08, 2015

G6 has never had the better camera ever. Get outta here. Stop believing fanboy made videos.

92. WGACA

Posts: 130; Member since: May 08, 2015

I can show you the exact opposite of your statement: https://youtu.be/Z-eDY1Pyxbo Funny old thing, isn't it. To add this being more believable than your 'proof', here's two videos of the Note 8 also mopping the floor with the V30: https://youtu.be/eMoxiqjHqio https://youtu.be/nnz8EvIBENM

98. bur60

Posts: 981; Member since: Jul 07, 2014

THIS! My S7 with telephoto lens takes better portrait pictures without this BS portrait mode...

61. BLUEBLASTER

Posts: 932; Member since: Feb 23, 2014

Now come on we are on iPhonearena here. iPhone wins all the time. Did you see how low the Note 8 scored!

93. WGACA

Posts: 130; Member since: May 08, 2015

I know right!? This is probably the least believable tech source ever.

27. Klinton

Posts: 1409; Member since: Oct 24, 2016

Those kind of comparison by the media is not valid. They can take by 20 pictures of any scene with both phones, than regarding which phone they want to promote , choose the worst of or best of.

2. Jacksie66 unregistered

Rabble rabble apple is great rabble rabble Samsung rules rabble rabble iphonearena rabble rabble flame wars rabble blah.

3. EC112987

Posts: 1215; Member since: Nov 10, 2014

............

4. twens

Posts: 1177; Member since: Feb 25, 2012

looooollllll! take this comparison with a grain of salt. all the youtube test proves different.notes portrait mode is way better.

32. Klinton

Posts: 1409; Member since: Oct 24, 2016

Hard time for the media to make Apple look relevant. The funny thing will be if there is not iPhone8(X or so) this year, but only 7S versions of 4 years old design.

42. ph00ny

Posts: 2033; Member since: May 26, 2011

yup this is the first comparison i've seen iphone 7 coming out ahead.

55. RoboticEngi

Posts: 1251; Member since: Dec 03, 2014

This is iphonearena, what did you expect.....

5. Lumberjack

Posts: 306; Member since: May 04, 2017

Photo 1. The guy was just turned into yellow. How can it look good to someone's eye? Background can be defocused by software. It is easier than having second cam.

10. Nopers unregistered

Because that’s more accurate to skin tone.

26. Lumberjack

Posts: 306; Member since: May 04, 2017

Yellowish stone and trees too?

56. RoboticEngi

Posts: 1251; Member since: Dec 03, 2014

Yes in iphoneland it is natural, what ever colour the iPhone produces.

60. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

Yellowish photo looks great on iPhone's bluish screen /s

8. nebula

Posts: 1009; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

Though Iphone WB is a little off I still find portrait mode to be superior in terms of bokeh. That sharpening from N8 is annoying to be honest though camera set up is very capable.

9. therons

Posts: 59; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

Note 8 yellowish.. Samsung typical

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