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


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 inches
    2960 x 1440 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Dual camera)
    8 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 6GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, microSDXC
  • Battery 3300 mAh
  • OS Android 8.0 Oreo
    Samsung Experience UI
iPhone 7 Plus
  • Display 5.5 inches
    1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Dual camera)
    7 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A10 Fusion, 3GB RAM
  • Storage 256GB, not expandable
  • Battery 2900 mAh
  • OS iOS 13.x



99. submarinerz

Posts: 32; Member since: Mar 24, 2016

another cool article to piss off some fanboy... LoL really enjoy it

97. TerryD

Posts: 566; Member since: May 09, 2017

Not so sure about 'portrait mode' more like 'cardboard cutout mode'. They look like a bad photoshop cut and paste


Posts: 133; Member since: May 08, 2015

Lol, I stopped taking iPhoneArena seriously years ago. They are always overly positive towards iPhones and negative towards Samsung. I suspect they are on Cupertino's payroll.

89. drkuthan

Posts: 76; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Samsung is s**tty as usual . Iphone 8 will slaughter the note 8 .

88. Trex95

Posts: 2384; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

Better wait for the next iPhone 8, Pixel xl2 and Mate 10 all comes with dual camera and I think Pixel xl 2 going to be the best Android phone camera again.

86. Sotikon

Posts: 27; Member since: Aug 23, 2017

Why do I feel whoever did these tests didn't put the bokeh on the Samsung device at maximum?

84. slannmage

Posts: 289; Member since: Mar 26, 2013


83. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2289; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

Lets wait 4 days to see the iPhone 8 vs Note...better comparison...

82. cnpthe3rd

Posts: 103; Member since: Feb 01, 2009

in almost all of those examples, the colors and tones look fake in the iPhone picture but iPhone wins??

81. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I'm not gonna even comment on the photos. I will say, both of the photos for each shot, shows PA has no idea how to even take photos.

73. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Scene #1 is clearly the note 8 for the win.

71. Shubham1221

Posts: 153; Member since: Jul 29, 2015

Iphone 7 plus portrait mode is only useful in good lighting conditions.In most occassions,Iphone 7 plus just refused to take a pic in portrait mode which makes it useless in my opinion.I think Note 8 may be able to take a pic in portrait mode in most lighting conditions.

80. tigmd99

Posts: 26; Member since: Nov 12, 2013

Not with iOS 11. It has HDR, Flash, and OIS.

69. 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.

68. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014


66. talha_16

Posts: 62; Member since: Oct 12, 2015

For the first time in my life I have to say that the iphone shots look way better and much more lively.

65. Jesseclark

Posts: 28; Member since: Jun 10, 2017

The other reviewers who click pics right away show entirely different story. Even S8 software based portrait mode was better than iPhone 7 plus. Note 8 is far superior.

64. YeahYeah

Posts: 252; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

This site is a joke... trying to make iPhone stay relevant I guess.. lost interest the minute i realised iphone won the 1st scene. This is embarrassing phonearena.. shame on you

63. gigicoaste

Posts: 468; Member since: Feb 21, 2016

so in the first picture your pick is Iphone having saturated and an natural color but in the 3rd one you chose the more natural colors. So.. uhm.. yeah.. not bias at all.. :D Funny is that PA really believe can influence people's opinion..

62. saiki4116

Posts: 413; Member since: Mar 31, 2011

They should give a try mi6, it has good processing for portrait mode.

54. lightyears

Posts: 69; Member since: Aug 24, 2015

To me Note8 is clear winner in all the shots, absolutely no competition.

53. halim101

Posts: 5; Member since: Sep 06, 2017

Brand new Apple iPhone 7 and 7 plus original & 1year warranty Card cost 55,000 PK. Serious buyer should contact us. Whatsapp CHAT or Call : +19842085304 or 0019842085304

52. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1612; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

I think I have to give this to the iPhone, but just slightly. It's very opinion based, and varies shot by shot as to how the user prefers it to look, I disagreed with the author on many of these as to which one turned out better. Either way, both have great camera set ups, I prefer what Samsung offers with the extra camera modes and the ability to capture RAW with Pro mode. Neither phone can touch a real camera yet either, especially when the lights go down.

51. Lion007

Posts: 30; Member since: Oct 24, 2014

It would be cool if the Note 8 and the next iPhone gave us a choice as to what kind of processing we want on each photo - be it natural or vibrant. That way you can set your preference, similar to LG V30's cine mode for video!

48. Slytherin

Posts: 268; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Yeah I like SuperSaf reviews! Note 8 owned the iPhone even in a pre-production state! Getting my Note 8 at the end of the month! Was thinking about the V30, and even if the iPhone comes with a better quality camera, I'm still gonna go with the Note, there is no device available that brings it all together like a Note does! And with iPhone your getting the same s**tty OS that they've always had, that s**t boring Grey look, lumped together with menu after menu after menu of boring grey menus that are all over the place! I couldn't handle it! And from the outside look, well it is truly a kids Fisher price colour you! And they have the right to blame Samsung's oled display price for their pricing of the up and coming what ever it's going to be called, pull the other one Apple, your a money sucking Company! I can certainly justify paying the Note price for all its productivity, what does the iPhone bring, f**k all but the rent lol. Note 8 and the V30 are the only phones to consider this year, the rest just won't matter in my opinion.

78. tigmd99

Posts: 26; Member since: Nov 12, 2013

SuperSaf is bias...he’s Samsung little dog. Google it. Supersaf lost credibility.,


Posts: 133; Member since: May 08, 2015

If he is Samsung's little dog, what is iPhoneArena exactly to Apple? Something with pot and kettle...

47. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Note 8 review from SuperSaf.

76. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

He is one of the few I believe, him and Flossy Carter on YouTube.

79. tigmd99

Posts: 26; Member since: Nov 12, 2013

SuperSaf is sponsored by Samsung. Hardly fair.

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