Google Pixel 4 XL vs iPhone 11 Pro Max vs Galaxy Note 10+: Low-light Camera Comparison

Google Pixel 4 XL vs iPhone 11 Pro Max vs Galaxy Note 10+: Low-light Camera Comparison
Which phone has the best camera in 2019?

This is the question that many people will be asking themselves before spending a $1,000 on a new flagship, and we were just as curious so that's why we took three of the best contenders for the camera title on a trip at night when the light gets scarce and the conditions for capturing a good-looking photo are the most challenging.

We have the Google Pixel 4 XL, the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.




For this comparison we will be looking mostly at portraits since we feel this is the best way to take pictures of people to make them stand out from the background. So... let's get started!

Scene 1




The Google Pixel 4 XL sets a high bar for the others to clear from the get-go: the camera captures a good-looking image effortlessly, it was quick to focus and the end result is a picture with an outstanding amount of detail and white balance that looks good (maybe just very slightly on the colder side).

The iPhone captures a good-looking image, too, a big improvement from earlier iPhones where such a photo would be hard to even focus and capture right. However, it loses out in terms of detail and the white balance is off: the picture has a very noticeable yellow-ish tint to it. You will see that this is the "signature" Apple look that is consistent in all of the pictures. Some people may like it as an artistic rendition, but it's definitely not the proper white balance for this photo.

The Galaxy Note here has captured a decent image, but decent doesn't compare well with the other two and the Note loses out in terms of detail and it was having trouble focusing.

Detail close-up

We will also be providing crops that will better illustrate the differences in detail. In this case, the Pixel blows the other two out of the water with a much cleaner detail.



Scorecard:
Pixel 4 XL: 7
iPhone 11 Pro Max: 6
Note 10+: 5.5

Scene 2



The differences in white balance are incredibly obvious in this second photo as you can see the trench coat of our model appear in a different shade and the Pixel is once again the phone to capture the most realistic photo of the three. We should say that white balance on the Pixel is still a slightly on the cold side, but nowhere nearly as skewed as the detour towards warmer, yellowish colors that the other two phones have taken.

Detail close-up



Once again, the Pixel captures far more detail than the other two, the differences are just plain to see. The Galaxy Note has failed to acquire proper focus even though we gave it extra time and we even manually tapped on our model to get focus.

Scorecard:
Pixel 4 XL: 8
iPhone 11 Pro Max: 6.5
Note 10+: 5.5

Scene 3




We are seeing the same theme repeat itself once again here: the difference in white balance with the colder, but more realistic tones on the Pixel against the warmer, yellowish tonalities on the iPhone and Galaxy, as well as the cleaner and more refined detail on the Pixel versus the mushy one on the other two.

Detail close-up



Scorecard:
Pixel 4 XL: 8
iPhone 11 Pro Max: 6.5
Note 10+: 5.5


Scene 4



In this next shot you can see clearly the definition in the skin detail and the really nice and sharp detail on the Pixel, which truly stands out. The iPhone photo, on the other hand, paints the white T-shirt on our model yellow and we are again witnessing the same white balance issues. The Galaxy features nice colors, but it captures a soft photo that does not have too much detail.

Detail close-up


Scorecard:
Pixel 4 XL: 7
iPhone 11 Pro Max: 6.5
Note 10+: 5.5

Scene 5



We see the same color approach in this next shot too, but here we would rank the Pixel a little bit lower for the slightly underexposed face of our model, while the other two phones - the iPhone and the Galaxy - present us with a better exposed photo.

Scorecard:
Pixel 4 XL: 7
iPhone 11 Pro Max: 7
Note 10+: 6.5

Conclusion and Final Score



So... it's time for conclusions: which phone is the best one for taking photos in the dark?

Total Score:
Pixel 4 XL: 37
iPhone 11 Pro Max: 32.5
Note 10+: 28.5

In our experience, for yet another year, this is the Pixel. The new Pixel 4 XL renders clear detail even in the dark and it features the most accurate white balance among other smartphone rivals.

This year, the iPhone has come closer to the Pixel than ever before in terms of low-light photo abilities. While previously with iPhones, you would find it hard to even focus on your subject at night, this year, it's improved a lot. But Apple insists on capturing images with a yellow-ish white balance, a look that some may like, but that is technically not the realistic image.

Finally, the Galaxy Note 10+ really is the third phone in this comparison. It is far behind the other two when it comes to the amount of detail it captures and all of its shots look almost blurry, with mushy detail. Rumors point to a brand new camera system that Samsung will adopt early next year, but at the end of 2019, the Galaxy Note is a step or two behind Google and Apple in the low-light photo game.

And that wraps up our comparison. We are yet to explore the camera of the new Pixel 4 XL in detail and we will be updating you with more photos and impressions soon.

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76 Comments

1. ronaldoguedess

Posts: 9; Member since: Aug 18, 2019

OMG! i CAN'T BELIEVE THAT! How is it possible? Galaxy Note 10 has variable aperture in his camera...

15. adecvat

Posts: 652; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Top DXO mobile camera xDDD

46. PartTimePhoner

Posts: 33; Member since: Jun 03, 2019

Dxo doesnt really go for night shots which is why it has higher score there but hey, you gotta make them look bad somehow

59. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Variable aperture won't help in low light Since it would use it's widest aperture, which is similar to what the Pixel/iPhones use Variable aperture helps slightly in bright scenes, as it allows a narrower aperture, which can slightly increase the amount of the scene in focus

2. dnomadic

Posts: 436; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

100% agree. I think the iPhone photo in some instance subjectively look better but the pixel photos are better. I’m sticking with the 11 pro max for now but will be picking up a pixel once a deal pops up.

3. LawnBoy

Posts: 203; Member since: Feb 23, 2019

iPhone pics are always reddish/yellow. They are tier 2 at best. Pixel always dominates. Note is 2nd.

4. Hollowmost

Posts: 425; Member since: Oct 10, 2017

Pixel 4 is in another league.

51. Tizo101

Posts: 595; Member since: Jun 05, 2015

I thought the pixel was competing with the other two but now I see it was never a competition from the beginning. I wonder how Google does this.

5. midan

Posts: 3097; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

I don’t quite understand those pixel photos. If there’s lights around you, it should show in your photos and give life to your photos and subject. Those pixel photos look very lifeless and cold and missing the mood, looks too clean If you check those photos, iPhone and Samsung White balance is working sameway and pixel is doing their own thing.

7. bitwiser

Posts: 27; Member since: Sep 28, 2018

If you want that, Pixel has a dual focus which the others do not. You can darken the background manually while keeping the subject brighter, very easy. But b default it brightens the whole photo since it is what most people want and if the background was dark here the reviewer would have given it negative marks.

8. midan

Posts: 3097; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

What? I’m talking about White balance.

34. bitwiser

Posts: 27; Member since: Sep 28, 2018

dual focus/exposure. Like I said, easy to see you don't have one. You can adjust foreground and background exposure with a new dual focus.

37. Advanced1512019

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 30, 2019

I doesn't work like that, you can adjust highlights and shadows exposures, not foreground and background, it's not the same thing

48. bitwiser

Posts: 27; Member since: Sep 28, 2018

I understand technically it is not that, but in a simple explanation, yes you can make the part in the bright light more visible as well as adjusting the subject to be more visible. It just works that way. You can't do this on iPhone or any other phone camera. Grab a pixel 4 and try it.

63. midan

Posts: 3097; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

You should google "white balance" to understand what it means. You are still talking about very different thing.

61. midan

Posts: 3097; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Again i'm not talking about exposure, it's completely different thing than how cold or warm photo is. I know very well what dual exposure is and it has nothing to do with my comment. I'm talking about white balance which makes your photo look cold or warm.

10. Vancetastic

Posts: 1698; Member since: May 17, 2017

This might be the most fanboy comment I've ever read. Just give the Pixel credit for capturing better detail than the iPhone. It doesn't mean you have to buy one. I can't wait for you to complain about Android fans again.

24. DolmioMan

Posts: 345; Member since: Jan 08, 2018

They’re too blue as well, makes her look like a corpse.

32. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1459; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Whereas the iPhone makes her look like a Simpsons character... So realistic colors is a bad thing now, good to know.

52. Tizo101

Posts: 595; Member since: Jun 05, 2015

That's how they are when their favourite company loses... Remember nothing beats iPhone for them.

62. midan

Posts: 3097; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

agree

6. bitwiser

Posts: 27; Member since: Sep 28, 2018

I have a pixel 4 XL and my wife has the iphone 11 pro. In night mode I prefer her photos (Pixel is too "digital" but iPhones has a lot more noise yet better overall photo) but in portrait mode the Pixel wins hands down. Try taking a portrait mode photo with bright light behind the subject with iPhone..HORRIBLE!!!! almost unusable. Pixel nails it most of the time even though it is a very difficult shot for all cameras.

47. LordDavon

Posts: 168; Member since: Sep 19, 2011

How is the battery life on the Pixel 4XL? I was always buying Samsung, but my last few phones have all had issues. My wife and I were considering either going with the Pixel 4XL or the iPhone 11 Pro Max. We just got the iPhones on Sunday, since the Pixel 4XL's reviews were claiming bad battery life. I'm not sure we are adjusting well to the iPhones though -- everything is just different. We may swap for the Pixel. I wish T-Mobile had the OnePlus 7T Pro already, as I would have gone with it.

49. bitwiser

Posts: 27; Member since: Sep 28, 2018

With the 4XL I get a little better than what I had on the 3XL which can range from 4-7 hrs of screen on time depending on how I use the phone and stretch 2 days if I turn on battery saver. Plenty for me.

11. Vancetastic

Posts: 1698; Member since: May 17, 2017

Pretty amazing photos from the Pixels. Now, if they could just fix some of that other stuff...

53. Tizo101

Posts: 595; Member since: Jun 05, 2015

I think we need to find out who makes decisions at Google

58. Vancetastic

Posts: 1698; Member since: May 17, 2017

Someone with a weird sense of humor...

12. OneLove123

Posts: 1244; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Pixel is still king. The iPhone makes the girl look so reddish.

13. Knownhost

Posts: 110; Member since: Nov 13, 2017

Even a midrange phone would take better pics than these fuzzy, muddled shots from Samsung. I own the Note 9, and it consistently takes clear, detailed pics. I cannot believe that Samsung's latest and greatest has a camera that much inferior to the one on the Note 9.

38. Advanced1512019

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 30, 2019

Yeah, tell me another fairy tale, why note 9 should take better pictures, when camera sensors are the same, I have S10+ and I know it really struggles in low light portraits.

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

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