Huawei P40 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs iPhone 11 Pro Max camera comparison: low light and night mode

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Huawei P40 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs iPhone 11 Pro Max camera comparison: low light and nig
The new Huawei P40 Pro comes with a huge main camera sensor, bigger than on any other modern smartphone, and this should give it a unique advantage when it comes to low light photography. But has it cracked this holy grail of the smartphone camera game?

We compare photos from the Huawei P40 Pro against the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, two of the leading camera phones on the market to see whether users in the West are missing out on much with the P40 Pro.

So let's waste no time, and kick off this Huawei P40 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs iPhone 11 Pro Max low light camera comparison!

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At dusk

This photo was captured at dusk, but it doesn't look like that because all of the phones here do an excellent job and are able to deal with the low light and still get a bright and good looking image.

There are a few minor differences, but they are really insignificant and we would say that all three do a similarly great job in this case. It's a draw.

The clouds

While the composition is a bit different here, you see some trends starting to emerge: the Galaxy, for example, captures the darkest photo, while the other two phones are able to get a lot more light in the frame and look a bit better.

Night Falls

As the night falls and light gets extremely scarce, we get a good opportunity to see how these phones perform. The Huawei P40 Pro has a dedicated night mode, but it is also able to capture a ton of light when you just use the auto mode. The Galaxy S20 Ultra also has a dedicated night mode, but that one often takes 7 seconds or more. Good news is that the Scene Optimizer in the camera app also automatically detects when light is very low and you get a "light" version of that night mode. This captures a lot more light and doesn't require you to wait 7 seconds or more for every single shot. Finally, the iPhone has an automatic night mode that takes between 1 second and 3 seconds to capture a photo.

So which one did best here? The Huawei is clearly the one that captured the more light and the brightest photo. It has done a great job and we like that image. One might argue that you lose a bit the sense of night when the image processing makes the photo so bright, but that all boils down to personal preference.

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The other two capture a darker image, especially the Galaxy where the shadows are very dark and there is barely any detail in them. The iPhone on the other hand has gone a bit wild with the colors and the whole photo has an orange tonality that is not quite realistic.

Incandescent light

Using the auto settings again, we see that the Huawei captures the most light in this capture as well. The iPhone is a bit behind in terms of amount of light, and it also retains a bit of that orange tint that looks a bit strange. Finally, the Galaxy captures the darkest image here that lacks details in the shadows and the other two seem to do a better job.

The Balcony

In this shot, there are some clear differences. While the Huawei has captured the most of the sofa at the bottom of the image, its colors are very bleak and could use a lift. The Galaxy seems to capture a more balanced image, while the iPhone captures a very contrasty photo that catches the eye. It's a toss between the Galaxy and the iPhone in this round, with a slight advantage for the iPhone.

The Kitchenette: (Night Mode ON)

For this scene, we manually enabled the Night Mode on all of the phones to see whether it would make a difference. This is not something that we would do for every image: the Huawei and the Samsung devices take a very long while to capture a photo in this mode and waiting so long for every shot is definitely not convenient. Still, you get a brighter photo with more detail.

The Huawei definitely captured the most light and its photo is rich in detail, but unfortunately the image has come out with a strange green tint all over and these colors don't look pleasing at all. The Galaxy strikes a nice balance between detail and color, and is our favorite shot in this series. Finally, the iPhone has failed to focus properly and the image appears blurry.

Selfie in Low Light

We also captured a selfie at dusk to get an idea of how the front camera would do. The selfie from the Huawei actually stands out from the rest: it's got more detail and looks sharper, while the Samsung and the iPhone look blurry and not as clean. The colors on the Galaxy are also bleak and not particularly exciting, while the iPhone does a better job with warmer, more pleasing tonalities in this shot, but we'd still judge this one in favor of the Huawei.


Huawei was the company that started the whole trend of smartphones capturing outstanding images in low light two years ago with the Huawei P20 Pro, and by now the others have caught up and you have Night Modes on all major flagships. The difference is no longer as dramatic.

But is the Huawei P40 Pro the best phone for night time capture? We would say that in many ways it is, as most of the time it did a little bit better than the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and it was a toss with the iPhone. The Huawei consistently captured the most light and its photos looked great.

The Galaxy with its new automatic night mode via the Scene Optimizer captures photos that look a bit darker with less detail in the shadows than the rest. They don't look bad at all, but are maybe just one stop short of great.

Finally, the iPhone strikes a nice balance with its auto night mode that captures a ton of light in a very short amount of time, but colors are often orange-y and not true to life.

With this in mind... ball is in your court: which phone did best in your opinion and why?

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