OnePlus 6 vs Galaxy S9+ vs Pixel 2 XL: low-light camera comparison

OnePlus 6 vs Galaxy S9+ vs Pixel 2 XL: low-light camera comparison
If it wasn't clear by now, we've long welcomed OnePlus into the premiere league. And this means that despite the phone's considerably lower cost compared to most top smartphones out there, we've found ourselves consistently stacking it up against the best out there. One of the last remaining bases to cover for OnePlus has been the camera. Not that it's been bad all this time, but let's just say it wasn't quite on the same level as the shooters found on the latest iPhone or Galaxy S.


So, the OnePlus 6 actually turned out to be quite the big deal. Sure, the company increased the price of its new model once again, but so did most other manufacturers out there, and in comparison, the OP6 still comes off as a value offering. This new model is interesting, though. It has a brand new design, with an all-screen front, and the beefiest chipset available for Android phones. It also has a new, 16 MP camera with bigger sensor and wide aperture. The expectation is that these characteristics should allow it to take some pretty good photos in low-light situations. So far, we've tested the OnePlus 6's camera in terms of normal, daylight images (performed quite well), and portrait photos (did fairly well). Now is the time to take a close look at its camera's low-light / night-time capabilities. To do that, we're going to pit it against the two best Android cameraphones: the Galaxy S9+ and Pixel 2 XL.

Here's what we're going to do. For each of the five scenes below, we'll be giving out scores (1-10, 10 being max), and then we'll see at the end which model managed to accumulate the most points.

Picturesque

Scene 1


In this first scene, the OnePlus 6 demonstrates a remarkable ability to nail the natural color balance. This observation mostly holds true for much of the remaining scenes. In contrast, both the Galaxy S9+ and Pixel 2 XL swing towards a warmer aesthetic, but while things remain pretty tolerable in the photo from the Galaxy S9, the Pixel 2 XL proves to be a tad too extreme in its preference for warmth here.

The great news is all three phones produce an equally terrific level of detail, with no clear winner. This is a strong start for the OnePlus 6, let's see if it'll manage to keep it up!


points awarded

Fine Dining

Scene 2


Here, we see all three contenders on a more equal footing. The Pixel 2 XL has oversharpened the picture a bit (or the other two have dialed the noise-reduction better), but this scene is also where its HDR efforts have paid off – if you look at the leftmost edge of the shot, the trees there are only illuminated well on the Pixel 2's picture – not that this particular detail matters too much here, but still. Aside from that, there isn't any meaningful difference here between the three camera heroes. Which, again, is a great result for the OnePlus 6 – remember, it's the one that has to prove it can play with the big boys here. And so far, so good for OnePlus. The Galaxy S9+ has come up with a strong picture, but it hasn't done much to differentiate itself. If there's anything we could complain about here, it's that neither of the three managed to pull a satisfactory level of detail in this scenario. Look closely at the people in the diner, and you'll see all kinds of blocky, heavily pixelized shapes. Let's continue!


Fun at Night

Scene 3


We're bundling the next two scenes together, because they are of similar character. With the usual disclaimer that all three seem to be doing fine, let's get nitpicking! The Galaxy S9+ can show us something the other two can't here, and that's a more spacial color reproduction. Unlike it, the OnePlus 6 and Pixel 2 XL seem be leaning a bit too much into the yellow domain. That's especially true for the Pixel 2 XL, which tends to overdo this mistake in its attempt to sugarcoat the image. If you look closely, the Pixel 2 XL is also the noisiest of the bunch, with the OnePlus 6 and Galaxy S9+ going for a cleaner photo without significant sacrifice in details.



Haunted Mansion

Scene 4


Welcome to the Haunted Mansion, heroes! Oh, what twisted perils await inside...

For our cameraphone heroes, the perils here mostly have to do with insufficient light and some dynamic areas that can be tricky to not over- or under-expose. This time, the OnePlus 6 does an interesting thing and cranks up the sharpness, so if you view the photo in actual size and from up close, you'll notice there's quite a bit of noise in there. However, if you stick with a smaller, social media-grade size and quality, this actually works in favor of the OP6, as the photo has come out really nice and sharp. The Galaxy S9+, on the other hand, proposes a more balanced approach to sharpness and noise here, and also saturates the colors a little more. The Pixel 2 XL, again in its effort to sweeten the scene, pumps up the exposure a bit more, but the resulting over-HDR effect doesn't really serve the scene too well. It's also quite soft.




Rendezvous

Scene 5


Our journey ends at a place where we could finally have some real food. Before we could get to unpacking the cheeseburgers, though, we had to take a few shots of the night-time exterior. We tend to prefer the Galaxy S9+'s and Pixel 2 XL's photos here, as they just manage to reveal more of the building. With the OnePlus 6, the scene absolutely looks fine, but we don't like how one side of the building is so dark. That problem doesn't exist with the other two. The Pixel 2 XL once again swings for a slightly yellowish tone, but it's OK here as it isn't too drastic.



Final scores



It's been a heated match-up this one, and we think we can walk out with a couple of interesting takeaways. One is that OnePlus largely seems to have caught up with the big fellas in the camera game. If it can go toe to toe like this with the GS9+ and Pixel 2 XL in nighttime, then we have to congratulate those guys for a job well done! The second one is that if you want a great picture even in the most challenging conditions, the Galaxy S9 continues to be a very safe bet – the quality and consistency you'll be able to get out of this Samsung camera is remarkable, and possibly second to none at this time. The Pixel 2 XL is, of course, great as well, but it's a bit too much into sugarcoating things, and we don't know what's up with that yellow tint it put on almost everything this time.

OnePlus, though! The OP 6 proves that 'never settle' is indeed still the mood in the company, and we can't be happier to see them go toe to toe with the best Android cameras so ably. And as we say that, you can hear champagne bottles start popping over in Shenzhen.


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28 Comments

1. FreshPrinceOfH

Posts: 80; Member since: Dec 31, 2017

Scene 2 "Fine Dining" the Pixel 2 XL is the only camera that managed to capture the very well light trees on the left hand side of the scene behind the building. Also the S9+ has removed all of the colour from the neon signage.

9. worldpeace

Posts: 3133; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

And on Scene 1, Pixel2XL is a bit yellowish, but it got much more detail than OP6.. They should swap OP6 and pixel2XL score in this scene.

12. sissy246

Posts: 7111; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

The s9+ is the only one that didn't blur the neon signs. Do agree it did wash them out more as far as color.

2. maherk

Posts: 6876; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

You should've included the P20 Pro.

23. nodes

Posts: 1159; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

it would blow them out of the water.

28. faizal.hhh

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 10, 2018

Agreed. Should include more phones and another review by end of this September. 1plus 6 vs P20 pro vs Note9 vs Pixel 2XL vs XZ2 Premium vs Apple Xs / Xs Plus vs HTC U12 vs LG V35

3. Cat97

Posts: 1890; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

So there you have it. Now forget about that ugly overpriced Pixel 2 XL or the ultra-expensive S9+ and get the OnePlus 6 for half the price of the competitors. This way next year Samsung, Google and maybe even Apple will think twice about ripping off their naive customers.

19. toosmoove

Posts: 914; Member since: Sep 28, 2017

LMAO! Like every other product out you're gonna have people who pay for what they want regardless of the price, vs people thinking that cheaper is better. There YOU have it.

5. Aruminiumaian

Posts: 209; Member since: Jul 22, 2017

Where are XZ2, U12+ and P20 Pro? They all have excellent cameras and are deserved to be included in the comparison.

10. worldpeace

Posts: 3133; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

It's not about best camera blind test. PA just trying to compare the new OP6 with old flagships that already known for it's good camera. If they wan't to make blind test of best smartphone camera, they should make it P20 Pro vs U12+ vs S9+ vs Mi8. Those are the best phones on DxOrank

24. nodes

Posts: 1159; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

old flagship?

6. ebilcake

Posts: 1229; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Was a tripod of some sort used?

7. Whitedot

Posts: 809; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Honestly, this year I don't see reason why I should pay more for a phone. Difference is so minimal. One + 6 strikes as probably best value for money phone you can buy without breaking the budget. And it has 3.5mm jack! Winner for me.

8. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Go to manual mode and improve results by 70%. Simple, does not take 2s.. Once you set what you need, it remains that way.

11. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

Oneplus really stepped it up with the Oneplus 6, as it can clearly compete with the best. It was close, but i have to admit that i did prefer the Pixel 2 XL to the Oneplus 6's images. My favorite shots was mostly the Galaxy S9, it was producing some really impressive images in those dark environments. The dual aperture really is showing its prowess here, along with the Galaxy S9's class-leading noise reduction.

16. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Front camera of OP6 is better than rear. EIS of 4K@30 is pretty high level.

18. TechSceptic

Posts: 1156; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

I'm not surprised. Chinese phones always equip their smartphones with massive front facing cameras. It seems like the Chinese really enjoy taking pictures of themselves, judging from the massive difference in Western vs Chinese smartphones, when it comes to the front facing camera. I don't personally use the front facing camera as much as the back camera, but i'm also a Western consumer.

13. ALMBO6

Posts: 195; Member since: May 28, 2018

Good job Sir. Just one remark though, it would have been even more interesting if you had included the Huawei P20 Pro. I liked the quality of the pictures delivered by the Samsung Galaxy S9+ in all the scenes, just waiting for the price to decrease a little bit more then I'll grab myself one.

14. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

More of these please!

15. dazed1

Posts: 799; Member since: Jul 28, 2015

Give us full resolution PHOTOS!

17. ZeroSlack_Jack

Posts: 35; Member since: May 02, 2017

They should add a Sponsored by Oneplus banner to this article.

20. ebilcake

Posts: 1229; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Galaxy S9 produced the cleanest shots, less noise and a good level of detail. Pixel 2 and OnePlus produce more noise, the Pixel uses the HDR+ mode to highlight areas you might not see on the others but I wish it wouldn't because the noise and lack of detail looks rubbish.

25. nodes

Posts: 1159; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

Samsung has aggresive noise reduction processing, it smooths out most of the texture. i prefer the Pixel even with more noise.

27. LFCRodrigues

Posts: 61; Member since: May 09, 2014

I also prefer Pixel 2 XL, S9 turns it into something like water painting

21. Chris_ABN

Posts: 191; Member since: May 16, 2018

That 1.5 aperture it's paying off. Im satisfied with my Galaxy S9 Plus. Bet that.

22. Aruminiumaian

Posts: 209; Member since: Jul 22, 2017

The exposure compensation and dynamic range on S9+ is surprisingly poor, blowing up highlights badly in many scenes while keeping shadows really dark... And because of this I mostly ended up choosing either Pixel or OnePlus 6. It seems that their HDR processing needs some serious work...

26. LFCRodrigues

Posts: 61; Member since: May 09, 2014

In almost all pictures I do prefer The images coming from Pixel 2XL. It has Flaws but seems more eyecatching and ready to post online. It's night time guys, I will not zoom in

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

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