Which phone has the best front camera for selfies?

Which phone has the best front camera for selfies?
Which phone has the best front camera?

While we often look at the rear cameras on phones, selfies have become such a big part of our culture and habits, it's worth taking a separate look.

To answer the question which phone has the best front camera, we took three of this year's finest smartphones: the Google Pixel 3, the iPhone XS and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, and just took a bunch of photos. We shot images both during the day and at night, and used a few of the most common camera modes. After looking at all these photos, we can now clearly see the difference.

So... which phone is the best one for selfies? Read on to find out.

Scene 1: Daylight + Portrait Mode



This first shot was captured outside on a cloudy day, but there was still plenty of light. Right off the bat, you can see some clear differences between each of the contenders.

The Pixel 3 has the photo that looks sharpest of them all, detail really looks razor sharp, yet at the same time there are no over-sharpening artifacts, which is great. Colors, however, look way too contrasty, with very overpowering shadows and the skin tone does not quite look natural.

The iPhone XS captures a very different photo: it also has a very good amount of detail, without going to the extreme with sharpness like the Pixel. It has noticeably warmer colors, something that is not quite realistic, but we would not say that it looks bad per se. One thing that is noticeable also is just how much brighter the photo on the iPhone is: my jacket looks bright gray, while in reality it's much darker.

The Note 9, on the other hand, clearly cannot match the other two in terms of detail as the whole picture looks a bit blurry and detail is smudged. In terms of colors, you see that everything on the picture looks a bit greenish and that's a theme for the Note. The exposure is again much brighter than, say, the Pixel and my face is well exposed.

Next up, we have the same image shot with portrait mode enabled. The Pixel is the first one we look at and it's the only one that has noticeable difficulties separating my face from the background as you see separation artifacts around my left ear and my right cheek. In this shot, the contrast is way over the top and you can see again that the image just looks noticeably underexposed, dark.

The iPhone features a much brighter, more pleasing exposure and it does a great job separating my face from the background. Again, you get slightly warmer colors, but still much livelier and more animated than what you get with the Pixel.

The Note shoots a wider perspective and again is lowest when it comes to detail, but overall has a pleasing, bright exposure and does a good job with image separation.

Finally, you have the secondary, wide-angle camera on the Pixel. You can see just how much more you can fit in the frame, but you also see that colors appear different than on the main camera, with a more ghostly appearance and an even colder tonality. The last image shows a zoomed-in mode that crops in using the main camera for a different perspective.

Scene 2: Fall Colors



In this second selfie, we start with the Pixel. Once again, the photo it took is noticeably underexposed and has a very noticeable brownish-orange tint to it. Again, it's very sharp and high in terms of resolved detail, but the color reproduction could have been a lot better.

The iPhone captures a very bright photo with the typical warmer colors for this phone, but luckily, it does not have that fake brown orange tint. The Galaxy also exhibits a noticeable color shift and the whole picture looks a bit brown/orange, but the Note also gets a much better exposure than the Pixel.

Next up, we have the wide-angle shot with the secondary camera on the Pixel and there is a big difference between this and the main front camera. Colors here appear very cold and bluish, it almost seems like the pictures from the two cameras were shot at different places and times. While we do like the ultra wide-angle perspective, the quality is definitely not great with this camera.

Scene 3: Group Photo



The Pixel might be the best phone out there for group shots and in this photo of me and my co-worker Nick, we easily fit in the frame even with the regular camera. Here, the extreme contrast that the Pixel front camera adds to photos is more apparent than on other photos and it really does not look great: while it is sharp, you can see the shadows under our eyes amplified, and overall the picture looks underexposed.

The iPhone has a much tighter perspective and barely fits the two of us. Once again, we see the iPhone capture a picture with a warmer tonality: despite that colors overall look pleasing and you can see that our faces are painted in a much more flattering way here, without those nasty shadows under the eyes. This is definitely a picture I would much rather share.

The Note captures a wider perspective and despite not having a second front camera, it is a good fit for selfie shots of bigger groups of people. It does not quite have the sharpness and detail of the Pixel and the iPhone, but it does nail exposure right and renders skin tones in a pleasing way.

Scene 4: Group Photo at Night



Next up, we turn to a night group shot. This is the weakest area for all phones, but the Pixel really outdoes the rest at night. It captures the sharpest photo with a good exposure and it does not overblow the lights in the background. The iPhone selfie camera is not great for group shots as the frame is too tight and you would need a selfie stick for a proper group photo. The Note has a wider perspective, but does worst in terms of sharpness and detail, plus those lights in the background are really badly burned out. And on the last picture, you can see the ultra wide-angle camera on the Pixel come very handy when you need to have a wider view of things.

Scene 5: The Bright Lights



Finally, we have one last night shot that shows how the Pixel is a step above the competition in the night time selfie game. It captures the sharpest photo with a very clean detail in both the faces and the background lights, and it is rich in color. The iPhone captures a decent photo, but it paints the faces in a really weird color that is definitely not what reality looks like. Finally, the Note 9 captures a very good looking selfie, not too far behind the Pixel. It has a wide field of view that easily fits a small group of people, it has pleasing colors and good exposure, but loses in terms of resolved detail.

Conclusion


So... which phone has the best front camera?

Well, we hate to say it, but it really depends. The Google Pixel 3 is definitely the one that always captures the sharpest photos and that's great, but during the day it almost always captures a severely underexposed, dark photo and colors on it look a bit to the pastel side and lack in terms of vibrancy. At night, though, the Pixel is really a step above the competition with much sharper photos with better dynamics.

The iPhone XS front cameras takes pictures that look very well balanced during the day. Colors are the typical, "iPhone warm" colors, something that is noticeably in the yellow-y skin tones, but while this is not great, the iPhone captures brighter photos with a livelier and more varied color palette. At night, though, the iPhone front camera does not do such a great job and for larger groups of people, you would need a selfie stick to fit everyone in.

The Galaxy Note 9 is probably behind the other two in terms of quality. It gets exposure right and its bright Super AMOLED screen makes looking at photos on the phone such a great experience (much better than the very dim and hard to see display on the Pixel, for example). However, the colors in the Note are just a bit on the dull side and it does not quite have the sharp detail that you get with the other two.

And this rounds up our look at the best front cameras of the year. What are you personal favorites and why?

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24 Comments

1. AmashAziz

Posts: 2927; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

It should've been a blind camera test.

7. Victor.H

Posts: 1062; Member since: May 27, 2011

We already had one a few days ago with some selfies in it :)

18. KingSam

Posts: 1449; Member since: Mar 13, 2016

Please do a camera comparison between the LG G7/V40, OnePlus 6T and iPhone 7 plus. People and reviews always claim the former 2 aren't quite flagship. So how well do they stack up against an older well rounded flagship camera.

2. alanrock

Posts: 313; Member since: Oct 04, 2018

fall colors pictures...look at that happy face :))

3. Jrod99

Posts: 729; Member since: Jan 15, 2016

Ah PA. Another camera test. Running out of ideas? Here’s a idea. Phone quality between the popular phones. Crazy right? Phone quality test on ____ phones.

6. Victor.H

Posts: 1062; Member since: May 27, 2011

What is a phone quality test?

24. Cat97

Posts: 1893; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Maybe he meant call quality and signal coverage in poor-signal areas ?

4. cmdacos

Posts: 4208; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Pixel without a doubt. I'm never buying a Pixel with current options out there but credit where credit is due, Google is untouchable with computational photography.

5. bucknassty

Posts: 1341; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

at night the note takes in the most light... but honestly they all aren't that great... FFC got some improving to do.... if its even worth it...at some point price and size matter. might as well get a nice dedicated camera to handle pictures with how these phone prices are rising so high on the flagships.

8. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Sometimes when you guys do these pictures, I wonder if you get them crossed up, or if you guys need glasses. Starting with the shots where you guys are with the colored lights. The Pixel totally overexposed your faces and made you look whiter, than you actually would look in real life. The Note took a more accurate picture, because it didnt use the lights to over expose you. When it is somewhat dark out and their is artificial light not shing directly at you, your faces would not be that bright to the natural eye. In the other pics, the iPhone picture made the leaves on tress look like tree moss. Like the leaves are all stapled together and fuzzy. It still struggles with the colors gree, brown and grey and then has ALWAYS been an issue. And then let's show your hypocrisy. When Samsung phones were iversaturating pictures with unreal color, Victor H, you especially blasted the phone for having unnatural color tones. And yes you stated many times that yes a lot of people may like the punchier and brighter colors, but that you preferred the more natural tones of the iPhone. Now Samsung has listened to that and has toned down the saturation and the colors look more natural while Apple has gone saturated, and your exact words here is, it's not too nad? Why are you guys so inconsistent. Even thought the Pixel to brighter pics, in these example they look terrible, but I dont know why. You all claims is you dont make any settings changes which of course on the iPhone you cant anyways. But when I look at your pics, and then compare them to simpler situations done by youtubers, their pictures are considerably more detailed and bright from the same phones you are using where your pictures tend to look dark, grainy, over or underexposed, and they simply dont look very professuinal. If you guys actually say down on giving quality over quantity and took your time and stop trying to find ways to be biased, and worked to be more professional,; then we as your audience will at least say, even if we feel we sont agree with you, we can appreciate the quality of what is being addressed even if we dont agree with it. Quality matters PA and for 2019 I suggest you work hard at bringing quality instead of fluff.

11. AmashAziz

Posts: 2927; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Oh no....

15. maherk

Posts: 6879; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Stop crying ffs. You're always whining when things doesn't go in Sammy's way. I have the Note 9, and it's a brilliant phone, but the camera on it is a huge let down, pictures tend to come out overexposed and soft majority of the time.

19. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

There is not a tech review that ever has any sway on my buying decision. I go to tech sites because I have an addiction to gadgets. I love to read about tech. I still have boxes filled with magazines I grew up readting for over 3 decades. I could care less about whether Samsung wins or not on a tech site. Reviewers are always biased, even when they claim they arent. I am tech savvy enough. Ii know how to shop on my own. I just like to see others opinions. But go and look at SuperSaf and Margues and others. Even that blonde chick who love Apple so much, does far aand away better pictures. Instead of you actually providing an arguement for what I said or saying if I was wrong about something and talk tech. Butnoi, you went on the attack. Did the Pixel not make their faces look like white ghosts? The iPhone oversmoith Victor's skin. Like the beauty mode thing people were talking about. And the Note pictures were way darker than I have experienced from using my own phone and other tech reviewers. Either show me where I am wrong and argue my tech points I made, or just shut up dude. Because I'm here to talk tech. I'm not here to tickle your ears or kiss your butt or argue ignorance. Stick to the subject or just dont talk to me. It's that easy. A those pics were if terrible quality and other have said that. So it's not some secret. The fact you continue to attack me even when you know I am right shows who actually has the problem. I buy what I want and have done so based in the fact I know what I want and need. I asked for quality and it seems the only one whining is you.

9. midan

Posts: 2884; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Based on all those photos iPhone was definately winner. Those pixel photos are so over-processed. I get that some people want that, but those photos are very difficult to edit later because already so much post-processing, also so much sharpening. IPhone offers very balanced photos with natural colours (sometimes too yellow, easy to fix) which are easy to edit to direction you want.

17. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2206; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

I agree! Great assessment!

21. Marcwand3l

Posts: 439; Member since: May 08, 2017

LoL, the iphone was the worse in terms of color and details Even the Note 9 did a better job here. Since when does irritating yellow tint equals natural colors?

23. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2206; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

All of this about the best default pic is so mute. Every camera can correct color, white balance, hue, shadow detail, etc...

10. Peaceboy

Posts: 640; Member since: Oct 11, 2018

Samsung really sucks in camera test. Even their marketing sucks!!!

12. jjface

Posts: 238; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

I'm sorry but it looks like you went out of your way to make the pixel look bad. How many times did you take to do that. Lol take 100 selfies and pick the worse 5. In the blind comparison test the pixel won them all and sometimes by a large margin. They definitely looked like better shots than these. The pixels are known for their selfie prowess.

13. Cicero

Posts: 1129; Member since: Jan 22, 2014

I don't care. They can remove totally the front selfie camera and give me an full front display with zero bezels.

14. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

FaceTime/Skype needs a ff camera (not to mention Face ID).

20. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

You dont need Cace ID. That's what fingerprint readers are for. And now Samsung will be offering the Ultrasonic Reader which is better than anything we have had so far. Uts the next evolution in biometrics and it will be far and away more secure than Fake ID And yes I said fake on purpose. Because uts easy to fake. Because siings, family member ers and even friends with the same faces because of culture have u locked another phone. Even 2 people who weren't even the same gender. We dont need front cams. Just a mirror on the back so you can see how to line up the rear cameras and snap. I've take many shot with the rear cameras for selfies and uts easy and reliable enough to use.

22. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Boy, you’re capable of writing (poorly) a whole lot of stupid stuff... I never liked the placement of Touch ID on the back, but I never told anyone that they should like it in the front; don’t you dare tell me what method of authentication I should prefer. I like to see my girl’s face when talk to her, I like to make her smile every single moment and I like to see that smile; that’s why I want a ff camera, I couldn’t care less about a stupid selfie. This is what you don’t seem to understand: the phone is a tool to reach a goal, it’s not a goal in itself; the easier you get to you goal, the better the phone is.

16. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2206; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

Based on these photos if you like crushed blacks the Pixel is your fav camera. The iPhone still looks the best as all cameras can be corrected through its settings. The Note 9 has overexposed camera shots with way too much brightness in its pics.

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