Pixel 4 XL vs iPhone 11 Pro vs Galaxy Note 10+ vs LG G8X: Which phone takes the best portrait photos?

Pixel 4 XL vs iPhone 11 Pro vs Galaxy Note 10+ vs LG G8X: Which phone takes the best portrait photos?
Which is the best phone for taking portrait photos?

If you take lots of photos of your loved ones, this will be one of the foremost concerns you have when looking for your next smartphone, and today, we have taken the four most popular handsets out there to see which one has the best camera to take pictures of people.

We have the Pixel 4 XL, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the Galaxy Note 10+, and the LG G8X ThinQ. These have different camera setups, the Pixel adds a telephoto camera to the mix this year, the iPhone has three cameras (it uses the telephoto one for portraits), the Galaxy also has a triple camera system and on it, you can use either the main one or the telephoto for portraits, and finally, the LG is the only one that lacks a telephoto lens and shoots portraits with the main camera.

With all this in mind, let's waste no time and take a look at the actual pictures that we have captured on each of these phones:

Scene 1

In this first shot, the Pixel 4 XL takes a sharp image with an excellent dynamic range. This photo looks full of color and life, and it's hard to find much to criticize here.

The iPhone, on the other hand, has a lot less detail, there is a lot of sunflare that makes the whole photo look hazy and blurry, and the skin tones are unnaturally warm with a yellow-orangey tonality.

The Galaxy features the least amount of detail so far, as everything just looks kind of hazy. Colors have lost their vibrancy on that photo and appeal pale, lacking liveliness. 

Finally, the LG G8X photo is the absolute worst of the bunch. The phone only has a wide camera that it uses for portraits, and this is definitely not a good idea as the proportions on this photo look mistaken. Worse yet, the dynamic range here is terrible: the brighter, left part of the image is completely blown out.

Score card:
Pixel 4 XL: 9/10
iPhone 11 Pro: 8
LG G8X: 5

Scene 2

In the next scene, we see the Pixel excel in terms of dynamic range as it is able to capture the beautiful greens and not overblow the white t-shirt. It's a great looking image that feels just a bit underexposed, considering that it was captured in very bright sunlight.

The iPhone photo also looks nice, but we would say it's a bit overexposed and lacks the detail that the Pixel offers. The Galaxy again has very pale colors that are not that impactful and lacks the detail compared to the first two. Finally, the LG is again behind the pack: the amount of background blur doesn't seem enough to make the object pop as much, but worse of all, the white T-shirt is completely burned out.

Score card:
Pixel 4 XL: 8.5
iPhone 11 Pro: 8
Galaxy Note 10+: 7
LG G8X: 5

Scene 3

We see the same theme repeat itself in this next series of shots: the slightly underexposed image from the Pixel, the yellow-y tonality on the iPhone with its brighter and more cheerful exposure, the soft detail on the Galaxy and the poor dynamic range and inappropriate wide lens for portraits on the LG. It's all reflected in the scores below.

Score card:
Pixel 4 XL: 8
iPhone 11 Pro: 8
Galaxy Note 10+: 7
LG G8X: 6

Scene 4

Charlie's Angels are back! Oh wait, it's our own Peter K and Georgi Z! Nevermind, let's look at the photos.

You see that there are a few artifacts around the hands on pretty much all phones, but what we are looking is the colors and the big picture, and the Pixel once again excels in that. It captures the richer colors, with most depth. The iPhone is a close runner-up, and then, the Galaxy goes once again in the same direction with soft detail and paler colors than the rest. The LG is overly contrasted and doesn't look quite as good as the rest.

Score card:
Pixel 4 XL: 8
iPhone 11 Pro: 7.5
Galaxy Note 10+: 6.5
LG G8X: 5.5

Scene 5

We see something peculiar here: a defect on the Pixel that ruins some images, namely the absolutely incorrect white balance that turns the image orange.

This defect allows the iPhone to come at the top: it captures the most balanced image, with nice colors and a good amount of detail. The Galaxy is not bad per se, but again it suffers from that smudged out, soft detail and pale colors. The LG once again fails miserably with an image that simply doesn't belong in this elite league of top camera phones.

Score card:
Pixel 4 XL: 6
iPhone 11 Pro: 8
Galaxy Note 10+: 7
LG G8X: 4

Scene 6

Here, the rich colors of the Pixel again win the day and we also like the sharp detail. The iPhone turns the whole image to a yellow-y tonality, a recurring theme for this phone. The Galaxy again features pale colors and soft detail, and finally, the LG this time around does decently as there is no bright light in the shot and it manages to keep colors in check.

Score card:
Pixel 4 XL: 8
iPhone 11 Pro: 6.5
Galaxy Note 10+: 6
LG G8X: 6

Final Score

So... do we have a winner?

Of course we do: one phone pulls ahead of the pack and that phone is (drumroll!)...

Pixel 4 XL: 47.5
iPhone 11 Pro: 46
Galaxy Note 10+: 40.5
LG G8X: 31.5

Yes, the Pixel 4 XL wins this one with a small lead. Apart from the one cases where it erred with the white balance, it captured images with the best dynamic range and the best amount of detail.

The iPhone is a close runner up: its images are quite nice, they have a good amount of detail, and you can easily customize the portrait effect from the viewfinder, but we found that most of the photos had an annoying, yellow-ish tint.

The Galaxy ranks third with paler colors that just don't look quite that good and detail on it is a bit on the soft side.

Finally, the LG G8X ends this comparison in the last spot. It's just not on par with the rest: whenever a brighter object appears in the scene, it all gets messy and highlights get burned. The wide camera this phone uses is also not suitable for true portrait shots as it makes heads and noses look unnaturally big, and photos look like caricatures.

And if that's not enough portraits for you, don't hesitate to also check out our low-light portrait comparison to see how the best phones do in those more challenging conditions.



1. shield

Posts: 869; Member since: Sep 12, 2015

Note 10 fog, LG G8x natural color, but LG Last.

2. User123456789

Posts: 1150; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

LG uses the main 26mm camera for it. More distortion, worse separation.

3. User123456789

Posts: 1150; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

All with same issue. Parts of body cut by blur, no blur between fingers etc ... This is what happens when the blur is software instead of hardware. By the crop factor, these phones need f0.4 or bigger to do blur physically.

4. oliviamia039

Posts: 18; Member since: Nov 13, 2019

Iphone wins the battery on my iPhone 11 pro max is simply amazing. The cameras are sick.

5. Vancetastic

Posts: 1761; Member since: May 17, 2017

That yellow tint does make the subject look sick, yes.

8. shay90

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 04, 2016

You only forgot to mention that IOS has the “Focos” app which makes it by far the best phone for portrait shots

9. bitwiser

Posts: 30; Member since: Sep 28, 2018

My wife has iPhone 11 pro. For portrait shots she borrows my Pixel 4. iPhone portrait mode is by far the weakest link of their phone. It needs work, any kind of bright light behind subject ruins the photo and it make a soft blurry mess around the whole subject. Take a photo of a dog with portrait...all blurry. Pixel does as good of a job as can be expected from a phone in this situation. Now with anything other than portrait she prefers the overly warm and more than life saturation the iPhone camera is producing. All opinions as to what you prefer. Thankfully, color can be corrected on either phone since they both give you plenty detail.

14. LordDavon

Posts: 179; Member since: Sep 19, 2011

I just got my first iPhone (11 Pro Max) and can agree. I spent the weekend at Disney with my wife, and spent a lot of time working with the camera to get the best shots. While the iPhone can take some great photos, portrait photos were hit-or-miss. At night, the iPhone gets more grainy without the right settings. I ordered a Pixel 3 XL to replace my S7 Edge, which I use as my Digits phone. I'm going to do some nighttime shot comparisons to see which one takes the better shots without messing with the camera. It should get here tomorrow.

10. User123456789

Posts: 1150; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

I do not understand why the yellow skin does not bother PA editors.

20. srgonu

Posts: 566; Member since: Feb 13, 2012

You mean the orange skin in iphone photos ?

11. cmdacos

Posts: 4324; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Love the way everyone is jaundiced in iPhone photos. Do you have healthcare? Also iPhone failed with background blur in scene 3 but got an 8. I see the phonearena of old is back and better than ever lol.

12. Zrtsg

Posts: 12; Member since: May 09, 2019

Where is Huawei mate 30 pro?

13. maherk

Posts: 7013; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

As a Note 10 owner, I feel like you were super generous with the scores you gave to the Note 10+. Samsung's portraits always looks washed out with very soft results, even when using a flash or under bright light, you will still get a picture that lacks details.

15. kplayon

Posts: 63; Member since: Mar 02, 2018

How come people don't understand that in Korea, many people don't really want super detailed photos on their selfie cameras. They don't want the picture to show all their pores, defects, and blemishes. They want it to look smooth and clean and pretty for the most part. Thats why Samsung phone's are purposefully smooth like that.

17. maherk

Posts: 7013; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

1- It's not a the selfie cam, even pictures taken with the main sensor are flat and muddy. 2- Again, it's not just the face, the whole picture looks soft and lacks detail. 3- Samsung's main markets are Europe and North America, and let's say their pictures are this soft on purpose to please Asian markets (which is not the case), Samsung should offer alternative image processing to markets outside of Asia.

16. extraterestial

Posts: 11; Member since: Nov 08, 2019

I´ll rather wait for DxO. This article has bias written all over it.

23. bitwiser

Posts: 30; Member since: Sep 28, 2018

DxO review for iPhone is out, with deep fusion enabled for a while now. It beats pixel, but numbers are skewed on total score because it gets many points for wide lens that pixel does not have.

25. extraterestial

Posts: 11; Member since: Nov 08, 2019

I wonder why there wasn´t an article about that? Well, it could be because the iPhone didn´t win.

18. HarysViewty

Posts: 65; Member since: Apr 04, 2015

LG didn't use HDR ON here

19. TBomb

Posts: 1662; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Until Scene 5, The P4XL was leagues ahead... wow.

22. rsiders

Posts: 2012; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

Please compare main sensor of the Mi Note 10 natural bokeh to the artificial bokeh cutouts of these top three phones. That would be interesting. The Pixels just get portrait mode so right though in terms of details and exposure. I love the focal length of my OP7 Pro much better but I wish it had the processing of the Pixel phones.

24. limporgyuk

Posts: 376; Member since: Nov 06, 2013

Conclusions, if you want to look like a cast member of the Simpsons, buy an iPhone

27. idees

Posts: 28; Member since: Sep 25, 2009

@ Victor Hristov Note 10+ is with Snapdragon or Exynos chipset?

28. xifiz

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 16, 2019

The author says about the lg g8x "The phone only has a wide camera that it uses for portraits" . According to available spec sheets the phone has a 27mm (standard) and a 9 mm (ultrawide) lens. ..

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