Sony Xperia XZ3 vs Galaxy Note 9 vs Pixel 2 XL vs iPhone X: camera comparison

Sony Xperia XZ3 vs Galaxy Note 9 vs Pixel 2 XL vs iPhone X: camera comparison
There is a lot to like about the new Sony Xperia XZ3: its sleek design with elegant curves that fits comfortably in the hand, its gorgeous OLED screen with beautiful colors, and even the fact that it comes with the latest version of Android, Pie, on board, but can it stand its ground against the best phones out there in terms of camera performance?

The XZ3 largely inherits the camera of the XZ2: it features a single, 19-megapixel rear camera with one of the largest sensors ever put on a phone, and a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera for selfies on the front.

Not content with just the camera specs, we were eager to see how good this camera is in real life and we compared it against three of the best camera phones out there: the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the Google Pixel 2 XL, and the Apple iPhone X. Take a look at the photos right below.

Round #1: Daylight Color Fight



In the first round, the Sony Xperia XZ3 starts strong. The picture it takes looks best of all four: it hits the highest dynamics, as the church is well exposed, but you also see a lot of the greens in the trees and there is a nice balance to the colors. If you look closer, you will notice that the XZ3 has the most noise of all the phones, especially noticeable in the grain in the clear sky. That is strange considering that we took the photo in the bright sunlight, but still it's not a dealbreaker in this case.

The Galaxy Note 9 takes a decent, but not a great picture. It does not have enough dynamics and loses the detail in the trees, plus it underexposes the main thing in the picture: the church. You can also notice that the gold hue from the afternoon sun rays are not properly portrayed here.

The Pixel 2 XL is the absolute worst. The whole picture is severely underexposed, there is no detail in the trees, the church is also way too dark and the sky, instead of its pleasing blue, is half gray. Not a great start for the Pixel.

Finally, the iPhone X captures a very good looking image. It has nice exposure, a clear blue sky, a pleasing color representation, but it loses a bit of the detail in the shadows, and that's why we score it slightly below the Xperia.



Round 2: Detail and Blue Skies



Here, the Xperia XZ3 does probably the best job in rendering accurate colors: the walls of the church were indeed slightly warm, just like you see on the picture, and the greens in the trees are also well represented. Mostly a good job, except for that blown out color in the sky.

The Galaxy shoots a photo that looks very different and while the colors might be a bit colder than in real life, it definitely catches the eye with plentiful detail and great exposure of the church, as well as nicely rendered skies.

The Pixel again looks much worse than the rest: it captures an orange-y shot that is underexposed and there is too much contrast in it. And just look at the skies: they are grey to brown, nowhere near the blue skies that were actually there!

The iPhone captures a pleasing image, but it loses a bit of dynamics in the shadows and gets the white balance a bit too cold, something that you can see in the walls of the church. Good, but not great.


Round 3: High Dynamic Scene




In these challenging conditions, the XZ3 blows out the highlights, but we still like the colors on the photo it took best. While two of the other phones got fooled into incorrectly interpreting the color (notice the walkway is too cold on the Note and the iPhone), the Xperia maintains very pleasing colors and exposure.

The Note 9 captures a more dynamic image. It's able to preserve the sky and still shows everything else in great detail, but colors are slightly on the cold side and the photo looks a bit hazy.

The Pixel 2 XL is able to capture a lot of the dynamics of the shot and has good detail, but the shadows are under-exposed and the sky has a very unnatural color to it.

Finally, the iPhone shoots a picture that almost looks as if it was taken through some sort of a blue filter. Colors appear faded, darker areas of the picture are underexposed and white balance is way too cold.



Round 4: The Old Theater




In this round, all phones did well. Once again, the Xperia has very pleasing, realistically warm colors, but blows out the highlights in the sky and there is a strange loss in detail at the corners (notice the leaves).

The Note captures great colors, great detail and produces a... great photo! The Pixel is again on the dark side, and while we like the dynamics, colors appear way too contrasty and the skies (again!) look terrible.

The iPhone captures a very decent picture with slightly colder colors, but it has excellent detail.



Round 5: Color Explosion




The Xperia had the most trouble getting this macro shot in focus, but the end result is a fairly pleasing image that does not go overboard with contrast and looks nice.

The Note overly exaggerates colors and slightly overexposes this shos, plus it adds a bit too much contrast. The end result is a very eye-popping shot, but one that is a bit unrealistic.

The Pixel captures a slightly lower exposure, with plenty of saturation and detail, so it also looks good.

Finally, the iPhone goes a bit overboard with colors and oversaturates the petals, but again, the photo looks good.



Round 6: Vintage Door




The Xperia shoots a decent shot with good detail and balanced exposure. Good, but not quite great.

The Note severely underexposes this photo and the picture lacks pop.

The Pixel shines here: it has nailed the exposure, capture the highest dynamics of all and the photos has great detail.

The iPhone really goes crazy with saturation and contrast in this shot, and the end result is an eye-popping photo that is not realistic at all.



Round 7: Night Time Neons




When it comes to night time photos, the Xperia has some tough competition, but can it stand its ground? In this first night photo, the XZ3 is doing well: not quite great, as it lacks in dynamics, especially in the shadows that appear way too dark and colors are a bit skewed towards the red, but it's a decent shot.

The Galaxy is doing a slightly better job with the typical for this phone brighter shot, but it handles the neon lights well and is best able to show the Heineken sign at the side. Great job!

The Pixel is traditionally one of the best cameras for night pictures, especially with those neon signs and its picture has more definition. It's hard to tell which one is better, the Pixel or the Note, but the Pixel seems to have a bit more punch.

Finally, the iPhone is just not a very good shooter at night. It cannot handle the dynamics introduced with the neon signs and burns them badly.



Round 8: Night Lights




This beautifully lit building looks stunning at night, but it's a hard photographic object for a smartphone. The Xperia does a good job at preserving the highlights without blowing them out of proportion, but the shadows are too dark and the picture lacks a bit in sharpness.

The Note 9 is well exposed, showing detail in the shadows, while keeping the highlights nice and sharp. Good job.

The Pixel also captures a great shot, revealing even more detail in the shadows, showing its unprecedented dynamic range once again, but it's not quite as sharp as the Note 9. Still a great image.

Finally, the iPhone photo is just the opposite of what we have on the Xperia: it exposes more for the shadows, while blowing the highlights out of proportion.



Round 9: Main Street




More night lights! In this round, the Xperia again shows that it can handle night photos fairly well: it does not blow the highlights, but the shadows are again way too dark with little detail in them.

The Galaxy Note 9 really impresses in this shot. It is able to resolve both highlights and shadows, and it captures the neon signs beautifully in all their color and detail.

The Pixel is good, but not quite as impressive: the neon sign on the left is too bright even for the praised Google phone.

Finally, the iPhone really struggles in this shot. All the signs and lights are way overblown, which makes for a sub-par photo.



Round 10: Pizza Alley



One last night-time shot with the rear cameras, and this time again we see that the Xperia is able to do a good job with the bright lights at night, but in this picture it gets the white balance a bit wrong, so you get a color cast to the picture.

The Note 9 again impresses with its dynamics: it's able to resolve both the bright lights and the darker areas in the image, all while preserving very good detail.

The Pixel captures deeper blacks and also shoots a great night time photo that is quite likable.

Finally, the iPhone does not do as well: it struggles with the bright lights and introduces weird flares around them, but does a better job than the Xperia in terms of white balance.



Round 11: Daylight Selfie



We could not finish this without some selfies, could we?

First, the Xperia captures a good-looking shot with realistic colors and a nice amount of detail, without oversharpening the photo. It blows the background out of proportion, but the subject is exposed good and the rendition of the skin color is pleasing.

Next, the Galaxy produces some very pleasing, warmer colors, but has smudged the details a bit. It's still a very nice looking image. Again, the Galaxy also has troubles with the bright background and it burns it.

The Pixel has the widest dynamic range of them all, for a very rich picture. Unfortunately, it oversharpens the photo dramatically, so that all the undesirable wrinkles get amplified and look even worse. Despite the nice colors and great dynamics, this oversharpening has ruined many of my selfies with the Pixel.

The iPhone, however, is the one that takes the raspberry award for this round with a selfie that looks strange, with too much contrast, a blown background and with far less detail than the rest.



Round 12: Nighttime Selfie



We have one more selfie, but this time at night. The Xperia captures a fairly sharp image that looks good, as it manages to correctly render my skin tone.

The Galaxy Note is not as good and gets the skin colors all wrong, but it has a decent amount of detail to it.

The Pixel does best in terms of dynamic range, but it really paints my face in a very weird, pastel tonality that does not look natural at all.

Finally, the iPhone failed to get this one in sharp focus and it blows out the lamps in the background in a very distracting manner.



Final Countdown: Who is the WINNER?



Okay, it's time to draw the line and take a look at the total score.

Which phone scored the most?

Well, it's not the Xperia XZ3, but it's very close to the leader. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the phone that wins this comparison with 81 points, while the Xperia XZ3 is a close runner-up with a score of 80.5. The Google Pixel 2 XL scored 77.5, and the iPhone X was far behind the first three with just 67.5 points.

Let us also add a couple of words to this: first and foremost, the Xperia XZ3 has a beautiful OLED screen and it's a pleasure looking at the photos on it, but its focus is much slower than on the others and it lacks a few important features like a proper portrait mode (which we did not test in this comparison). The Galaxy Note really felt like the winner even before we started examining the photos in detail: it was the fastest to focus and take pictures, and that Super AMOLED screen was the brightest and possibly the most impressive one. As for the other two, we've already talked a lot about them in the past.

So... what do you think about the Xperia XZ3 and its camera? Are you surprised with the results? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section right below!

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51 Comments

1. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Dear PA team.. This year Sony chose to use much less noise reduction to keep texture as much as possible. Something closer to RAW file. Noise can easily be erased by edition. Of course if you choose 12MP instead of 19 noise will decrease.. Have nice weekend ...

17. Pcworld1976

Posts: 117; Member since: Sep 18, 2018

Do not tell them anything they are going to invent

39. Aruminiumaian

Posts: 209; Member since: Jul 22, 2017

Closer to RAW file than extremely over-processed XZ2/XZ2 Premium's photos, but the details are still far too sharpened than they should be. Exposure compensation is still quite lacklustre too.. I like its natural colours though, it's clearly something other manufacturers should take notes on.

2. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

U12 should be instead of X

16. NateDiaz

Posts: 1087; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Dudes so scared of Android trolls here that he scored iPhone the lowest. What a shame!

27. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1386; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

I think he was actually rather generous offering the iPhone X on average higher ratings than others when it did a pisspoor job.

28. cocoy

Posts: 456; Member since: Oct 30, 2015

You should be ashamed because your expensive phone didn't live to its price. Give credits to where its due bro. Fanboys really destroys the tech community.

35. NateDiaz

Posts: 1087; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Shut your fooking mouth.

3. cmdacos

Posts: 4124; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

If you were planned to release this comparison on launch day for the excess Maxipad you should have delayed and included it.

4. Pcworld1976

Posts: 117; Member since: Sep 18, 2018

Victor greetings, the truth is that they are very close, the scores are already dependent Which brand do you like the most

5. dnomadic

Posts: 405; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

Your subjective scoring makes invalidates the results... I have the Note 9 currently so I am not complaining because my phone lost. Pixel phot as a 3 demonstrate a subjective scoring approach. I love your comparisons but would love to see the same scenes in every test with varyong conditions and a set of standards for scoring.... Thanks for another comparison as I love to compare and score them based on my own criteria.

26. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Yep, underexposing is general considered to be not as bad as overexposing since its typically more recoveraby in post and exposing in low light results in a photo that looks unnatural with too much light Yet the Pixel gets a 3/5.5 for underexposing in R1/2 The X gets a 5.5/5.5/4 for overexposing in R9/10/11 The XZ3 gets a 7/6.5/7 for overexposing in R3/10/11

6. Pcworld1976

Posts: 117; Member since: Sep 18, 2018

Víctor You're hallucinating with the XZ3 screen huh. You have never seen such a good screen

7. jellmoo

Posts: 2566; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

A completely arbitrary scoring system with no benchmark samples to compare against? Might as well say that the Note scored 'banana' and the Z3 scored 'elevator'. That being said, the shots from the Z3 look very, very good to me.

15. Victor.H

Posts: 1056; Member since: May 27, 2011

It's *practically* impossible to have a benchmark for judging JPEG images. Even if we included an additional, so called reference picture shot on a high-end Canon camera, the photo from it would look totally different from the photo from a high-end Nikon because color science is... well, subjective. Objectivity is possible about many things: sharpness and detail, dynamic range, and so on, but asking for a reference for colors is asking for the impossible.

18. Pcworld1976

Posts: 117; Member since: Sep 18, 2018

Lol Víctor I want to see the analysis of the XZ3 to see what you invented to say that it does not have the best screen ht tps://videopress.com/v/89w1parl

21. Victor.H

Posts: 1056; Member since: May 27, 2011

You need to chill a bit. Trolling is not welcome in the comments section.

29. cocoy

Posts: 456; Member since: Oct 30, 2015

Don't bother for providing reference. It is not the first time comparison here was presented like that. In other comparison they did not ask for that and now they were asking for it. For what? After all you were not obliged to do so. By the way, thanks for providing this comparison. I've been waiting for this since your unboxing article. Good job Victor! Have a nice day.

8. redmd

Posts: 1927; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Wow! Sony really upped their camera this year. Hey, Victor, I would like to ask if the Sony XZ2P camera delivers photos like that of the XZ3?

14. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Better at night. In good lightning xz2p uses just the RGB sensor. Slightly better than xz2

23. Pcworld1976

Posts: 117; Member since: Sep 18, 2018

I I'm not insulted, I'm not the one who said that the XZ3 does 6 hours of autonomy and the note 9 has a better screen, yo no soy el troll. If you get angry I will not tell you anything else I'm sorry

40. Aruminiumaian

Posts: 209; Member since: Jul 22, 2017

You should say sorry for trolling, I think that's all you need to do in this comment section.

9. Pcworld1976

Posts: 117; Member since: Sep 18, 2018

Victor the screen of the XZ3 kicks the ass to the amoled of Samsung do not be me Sony hater, There are videos and tests that show it, we will see what you invented in the analysis

10. Pcworld1976

Posts: 117; Member since: Sep 18, 2018

I would have put the xz2p and p20 pro and would have removed the pixel and the iPhone that are mobile from 2017

11. notmyresident

Posts: 12; Member since: Feb 12, 2017

So the Note 9 all of a sudden takes good pictures (it had the highest overall score and has a very good camera despite PA obvious hate boner for it), especially in the night, when you guys took potato quality shots with it in the Pixel 2XL comparison, LOL.

22. bucknassty

Posts: 1328; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

this clearly shows that the quality depends on whose hands the phone is in and a selection of what photos they want to show.... who knows how many retakes were taken to gather the best or worst for each phone.

24. ALMBO6

Posts: 195; Member since: May 28, 2018

Was thinking the same thing. All of a sudden the Note 9 takes comparable and even better night shots than the Pixel 2XL, when previously the results were otherwise, you made the Note 9 look like a crappy night shooter against the same Pixel 2XL.

30. cocoy

Posts: 456; Member since: Oct 30, 2015

A lot of haters in this site. People tend to forget that there are plenty of authors here. An article published by other author does not mean the stand of all authors here and the site itself. Also, you have to consider that there were software updates conducted on those phones which might also be the consideration why there were changes on results of respective camera. Don't be judgemental man.

34. worldpeace

Posts: 3129; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Calm down, soon they'll shoot another sample that makes Note9 looks worse compared to XS and XS max

12. Whitedot

Posts: 779; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

It seems to me XZ3 1st place was locked in by accident though I am surprised how well Sony performs yet results are funny.

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