The Big Barcelona Camera Comparison: iPhone X vs Pixel 2 XL vs Note 8

The Big Barcelona Camera Comparison: iPhone X vs Pixel 2 XL vs Note 8
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Mobile World Congress is just about to kick off, but we've already been here for a day and we have wasted no time. Walking down the iconic La Rambla main street and sightseeing the Sagrada Familia and the rest of the amazing buildings by Catalonia-born Gaudi, we also took some pictures.

And yes, we had a fancy camera with all the bells and whistles, but we would not be PhoneArena if we just used that. Instead, we had our pockets full of phones.

To help us capture the beauty of Barcelona in photos we had the:

  • Apple iPhone X
  • Google Pixel 2 XL
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8

So which one captured the best-looking photos?

We have the pictures from the three phones right below and it's time to find out which one has the best camera.

Disclaimer: All images have been downsized for faster loading.


The hardest part of visiting a beautiful city like Barcelona is picking just a few of the tens (or rather hundreds) of pictures that you shoot. We tried to contain ourselves to only a few pictures and our conclusion is... all the three phones shoot awesome pictures. Okay, you want more specifics, right?

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There are some differences that you notice when you look closer. First, is the absolutely unsurpassed amount of nicely sharp detail that you get out of the Galaxy, it really is in a league of its own when it comes to the amount of resolved detail. Secondly, you notice the stunning dynamic range of photos from the Pixel, but also you notice two weaknesses: the Pixel just kills the beautiful blue skies and turns them into a gray mess (they were certainly not gray on that day) and also you notice that it goes for somewhat less saturated, less vibrant images that lack that punch. Finally, the iPhone goes the opposite way with a clearly very contrasty and oversaturated images that are ready for sharing, but not actually realistic.


At night, Barcelona truly turns alive. This is a city that seems to sleep in the morning rather than at night, as restaurants only open at 9pm and bars and clubs habitually close at 6am. It takes time to adjust to the Barcelona lifestyle, but what is easy to adjust to is the fairy tale of shining lights and impressive architecture that comes to life at night.

Gaudi's creations look different. Some - like the Casa Batllo - look truly like something out of a fairy tale, while others like the Sagrada Familia lose a bit of their daytime shine as they lack the colors. But they are different and the way the phones capture photos of them is also very different.

At night, the Pixel 2 XL shines with its incredible dynamic range, but it is also the one with most noise in it. Samsung has the most aggressive noise reduction and it looks best in terms of resolved detail, but cannot quite match the dynamics of the Pixel. Finally, the iPhone strikes the balance between these two.

Portrait Mode

We also took quite a few pictures using portrait mode, but at the end we have excluded the Pixel from this part of the comparison. It has a much wider lens and the photos it captures are very different from the telephoto lenses on the iPhone and the Note. The wide angle is not particularly flattering as it exaggerates certain facial features and gives a quite distorted picture if you go as close as you need to in order to get a true portrait.

Comparing the iPhone and the Note, though, you do notice that both do a great job, and that both look very different both in terms of color and in the way that the iPhone gives you a pre-set background blur, while the Note allows you to control the amount of bokeh.


Next up, we have a panoramic shot of the iconic Sagrada Familia. We have downsized it for more convenient viewing, but you can easily notice the differences between the three phones.

Selfie time!

Finally, it was time to take a glorious selfie with the Sagrada Familia as the background. Results were very different and we had to tap to refocus and get the best results from each camera. The iPhone in particular would default to a seriously overexposed photo, but once you tap on your face, it would adjust its exposure and get a very good looking picture. The other two phones were much better at automatically measuring the scene and getting it from one go.

Final words

And this wraps our Big Barcelona Camera Comparison, just moments before the unveiling of the new Galaxy S9 and all the other new 2018 phones that will soon surely arrive.

A year after last year's MWC, these three phones - the iPhone X, the Note 8 and Pixel 2 XL - seem to represent the finest cameras out there.

Will Samsung be able to outdo itself? And can others rival these top three? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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