Apple iPhone 12 Pro $999 at Apple
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra $1249.99 at BestBuy
Google Pixel 5 View at Amazon

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Pixel 5: Camera Comparison

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iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Pixel 5: Camera Comparison
Can the new iPhone 12 Pro match up and beat the best Android phones out there when it comes to the camera? To find out, we took the popular Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Google Pixel 5, and compared their photos against pictures from the iPhone 12 Pro.

In this camera comparison, you will find photos shot on the main camera, the ultra-wide camera, as well as zoom photos shot on the telephoto cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro, Note 20 Ultra and Pixel 5. And of course, we also went out to shoot at night to test that wider f/1.6 aperture on the iPhone 12 Pro which Apple promises will deliver a lot brighter photos even in low light.

So which one will win the camera crown in 2020? Let's find out and get started with our iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Google Pixel 5 camera comparison!

First, here is a rundown of the camera hardware...

iPhone 12 Pro vs Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Pixel 5 Camera Specs Comparison:




Apple iPhone 12 Pro - 6.1" Super Retina XDR, Apple A14 Bionic, 5G, Triple camera

$999
Buy at Apple

There are a few differences in the hardware that are worth pointing out: first, the iPhone and the Galaxy have a wide, 26mm main camera, while the Pixel has a 28mm lens, which in simple terms means that shots on the main camera of the Pixel are not quite as wide.

Second, the iPhone has the lowest aperture at f/1.6 vs f/1.7 on the Pixel and f/1.8 on the Galaxy. Theoretically, this means that the iPhone is capable of capturing the most light with such a wide aperture.

Finally, you notice that the Pixel lacks a third camera, a telephoto zoom lens, while the iPhone and the Galaxy have such a camera. The iPhone has a 2X zoom lens that it also uses for portraits, but it cannot zoom far away, while the Galaxy has a 5X zoom lens that it cannot use for portrait photos, but that comes in handy if you want to zoom far and away.

And that LiDAR sensor on the iPhone is only used in low-light photos where it helps lock focus faster, but it doesn't affect image quality in any way. The rest is software and algorithms, so let's take a look at the actual photos, shall we?

Scene 1



From the very start, you notice that the iPhone captures a brighter picture, with higher exposure than the other two. This alone makes it the more eye-catchy photo: the brighter light makes colors pop more and this more cheerful look is easy to like.

Scene 2



The brighter shot and the warmer colors on the iPhone here again stand out against the Galaxy and the Pixel. It looks as if the sun is shining brightly on the beach and the photo gives an almost summer like vibe even though we're in October. The truth is that the photo is a bit better than reality, which was somewhere in between the somewhat dull colors on the Galaxy and Pixel, and the extremely bright and cheerful ones on the iPhone.

Scene 3: Person




You have probably already noticed a yellow tint that is present on many iPhone photos, and this one is no exception. What strikes us more here, however, is the skin tones: my skin looks the color of a pumpkin and even though I like pumpkins, I don't want my skin to look like one in photos. The Galaxy seems to strike a better balance as the photo it took is not overexposed and it has a good amount of contrast. The Pixel fails to capture a decent photo in this case as I appear too dark on this image.

Scene 4




This photo is the perfect setting for testing the dynamic range on these phones, and the iPhone passes it with flying colors: notice the beautiful detail in the clouds, the pleasing colors, everything looks spot on. The other two phones also did a very good job, but those photos don't grab you instantly like the one from the iPhone, which is very "shareable".

Scene 5




The trend from the previous photos continues on here: the iPhone captures the brightest photo with a bit of a warm, yellow tint, and pleasing, lively colors.

Scene 6




You can argue that reality doesn't quite look as vibrant as this shot on the iPhone, but this is the kind of look that looks the most jaw-dropping. The other two? More realistic -- yes, but if you want the most 'oohs' and 'aahs', you would probably need to edit those shots to get a similar look to the iPhone.

Scene 7: Portrait




Portrait photography was a trend the iPhone 7 Plus started way back when, but these days even the cheapest phones support it, so it is about the quality, not just the feature. For portraits, a 2X zoom lens gives a more flattering look than your main, wide lens which distorts facial features and makes them appear comical. The shots above are 2X portraits, and the iPhone is the only phone with a 2X zoom lens, so it's definitely got the upper hand with cleaner detail. But is this the best looking photo? It has got that warm look that looks a bit dreamy, but the Galaxy has the more contrasted look. The Pixel, on its part, has produced a very over-sharpened photo, which is not exactly the most flattering look when shooting people. 

Scene 8: Night Portrait




In low light, the Pixel managed to captured a better looking shot with cleaner detail here. We used 2X zoom Portrait Mode on the other two, but it might have been a better idea to use the main camera which would have been able to capture a better photo in such a low light case.

Scene 9: Zoom






If you want to zoom in far and away, the Note 20 Ultra is the phone to get with a 5X zoom periscope lens, which can go up to 50X zoom using software magic! The Pixel 5, in contrast, lacks any telephoto lens at all and maxes out at just 7X digital zoom, and the iPhone can only do 10X zoom in photos.

As you can see in this comparison, detail on the Galaxy is sharper after the 5X zoom level and it's definitely the phone to get for zooming.

Scene 10: Night




As the night falls, the iPhone 12 Pro has to face the current low-light kind, the Pixel 5. On the iPhone photo, you notice the brighter exposure compared to the Galaxy, but if you compare the iPhone against the Pixel, you would notice that the Pixel does a better job with the white balance and the photo looks a bit better on the Pixel.

Scene 11




The brighter exposure on the iPhone is particularly noticeable on this picture, while the other two phones capture a look that one could argue is more true to the darker shades of night time.

Scene 12




In this shot, you will notice the warmer tonality that is a theme with the iPhone, while the Pixel captures a colder and more realistic tones. The Galaxy strikes a nice middle ground, and it might be the best photo in this case.

Scene 13: Ultra-wide




Switching to the ultra-wide camera, the iPhone 12 Pro now can also use Night Mode when shooting with it and it makes for a world of a difference. All shots were taken using auto settings, and notice how much darker the image from the Note is! The iPhone and the Pixel go for a different look again: warmer tones on the iPhone versus colder and more realistic ones on the Pixel.

Scene 14




In this next photo, the main camera on the Note 20 Ultra doesn't capture quite as much light as the other two, so it's easy to toss it away as not quite as impressive. So we're left with the same dilemma, the warmer look of the iPhone or the more realistic capture from the Pixel?

Scene 15: Ultra-wide




One more shot to showcase just how much of a difference having Night Mode on the ultra-wide camera makes! A lot! The ultra-wide camera on the Pixel is not quite as wide as the one on the iPhone, but it captures more finer detail and does better in terms of white balance.

Scene 16: Selfie




Selfie time! The iPhone has captured a good looking photo with a ton of dynamics in the background, but look at those pumpkin colored skin tones! The Galaxy might not have such a dramatic background, but it exposes my face better and adds shadows to it where they should be. The Pixel captures an underexposed photo here with a colder look and the least detail of the bunch.



All three phones also support a wide selfie mode, so you can fit a larger group of people easily. In this case, it's just me, but how do I look? Well, same issue with the pumpkin colored skin tones persists on the iPhone, the Galaxy has a less dramatic look with less of that HDR effect, but with better exposed face which is what matters in a selfie, and the Pixel is again a bit too dark and moody.

Scene 17






And here is one selfie I took at night when the phones have to adjust and fire up the screen to act as a sort of a flash. But again, look at that terrible orange skin tones on the iPhone, that is definitely one issue I wish Apple improves in the future! It has the sharpest photo with the most detail, but the skin tones ruin it for me. The other two phones capture blurrier photos as they have a tougher challenge in low light.

Conclusion



So... do we have a winner, the one camera phone to recommend if you want the absolute best camera quality? And does the new iPhone 12 Pro camera system outdo the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Pixel 5?

With its brighter and more cheerful exposure, the iPhone consistently shoots impressive and shareable photos in both daylight and night time, while images from the other two look a bit duller and dimmer in comparison. Are the shots from the new iPhone 12 Pro perfectly realistic? We would argue they are not, in fact, they are a bit better than reality, but that's a look we guess many people would find appealing.

At night, in low light, the Pixel and the iPhone go shoulder to shoulder. No longer is the Pixel the undisputed camera king it once was, there are new contenders in town. The iPhone 12 Pro is certainly on the same level and sometimes better, but the Pixel usually captures more accurate colors at night while the iPhone goes for a warmer look that has become a signature Apple touch.

And the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra? It is definitely in the conversation for the lead. We found it taking the best selfies, and often times it would strike a balance between the warmer, overexposed look of the iPhone and the slightly underexposed, bluish tonalities often coming from the Pixel. And it's clearly the best phone if you often zoom while taking photos.

And here is my personal take: if you want photos that are just ready to share and look consistent in all cases, go for the iPhone. It has the most 'wow' factor of the bunch. The Pixel is a cheaper alternative and the one for those who value night photos. And finally, the Galaxy hits the middle ground between those two.

So... which phone do you think won this camera comparison?

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