iPhone 8 Plus vs Galaxy Note 8 low light camera shootout: Which is better for taking photos at night?

When it comes to taking pictures in broad daylight, you'd be hard-pressed to point out a recent flagship that's not capable of snapping a good photo. Yes, some are better than others, but we've come to the point where every major smartphone out there is capable of delivering agreeable results when taking pictures during the day. However, the same cannot be said about shooting at night. Low light performance has not traditionally been among the strongest suits of smartphone cameras, although this is gradually changing for the better with each new generation of phones. With the wider adoption of OIS (optical image stabilization) over the past couple of years, and thanks to the great advances in camera software that we've recently witnessed, smartphones are becoming ever more capable of coping with less-than-optimal lighting conditions. 

But enough about that, let's cut straight to the chase and introduce the two participants in this comparison: the iPhone 8 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Both phones are capable of taking good, if not outstanding, photos during the daytime, but which is better for nighttime photography? We've already established that the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ have some of the best cameras for low-light photography out there, but does the iPhone 8 Plus have what it takes to snatch the crown from Samsung? That's what we're here to find out!

Scene 1

Click to expand high-resolution images

It's not quite dark out yet, but we're entering the so-called “blue hour”, which is the perfect starting point for our comparison. This way, we'll be able to see how the cameras perform in a broader range of scenarios—from late at dusk, til after dark.

Right off the bat, the most noticeable difference between the photos is in the white balance. No surprises here – the iPhone 8 Plus manages to strike a more accurate look, while the Note 8 is a bit on the warm side, which we've come to expect from Samsung at this point. As a side effect from this difference in color temperature, the sky in the iPhone photo pops out a little bit more, with more saturated blues that pleasantly contrast with the warm light radiating from the windows below.

At this point, we usually take an identical area from the two shots and look at it in full size, but since there's a lot going on in this scene—and in the ones below, as a matter of fact—we are going to be examining two (or more) areas from each shot, so as to get a better picture (no pun intended) of how both cameras handle different scenarios.

When examining the two shots in full size, there is a marked difference in the level of detail in each. The Note 8 photo is noticeably sharper and more detailed, although in some areas, such the clock tower, there are visible traces of the unsharp mask that Samsung's software applies to each image. In this particular scenario, it manifests in the form of a stark outline to the dome of the tower.

The iPhone 8 Plus, on the other hand, produces a much softer image. So much so that right after taking this first photo I had to give the iPhone's camera another wipe, just to make sure, although I'd cleaned it beforehand, and snapped another picture of the building. Alas, the results were no different. For whatever advances the iPhone 8 Plus has made over the 7 Plus in camera tech and software, it fares eerily similarly to last year's model when it comes to nighttime photography.

Scene 2

Click to expand high-resolution images

The brightly-lit cathedral in this shot serves as a strong point of contrast against the dark sky, allowing us to examine how each camera handles dynamic scenes.

Looking at the two shots, there's an immediately noticeable difference in color, only this time around the it's the Note 8 that better represents the scene. Or at least it does to me, as I saw it with my own eyes. The iPhone shot is duller, with overall cooler tones and a tinge of green, while the Note 8 photo is vibrant, sharp and, in my opinion, better captures the brilliance of the light reflected off the cathedral's facade.

The difference in detail is arguably even starker here than in the previous scene. The Galaxy Note 8 really does a good job at capturing all the intricate details on the cathedral, while the iPhone 8 Plus murks it up quite a bit.

While I was at it, I thought I'd snap some more pictures of the cathedral from different angles, for good measure and because whatever light was left in the sky was about to completely fade away. You can take a look at all the photos I took in the gallery below:

We're not taking a more detailed look at each of these photos, because pretty much everything that's been said thus far applies to them as well. One thing of note is that the iPhone 8 Plus managed to nail a more accurate white balance in most shots. This is especially noticeable in the first set of photos, where the one from the Note 8 is noticeably cooler in tone and just looks off, whereas the one from the iPhone is pretty much spot-on. When it comes to detail, however, Samsung is still king.

Scene 3

Click to expand high-resolution images

The iPhone 8 Plus took the brighter shot in this scenario, which is not bad per se, as it accentuates the foreground better, but it also leads to the highlights on the building in the back being completely blown out. The Note 8, on the other hand, produces a more evenly exposed shot, albeit at the cost of the foreground being darker, but where it truly excels once again is in pulling out detail.

For the record, this photo was taken at 2x zoom on both phones, but whereas the Galaxy Note 8 utilized its telephoto lens to achieve true optical magnification, the iPhone 8 Plus did not – instead, the iPhone had to rely on its main camera and used digital zoom to close in on the scene. This comes down to the fact that the Galaxy Note 8 is equipped with an f/2.4 telephoto lens, while the iPhone 8 Plus sports an f/2.8 telephoto shooter, just like last year's 7 Plus. Since it was quite dark out, and due to its smaller aperture, the iPhone could not employ actual optical magnification. As you can see from the crops below, there's quite a gap between the two photos in terms of image quality.

Scene 4

Click to expand high-resolution images

This is the one scene where I feel the iPhone 8 Plus clearly did an all-around better job than the Note 8. The iPhone nailed the color temperature of this shot, while the Note 8 was inclined toward cooler tones once again. Furthermore, the highlights are way overblown in the Note 8 shot, and although the image is somewhat sharper as a whole, it doesn't look as good as the photo from the iPhone 8 Plus, partly because there's quite a bit of detail lost in the clipped highlights.

Scene 5

Click to expand high-resolution images

Alright, last scene, and it's a tough one! We have a poorly-lit environment and a very dark subject up front. There's also a bright building in the in the distance, which serves as a point of contrast.

Here, the iPhone struggles to properly expose the metal statue while slightly blowing out some of the highlights on the building in the back. The Note 8 does a better all-around job, with more accurate white balance, better exposure, and more details resolved from the environment. Neither shot looks particularly stunning, but this is a bit of an extreme scenario that we're dealing with for the purpose of this camera test.

In conclusion

In closing, both the Galaxy Note 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus perform similarly to their predecessors (or smaller siblings in the case of the Samsung). The Note 8 does just as well as the Galaxy S8/S8+ for nighttime photography, which is a good thing, since the S8 models excel in this area, as we've already established. The iPhone 8 Plus performs similarly to the iPhone 7 Plus, which isn't exactly good news, since the 7 Plus isn't as adept at low-light photography as some of its competitors. Although the two cameras on the new iPhone Plus model have been improved in some ways over last year's 7 Plus, expect to reap the majority of said improvements during the daytime.

While the Note 8 touts OIS (optical image stabilization) in its telephoto camera, the iPhone 8 Plus does not. It's also stuck with an f/2.8 aperture for its telephoto shooter, same as last year's model. This limits the iPhone to an extent, as evident from Scene 3, forcing it to rely on digital zoom more often than the Note 8.

As it stands, it's not hard for me to choose a winner between the two. Although the Galaxy Note 8 tends to not be as accurate as the iPhone when it comes to white balance, it simply produces much more detailed photos at night. When the iPhone manages to nail a shot, it does look good (Scene 4 for example), but that happens all too rarely, as the phone just tends to struggle in more dimly-lit environments. I, for one, am willing to trade the more "natural" looking colors of the iPhone 8 for the all-around better sharpness and clarity that the Note 8 offers, but that's just me. 


Related phones

iPhone 8 Plus
  • Display 5.5" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A11 Bionic, Hexa-core, 2390 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 2691 mAh(21h 3G talk time)
Galaxy Note 8
  • Display 6.3" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3300 mAh(22h talk time)



1. bucky

Posts: 3794; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

As an apple fan, this one wasn’t even close. Nice work Samsung.

5. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

I agree wholeheartedly, though I think that scene 4 was a bit overexposed and lost detail as a result.

24. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

lol, this one was just too obvious. To say that even the iphone X has exactly thesame cameras as the iphone 8+? Good job samsung, good job. I think the last hope to dethrone samsung in the camera department is the mate 10 pro and the PXL2

54. ph00ny

Posts: 2068; Member since: May 26, 2011

Bankz - Don't count out the iPhone X yet. It has the same telephoto setup as the Note 8 and Apple still has some time to tweak the software.

75. Trex95

Posts: 2383; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

https://youtu.be/5liCFE1Jkwg Then how G6 has a better camera than note 8? Comparison made by expert photographer.

79. toosmoove

Posts: 914; Member since: Sep 28, 2017

Someone can be an expert photographer & not know how to take pictures with a smartphone; my mother-in-law being one of them.

36. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

I am impressed that iPA called it like it was. Good thing it wasn't Victor who did this comparison, otherwise he would have handed the win to the iPhone and caused the comment section to devolve into conversational diarrhea.

64. xchatter

Posts: 44; Member since: Mar 25, 2013

I was also thinking about this. I guess it's never late for this site to go in the right and honest direction. (except for Victor ofc)

72. Joms_US

Posts: 201; Member since: Oct 02, 2016

Victor's hand elongates when he shoots non-iCrap cameras and shortens when it is during selfie shots. =D

8. combatmedic870

Posts: 986; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

Alright....and this is the camera that has dxos top camera. So much for that.

10. bucky

Posts: 3794; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Dxo is useless

11. nikhil23

Posts: 499; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

I don't think Dxo rated Note 8 yet

77. JoshuaDK1984

Posts: 24; Member since: Apr 01, 2017

Is has and when it comes to photography Note8 is best and on video iPhone 8 is best

25. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

tbh, DXO has being irrelevant for some time now. They've only gotten it right with the Pixel and htc U11 for a year now.

12. tedkord

Posts: 17463; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I haven't seen all that much difference in flagship camera quality in a couple of years in these tests. Occasionally one nails it and the other falters badly, but mostly there's not that much difference. Its a smartphone camera. They're all pretty good these days.

14. Well-Manicured-Man

Posts: 711; Member since: Jun 16, 2015

I agree that Note 8 won this contest but we should not forget that the real competitor for the note 8 is the iPhone X since it also features a 2.4 lense combined OIS.

27. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

you couldn't have said it better tbh.. Although, this was a straight up victory for sammy.

42. tedkord

Posts: 17463; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Mind you, I don't use the camera on phones much, and even when I do I only view on the phone, so the camera isn't overly important to me. So I'm not an ideal judge. They're all good enough for me.

26. maherk

Posts: 7010; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

People need to out aside their love for a certain company and realize that both phones are fantastic shooters. Yes the Note 8 won this test easily, but I've seen plenty of other reviews where the iPhone took the win. Both phones are capable of delivering fantastic shots no matter what the conditions are.

46. Xilam unregistered

I agree. Samsung gets full credit.

48. TL24SS

Posts: 6; Member since: Nov 12, 2015

Agreed, this was a no contest, Note 8 hands down. I've been able to capture some excellent shots in daylight though so I'm happy with my 8+. Love the camera upgrade from the 7+!

2. nikhil23

Posts: 499; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

other than the unnatural sky color in cathedral photo, Note 8 is much better. Good exposure and very little noise Also scene4 looked better on ip8. Overall I prefer Note 8

3. dazed1

Posts: 806; Member since: Jul 28, 2015

iToy got destroyed once again.

9. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

I don't know which photos you're viewing, but most of these pictures look almost identical lol. The only differences in most shots are the oversaturated colors the Note 8 put out.

13. nikhil23

Posts: 499; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

try again after washing your eyes

16. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

How about you try out some punctuation?

18. nikhil23

Posts: 499; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

try again, after washing your eyes after washing your eyes, try again wash your eyes and try again

19. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Jesus Christ, the educational system has failed you miserably.

22. peace247 unregistered

This guy is so lame. Whenever his itoy loses to something and he doesn't have s**t to say, he resorts to grammer nazi tactics. Seriously, get a life.

32. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

I need to get a life for wanting f**king complete sentences out of a retard who told me to "wash my eyes"? You people are such lost causes, it's almost pitiful.

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