Samsung Galaxy S9+ vs iPhone X vs Pixel 2 XL vs Galaxy Note 8: Low-light camera shoot-out


Ever since Samsung teased the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ for the very first time, the new camera has been at the forefront of the company's advertising efforts. With a second shooter for the S9+, variable apertures on both phones, super slow-mo video recording, and Bixby Vision integration, there's plenty to talk about the new Galaxy cameras. But the main thing that that Samsung likes to boast about is perhaps the variable aperture, which the company claims improves low-light performance substantially. In fact, Samsung representatives at MWC told us that the new phones will be able to capture 28% more light than the S8 models, and with 30% less noise. But is this really the case? Are the Galaxy S9 and S9+ that much of an improvement over last year's models when it comes to low-light photography? Well, that's what we're here to find out.

In this comparison, we are pitting the Galaxy S9+ against the iPhone X, the Pixel 2 XL, and the Note 8, in order to find out just how better it is than the others, if at all. So, without further ado, let's get right to it. 100% crops are available for each scene in its respective gallery.

Scene 1




Without pixel peeping, I can tell you that all phones, except the iPhone X, which for some reason has left us with this unnaturally orange shot, do a good job at capturing the light on the facade. When we zoom in, however, the differences between how the four devices treat detail and texture become apparent. As you can see from the crops for this scene, Samsung has toned down the sharpening for the S9. The Note 8 photo exhibits loads of sharpening in the finer details, which makes the bumpy texture of the stones pop, but it looks quite unnatural when you look at the image in full size. The iPhone X renders detail on the building in a similar fashion to the S9. It doesn't look bad, save for the orange cast, but many people may prefer the over-sharpened image from the Note 8. The Pixel 2 XL, in my opinion, does the best job out of the four in this scene, as it manages to preserve detail without relying on excessive sharpening.

Scene 2



This scene is trickier than the previous one, because there's little to no direct light being cast on the church. In this scenario, the S9 does a really fine job at producing a clean, sharp-looking image. Just take a look at the branches above the dome – they are razor-sharp in the S9+ photo. Of course, this comes at the cost of some ringing artifacts around the branches, but that's nothing out of the ordinary. The Note 8 shot is obviously darker, but it's still sharp enough and looks much better than the one from the iPhone X. The iPhone, in this scene, produces a rather unpleasant, murky image with plenty of noise in the sky and other solid-colored areas of the image. The Pixel 2 XL does an alright job here, but not as good as the S9+. The photo looks clean all-around, but detail could be much better.

Scene 3




This is where it gets interesting. Neon signs, the bane of smartphone photography! There's not much to say about the S9+, Note 8, and iPhone X, as the results are very similar, but the Pixel just kills it in this scene. The only photo where the neon signs are not blown out is the one from the Pixel 2 XL. Just look at that "Segafredo" sign on the left. The other three do a commendable job of capturing detail and suppressing noise in darker areas, but the Pixel 2 is way ahead in this scene. Exposure stacking at its finest.

Scene 4



This one is a close race between the four. The Note 8 is the sharpest of the bunch, which comes down to the aggressive post-processing it employs. However, in this scene, I think, it's for the better. Looking at the statue, you can make out subtle details in the Note 8 shot that you can't see in the others. The downside is that there are some nasty lens flares in the shot. The Galaxy S9+ produces an images that is sharper than the iPhone X and Pixel 2 XL photos, but not quite up to par with the Note 8. The iPhone X does an alright job, but blows out some of the highlights on the horse, while the Pixel 2 XL nails the exposure perfectly.

Scene 5



Alright, let's check out the front-facing cams on these phones. Right off the bat, the Galaxy S9+ and Note 8 are head and shoulders above the other two. The iPhone X shot is very murky and noisy, while the Pixel 2 XL fails to properly expose the scene. The Note 8 shot, while nice and bright, is a bit on the soft side and also has a pinkish tint to it. The Galaxy S9+ fares better than the rest, producing a bright, clean, and detailed image.

Conclusion


Alright, so what did we learn here? Well, for one, the Galaxy S9+ is not that big of an improvement over the Note 8/S8, but it does produce more natural-looking results, since Samsung has obviously toned down some aspects of its post-processing algorithms. The Pixel 2 XL, while not the sharpest of the bunch, is very good at stacking exposures and producing well-balanced images, even when dealing with high-contrast scenes. Neon signs against a darker background will usually come out blown out when shooting on "Auto" (or the background will be pitch-black if you expose for the sign), but the Pixel 2 XL manages to pull through and deliver commendable results, thanks to Google's awesome exposure stacking trickery. The iPhone X is not as good as the rest when it comes to shooting at night. The images often times come out soft and too noisy for my liking.

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83 Comments

1. bucky

Posts: 3778; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

In my opinion the Pixel 2 and a distant second iPhone X wiped the floor this time around.

2. bucknassty

Posts: 1326; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

WHHHAAAAATTTTTTT.... pixel 2 killed the comp... but we need a true to eye sample and focus point to consider this a real test

3. bucky

Posts: 3778; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

That’s what I just said...

15. tedkord

Posts: 17318; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Ummmm, no, it's not.

17. sgodsell

Posts: 7236; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The Pixel 2 XL was the best and the iPhone X was a distant last.

55. Trex95

Posts: 2380; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

You wish pixel 2 xl and note 8 the worst seems that you didn’t noticed the lens flare plus pixel 2 xl camera makes the sense kinda greenish.

82. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 966; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

They're taking the worst possible photo scenario, the edge of low-light limits, and comparing the cameras. Expect each camera to have some sort of limitation in this extreme scenario. Besides, Facebook trashes the images with compression so most people won't really appreciate the slight differences.

4. bucky

Posts: 3778; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Double post edit.

5. bucknassty

Posts: 1326; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

oh i thought it read iphone killed it... sorry about that... man that pixel camera is something special... i wonder what the pixel 3 will bring

6. bucky

Posts: 3778; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

It really is man. The pixel is definitely the best camera phone on the market in most scenarios. It stands out with managing light, details and especially colors.

45. WGACA

Posts: 130; Member since: May 08, 2015

No it's not. The S9 is. Ask Dxomark or watch these to see for yourself: https://youtu.be/V6VI6Z_Ce4E https://youtu.be/9x0dL2-_MEg

79. Cat97

Posts: 1865; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Yeah, I'm sure that people looking at pictures ask for focus point all the time. "Hey, where is the focus point" ?

8. Nexus4lifes

Posts: 290; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Bucky you are either blind or not wearing your glasses. Example: check picture 2: bottom corner - how the x over exposes the lights- pixel 2xl perfect exposure you can even see people behind the lights. Left side middle x again shows an overexposed mess - pixel 2 xl perfect details. X shows inaccurate colors - pixel 2 xl shows more true to life colors. You are a perfect example of iheep

13. bucky

Posts: 3778; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

And you need to work on your reading. Pixel wins as mentioned above. Don’t get so butt hurt anyways lol.

18. sgodsell

Posts: 7236; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The one that is butt hurt is you Bucky, because the iPhone X here is dead last.

21. bucknassty

Posts: 1326; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

yeah x is last

22. bucky

Posts: 3778; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Where did I sound butt hurt? Reading not your thing either? And you’re entitled to your opinion.

28. maherk

Posts: 6775; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I get it that you might not have seen the difference between the pictures if you were using your phone, but didn't you read the conclusions under each of the pictures? It's clear that it was a toss up between the Pixel and the S9, followed by the Note 8, but I would love to hear why you think the iPhone X was better than the S9.

38. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Are you insane? Look at scene 3 and pay attention to the sign that says "Segafredo" YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW IT SAYS "SEGAFREDO" UNLESS YOU LOOK AT THE PIXEL XL 2 IMAGE! Pixel XL 2 totally shred the rest in all areas. By the way, I have an iPhone X. But give credit where it's due.

47. WGACA

Posts: 130; Member since: May 08, 2015

That's only one scene. This whole comparison is only 4 shots. So many more scenarios out there. What's the point of reading that sign when the rest of the shot is noisy and has a green tint? If you want to know which is truly better read Dxomark or watch these: https://youtu.be/V6VI6Z_Ce4E https://youtu.be/9x0dL2-_MEg S9+ clearly has the best overal camera at the moment. You can even create that unnatural contrasted image like the Pixel by simply using autocorrect after the shot on the S9. Not to mention in Pro mode you can get even better shots if you know what you're doing.

63. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Why are you comparing to S9+? Why not wait for Pixel 3? Did I mention Pixel uses only 1 lense to do all this? You have to admit, it's pretty awesome.

65. WGACA

Posts: 130; Member since: May 08, 2015

Cause Pixel 2 is only 5 months old, Pixel 3 is 8 months away

66. Awalker

Posts: 1973; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

It seems like it really irks you that people disagree with you and Dxomark. We can all look at the pictures and come to our own conclusion.

71. ColinW

Posts: 412; Member since: Jun 04, 2014

You need to stop being so selective when you look at a photo. Look at the aircon below, the whole unit is far clearer including the writing. Look at the main lettering on the right side and again it is far better on the S9. In fact, for me, the majority of the content is better on the S9 in this case. I am not against the Pixel it is an amazing camera, just your very selective observation from which you derive a false conclusion of the picture overall.

56. sissy246

Posts: 7087; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

You really need to put your glass on. They all wiped the floor with the iPhoneX. It was by far the worst of all.

57. DRS1977

Posts: 679; Member since: May 27, 2015

The iPhone X is dead last, no question.

61. 47AlphaTango

Posts: 718; Member since: Sep 27, 2015

From the photos perspective. I don't see any difference at all. And BTW. Apple didn't introduce their new camera system to be able to take better camera shots at lowlight night conditions.

77. Marcwand3l

Posts: 426; Member since: May 08, 2017

They did but there only so much in can do with an inferior camera sensor in comparison to the S9 or the Pixel 2. Right now the S9 is clearly the best performer in low light. The Pixel 2 performs great thanks to software, I know it because I installed Gcam on my Mi A1. it improved low light photos and selfies dramatically. But install the Gcam on the S9(not that it needs it) and it would probably still perform better than the Pixel.

7. Landon

Posts: 1245; Member since: May 07, 2015

The Pixel 2 still has the best camera found on a smartphone.

9. libra89

Posts: 2272; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

I like the processing better on the S9+ over the Note 8 but the Pixel 2 is still really good.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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