Watch: iPhone X vs. Galaxy S9+ cameras compared

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 2018
In the latest installment of our Galaxy S9 comparison series we pit the cameras of Apple's iPhone X against those Samsung built into its new Galaxy S9+ flagship. Find out which smartphone comes out on top in this video.





The S9+ is Samsung's second flagship device to feature dual cameras, the first being 2017's Note 8. The telephoto lens is pretty much identical to the one on last year's model, but the wide-angle lens on both the S9 and S9+ feature something we've never seen before in a smartphone -- a dual aperture system that works by automatically switching between two f-stop modes to adapt to different lighting conditions.

In practice, the f/1.5 aperture mode lets in more light for cleaner lowlight images, and the f/2.4 mode results in sharper photos. The S9+ will automatically choose the right aperture, unless you're in Pro mode.




By comparison, the iPhone X's wide angle lens sports an f/1.8 aperture, somewhere between the two aperture choices on the S9+. The telephoto lenses on both phones are extremely similar, and all of the rear lenses include optical image stabilization.

The selfie camera on the Samsung lets in more light and has higher resolution than the 7 megapixel, f/2.2 front-facing shooter on the iPhone.

Starting with a telephoto image with Portrait and live focus modes enabled, the background in the Samsung image is noticeably more blurry than that of the X. It also looks more saturated, but the X's photo definitely looks more accurate in terms of color reproduction. The S9+ has more detail as well.




Now with the wide angle lens, the S9+ exposed very well in auto mode, while the X was a bit too dark. Even though the S9+ exposed brighter, it crushes the detail in the dark areas like the hair. Both phones look extremely similar in terms of detail.




We manually chose the f/2.4 aperture mode on the Samsung, and for some reason, Pro mode would underexpose the image every single time. We saw the same result in f/1.5 mode as well, including some loss of detail and sharpness. We adjusted the exposure compensation setting to get the S9+ to expose brighter, but we noticed that the clouds were blown out. We went into the settings and discovered that HDR doesn't work in Pro mode, so don't use it if you're taking photos against a bright background.

Here, we used the telephoto lenses, and noticed the X had more contrast, but the S9+ looked more true to what we saw in real life. The detail between the two is extremely similar.




Switching to the wide lenses, the X has more saturation, as you can tell by the blue signs. Switching the S9+ to f/1.5 mode, we can tell that the background gets slightly blurrier, but we also lose detail in the tree. So if you're in good lighting, don't use f/1.5 mode.




Moving onto selfies using Portrait and Focus modes, the S9+'s lens is so wide that it seems to distort the body, making the subject's head look small.




The X blurs the foreground and the background, which is the effect you get with a professional camera at a fast aperture. The Samsung however, only blurs the background. Detail looks very similar, but the S9+ doesn't blur as much of the hair, which looks much better.

Now switching to Portrait and Focus modes, we notice that the S9+ has a stronger blur effect. We can also see that the X struggles to keep the blur amount consistent near the ear.




The S9+ does a better job at maintaining highlight details outside compared to the X, which also seemed to push the white balance a bit too warm. The Samsung has more detail as well.

For low light, we started the Samsung off with f/2.4 aperture mode. The X was more color accurate in dimly lit scenes. The S9+ definitely had more noise in this mode, but it seemed to boast more detail than the X.




Switching to f/1.5 mode dramatically reduced the noise, but reduced detail. Either way, the X still lacked detail compared to its rival.




The Samsung phone actually dropped its shutter speed to an extremely low 1/8th of a second in both modes in order to preserve detail. This will undoubtedly cause motion blur if the subject moves at all. We manually raised the shutter speed to 1/30th of a second to help with this issue, but doing so forced the ISO setting into manual.

Switching to the telephoto lenses, the S9+ performed much better in every single way. We can really see a huge difference in detail.




Testing portrait and live focus modes, the iPhone automatically used flash, whereas the Samsung didn't, and it totally ruined the photo.




Taking a selfie in auto mode, the S9+ turned its shutter speed down so low that it came out blurry. The X chose to keep its shutter speed high, which made the image darker, but kept things sharp.

Using flash, the Samsung's image was no longer blurry, but the face was distractingly bright compared to the background. The X did a good job of balancing the brightness, but it was still a bit underexposed. Using the rear cameras and flash, the S9+ has much more detail, but you still get that distracting flash effect.

Finally, we switched over to the telephoto lenses, and although the S9+ looked sharper, it appeared over-sharpened due to the bright flash effect. The X looks much more pleasant and balanced, despite the loss in detail.




Both flagship devices have extremely good cameras, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. We'll leave it up to you to decide which are more important for your personal shooting style.
lewchenkobb-15lkrupp
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,389member
    Just looking at the photos here rather than downloading and comparing the full-res pictures, I'd have to go with the iPhone X in most circumstances but there are clearly some photos above where the S9's greater aperture and telephoto options won the day, but when it comes to flash and good natural lighting, the iPhone X seems to be the better option. I'm astonished and rather disturbed to see that the S9 distorts the head size so much. For me, that flaw is great enough that it would toss it out of consideration, even though it performs pretty well in other ways.

    I have to give this one to Apple overall, though depending on your use they are both excellent smartphone cameras. Clearly room for improvement on both devices.
    radarthekatwatto_cobraSoundJudgmentpropod
  • Reply 2 of 27
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,710member
    I would love to know the sensor sizes on the phones.   How about a comparison of a he regular S9 to an iPhone8+?
  • Reply 3 of 27
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,710member
    Two positive reviews/comparisons of the Samsung Galaxy S9+ means an anti-Samsung editorial is coming from DED.
    singularitychasmfreshmakeravon b7paisleydiscomuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 4 of 27
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,389member
    k2kw said:
    Two positive reviews/comparisons of the Samsung Galaxy S9+ means an anti-Samsung editorial is coming from DED.
    He calls that "Tuesday." :)
    freshmakerRayz2016singularity
  • Reply 5 of 27
    I’ve personally lost all confidence in the iPhones ability to take great photos. Both my 7plus and the wife’s 7 have this really annoying ‘feature’ of struggling to keep focus on a subject. Keeps zooming in and out of focus on the subject just when you want to take the shot. Mostly takes it ok in the end but how annoying is the usability. Keeping my phone steady tonight in a well lit restaurant it struggled to lock onto a plate of food 10 times! Ridiculous. Wife’s phone was the same. She is on iOS 10, me 11. 
    My last iPhone did it too. (6plus). Not every time but enough to be noticeable. More so in lower light.


    have friends at work who have noticed it too, some more than others. Bizarre. Not sure if the X suffers from this issue or not. 

    It getting to to the point where I’m considering whether it’s worth switching. I constantly hear that the pixel 2 camera is so much better than the iPhone , even the X. And a comparison on the verge put the S9 camera up there with the best of them.



  • Reply 6 of 27
    Great analysis.  I personally LOVE the camera on my X.  It’s miles away better than the 6s Plus I upgraded from (which I realize is obvious, but I was still pleasantly surprised).  Looking at those photos tho the S9 to me wins pretty handily.  Good to see some competition to challenge Apple to continue to improve
  • Reply 7 of 27
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,029moderator
    Detail looks very similar, but the S9+ doesn't blur as much of the hair, which looks much better.”

    I hardly think this makes up for shrinking the subjects entire head.  With selfies being the most taken pics by a lot of users seems for those users the Samsung would be disqualified. 
    watto_cobraRayz2016pscooter63StrangeDays
  • Reply 8 of 27
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,746member
    “Detail looks very similar, but the S9+ doesn't blur as much of the hair, which looks much better.”

    I hardly think this makes up for shrinking the subjects entire head.  With selfies being the most taken pics by a lot of users seems for those users the Samsung would be disqualified. 
    For the most part both cameras performed great and I'm still amazed at how far miniaturized camera tech has come in the last decade (and it's obvious there's a long way to go, too), but that shrinking head effect was so out of place that I'd disqualify the S9+ based solely on that egregious effect and what you say about self portraits being such a common use of modern smartphones
    pscooter63
  • Reply 9 of 27
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,746member
    Great analysis.  I personally LOVE the camera on my X.  It’s miles away better than the 6s Plus I upgraded from (which I realize is obvious, but I was still pleasantly surprised).  Looking at those photos tho the S9 to me wins pretty handily.  Good to see some competition to challenge Apple to continue to improve
    Maybe I missed it or forgot about it since these probably should be done right after the iPhone X was released, but I think a comparison to iPhones from both a year ago and two years ago would make for a more relevant for iPhone buyers. While these comparisons are interesting, I doubt there are many on the fence between buying these two devices.
    watto_cobrabaconstangfotoformat
  • Reply 10 of 27
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    The differences right now between top end smart phones are absurdly small, limited essentially physics and the current limits of tech.
    watto_cobramuthuk_vanalingamMplsPairmanchairmanbb-15atomic101jony0
  • Reply 11 of 27


    Impressive differences here.
    Soliairmanchairmanwatto_cobrabb-15
  • Reply 12 of 27
    Excellent review and comparison.between the two Flagship cameras using real-world (non-studio) locations. AI does it, again!
    edited March 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 27
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,280member
    k2kw said:
    Two positive reviews/comparisons of the Samsung Galaxy S9+ means an anti-Samsung editorial is coming from DED.
    How strange that the haters, knockoff defenders and agenda pushers get so butthurt about well-reasoned DED pieces. 
    pscooter63watto_cobrabb-15
  • Reply 14 of 27
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,284member
    foggyhill said:
    The differences right now between top end smart phones are absurdly small, limited essentially physics and the current limits of tech.
    THis was my thought as well. In general I was partial to the iphone pics over the S9 ones in most cases, but there were definitely some cases where the S9 did better. As a practical matter, I would give more weight to how each phone performs as a point and shoot, with no fiddling of settings, since that is how the vast majority of pictures are taken. As for the ‘selfie’ camera, I put very little weight in the sensor resolution. I rarely take selfies anyway, but in general, selfies are a quick shot to show you and a friend at an event rather than a photographic work of art. 

    In the end, the camera specs and differences may be something that pundits and fans/syncophants perseverate over, but I don’t think the differences are enough to argure for one phone over the other.
    watto_cobrabb-15
  • Reply 15 of 27
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    MplsP said:
    foggyhill said:
    The differences right now between top end smart phones are absurdly small, limited essentially physics and the current limits of tech.
    THis was my thought as well. In general I was partial to the iphone pics over the S9 ones in most cases, but there were definitely some cases where the S9 did better. As a practical matter, I would give more weight to how each phone performs as a point and shoot, with no fiddling of settings, since that is how the vast majority of pictures are taken. As for the ‘selfie’ camera, I put very little weight in the sensor resolution. I rarely take selfies anyway, but in general, selfies are a quick shot to show you and a friend at an event rather than a photographic work of art. 

    In the end, the camera specs and differences may be something that pundits and fans/syncophants perseverate over, but I don’t think the differences are enough to argure for one phone over the other.
    That's the funny thing here, most tests done are what I call, "tripod tests", the selfie test is not such a test and indeed it is a S9 failure.

    Other real tests would be run and gun type tests, child does something crazy and you have to get your phone out to take a picture, most smartphones are still slower than cameras doing this as my family can attest on outings. I always have the best photos of children cause it takes less than a second from seeing something to the shot being taken (I got a Canon g7x).

    I'm not talking about technical quality here, I'm talking getting the shot done (there is a technical aspect there, but not in a visible way, it's in the mechanics of getting the shot and making many shots in a row).

    Most times, if you know your camera's limitations, you can sort of work around it by working harder to get the shot (which a real photograph would do). The differences between smart phones fall squarely in that realm; they're now trivial.

    Most people couldn't get a good shot out of a DSLR in full auto with some wonderful event just in front of them and people are quibbling about what amounts to minute details.

    If your shot quality depends on pixel peeping you are doing it WRONG.



    edited March 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 27
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,917member
    k2kw said:
    Two positive reviews/comparisons of the Samsung Galaxy S9+ means an anti-Samsung editorial is coming from DED.
    How strange that the haters, knockoff defenders and agenda pushers get so butthurt about well-reasoned DED pieces. 
    Well reasoned? LOL
    singularityavon b7muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 27
    bb-15bb-15 Posts: 252member
    k2kw said:
    Two positive reviews/comparisons of the Samsung Galaxy S9+ means an anti-Samsung editorial is coming from DED.
    How strange that the haters, knockoff defenders and agenda pushers get so butthurt about well-reasoned DED pieces. 
    I think the logic of those who continually trash Apple is this; a hundred articles bashing Apple is fine according to that anti-Apple view; (see the MacWorld Macalope column for multiple examples of negative Apple media).
    - But when a journalist dares to defend Apple and criticize the competition, for those who trash Apple it is like their world view has been attacked.  
    - Not a strawman argument on my part; I can produce multiple examples of irrational hate towards Apple on the web and an intolerance of any rebuttal. 
    watto_cobraStrangeDays
  • Reply 18 of 27
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,921member
    An excellent place to test low light capability is in a cave.  I have tried to take pictures inside a cave with iPhone 4. It failed completely. After so many years I wonder whether this problem is solved. 
    lkrupp
  • Reply 19 of 27
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,746member
    tzeshan said:
    An excellent place to test low light capability is in a cave.  I have tried to take pictures inside a cave with iPhone 4. It failed completely. After so many years I wonder whether this problem is solved. 
    Ideally, that would be a great test for Android-based smartphones since most of their users live in their parent's basements. :ba dum tish:
    edited March 2018 evilutionwatto_cobralkrupprazorpit
  • Reply 20 of 27
    rain22rain22 Posts: 22member
    tzeshan said:
    An excellent place to test low light capability is in a cave.  I have tried to take pictures inside a cave with iPhone 4. It failed completely. After so many years I wonder whether this problem is solved. 
    Is that you Batman?

    razorpit
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