Smartphone camera comparison: Samsung Galaxy S9 vs iPhone X vs Huawei Mate 10 Pro vs S8+

HDR


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HDR or High Dynamic Range is a camera feature that’s pretty important in smartphone cameras. A phone’s HDR capabilities usually refers to its ability to capture multiple exposures in a challenging lighting scene (high contrast between shadows and highlights) and combine them into a single image that’s evenly lit. A smartphone with good HDR capabilities should not lose details in the shadows or the highlights.

This was a pretty challenging scene for the smartphones. I would like to apologise for the slightly different framing — we didn’t have a tripod and had to eyeball it — but the phones were exposed at the same spot: Right at the top of the tower.

Running a blind test in the office, many of my colleagues preferred the Galaxy S8+’s photo compared to the Galaxy S9. But I disagree because the shadows in the crevices (and indeed overall) were a little too harsh. Being there myself, the Galaxy S9’s photo is a lot closer to how it looked in person. In fact, the entire image that the Galaxy S9 produced was mighty impressive, being evenly exposed throughout while also retaining the nice blues in the sky. Samsung’s S9 is definitely the winner for me here.

The S8+ definitely comes in a close second and I think it does a slightly better job at retaining the right amount of brightness with a slightly cooler tone, but for me, it loses points for the overly harsh shadows. Still, it’s a sight better than the other two.

Apple’s iPhone X was just a disaster with its default HDR Auto setting, but it still wasn’t as bad as the Huawei Mate 10 Pro. Huawei’s smartphone has a dedicated HDR mode but it fails miserably here, even giving the image a green tint, putting it dead last in my list.

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