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

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Ho boy, this is probably the test I was looking forward to the most, considering the Galaxy S9’s new variable aperture technology and super-duper-uber fast f/1.5 aperture lens. But the results are closer than expected. In fact, at a glance all the photos look pretty similar with minimal noise and fairly accurate colour reproduction. But what would this comparison be without a little quibbling.

Punching in on the images you’ll immediately notice that three of these images are fairly similar (S9, S8+ and iPhone X) with fairly similar levels of luminance noise. On the Huawei Mate 10 Pro though, there’s hardly any noise at all. But you will notice that it’s noticeably less sharp, which probably means that its noise reduction was a lot more aggressive. In fact, one thing I find hilarious is that if you look at the girl’s face, you can see that on the Mate 10 Pro, her skin is practically flawless — almost like there is some beautification going on. It’s probably just the noise reduction doing work.

With the Galaxy S9’s wide f/1.5 aperture, you’d expect it to have less noise than the Galaxy S8+ but both images are pretty similar. Curious, my colleague Hanif dug around in the EXIF data and found that they both had fairly similar ISO (S8+ at ISO400 while the S9 was at ISO320). Interestingly, the iPhone X had the lowest ISO setting at just ISO160.

Instead, it dropped shutter speed to just 1/4 sec. We suspect it’s because we were shooting it on a tripod for this test so the phone, detecting that there was no movement, knew it could drop shutter speed in favour of a lower ISO. If this is really the case then I’m genuinely impressed at how intelligent the iPhone X is at taking photos. However, the image itself isn’t what I’d call the best. There’s noticeable colour noise on the flower pot which makes it look the least appealing to me.

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Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro had the highest ISO setting at ISO800 so that should give you an idea of how aggressive their noise reduction was.

Regardless, I think these images are all really close and it’s hard for me to pick a winner, especially between the S8+ and S9. However, if you’re forcing me to choose the one I like the most, I’d go with the S9 because it edges the S8+ out by just a hair.

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