A few weeks ago, Huawei unveiled the Mate 20 Pro, its new powerhouse flagship that is not only here to compete with Google and Samsung, it’s here to beat them. Huawei took multiple approaches to win this battle, from the 3D Face Unlock to the in-display fingerprint scanner, but the feature that made the most headlines was its triple-camera system.
The company had already incorporated a similar camera system with last year’s P20 Pro, but it didn’t quite match the competition and the company took note, changing the sensor selection with the updated set-up on the Mate 20 Pro, which no longer includes a monochrome sensor.
Now, the triple camera consists of a main 40MP wide-angle lens, a 20MP ultra wide-angle lens and an 8MP telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom.
It’s an interesting array of cameras that provides a lot of flexibility. The ultra-wide lens is perfect for expansive shots while the 5x optical zoom peers into subjects closely unlike any other mobile camera. Huawei brings it all together with Master AI, its machine learning software that enhances pictures through processing.
With all of the attention the Mate 20 Pro has received, the Galaxy Note 9 has sort of been forgotten even though its dual-camera system is nothing to shrug off. The Note 9 features a 12MP wide-angle camera and a 12MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom that’s always been a strong competitor to the Pixel and iPhone cameras.
On the spec comparison, the Mate 20 Pro has the Galaxy Note 9 easily beat, but when it comes to taking pictures, the match is more even than specs would suggest.
Samsung’s camera capabilities are pretty well known. The photos come out look very crisp with lots of detail but tend to lean too much on the sharpness and saturation dial. Huawei isn’t too far behind with its processing, also having an affinity for sharpening and saturating photos beyond my liking.
Continuing its arsenal of features, the Mate 20 Pro also has a Night Mode that works similar to the Pixel 3’s Night Sight. It doesn’t work quite as well, but it does offer up more detail in areas that otherwise would be completely dark.
The Note 9 doesn’t boast this level of low-light skill, but it’s raw ability is still good nonetheless. It keeps noise at bay and gathers a good amount of detail in the shadows.
You can’t go wrong with either the Mate 20 Pro or Galaxy Note 9 camera. Both are great and that take impressive photos. Take a look at the camera samples in the gallery above and see which one you prefer.
Google last week officially unveiled the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, showcasing the refined design, including the addition of wireless charging. The highlight of the show, however, was the Pixel 3’s camera, which Google improved upon yet again with several new features. To see if the Pixel retains its throne as the best smartphone camera on the market, we put it against Apple’s new iPhone XS.
Google’s whole conceit with the Pixel has been software; it’s been that way from the beginning. Rather than get caught up in megapixels and multiple cameras, the company used its legendary machine learning to create images that were sharper, more true-to-life, and better than anything else on the market. Then, with the Pixel 2, it introduced the Visual Core to handle complex imaging for even better results.
With the Pixel 3, Google again focused almost entirely on software. The device still has a 12.2MP with f/1.8 and dual-pixel phase detection autofocus, as well as optical and electronic image stabilization. But that’s secondary to the many new software tricks, including Top Shot, Photobooth Mode, Group Selfie, and more.
Google’s prized feature is HDR+, which can capture up to 8 frames and merge them together for the best possible photo, ensuring shadows are bright and highlights aren’t blown out. This is the feature that has helped the Pixel excel as the market’s most impressive smartphone camera.
Apple’s iPhone XS does similar software tricky. With a new Smart HDR mode, Apple’s new flagship also combines multiple photos into one, bringing more highlight and shadow detail into images. In our review of the iPhone XS, we saw the device’s camera software produce terrific pictures.
Like Google, Apple this year primarily focused on software over hardware, integrating the iPhone XS’ ISP, Neural Engine, and advanced algorithms. The results really do speak for themselves and are a huge step up from the iPhone X, which already featured a great camera.
The big advantage the iPhone XS holds over the Pixel 3 is the device’s telephoto lens. It’s something people often fail to mention when comparing the iPhone and the Pixel. Having a second telephoto lens makes the iPhone XS a more flexible shooter and works fantastically well when taking portrait photos.
Google did address that in the Pixel 3 with a new feature called Super Res Zoom, but it’s not quite as powerful. Digital zoom isn’t nearly as good as optical zoom, no matter how amazing Google’s algorithms are.
In the sample photos we took, it’s clear that both handsets are capable of taking incredible images, and each has their own quirks. The iPhone still produces warmer images, which I tend to like. The Pixel, meanwhile, make pictures that look instantly ready for social media, no editing required.
We also noticed that the Pixel 3 images are sharper than the iPhone XS—but sometimes Google’s device can overdo it. In portrait mode, the two perform about the same. It’s clear that these images are heavily influenced by software, but they’re convincing enough. While the iPhone produces a more pleasing depth of field, the Pixel’s images do a nice job of replicating skin tones that are more true-to-life.
One area where the Pixel is a clear winner over the iPhone is the front-facing camera. The Pixel 3’s new Group Selfie mode allows users to capture more scenery in the frame. In the image we used to take a group selfie, you can see how much more we were able to get in the frame when using the Pixel 3. If you don’t want a wider field of view, you can always use the Pixel 3’s standard front-facing camera.
For a more thorough breakdown of how each camera works, you can see Robert’s breakdown in the video above. He’ll explain each shot and how each phone performed in a particular scenario.
What’s clear is that the Pixel 3 and iPhone XS are pretty much dead even in a lot of scenarios. Apple was able to gain a lot of ground with its new Smart HDR feature, but Google’s Pixel 3 still takes images that are sharper and more pleasing right out of the phone, whereas the iPhone XS images can do with a little editing.
Check out the full gallery up above.