Last year, the cameras Samsung used on Note8 and S8 were largely viewed as an incremental update over their predecessors. Meanwhile, the iPhone X and Pixel 2 Xl rewrote the game with their brilliant camera hardware and, more importantly, camera software. As we pointed out in our review, the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus have now caught up with the competition.
Both the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus pack impressive optics and that’s clearly evident from DxOMark Image Labs reviews. If you are not familiar with DxOMark it is a company that is known to run phones through extensive, calibrated laboratory testing of before dishing out their reviews.
Recently, DxO mavens tested the Galaxy S9+ camera at their lab and ranked it on number one spot while iPhone X slips to the third spot. Having said that, the difference is just two points. While the Galaxy S9 Camera scores 99, the iPhone X manages to get an overall score of 97. But is the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus camera really better than iPhone X for still photography? Let’s find out:
Editor’s Note: You can check the samples used in this article and some more full-size sample photos of the Galaxy S9 Plus in this Flickr album and iPhone X in this Flickr album. Throughout this article, the images on the left are taken from the Galaxy S9 Plus while the images on the right are shot on iPhone X.
Camera Comparison: Apple iPhone X Vs Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus camera specifications:
- 12MP primary rear camera with 1/2.55″ sensor and f/1.5 / f/2.4 variable aperture lens
- 12MP telephoto camera with 1/3.6″ sensor and f/2.4 aperture lens
- OIS for both lenses
- Dual-pixel PDAF on the main camera
- LED flash
- 4K video at 60fps
- 720p super-slow-motion video at 960 fps
- 8 MP with f/1.7 aperture, 25mm, 1/3.6″, 1.22 µm), autofocus, 1440p@30fps, dual video call and Auto HDR
- portrait mode for selfies
Apple iPhone X camera specifications:
- 12MP Primary Rear camera with wide-angle f/1.8 OIS lens
- 12MP telephoto camera with f/2.4 OIS lens
- Phase-detection autofocus with touch focus
- Quad LED true-tone flash with slow sync mode
- Portrait mode with portrait lighting
- 4K video at 60fps
- 7Mp “selfie” cam with f/2.2 aperture, 32mm, face detection, and portrait mode
White Balance and Details
Let’s get to the business and start our iPhone X vs Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus comparison by discussing their colors and details. If you look this first set of images, what will strike you the most is the difference in their colour temperatures.
Both these photos were taken under in the same condition within seconds from one another in a mall. Both cameras have managed to capture good details. Signboard above the outlet has sharp edges on both images though when zoomed in the S9+ image appears marginally sharper than the iPhone X.
The iPhone X appears to boost colors and adds a rose tint on the signboard of the shop. Comparatively, the Galaxy S9 Plus manages to judge color temperatures more accurately as the colors in the image captured appears closer to what I saw with my naked eye. Having said that, if I had not seen the real scene from my eyes I might have been swayed by iPhone’s punchy contrast and warm tones.
Similarly, in the second set of images, iPhone bumps up contrast and colors to make it more appealing to the eyes. However, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus images have better white balance and a lot of details.
These images are cropped from above set of images for a more closer assessment. As you can see the bottom one shot on iPhone looks exceptionally (and unnaturally) colorful as if it were freshly painted. On the other hand, colors in the image just above comparatively look a little subdued which was precisely the case as that portion of the architecture was exposed to direct sunlight which generally causes color fading when something is exposed for a long period of time.
This time we have cropped other parts of the same image to point out the difference in details. If analysis them you will find the Galaxy S9 Plus manages to capture more details here.
In bright outdoor shots, iPhone X really excels. The image on the right looks more pleasing to my eyes. The sky looks blue and it manages to retain cloud details. The shot captured with Galaxy S9 Plus clearly lacks drama and similar vibrancy.
In these second set of outdoor images, results are similar, Samsung scores well on details and sharpness while iPhone is better at differentiating shades and variations of the same colors.
In these low-light shots, Samsung clearly benefits from the variable aperture. Among these two shots, the image captured with Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus appears well exposed and has managed to handle shadows really well. On the downside, it blows out the light blubs a little. The texture on the wall and stores is more pronounced here.
The iPhone X is really close when it comes to low-light images. While the highlights are equally good here, it’s the hedge on the left side that is hardly visible in the image captured by the iPhone X.
Once again, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus managed to capture slightly more balanced images in low light. “The Gaming Vegas” logo and “Indoor Theme Park” much evenly metered in the image on the left compared to the image on the right. The S9 Plus has a tendency to lighten up dark scenes but the result is often well-balanced and pleasant.
In the portrait mode, both cameras manage to judge the edges of the subject and blur out the background perfectly. Despite the bright light in the background, both really do well and not lose out the subject. The iPhone X edges out Samsung Galaxy 9 Plus here with details and color accuracy. The telephoto lens on Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus leans leaning more towards warm colors. In tricky lighting, iPhone X seems to have an edge, though.
Both phones front camera has different focal length due to which iPhone X selfie the subject looks slightly closer to the camera while both images are taken from the same distance. Both these selfie cameras manage to capture excellent details but skin tones look slightly different. While the iPhone selfie looks warm, the Galaxy S9 Plus selfie beats it with its accurate colors.
There is no one-word answer to which one is the better of the two. Both cameras have their advantages and disadvantages. While the Galaxy S9 Plus captures better low light shots, a good amount of details, and shows a more accurate white balance assessment, the former has the upper hand when it comes to dynamic range and contrast. The iPhone images feel unnaturally boosted at times but are pleasant to look at nonetheless. Selfies are better on the Samsung Galaxy S9 for sure.
Having said that, if today I have to pick a camera between these two phones, I will go Galaxy S9 Plus mainly because you can easily tweak colors in image post-processing but you can’t really add details without unintentionally adding noise.