Camera Comparison: P20 Pro vs Pixel 2 XL vs iPhone X vs Galaxy S9 Plus

The Huawei P20 Pro was released recently and with it one of the first three camera smartphones (and the first using Leica as a partner, for sure). In addition to the 3x telephoto, the RGB, and monochrome cameras it’s sporting, it also has a much larger sensor than any other flagship device on sale right now.

So, this begs the question, can that help the P20 Pro compete with the other best camera phones you can buy? Let’s do a camera comparison with the P20 Pro vs. the Pixel 2 XL, the iPhone X, and the Galaxy S9 Plus and see how it does.

Comparison Photos

Check out the photos below and feel free to tap and hold or right-click them and download them for yourself so you can zoom in and out and form your own opinion (if you post them anywhere, please just tag @theunlockr).

Wine Photo

 

  • As usual, iPhone X leans cooler (blue) in white balance.
  • P20 Pro though has the most natural bokeh (thanks to the larger sensor, I’m sure). The glass is still in focus while the background is blurred more than the others.
  • iPhone X still seems the sharpest in this photo but also has the most noise in the background when we zoom in.

Wine Photo with Night Mode

  • P20 Pro in Night Mode is a lot darker than the others, less detailed, etc. (opposite of what I expected).
  • Zooming in still shows the much smoother bokeh than the other devices (again, sensor size is probably what is allowing for that).

Vegas Photo

  • P20 Pro is much darker than the others.
  • Zooming in though, we can see that it is a bit sharper when looking at the words on Caeser’s Palace.
  • There were artifacts in all of the images when zoomed in: Pixel 2 XL  and Galaxy S9 Plus moved the Caesar sign, while all of them besides the Pixel let some of the sunsets in through the building. Blaming this on HDR across the board.

Vegas Photo with Night Mode

  • P20 Pro did a much better job with Night Mode than without in this situation. (Feels like HDR on steroids to me.)
  • Zooming in, still darker than the others but, I’d say more detailed, as well.
  • Artifacts across all of them again similar to before but a little worse in Night Mode (side point though, the fact that this is a hand-held long exposure shot of 4 secs is incredible. The same type of shot on a fancy DSLR wouldn’t have even produced a usable image).

Eiffel Tower in Vegas

  • Think we’re noticing a pattern at this point. P20 Pro is darker than the others. I’m guessing it’s an exposure choice by the software now. And in this photo was decided based on that light pointed at us, I’m sure.
  • There is still a ton of detail in the shot though.
  • All have the same lens flare (or proof that there is life on other planets?) at the top left near the tower. The lens flare is less apparent on the P20 Pro than the other devices thanks in part to the darker exposure.
  • Zooming in you can see what I mean by darker exposure, but plenty of detail. All the words are more readable on the P20 Pro than any of the others, and there is more detail in the iron bars of the tower, as well.

Eiffel Tower in Vegas with Night Mode

  • Night Mode was perfect for this shot.
  • Brought back some of the brightness in the tower and trees without losing any detail.
  • Zooming in merely confirms the sharpness and added brightness is perfect for this photo.

Sunset Strip

  • This one is harder to compare because people are moving and that adjusts how the camera auto-adjusted the shot potentially. For the most part, though, they all look similar.
  • I’d say the S9 Plus and the P20 Pro did the best job of not letting in as much flare (although I sort of like the flared shots, that’s a subjective choice).
  • Zooming in, I’d say the iPhone X is the sharpest, but the others aren’t far behind, including the P20 Pro.

Iced Latte

  • Right away, we can see the smoother, more pronounced bokeh in the P20 Pro thanks to the sensor size.
  • iPhone is a little bluer thanks to how it’s color balance is tuned compared to the others (a personal preference choice though).
  • Zooming in, they are all very sharp (ridges on the lid look less sharp on the iPhone, but that’s because the lid is tilted slightly).
  • The depth of field is shallower on the P20 Pro as you can see the straw is starting to be blurred when the front of the lid is in focus.

Conclusion

After going through all of this, there are a few things I now believe.

First, is that the Pixel 2 XL still has the best software as it always has, but the P20 Pro I have to give the best hardware. It tends to lean darker in exposure which is a software choice (weakness depending on how you look at it), but the camera hardware is saving the software by just having a lot more data to work with thanks to that giant sensor size.

I think I might go into a video on what is so impressive about the P20 Pro’s camera and why all the other companies should take notice. For now, though, suffice it to say that this is the best camera Huawei has ever put out. It shows how serious they are about producing a fantastic camera phone.

And while the night mode isn’t perfect, it is a super impressive feat and fun additional photography tool along with the 3x telephoto lens they have on the phone.

Airplane Night Mode vs Normal

Normal vs. Night Mode on the P20 Pro

I think all of that puts them finally as one of the very top contenders for the best smartphone camera.

Now, I’m not saying I would necessarily buy the P20 over the others, there is a lot of other things to consider when buying a phone than just camera but what do you guys think on that front? Which has the best camera to you guys? Pixel and its software? Samsung and its fast aperture? iPhone X? P20 Pro and its large sensor?

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  • Chad Ness

    That P20 hardware is seriously impressive .I’d love to see Google open up their camera processing to other manufacturers and see how those two combined could do.

    • Agreed! Doubt they will though. That software is their advantage over the other manufacturers and a huge reason to buy a Pixel 2, right? ?