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Manhattan skyline – wide

The P20 Pro has a 3x optical zoom while the iPhone Xs Max, LG V40 and Note 9 all have 2x optical. The Pixels use digital zoom only. As you might expect, the 3x optical zoom on the P20 Pro reveals far more detail on the Empire State Building’s spire and it is the only camera to clearly recreate the horizontal lines on the building at the base of the Empire State. Looking at the 2x optical devices, the Note 9 and iPhone Xs Max are the best up close, producing very similar results. The Note 9 manages slightly better detail and better contrast than the iPhone.

When zooming, the Pixels struggle due to the lack of a secondary lens – but are still comparable to the LG V40 which has a 2x lens.

The Pixels struggle without a secondary lens, but their images are still comparable to the LG V40 (which has one). The Pixel 3 has significantly less noise than the Pixel 2 and resolves more detail, as seen in the glass building at the base of the Empire State. The Pixel 3’s processing starts to wade into P20 Pro territory with artificial sharpness replacing the noisy realism of the Pixel 2. I prefer this approach — less noise and sharper detail — but it likely won’t please fans of previous Pixels. The V40 is again quite muddy with plenty of artifacts surrounding the buildings.


This colorful mural of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat reveals a lot about how each camera saturates color. Looking at the yellow triangle in the center, the iPhone and Pixels saturate it a lot, while the P20 Pro (with Master AI enabled) sits at the other end of the spectrum. The iPhone and Pixels saturate to the same degree but the Pixel 3 plucks out slightly greater texture on the wall. In terms of realism, I’d say it’s a close race between these three phones. The Note 9 exhibits a metric ton of detail — it’s actually too much — by unrealistically enhancing the edges of every single part of the wall.

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Diner interior

The window is where things get interesting. The Pixel 3 is by far the best here, capturing the most realistic and detailed scene. The Pixel 2 is more blown out and demonstrates far less dynamic range. The P20 Pro is less detailed, but still quite realistic. The iPhone has better clarity but the flat coloring generates a bizarre otherworldly scene. Once again, the V40’s aggressive processing produces a comically bizarre-looking result. The Note 9 is just plain fuzzy.

As for the third factor (the back of the bench), this is a clear way to distinguish dynamic range capabilities. The more detail and better exposed this shaded area is, the more a phone can do to level out exposure in a scene with multiple light levels. The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 2 are the obvious winners here, with a wider well-exposed area and more texture in the details. The HUAWEI P20 Pro follows with fair quality, but the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, LG V40, and iPhone Xs Max fail miserably. Balancing out the glasses against the window and the bench, the Pixel 3 is the clear winner here.

Evening exterior

At first glance, the street scene at dusk shows just how far low light performance and noise reduction has come. There’s still plenty of light in this scene though and it proves tricky for more than a few of these phones. The P20 Pro does the best job of not blowing out the shop’s interior, though it leans heavily on processing to define features around the neon open sign to the right of the open door. The V40 and Note 9 follow not too far behind. While the Pixel 2, Pixel 3 and iPhone Xs Max all blow out the interior highlights, all three show much greater detail on the shelves inside. The three results are almost indistinguishable up close.

The Note 9 resolves the least detail on the white window ledges at the top of the building and is much darker than the other shots. The V40 doesn’t capture much more detail on the ledges but does lighten up the left side of the building noticeably. The P20 Pro provides marginally better detail, but only the Pixels and the iPhone offered realistic-looking detail, where we can clearly make out the brickwork. The iPhone exhibits less noise in this area, however, and overall comes out on top.

The P20 Pro provides marginally better detail but it isn’t until you get to the Pixels and iPhone that realistic-looking detail is visible.

One more subject I would like to touch on is motion blur. Because these shots are taken in the dark, the shutter speed usually needs to slow down, which might affect the image if there are moving objects or you just happen to have shaky hands. The LG V40 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 can’t manage freezing the moving cars, for example. This would look cool if done on purpose and the shutter speed was even slower, but it just looks like a mishap here. For these specific photos, much of the detail is lost. This could be simple over-softening, though.

Portrait mode

New building

Fruit and vegetable stand

All six phones did a great job with the produce stand at night, mainly differing in saturation and white balance. Looking at the pickles and tomatoes on the corner, the Pixel 3 does a much better job than the Pixel 2, handling both the highlights on the tomatoes and detail on the pickles better. There’s also a bit less noise. The iPhone handles the highlights well too, but doesn’t get as much detail as the Pixel 3. The V40 is a little soft and washed out, but not terribly so. The Note 9 produces a slightly more lively palette, but lacks details on the pickles. The P20 Pro processes too hard as usual, with too much contrast and no real detail.

Dynamic range is important in night time photography (especially when artificial light is present). With darkness and harsh lights, shadows are tough to deal with. To see performance in this matter just look at that shadow under the shelf above the pickles, right below the watermelon in the center. How much can you see down there?

All six phones did a great job of the fruit and veg stand at night, but I’m giving this one to the Pixel 3.

The HUAWEI P20 Pro’s aggressive approach to crushing blacks performs the worst in this area. The contrast is too high, so the shaded area is almost totally blacked out. The iPhone Xs seems to do pretty well at this, and the Pixel 3 is probably the next best contender. The other phones provide varying degrees of OK.

Looking at the top left corner of the shot, the P20 Pro again crushes the blacks in the hanging flowers and is altogether too contrasty. The Note 9 and Pixel 2 get a little noisy on the white underside of the roof but both offer similar levels of detail. The iPhone displays less noise than the Note 9 or Pixel 2. The V40 does a surprisingly good job in this section, with little noise and good detail, but the contrasty processing lets it down a bit, producing an unrealistic effect under scrutiny. The Pixel 3 produces less noise and more detail than the Pixel 2 in this section and is altogether a more balanced and pleasing result overall. I’m giving this one to the Pixel 3.

Low light bar interior

The bar interior shows just how far smartphone cameras have come in low light situations.

The iPhone struggles to bring out the alcohol bottles on the bottom shelf but is arguably more authentic looking than some. The Pixel 2 lightens things up a bit but is again quite noisy. The Pixel 3 reduces that visible grain and adds a little sharpening for better definition without going overboard. The Note 9 has a natural look in this area, even with the yellowish white balance. However, it can’t produce as much detail as the P20 Pro, which for a change doesn’t overdo the processing. As expected, the V40 does, and ends up looking a little cartoonish. All in all, every phone did great in this very tricky situation but I’m giving this one to the Pixel 3 as well.


The story the images above tell is pretty consistent. For starters, each phone performed very well across a variety of different scenarios, barring perhaps the LG V40. These days you need to really nitpick a flagship phone’s camera to claim it’s significantly better than the rest — they’re all just that good.

Next: Here’s what the Pixel 3’s Night Sight can do

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Dear Anyone: Please Destroy Google’S Pixel 3 Camera

Dear anyone: Please destroy Google’s Pixel 3 camera

It’s become painfully clear that Google’s most majorly seemingly unbeatable smartphone feature on the Pixel is its camera. Several of the most major names in Android smartphone reviews and publications continue to use their Pixel device well beyond multiple opportunities to use more expensive and more extravagant phones. It’s the camera that it would SEEM that nobody else can beat. It may be my imagination, but I feel like this one win is holding Google back.

Google’s good at using their cool factor to rally press coverage. Each time a Nexus smartphone was leaked, we reported on it. Every time Google has even a whisper of an update for the Pixel – or any other sort of hardware – it’s newsworthy. With the Pixel smartphone line, Google’s got a bit of a cult surrounding its camera lineup – I’ve been a member of that cult from time to time.

I sought out camera lenses specifically for the Google Pixel XL (the first generation device) well beyond the release of the 2nd gen. I did a review of the lenses I found best – because that Pixel XL still rolls hard. Its camera is still pretty great.

I assumed the Google Pixel 2 was a fluke. I guessed that because of the nature of the design and release cycle on any smartphone line, that a next-generation device is at least partially at the mercy of the decisions made by a design team before the last generation really gets a feel for the market.

I assumed all of this.

I assumed that the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL were going to be as different from the rest of the market as the Pixel smartphone’s first generation was when it was first released. At first, I thought that, then I realized Google must have just gotten wind of the 19:8 ratio display trend and went with it, it and the extra-rounded display corners, and that was OK. It was alright that the Pixel 2 looked and felt a whole lot like the 1st gen.

And the Pixel 2 has a great camera. It’s even better than the first Pixel. The camera on the Pixel 2 is so great, multiple big-name smartphone influencers used the Pixel 2 for the vast majority of the year following its release. Look a this video and see:

Besides MKBHD in that video you’ll find another big name in the Android community, Artem Russakovskii of Android Police. He’s been using his Pixel 2 XL even DESPITE it being “devastatingly and embarrassingly laggy.” To the point where Google sent an engineer and PR representative to his home to address the issue. He’d kept using the device DESPITE that (before they gave him a replacement) because of the Pixel 2’s camera, which to him – and many others – is the most superior smartphone camera on the market today.

Here’s just one example of what I described as “devastatingly and embarrassingly laggy” on my Pixel 2 XL.

— Artem Russakovskii (@ArtemR) August 9, 2023

I’m asking everyone else in the smartphone business right now – PLEASE – for the love of jeepers, put more R&D resources in and on the camera of your top-level phones. There is absolutely nothing more important at this point in the history of mobile devices than that camera.

For me personally that’s always been the most important feature in any smartphone, that camera. But that hadn’t been the most major factor for many other people in deciding which device to use until recently. Now that we’re at a point at which there’s not a whole lot of improvement to be made in any other already-established feature on the phone in general, it’s time to focus up on that camera.

I mean, by all means, keep working on AI and Augmented Reality and VR and your smart assistants or whatever the heck else. Some people care about those things I suppose. But that camera, that’s the thing. That’s the feature that’s going to win the next generation, without a doubt.

If you’re not going to make a boss camera in a phone for yourself, then come on – do it for Google. Do it so the rest of Google’s Pixel team doesn’t do what I’m imagining they’ve been doing for the last year and a half. Don’t let them say “the camera’s the best in the business, right? OK good, let’s just go ahead and add a notch to the display and maybe a 3D camera up front and… we’re good to go!”

I’m looking at you, Samsung. I’m looking at you, Motorola and LG. I’m looking at you, OnePlus, OPPO, and Huawei, and Xiaomi, and maybe even Sony. Look directly at your smartphone camera development crew and say, “YOU THERE! You’re in the spotlight now. Get to work and make this best camera in a smartphone happen! Make it happen now!”

Pixel 3 Xl Camera Review: Simply The Best

Ever since Google scrapped the Nexus series to make way for the premium Pixel lineup that could challenge iPhones, it has taken cameras and smartphone photography very seriously. So much so that the Pixel series has become synonymous with great cameras – it’s in the name after all.

In terms of hardware, Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL use the same 12.2MP camera on the back as last year but Google has shown a significant improvement when it comes to image processing as well as the computational photography powering the Pixel phones. On the front, there is now a dual camera setup comprising an 8MP primary sensor with autofocus and another 8MP sensor but for wide-angle selfies. We’ll talk about these cameras in separate sections.

Pixel 3 XL Camera Performance

Here’s my take on the camera performance of the Pixel 3 XL in different scenarios, starting with daylight.


Under strong or usable amount of natural lighting, the Pixel 3 XL ensures that most of the detail in the frame remain intact. The Pixel 3 is great at capturing accurate pictures; all areas of the images are not only well lit, but the color reproduction also falls in line with what you are seeing.

You can confidently pull the Pixel 3 XL out of your pocket and jump straight to the camera for taking great and highly detailed shots, with the best dynamic range, without having to find the best settings.

Indoors & Nightlight

While most smartphones start gasping for air when you want a picture in low light, Pixel 3 XL relishes the challenge. Surprisingly, I found the Pixel 3 XL to illuminate the images with more light than what my eyes could see on the viewfinder.

Some night images have a lot of noise in the images, but in most cases, the low-light photos turned out really well.

Portrait Shots

Ever since Apple first introduced the feature with the iPhone 7, artificial background blurring or portrait effect (also known as bokeh) has become an important fad for smartphone makers. Smartphone cameras are evaluated and ranked on their abilities to capture the accurate bokehs and the Pixel 3 XL simply excels in this area.

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL have a very reliable portrait mode, with a high degree of accuracy when it comes to detecting edges. This is impressive especially because Pixel 3 XL sticks to a single camera on the back unlike the host of smartphones that have blindly jumped the dual camera bandwagon aping Apple.

Selfies in Daylight

Moving to the front camera, Pixel 3 XL’s dual camera setup is not always in use and is dedicated to wide-angle selfies. So essentially, this can be treated as a single camera too with the nearly similar capabilities as the one on the back. Autofocus on the front is a welcome addition which helps ensure that the faces are in focus.

Selfies in Low/Indoor Light

At night, there is a visible drop in the amount of detail, and there’s some noise in these images, but the results are still much better than many other smartphones.

Wide-Angle Selfies

Portrait Selfies

The Pixel 3 XL offers a uniform portrait experience even when you’re using the front camera. In most lighting conditions, the smartphone captures crisp portrait selfies. These shots are almost perfect when it comes to daylight shots but the performance at night is compelling too.

Portrait selfies at night may lack the same finesse as we see during the day but the edges are easily detected and there is minimal bleeding, but the overall quality depends on the contrast between the foreground and the background.

Super Res Zoom

The Pixel 3 XL has 8X digital zoom and uses OIS as well as data from your shakes to give you as crisp an image as possible despite the magnification. Google’s AI picks up your shakes and uses the data from these to give you the final image. The result is 8X zoom that’s not entirely unusable as would be the case

This technology captures sufficient detail even in shots taken at 8X. While I cannot say the same for low light, the fact that it at least captures some details at all at 8X during the night is not short of impressive.


The feature is a step further from the AR Stickers in the Pixel 2, as some of the new stickers including Iron Man imitate your facial expressions and hand gestures. The only limitation is that despite top-of-the-line hardware, the Pixel 3 XL starts lagging when there are more than two persons in the frame.


Top Shot & Motion Auto Focus

With Motion Auto Focus, the camera keeps a tagged subject in focus as you move the viewfinder around, which is very handy for kids or pets.

Night Sight

At the launch event, Google talked about another feature which will be coming to the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3 XL later this year. Called “Night Sight”, the feature will help you capture detailed shots in low light without using any external light or flash. We will know for sure how this works when the update rolls out.


However, if you’re okay with shooting at 30fps, you might be delighted to learn about the Fused Video Stabilization feature on the Pixel 3 XL which uses a blend of OIS and EIS to keep the video stable on the rear camera.

Pixel 3 XL vs iPhone XS vs Galaxy Note 9 vs Huawei P20 Pro


P20 Pro, on the other hand, goes for the overkill by artificially enhancing the saturation to create a more “contrast-ey” photo. Overall, I think the Pixel 3 XL has the truest colors and the most natural tone of them all.


In situations, when there’s a mix of natural and artificial lighting, the Pixel 3 does an excellent job of retaining detail while the iPhone XS again unnecessarily overexposes the shot light, which robs the image of that high dynamic range look.

The Galaxy Note 9 and the P20 Pro don’t make a dent in the Pixel 3 either; while the former has washed out colors, P20 Pro tries to get that cool HDR look but fails hard in the darker areas of the scene. Again, the Pixel 3 XL clearly takes the win.


At night, the Galaxy Note 9 takes the lead when it comes to how much light it captures and this can be attributed to the bigger aperture in the main camera, which automatically adjusts in low light. Likewise, the iPhone XS also manages to capture enough light in this scene.

Portrait Shots

I need not talk too much about this because we have a clear winner here. The Pixel 3 XL is simply much better than its rivals at capturing detail, contrast and the colors. It does not go haywire with saturation and manages excellent edge detection.

The Galaxy Note 9 and the P20 Pro oversmoothen the skin and that is simply not appealing to me. Lastly, the iPhone XS is unable to reproduced the natural tones that Pixel 3 does so well. It’s a little too aggressive on the saturation, and again overexposes the scene by adding more warmth.


In the case of portrait selfies, too, the Pixel 3 XL is much better than the peers. The iPhone XS holds its own here, but the color reproduction is disappointing throughout the scene. In contrast, Note 9 goes for a cooler tinge, while the P20 Pro is still making me feel weak in my knees (not in a good way).

Google Pixel 3: Slaying The Competition

The Pixel 3 XL is clearly the leader in the smartphone photography game, and even outperforms the ultra-expensive iPhone XS Max. As evident from the shots above, the other two devices in the competition are well behind the Pixel 3.

Notably, the Pixel 3 has no ‘Pro mode’ but I can confidently say that’s not needed at all for this phone. This is not to say that the other devices are bad at taking pictures, but the Pixel 3 XL is clearly better and by a lot.

Pre-order Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL on Flipkart (starts at Rs 71,000)

Camera Shootout: Oneplus 9 Pro Vs Apple Iphone 12 Pro Max

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Solid cameras sell smartphones and iPhones have built a reputation for snapping great pictures — a reputation bolstered by its top-of-the-line 2023 device, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Meanwhile, OnePlus has partnered with Hasselblad for this generation’s flagship smartphone, the OnePlus 9 Pro, to boost its own credentials and take on the best in the business.

These two handsets are on the more reserved end of the flagship camera spectrum. You won’t find any crazy periscope zoom cameras or gimmick lenses here. Both aim to perfect the tried and tested main, wide, and telephoto zoom formula. The aim of the game is great-looking pictures, first and foremost.

But which does it best? Let’s dive right on into our OnePlus 9 Pro vs Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max camera shootout. Oh, and feel free to check out the full-res image samples here.

OnePlus 9 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max camera specs

With large main sensors onboard, both smartphones take very good pictures in daylight. Few will have any complaints here, which is what we’ve come to expect from flagship-tier smartphones in the past couple of years. Although that isn’t to say that there aren’t noticeable differences between these two cameras. For starters, the shorter focal length means you’ll get a slightly wider field of view from the OnePlus 9 Pro’s main camera.

Despite its reputation for high-quality imaging, Apple applies a slight yellow tint to its photos. This is particularly noticeable on green grass and with indoor lighting, resulting in a more oversaturated look that’s not as nice as OnePlus’ realistic approach to colors. Otherwise, the iPhone continues to set a high bar for color accuracy and general imaging performance.

Both phones do a decent job when it comes to exposure and white balance. However, the iPhone 12 Pro Max regularly slightly underexposes compared to the OnePlus 9 Pro. You can see in the shadows of most of the images above where the iPhone has much darker shadows. It’s almost like a fake high-contrast HDR effect, but it detracts from the camera’s realism.

Detail and noise have historically let OnePlus down, but there are again noticeable improvements this generation. Despite the sensor resolution differences, the two phones capture 12MP images. So differences in detail will come down to how well the sensors capture light and how the software processes this detail.

Photography terms explained: ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and more

There’s a much more noticeable difference between the OnePlus 9 Pro and Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max when it comes to more difficult HDR scenes. To cut to the chase, HDR is a major weakness for the iPhone while OnePlus has one of the more powerful implementations in the business.

The examples above showcase a typical compromise with the iPhone when shooting against a strong backlight. You either end up with an underexposed foreground or overexposed background highlights and a loss of detail. The OnePlus 9 Pro is by far the superior phone here and can capture much more from its HDR images.

HDR isn’t just about shadows and highlights, though. The iPhone’s comparatively poor HDR implementation also leaves colors looking washed out, as the above example showcases perfectly. The phone warmer tint doesn’t help here either.

There’s no arguing here, OnePlus provides a far superior HDR implementation

OnePlus’ HDR implementation isn’t completely free from clipping, but it does a mostly excellent job of making the most tricky lighting conditions. There’s really no contest between the two, so chalk this up as a major win for OnePlus over Apple.

Turning down the lights reveals yet more key differences between the two smartphones. Although the OnePlus 9 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max both support night mode shooting options, the results are quite different.

Before we get to Night modes though, let’s look at some lower light samples. Both hand it reasonable results with decent levels of detail, white balance, and colors. In the first example, Apple’s phone pumps up the exposure and saturation.  However, turning the lights down lower in the second image below sees the iPhone 12 Pro Max struggle with exposure and colors much more noticeable than the OnePlus.

Turning to a very low light shot reveals the length that the OnePlus 9 Pro will go to to obtain decent exposure. There’s a high amount of grain, partly from a very high ISO figure, but Bender is far better illuminated than the iPhone with more noticeable detail. That said, the highlight clipping isn’t great and Apple’s handset definitely has a cleaner appearance and is the more realistic, giving the lighting conditions.

Overall, both phones are a mixed bag in low light. Apple definitely underperforms without Night mode, with colors becoming washed out in lower lighting. However, OnePlus’ Nightscape shots often end up very noisy compared to better lowlight phones like the Pixel 5 and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Related: 6 tips for improving smartphone low light photography

Zooming in on details

The first example really showcases the strengths and weaknesses of OnePlus’ latest zoom arrangement. At 2x and 3x, the 9 Pro looks good at full-frame but showcases noticeable processing artifacts on closer inspection. It looks like the shots are taken straight from the main image sensor, pre-binning.

The OnePlus 9 Pro boasts vastly improved detail over the iPhone 12 Pro Max at longer zoom levels. However, the level of chromatic aberration is pretty unacceptable for such typical daylight conditions. It’s an indicator of another poor quality lens. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has no such issues, but this first batch of zoom images all lean far too heavily on denoise and sharpening to look good.

Despite shooting in almost perfect outdoor conditions, both phones also struggle with this zoomed-in landscape shot. Apple’s handset lacks virtually any detail in the distant tree textures even when zooming in at 2x and 3x. The 5x and 7x shots are basically unusable.

It’s the same story as before for the OnePlus 9 Pro. It retains superior details to the iPhone at all zoom levels, which becomes more noticeable at longer ranges. However, once the telephoto camera kicks in beyond 3.3x, light capture and colors take a nosedive. The underexposed purple hue is very poor but sadly a common theme for OnePlus latest zoom camera. Again the 5x and 7x shots are throwaways.

Neither offers particularly compelling zoom capabilities for flagship-tier phones

In summary, neither smartphone offers particularly compelling zoom capabilities for flagship-tier handsets. The OnePlus 9 Pro nudges ahead in terms of detail at longer zoom levels, but the iPhone 12 Pro Max fairs better with color balance consistency.

With the OnePlus 9 Pro boasting a 14mm wide-angle lens and the Apple iPhone 12 Pro a 13mm focal length, the two offer a major step back from their main sensors. Apple’s version is technically a fraction wide than OnePlus’ and provides a bigger step back from its main sensor. But in reality, you end up with an essentially identical field of view between the two.

Both phones take on a slightly more yellow hue in the image above. Although the iPhone 12 Pro Max does a better job matching the color profile between its main and wide-angle lenses. Wide-angle pictures come out much warmer on the OnePlus 9 Pro versus its main sensor.

If you love a good selfie, you’ll be pleased to note that the OnePlus 9 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max offer a selection of filter and bokeh blur options with their front-facing camera. The two offer wide field of view capabilities to fit more in. However, Apple defaults to a slightly narrower lens by default, as you can see below.

Apple’s bokeh blur certainly looks good but its edge detection leaves a lot to be desired. The hair example above is perhaps the best example of the subtle but important differences between the OnePlus 9 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max when it comes to accuracy.

These two take solid selfies and portraits. I’ll give Apple the nudge on detail, but OnePlus offers superior edge detection and tone accuracy.

Which phone takes the better pictures?

1992 votes

If it weren’t for the purple tint, the OnePlus 9 Pro would come out ahead for color accuracy, despite the lack of consistency across lenses. The phone scores a clearer win when it comes to bokeh accuracy and, more importantly, HDR environments. The latter really is the bread and butter of modern smartphone photography. OnePlus’ latest camera setup is far from flawless, though. Zoom quality is a hot mess, and even general images can look a little oversharp.

Check out more camera shootouts:

OnePlus 9 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra camera shootout

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple clearly scores a couple of its own wins, capturing better selfie textures and more natural-looking details. But the phone’s tendency to apply warm and yellow hues undoes much of the good work on color accuracy. Both the iPhone and OnePlus are also subpar in the zoom and low light departments. That said, these are two top-tier camera phones that can happily hang with the very best.

Camera Shootout: Oneplus 8 Pro Vs Galaxy S20 Plus Vs Huawei P40 Pro

HUAWEI P40 Pro, Oneplus 8 Pro, and Galaxy S20 Plus – Quick spec recap

HUAWEI P40 Pro, Oneplus 8 Pro, and Galaxy S20 Plus – Colors and white balance

Our first samples highlight some major trends right off the bat. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus opts for the punchiest tones by far, with over-saturation noticeable in many shots, particularly with blue skies. I find Samsung’s approach to colors far too heavy-handed, particularly in outdoor photos. Highlight clipping is also a semi-common problem, particularly in HDR environments with clouds or other strong highlights. OnePlus also clips in some scenes, while HUAWEI plays it much more conservative with its approach to dynamic range. The 8 Pro’s colors and white balance tend to be very good overall, falling somewhere between Samsung’s punch and HUAWEI’s conservatism.

Oversaturation and highlight clipping are consistent issues for the Galaxy S20 Plus

As a result, the HUAWEI P40 Pro’s images sometimes appear a little washed out by comparison. The phone shoots for a cooler white balance with a brighter exposure that’s a little more true-to-life and easier to edit. That said, quite a few of the pictures I took with the HUAWEI P40 Pro overexposed the image. The P40 Pro is bang on when it’s right, but the handset can also get things very wrong. I also noticed an occasional red-tint problem with the HUAWEI P40 Pro in very bright outdoor environments. HUAWEI tells us that has been addressed for the consumer software version.

Cropping in on detail

All three handsets boast high-resolution sensors for high levels of detail, but we’ve seen plenty of examples where heavy bouts of processing are used to compensate for noisy image sensors. None of these phones suffer from obvious detail deficiencies at full frame. To get into the finer details, the images in this section are 100% crops.

Contrary to popular belief, HUAWEI applies the least amount of processing to images from its main sensor. The camera produces high levels of detail with minimal evidence of over-sharpening, thanks to the combination of BM3D noise reduction and a large image sensor. The Galaxy S20 Plus is reasonably soft on edges too, at least as far as nearby foreground subjects are concerned. However, Samsung’s processing chain looks a lot messier with complex textures, such as trees and foliage, and the highlights in our sample images.

OnePlus clearly relies on a sharpening filter to enhance details, resulting in more harsh, high-contrast edges. It’s certainly not an ugly look compared to many phones we’ve seen and is hard to notice unless you really analyze the pixels. Foreground and subject details are left looking with an artificial pop compared to the other two. However, the phone’s consistency regarding exposure and color balance ensures that images always look crisp.

All three of these handsets provide the option to capture very high-resolution images in good lighting. The Galaxy S20 Plus offers 64MP shots. You’ll get 50MP out of the HUAWEI P40 Pro, and 48MP from the OnePlus 8 Pro. Here are some crops from these modes.

There are definitely pros and cons to shooting in this mode. All three phones hand in exceptional details, providing that you have a subject within a few meters. The plant image above shows that all three are quite light on the processing, with sharp crisp details. Although again, OnePlus is a fraction more eager with the sharpening pass. Sadly, HUAWEI’s color balance on the subject isn’t great in this instance. Samsung’s first 64MP sample is truly exceptional, part in thanks to the good lighting.

You won’t be left wanting for detail from any of these three handsets.

All three cameras perform notably worse when shooting further into the distance with complex textures in the background. The leaves, ivy, and brickwork in the second image all have a painted look. That said, the effect is most pronounced from the HUAWEI P40 Pro and OnePlus 8 Pro. Again, HUAWEI’s camera is a tad overexposed. Samsung’s 64MP result holds up best in this scenario, although it’s far from perfect.

Overall, Samsung’s 64MP mode comes out on top when shooting in Hi-Res. It extracts a ton of detail and suffers from fewer artifacts than its competitors. However, when it comes to shooting with out-of-the-box settings, it’s a much closer contest that the HUAWEI P40 Pro nudges for its minimal processing and better color balance. The OnePlus 8 Pro also looks very good, but its reliance on sharpening reveals crops to be a little less realistic.

Zooming in

There’s a bit of controversy over what counts as a proper zoom these days, with both OnePlus and Samsung opting for slightly different hybrid 3x technology over true optical zoom. These two could struggle with longer ranges, due to the limits of software processing. Even so, optical zoom isn’t infallible. HUAWEI’s last-gen P30 Pro was caught out at intermediate zoom lengths, as it relies on hybrid zoom for 2x, 3x, and 4x zoom. Let’s find out which technology works best.

We’re showcasing 100% crops here to examine smaller details, as that’s really the whole point of a zoom lens. Note that the OnePlus shots appear more zoomed in due to its lower 8MP capture resolution, compared to 12-megapixel outputs from the HUAWEI P40 Pro and Galaxy S20 Plus.

None of these phones offer a truly comprehensive zoom package.

Overall, the zoom situation is a bit weird. At full frame, all three cameras look passable all the way up to 5x. You have to pixel-peep to see which actually gives you the most detail. Samsung is decent enough up to 3x, but there’s no apparent sweet spot to zoom quality despite its 3x telephoto tagline. The OnePlus 8 Pro is terrible at 2x, but is very usable between 3x and 5x. Meanwhile, HUAWEI is so-so up to 3x, looks better at 4x, and clearly benefits from its periscope camera at 5x. The lesson here is that software zoom still sucks and intermittent zoom levels are so often left behind in terms of quality, reducing the flexibility of even the best cameras.

Fitting it all in with wide-angles

Moving on to wide-angle cameras, where the aim is to squeeze as much into the scene as possible. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus offers the widest field of view out of the three, and the HUAWEI P40 Pro the smallest. Impressively, the S20 Plus handles edge distortion really well, despite its wider lens. The OnePlus 8 Pro is the most distorted at the edges.

At full frame, all three produce quite good-looking results. Again though, Samsung’s enthusiastic color processing makes its images pop more than the competition. The OnePlus 8 Pro and HUAWEI P40 Pro are much closer in appearance. For some reason though, HUAWEI switches to a 16:9 aspect ratio for these shots, possibly to enhance the wide-angled appearance.

While we tend not to examine more minor details with wide-angle shots (otherwise, you’d zoom in), it’s worth paying attention to the crops below, in case you ever want to blow these pictures up. Unfortunately, the Galaxy S20 Plus leans even more heavily on post-processing than usual. This results in the dreaded painted look effect, due to heavy use of denoise and sharpening. It’s a bad look no matter how you slice it.

The Galaxy S20 Plus offers the widest field of view but heaviest processing.

The OnePlus 8 Pro has a different problem. The camera appears to struggle with distant focus, meaning longer-range details are completely out of focus and images often lack detail. The camera is also a little heavy on post-processing, but it’s not quite as bad as Samsung. For the cleanest wide images, HUAWEI is the clear preference with minimal signs of processing. Its images are cleaner, sharper, and come out with far more detail.

Wide-angle cameras exist to fit more into our pictures, but those pictures need to remain distortion-free and boasting decent levels of detail to be usable. With that in mind, none of these cameras offer a truly great wide-angle experience. HUAWEI offers the detail but lacks the width of its competitors. The Galaxy S20 Plus and OnePlus 8 Pro fit more in, but lack the detail and quality that you would expect from a top-tier camera. I can’t call a clear winner (or loser) here.

Solving the low-light problem

Low light is still mobile photography’s biggest weakness, but these three phones pack in larger image sensors in a bid to solve this issue. However, the HUAWEI P40 Pro and OnePlus 8 Pro have the biggest sensors and should perform the best. Let’s see if that’s true.

The HUAWEI P40 Pro is definitely worse with night mode enabled. The software processing used to combine exposures is far too aggressive, and noise actually increases in this sample. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is improved shooting with night mode enabled, finally presenting a reasonably clean image. Although it still lacks color and the denoise over-smoothens the image. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 8 Pro looks by far the best when shooting with Nightscape.

The detail available in each picture is worth looking at a little closer. The Samsung and OnePlus cameras definitely struggle for sharpness and definition compared to HUAWEI, with lots of noise present across the building brickwork that masks the fine details. The P40 Pro captures a surprisingly good amount of detail given the lack of light, although the HDR effect is unrealistic. Worse though, the sky is incredibly noisy and looks like it was shot with an overly dialed-up ISO.

Huawei’s P40 Pro captures the most detail in low light. OnePlus’ Nightscape mode works really well too.

Switching the various night modes on sees improvements to the detail capture and noise for the OnePlus and Samsung handsets. Although it doesn’t fix up the OnePlus 8 Pro’s color balance issue and Samsung still has by far the noisiest image. HUAWEI’s Night mode smooths out the sky issue and helps grab even more brickwork detail, but again leaves the overall image looking a tad over-processed.

On balance, HUAWEI nudges it as the best for a quick night snap and clearly captures the most detail in outdoor low-light environments. Although the brightness and HDR effects leave the P40 Pro’s shots looking somewhat unrealistic. Indoor and with less distance to the subject, the OnePlus 8 Pro hands in an excellent performance, particularly when Nightscape is used. Samsung’s older and smaller IMX555 sensor really doesn’t keep up with the competition.

Dedicated hardware helps with bokeh

While HUAWEI and Samsung pack in dedicated time-of-flight sensors to assist with bokeh, OnePlus does not. You might assume that this means the OnePlus 8 Pro struggles more with edge detection, but it actually comes very close to the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus in most shots. None of the cameras suffer from glaring detection issues, but you can definitely spot problems when cropping in.

Bokeh blur quality is outstanding across all three handsets, with good transitions from foreground to background that mostly avoid hardware edges. Color cross-overs can trick even the best bokeh algorithms, but HUAWEI’s phone is a little more resistant than the others. The OnePlus 8 Pro and Galaxy S20 Plus miss edges more often than the HUAWEI P40 Pro, often confusing similar colors and background details for foreground edges. However, there’s surprisingly little between the two, with the 8 Pro occasionally detecting an edge the S20 Plus missed and vice versa. It’s a very solid result for the 8 Pro, especially since it doesn’t feature dedicated hardware for this purpose.

Despite the lack of dedicated hardware, the OnePlus 8 Pro is competitive with bokeh quality

The HUAWEI P40 Pro is perhaps just about the best in shots with reasonably crisp edges, but pulls miles ahead with complex hair edges. My untamed quarantine mane has plenty of strays to try and capture, and the HUAWEI P40 Pro gets pretty much all of them in the foreground. Sadly the white balance and skin tones aren’t quite right in this portrait. The OnePlus 8 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 still do a reasonable job at grabbing outliers. However, they can’t preserve individual strands and struggle to apply bokeh in-between gaps accurately. But that’s pretty typical of most smartphone bokeh modes.

Overall, the HUAWEI P40 Pro is the most consistent with bokeh edge detection. Although it’s certainly not infallible on complex textures and scenes, and all three cameras are prone to tripping up.

HUAWEI P40 Pro, Oneplus 8 Pro, and Galaxy S20 Plus – And the winner is…

Picking a definitive winner is particularly tough, as each of our three handsets has its set of strengths and weaknesses.

Overall, the HUAWEI P40 Pro continues to set the bar for image quality from its main sensor. It produces the most realistic daylight pics, the most detailed low-light shots, and the most accurate bokeh. However, some features, like zoom and night shooting, feel like they’ve stood still or even gone backward. At the same time, others have closed the gap, particularly in the zoom department. The OnePlus 8 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus look every bit as good at full frame in most scenarios. You really have to pixel-peep to make out the smaller differences in detail, and even those don’t always go in HUAWEI’s favor.

Pixel Watch: Google Officially Launches Its First

The day Pixel fans have been eagerly waiting to see for years is finally here! Google has officially launched its first-ever smartwatch, aptly named the Pixel Watch, today. First shown off alongside the Pixel 7 series at Google I/O 2023 earlier this year, the Pixel Watch features a premium design, health features on par with Apple Watch 8, Wear OS 3 with new features, and more.

Pixel Watch: Specifications

Designed and built by Google, the first iteration of the Pixel Watch looks premium and is feature-rich. It features a circular dome-shaped display, which is a 1.2-inch AMOLED panel, with always-on display (AOD) functionality and 3D Corning Gorilla Glass. Finally, Google is claiming that the dome design “makes the bezel visually disappear” but let’s talk more about it.

As we have seen in the numerous leaks ahead of today’s launch, the Pixel Watch has huge bezels (5.5mm, as per a recent leak) around the circular display. It has been the talk on the internet ever since, so we have got to mention it. Now, the dark UI of Wear OS might hide the bezels and make the display/UI feel cohesive, but it will likely be an eyesore in outdoor use. The bezels on the Pixel Watch even put older Moto 360 watches to shame.

The Pixel Watch supports three stainless steel finishes: black, silver, and gold. As for the straps, the watch supports a twist-and-lock mechanism that securely holds the bands in place. You can choose from among four different band styles – the standard active band, the Stretch and Woven band for comfort, and Metal and Leather bands for that classic, premium look.

Google started reworking the Wear OS experience with Wear OS 3 (first seen on the Galaxy Watch 4) earlier last year. It has since added several new features to its smartwatch operating system, moving up to Wear OS 3.5 last month. Today, Google has introduced other new features to set the Pixel Watch apart from its partner’s offerings.

Pixel Watch runs Wear OS 3.5 with a host of Google apps, including Google Maps, Google Assistant, Google Photos, and more out of the box. You get a new Google Home app that lets you control your smart home from your wrist. You also get access to the Play Store to get your favorite apps like Spotify, Line, Adidas Running, and more.

Moving on to the health features, Google is using the expertise of its in-house Fitbit team to offer you top-notch and proven hardware on the Pixel Watch. It bundles this hardware with a new Fitbit app that takes care of all your health tracking needs. You can use this app for step tracking, continuous heart rate and sleep monitoring, and checking up on your recent workout sessions.

As for the battery life, Google claims that the Pixel Watch will easily last you a full day (up to 24 hours) on a single charge. There’s a 294 mAh battery onboard here. The charging needs here are handled by a USB-C magnetic charging puck, much like the Apple Watch.

Price and Availability

The Pixel Watch will be available in two variants: one Wi-Fi-only variant and the other with Wi-Fi + 4G LTE connectivity. Check out the prices for both variants right here:

Pixel Watch (Wi-Fi) – $349 (~Rs 28,999)

Pixel Watch (Wi-Fi + 4G) – $399 (~Rs 32,599)

While the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro have launched in India today, there is currently no official word on whether Google’s smartwatch will find its way to Indian shores or not. So stay tuned for more information. Until then, let us know if you will think Pixel Watch could compete with the Galaxy Watch and other Wear OS watches in the market.

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