Pixel 2 XL vs iPhone 8+ vs Note8 vs LG V30 – Smartphone Camera Showdown

Smartphone manufacturers have been telling us for years that, thanks to features like portrait mode, they are good enough to replace a standalone camera. Well, I think that is a load of crap, but I do realize that even if I gave up these stylish belt holsters for free, convincing everyone they should carry around a proper camera like my Fuji XC2 is an uphill battle. So since you guys are going to use whatever is already in your pocket, I guess I need to spend some time figuring out which one of these is closest to good enough.

And speaking of good is Zotac's Magnus EN 1070 mini gaming PC. Comes VR and AAA game ready. Check it out in the link in the video description. ♪♫ I want to start off by saying what this video is not. It's not a scientific analysis, it doesn't cover every aspect of the performance of every one of these phones, and I didn't even touch on video. And it is not even representative of the best work I could do with them as an imaging professional. What it is is a collection of my thoughts from using these cameras in a wide variety of different scenarios, as most people would use them – no third-party apps, full auto mode, with tap for metering and focus as my only manual controls.

And yes, before all of you go storming into the comments section, I know the V30 has a very flexible manual mode within their camera app. However, with enough time and tweaking in manual settings nearly any camera can look great, and what I wanted to see here was an average user's use case for a camera on their phone in auto mode. We also chose to include the iPhone 8+ in this roundup instead of the iPhone 10 because our 10 had unfortunately not arrived yet during the making of this video. Let's start by tackling color. In the first shot with the pink flower, the Note 8 and the V30 are both boosting saturation significantly with the Pixel 2 and the iPhone 8+ both leaning more neutral, and the Pixel 2 being the least saturated of the bunch.

Overall the Note 8 captured what most people would probably describe as the most pleasing image without editing, But the iPhone wins with the most true-to-life representation of color. In this second set of images, the iPhone 8 and the V30 both went for a slightly warmer white balance on a blueish, overcast day, while surprisingly the Note 8 has a cooler more neutral white balance with the Pixel 2 being again the most neutral and desaturated of the four. Here the V30 gives the sky and the white part of the wall art a greenish tint, while the Note 8 and the Pixel 2 gave fairly similar results, though I give the edge to the Pixel 2 thanks to its more balanced exposure and color saturation and truer-to-life color reproduction. Then the iPhone 8 by comparison looks like someone intentionally desaturated the image. Color wise, it's hard to declare a clear winner that's head and shoulders above the rest, but we do have a loser, the LG v 30.

Then if pressed I would say the Pixel 2 comes out on top thanks to its consistent delivery of true to life color, followed closely by the iPhone. Then if you prefer a more saturated look, the Note 8 performed admirably here. Let's compare dynamic range and overall detail. This image was taken from under the Vancouver Convention Center with HDR disabled. We are evaluating the sensor here, not software stitching sophistication. What separates the men from the boys here is the detail in the bottom of the overhang. It registers black on the V30, with the iPhone 8+ and the Note 8 picking up the roof's structural supports but only the Pixel 2 shows what they're made of: wood.

Zooming in for a closer look, the iPhone 8+ gets the edge in overall detail, but Apple's de-noising looks subjectively worse than Google or Samsung's. To LG's credit, the image has almost no noise, but it also contains almost no detail and an overall aggressive post-processing sharpening effect. Hm. This shot of downtown Vancouver confirmed a trend for me with each camera. The V30 and the Note 8, on top of adding much more sharpening in their processing also both tend to under-expose the image, with the V30 being the more aggressive of the two. Looking at the detail in the bottom of the stairs here, it registers nearly black on the V30's image, with the Note 8 faring better overall, but still underexposing compared to the iPhone and the Pixel 2. The iPhone image here, while brighter and holding more detail in the bottom of the stairs also has some noisy artifacts under the stairway. The Pixel 2 strikes a good balance in overall exposure and contrast, it doesn't retain as much detail as the Note 8 under the stairs, but the rest of the image in the Pixel 2 shot has more neutral and true-to-life colors. Let's look at low light.

In this test image, the V30 turns in the worst performance by far, not even registering the tree behind the lamppost. Then things get a little interesting. The images from both the iPhone and Note cameras seem to have compensated for the greenish hue of the park lighting, while the Pixel 2 did not. Not everyone will appreciate Google's approach here — Linus preferred the artificial compensation and better detail rendition in the tree in the iPhone image, but from a technical standpoint, the Pixel 2 lost less detail in the highlights and once again was more true to life. I prefer Google's Interpretation of this scene. This shot of a pile of tree branches shows again that the V30 just doesn't compare to the other phones in this roundup. The Pixel 2 and the iPhone both have a similar overall exposure, but the iPhone's cleaner blacks are quite noticeable in the sky. Then the Note 8 pulls off surprisingly good performance here. They're a touch over-sharpened, but there's a a lot of detail in those branches. I found the iPhone image most pleasing, but once again the Pixel 2 was the closest to actually being there.

I'm going to get into portrait mode next, but first I want to talk about a couple of things we've seen so far. As I mentioned before, the V30 tends to heavily underexpose the image of the same scene compared to the Pixel 2 and the iPhone, with the note 8 only going about half as far, typically. And it's also pretty clear that both LG and Samsung bump up the saturation of their cameras to deliver what they consider to be more pleasing photos, at the cost of some accuracy.

But the biggest trend that stood out to me was the iPhone's inconsistent metering of exposure. Take this low-light HDR shot of the LMG studio for example. The Note 8, Pixel 2 XL and even the V30 all outperformed the iPhone in terms of holding detail in both the sky and our office building in the foreground. The iPhone in nearly every comparison I did tended to be the brightest image of the four, sometimes to its detriment. In a quick studio test I shot the photo with the iPhone last and no matter where I tried to meter the image, I couldn't get the exposure correct without manually compensating in the iPhone's app and surprisingly, changing the model didn't help us get any more usable.

As someone who uses manual camera controls literally every day, I'm not saying this is an unreasonable burden – It's just that every other camera in the roundup managed to do it better. Now let's get into portrait mode. The V 30 doesn't have one at this time so I subbed it out for the X-T2 to act as a reference point for how close we're getting to a two thousand dollar investment into dedicated hardware.

This first shot shows, while the Note 8's dynamic range really falls apart in their live focus portrait mode, they did a reasonably good job of blurring the background, but cropping in on Max's face the image is pretty soft and noise is heavy. The iPhone outdid the Note 8 pretty handily, doing a great job with its artificial bokeh effect and retaining more detail when we zoom in.

The Pixel 2 fared best in overall exposure and detail, but Google's algorithmic single-lens processing technique completely missed the mark on its depth map leaving out the blur effect on the majority of the right of the image This second shot has the note 8 coming out really soft in the detail of the image with a huge loss of information in the highlights. The iPhone performed better, but still feels soft overall, with the Pixel 2 missing its blur effect on the bench here, but otherwise really impressing with its overall exposure and sharpness. As a bonus, it had the most accurate color to my eye. This third shot in a field shows yet again that the Note 8 really can't hold up against the Pixel 2 and the iPhone. With its portrait mode the sky is completely blown out, with Max's skin starting to lose detail in the highlights.

Again the Pixel 2 struggles here to blur both sides of the image, with the iPhone doing a slightly better job there but cropping into the center of the image it's clear that the Pixel 2 handles detail and noise much better than the iPhone does even though the depth mapping failed on this shot. So conclusion time. The Pixel 2, while not the best in every situation, it never came in third place, making it the most consistent at producing an image that with some editing or Instagram filters would likely please anyone using it. The iPhone has the clear edge when it comes to believable fake blurred backgrounds and most close to the pixel 2 in basically every other way. And I'm awarding it second place unless you're a portrait mode fanatic. But I don't want to make it seem like the Note 8 has a bad camera. It doesn't. Google, Apple, and Samsung have all done a fantastic job this generation.

As for the V 30, what can I say? We love the folks at LG — they're very nice people. But at this price, their camera leaves a lot to be desired. But you know who doesn't leave a lot to be desired? FreshBooks. FreshBooks is the small business accounting software that's custom-built for how you want to work. It allows you to be more productive, organized, and helps you get paid quickly. Create and send professional-looking invoices in less than 30 seconds, set up online payments with a couple of clicks, and get paid up to four days faster. See when your client has seen your invoice and put an end to the guessing games. For your unrestricted 30-day free trial just head over to FreshBooks.com/techtips and enter in linustechtips in the "how did you hear about us" section. So thank you guys for watching. If this video sucked, you know what to do. But if it was awesome, get subscribed, hit that like button, or check out the link to where to buy the stuff we featured in this video in the description. Also linked in the description is our merch store, which has cool shirts — not like this one — and our forum, which you should totally join.

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