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Smartphone Camera Showdown: iPhone, Samsung, Huawei and Google

Normally we’d be looking to compare smartphone cameras later in the year, but after the launch of the Huawei P30 Pro – a camera with a smartphone built around it, we had to test for ourselves just how it stacks up.

Make no jokes about this, we’re doing this to see if any of the other big-name flagship smartphones can match or better the Huawei P30 Pro – it’s remarkable sensor and lens combination are on paper the best in the business.

See for yourself.

For our tests, we picked a sunny, yet cloudy day – variable light sources, and on the edge of the world’s greatest harbour – Sydney Harbour.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Our first test is standing at Blues Point. Resting the phone on the railing, and taking a standard simple, point and shoot photo.

Google Pixel 3XL:

Samsung Galaxy S10+:

iPhone XS:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

Huawei P30 Pro:

Summary:  Google disappointed here a bit, but that could also be additional cloud cover.  In the end, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with any of these cameras – all were amazing.

Zoom test: Sydney Harbour Bridge

So how good is the zoom on these cameras? There’s two types of camera zoom: Optical and Digital. Optical Zoom means there is actually a lens, a bit of glass that lets the camera sensor see that far. Digital Zoom is really just taking a cropped portion of the standard photo.

Just how good can your smartphone zoom?

Google Pixel 3XL:

Samsung Galaxy S10+:

iPhone XS:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

Huawei P30 Pro:

And as if to just rub it in – the Huawei P30 Pro also offers a 50x “Hybrid” Zoom which looks like this:

Summary: Ridiculous.  That’s the Zoom on the Huawei P30 Pro.  On both Huawei Phones the Zoom was exceptional, and crisp.  Unmatched, in fact not even close by Google, Samsung and Apple.

Luna Park

Next up we tilted to the left – overlooking the harbour to Luna Park. Bright Sky, dark moving water, and colourful Luna Park.

Google Pixel 3XL:

Samsung Galaxy S10+:

iPhone XS:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

Huawei P30 Pro:

Summary: Again the Pixel feels dark to me, and the Samsung perhaps over saturating the colours  – which – I like, but again, they all perform very well in standard photographic mode.

Luna Park Zoom

And again, to test that Zoom capability – here, as above, we pinched and pulled the zoom to its furthest point on each camera.

Google Pixel 3XL:

Samsung Galaxy S10+:

iPhone XS:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

Huawei P30 Pro:

And yes, the P30 will go further if you want:

Summary: Blurred lines.  That’s the story of Zoom.  A 2x Zoom is useless in these distant situations, sure great at home or around the yard, but Huawei again smash it out of the park here with 3 and 5x zoom plus their hybrid additional zoom.

Selfie

For the selfie test, we went to resident male-model John boy for his expertise. Here here is.

Google Pixel 3XL:

Samsung Galaxy S10+:

iPhone XS:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

btf

Huawei P30 Pro:

Summary: You look like a wanker taking seflies.  Oh, the camera – well, this was a mixed back. I think Google have this one won. Though it’s a very close field.

Potrait

Portrait photos, with that “Bokeh” effect or blurred background – are all the rage. This is a tough one – how well does the phone “see” the person, how well does it draw a line around the person and blur the background? A real test of skill:

Google Pixel 3XL:

Samsung Galaxy S10+:

iPhone XS:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

Huawei P30 Pro:

Summary: Huawei are trying to hard, Samsung’s was too complex to use and Apple seem to have nailed the real sweet spot for Portrait photos on a smartphone.

John in a toy boat

Look, I did this just to get John sitting on playground equipment. But actually, its quite stark how different the colours are in some of these.

Google Pixel 3XL:

Samsung Galaxy S10+:

iPhone XS:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

Huawei P30 Pro:

Summary: This one is a battle between Apple and the Huawei P30 Pro.  As with the other “standard” 1x zoom pics, you wouldn’t be disappointed by any of them.


Low light: Lounge Room

They all like to brag about low light photography performance, so we started with a low light lounge room situation. Still sun coming in the shades and lights/lamps on.

Google Pixel 3XL:

Samsung Galaxy S10+:

iPhone XS:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

Huawei P30 Pro:

Summary: The iPhone disappoints here, while Samsung and Huawei have the closest to true representation of the situation.

Low light: Dark

Bust just how low can you go? For this last test, we picked a DARK corner of the room – and I mean Dark – we could barely see the gear sitting around – here’s how it went:

Google Pixel 3XL:

Samsung Galaxy S10+:

iPhone XS:

Huawei Mate 20 Pro:

Huawei P30 Pro:

Summary: Scroll back to the iPhone photo above.  That’s what it looked almost to the naked eye. How Huawei are able to get so much out of the photo is magic. Unbelievable ISO levels and exposure of things that just shouldn’t be seen – all down to a strong camera sensor.

Conclusion

Look, the Zoom capabilities of the Huawei P30 Pro are exceptional – unmatched in any way other than to be somewhat challenged by last year’s best phone the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

Then you look at that Low-light performance and wonder – how is that even possible?

When you realise that on normal 1x zoom photos and in other modes most commonly used there’s much of a muchness among them – you see how far ahead Huawei are.

If I was working at Huawei I’d put all my focus on Portrait photography to keep ahead overall.

If I was at Apple I’d be in panic mode, and working on new levels of zoom and low light photography.

Samsung should be pretty pleased with where they sit overall, given they are a good length ahead of Apple, but need to think about Zoom and low light, while Google still make a staggering camera given it’s a single lens on the rear.

Right now, I find it hard to imagine how any company could top Huawei’s efforts in 2019.

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Smartphone Camera Showdown: iPhone, Samsung, Huawei and Google
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