Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus vs Google Pixel 2 XL: Camera comparison

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are finally out and if you’re wondering about the camera, you’ve come to the right place. Samsung’s cameras have always been good, but how does the S9 Plus stack up against the competition? The Google Pixel 2 XL is one of the main contenders, so we decided to the two phones in a shootout.

Samsung touts improved camera performance, thanks to its dual-aperture, dual cameras, multi-frame processing, superior slow motion, and more. Those fancy specs don’t always translate to superior images. Even when they do, sometimes it’s not by much. That is what we are trying to find out here.

Editor's Pick

We have taken a slew of identical shots with both phones (Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Google Pixel 2 XL, specifically) and will compare them based on specific categories. The categories are color, detail, landscape, HDR, panorama, portrait, and selfies. Let’s jump right in and see these camera phones’ true colors.


Color

Sushi always has plenty of colors, and this darker environment gave us a great chance to put the cameras to the test. In this case, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus’ camera produced a great image. In fact, we would say it is better exposed and overall a better photo, though we like what the Google Pixel 2 XL did with the colors here.

The contrast is much more pronounced, which makes hues pop. The colors in the front row of sushi are especially bright and vibrant. If you look at the background, at the bowl, its contents also show more detail.

While the lower exposure may sometimes help, this time it was the Google Pixel 2 XL's demise.

Edgar Cervantes

This time the Google Pixel 2 XL’s  lower is exposure was its downfall. The Samsung Galaxy S9 camera put the Google Pixel 2 XL camera to shame in this mid-light color test. Samsung’s contestant better exposed the image, capturing brighter and more vibrant colors, as well as great detail.

The Google Pixel 2 XL camera might be a bit more accurate in terms of color, but what the Samsung Galaxy S9 did here is way better. The photo is well exposed all across the board. From the grass in the lower-right corner, to the train and the trees behind, the colors are more vibrant and detailed. There is no competition here, really.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


Detail

I still don’t know if this is a fox, coyote, wolf, or whatever, but it makes for a great detail test. It has different textures, colors, shadows and plenty of detail.

Zoom in around the eye and its clear the Google Pixel 2 XL managed to better capture the texture and details in the groves and lines. There is more detail all around. Meanwhile, Samsung’s device takes a good photo, but the image is a bit softer and the white balance is off.

While Google's device captured the overall better picture, Samsung wins in the detail department.

Edgar Cervantes

There is a lot going on here, making it a bit harder to really grade these photos. At first glance, the Pixel 2 XL seems to have taken a better-exposed photo, but we are trying to measure the level of detail. The story is different once we start looking closer.

Zoomed into the grass foliage hanging off the lower waterfall cliff, the Galaxy S9 Plus clearly captured more shadows, lines, and details. It even captured individual bubbles in the water better. So, while Google’s device captured the overall better picture, Samsung’s phone wins in the detail department.

I can still taste the fatty deliciousness of this thing. Man....

Edgar Cervantes

I can still taste the fatty deliciousness of this, man.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 over-exposed the image a bit, which gets rid of plenty of detail. Turn to the Google Pixel 2 XL shot and you can almost taste it. We can easily appreciate the texture and even the grooves in the meat. There are also more details of the crisp areas on top, as well as the garnish. It may be a darker image, but it looks tastier.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL


Landscape

The Google Pixel 2 XL image is a tad on the darker side. The S9 captured a better-exposed image, and more detailed shadowed areas (the trees). You can better appreciate the clouds in the Pixel 2’s shot, but the clouds are not exactly the focus here, and the difference is not substantial. The Samsung Galaxy S9 wins this round.

Once again, the Google Pixel 2 XL darkens the shadows and fails to provide enough detail from the trees and foliage.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 more clearly represents the diverse colors and textures within this frame. It is a more evenly exposed image, with vibrant colors and a great level of detail.

Winner: Samsung Galay S9 Plus


HDR

High Dynamic Range (HDR) refers to the level of luminance displayed across an image. The idea is to get more leveled exposure across a photo (higher exposure in the strong shades and balanced exposure in the overly bright areas).

For this test, we took multiple shots with direct sunlight and strong shade in a single frame. Let’s take a look at them.

As you can see, the Samsung Galaxy S9 did better exposing the shade under the tree, grabbing more details from the trunk, ground, and Josh. Meanwhile, the tree and sky look equally exposed in direct sunlight, which is no easy feat for a camera.

The Google Pixel 2 XL created a weird haze element we are not huge fans of, but ultimately it accomplished the HDR purpose. It brought out the details in the dark and managed to create a more evenly exposed image, even if it looked artificial. Google takes this round.

Though the Samsung device shot a prettier photo, the Pixel 2 XL more accurately handled HDR.

Edgar Cervantes

The Samsung device shot a prettier photo. The Pixel 2 XL handled the HDR more accurately. It may be a bit under exposed, but it is much more evenly exposed, which is the whole point of HDR. The difference is stunning!

Notice how the Google Pixel 2 XL managed to capture details from the brick wall, without blowing out the lit up areas. Meanwhile, we can still admire the frame and have quite a bit of data from the beer.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL


Panorama

The Google Pixel 2 XL took a better photo, with superior exposure, tones,  more detail, and less digital noise. But panoramic photos are all about the stitching, and we can see multiple discrepancies across the frame.

Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus took a slightly worse picture (still good) with no stitching problems. Samsung takes this round.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


Portrait

Each photo has its own merits here. The Galaxy S9 Plus managed to better expose the image and capture more accurate colors, but the image is a bit too soft. You can’t quite see the details in my hair and face.

The Google Pixel 2 XL captured a more striking image with more details in my face and hair. It also looks a bit more artificial. Overall, I say it is a better shot, though.

They both did a horrible job figuring out which parts of the photo should be blurred out

Edgar Cervantes

Once again, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus photo is too soft. They both did a horrible job figuring out which parts of the photo should be blurred out, but at least the Pixel 2 XL gave a better representation of Josh.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL


Selfie

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus over-softened the skin, and got rid of some of Josh’s distinctive freckles and facial features. Google’s image may be a bit under-exposed, but it captured all the details better.

The Google Pixel 2 XL did a better job capturing details in my hair, beard, and skin. It also had no weird tones or elements, though it felt a tiny bit over-edited. Regardless, it manages to look better and more crisp than the purple-tinted Galaxy S9 Plus photo.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL


Which has the better camera?

The Google Pixel 2 XL and the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus ended up tied in our larger camera shootout, which also included the iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy S8. Take out the other two phones from the equation and the battle gets a little more heated. This time around the Google Pixel 2 XL actually won 4 sections, while the Galaxy S9 Plus took 3 victories home.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the Google Pixel 2 XL is a better camera. Both shooters are amazing and will produce some awesome still shots. The Google Pixel 2 XL has proven to be a better camera phone overall, but not by very much. Where the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus excels, it does so pretty well.

Dual aperture, the secondary camera, and multi-frame processing will help, but not in every instance, which is exactly the point we tried to make in the larger comparison. The Galaxy S9 Plus is definitely up there with the best phone cameras in the industry. If you like Samsung and you’re looking for a new phone, you can be proud of its shooter and how well it performs —it really is fantastic. You might not want to upgrade if you are already happy with your current phone and its camera, though. Despite all the marketing hype, the camera isn’t light years ahead.

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