Samsung Galaxy S9 vs iPhone X: Camera shootout

By | 13th April 2018

The Samsung Galaxy S9 has hit the streets and now everyone is trying to figure out if it lives up to all the hype. No matter which Android phone comes out, its biggest competitor is arguably the latest Apple smartphone around. Right now that means the iPhone X. We know how much you care about device cameras, lets see how Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and the iPhone X face to face in a camera shootout.

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus should be way above the current crop of flagships, with improvements like dual-aperture, dual cameras and multi-frame processing, among other factors. Fancy specs don’t always translate to better performance, though.

Editor's Pick

For this camera shootout we took a series of identical images with both phones, focusing on specific categories to give us a good idea of which smartphone has the better shooter. We will be grading color, detail, landscape, HDR, panorama, portrait and selfie. Let’s see how these phones stack up against each other.


Let’s start with a well-lit scene. This is Angel’s Flight, a historic landmark in downtown LA. The frame has plenty of color, different levels of detail (train, plants, buildings) and direct sunlight. It’s a great way to measure a camera’s ability to handle multiple elements in one image.

The iPhone X is off to a bad start with this one.

Edgar Cervantes

The iPhone X is off to a bad start with this one. The photo is under-exposed, which makes the colors duller and removes details across the frame.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus certainly does a better job exposing the photo. Colors are much more vibrant and there is more detail to be seen. We are not only talking about the train. Look at the grass patch in the lower-right corner, the trees in the back, and the buildings too. Everything looks better.

The iPhone X photo’s color may look more dramatic or striking, but that is not really how this scene looked in real life. The iPhone captured a sky that is too blue. In this case, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus managed to grab more accurate hues.

Where the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus has the upper hand is noise control, which is very likely aided by its wider f/1.5 aperture and multi-image processing. The iPhone X photo is more grainy once you zoom in enough.

The photo taken by the iPhone X is too dark and over saturated. It’s also a tad warm. This makes the food look less appetizing and less accurate. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus did a better job here. It offered great detail, a more realistic scene, and vibrant hues.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


With plenty of textures, lines, and details in this canine, we couldn’t help but stop and take a picture. Both shots are pretty good, but zoom in closer around the eye and you will notice the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is better at portraying the details in the sculpted groves and lines. Its exposure and white balance were also a bit more accurate. The iPhone X blew more of the brighter areas out.

Both phones got the white balance wrong, but luckily that is not our focus right now. This shot is all about detail, and it’s pretty easy to see which one came out on top. Zoom into the lion sculpture or the face above the lower arch. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus better marks the edges and design elements within the art.

You can almost feel the meat.

Edgar Cervantes

Samsung just had to go and over-expose the image. This makes the meat colors look unnatural, and the blown out shiny parts created by the greasy surface kill the level of detail here. On the other hand, the iPhone X did better capturing the texture and details on the surface of the fish. You can almost feel the meat.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


Things are not always better where the sky is more blue.

Edgar Cervantes

Things are not always better where the sky is more blue. The iPhone X might have a prettier background, but the train is way under-exposed. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus photo is not perfect either, but it is much better, with a balanced exposure and overall better quality. It also happens to show more details from the buildings.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus photo is much more balanced than its iPhone X counterpart. It exposes the shadows in the plants, showing more detail and colors. It’s another example of how much Apple’s handset seems to measure lighting poorly.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


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

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

There is no competition here.

Edgar Cervantes

As you can see, there is no competition here. The iPhone X is under-exposed, with stronger shadows and a darker overall feeling. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus takes a more evenly exposed photo. The shade is not as strong, which brings out more details from the tree. The sky is not blown out, nor super dark. Furthermore, the leaves on the top of the tree are well lit and detailed.

OK, Apple. You are doing a better job here. The iPhone X photo is obviously more evenly exposed, despite the harsh background and ultra dark foreground. This is some great HDR work, even if the image is much grainier.

Need I say anything?

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


Need I?!

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


The iPhone X and Galaxy S9 Plus both actually did a pretty good job here, which shows how much natural sunlight helps. I am especially surprised they were able to properly cut around my head, which is usually tricky considering all my hair’s random variations.

I saw no striking discrepancies with the portrait mode here, so the winner out of these two just had to make a better-looking image. I believe this to be the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, which managed to better capture my skin tones and has slightly better-exposed shadows.

This is a hard one, because each camera did poorly in its own way. The Galaxy S9 Plus shot a much softer photo. Josh’s skin looks like it is made of porcelain and the details in his face are pretty much gone. The shot is exposed better, but in this case I will have to make the iPhone X the winner. I think it took a better photo, even if it was a little darker. It was a dark place, after all!

This is a hard one, because both photos are pretty bad in their own ways.

Edgar Cervantes

It seems the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus won't get out of this shootout completely unbeaten.

Edgar Cervantes

It seems the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus won’t get out of this shootout completely unbeaten. The iPhone X  provided a better portrait photo. Its colors may be a bit over-saturated and warmer, but the image is generally better. It managed to create an accurate bokeh effect and keep the details of my face and hair intact. Samsung’s phone, on the other hand, is over-softening the photo once again. Apple gets the victory it needed in this round.

By the way, the burrito was delicious.

Winner: iPhone X


Samsung’s over-softening effect seems to show up in selfies too. In this image the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is made Josh’s skin lighter and smoother, but maybe a little too smooth. Details like his freckles and stubble begin to disappeared. The iPhone did a better job keeping them visible.

The iPhone X had a hard time keeping exposure balanced. It blew out the more lit areas of my face and the background. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus did a better job with exposure, but messed up on the tint, which is a little on the violet side. Overall, we feel the iPhone messed up more, though.

Winner: Tie

Which phone has the better camera?

Apple’s iPhone X has been completely obliterated. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus was far ahead in all categories except for portraits and selfies. Does this mean the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is truly the best, or does it simply tell us the iPhone X isn’t? We would lean more towards the latter.

Apple's iPhone X has been completely obliterated.

Edgar Cervantes

When compared against the Galaxy S9, Galaxy S8 and Pixel 2 XL, the iPhone X was the worse out of the bunch. Apple’s camera was beaten even before Samsung’s new flagship was released. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus beats the iPhone X, but so do the Google Pixel 2 XL and the older Samsung Galaxy S8.