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Camera Shootout: Apple vs Samsung vs OnePlus vs Huawei


Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and OnePlus have all launched phones with extremely capable cameras over the past six months. But which one really takes the best photos? Examining the differences helps make the decision of which to buy a little easier. Each is priced around $1,000, so you want to make the right choice for you.

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

We put the Apple iPhone 11 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, the Huawei P40 Pro, and the OnePlus 8 Pro up against each other in a series of camera tests. It’s a serious, hard-fought battle, but there is a winner.

iPhone 11 Pro vs. P40 Pro vs. S20 Plus vs. OnePlus 8 Pro

Camera specifications

Before we get into the tests, here’s a quick rundown of the camera specs for each phone.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro: 12-megapixel f/1.8 standard, 12-megapixel f/2.4 wide-angle, and 12-megapixel f/2.0 telephoto sensors. 2x optical zoom, portrait mode, night mode.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus: 12-megapixel f/1.8 standard, 12-megapixel f/2.2 wide-angle, 64-megapixel f/2.0 telephoto, plus a VGA depth sensor. 3x hybrid zoom, Live Focus mode, night mode.

Huawei P40 Pro: 40-megapixel f1.8 ultra-wide, 50-megapixel f/1.9 wide-angle, 12-megapixel f/3.4 telephoto, and 3D depth sensor. 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom, portrait mode, night mode.

OnePlus 8 Pro: 48-megapixel f/1.78 standard, 48-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide, 8-megapixel f/2.44 telephoto, and 5-megapixel Color Filter sensor. 3x optical zoom, macro mode, portrait mode, night mode.

Shaded gate

Shooting into the sunlight, hidden behind the treetops on the left of the image, presented a challenge for the four phones, and all returned very different images.

The iPhone 11 Pro is the winner here, taking a colorful yet still realistic picture, with just the right amount of shadow to give the shot some atmosphere. The Huawei P40 Pro comes a close second, but I’d have liked the sky to be a little more blue.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Pro casts too much shadow at the edge of the photograph, while the OnePlus 8 Pro goes in the opposite direction, amping up the colors and eliminating atmosphere from the photo entirely.

Winner: Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Wide-angle scene

This photo was taken with the sun in the top left of the photo. It highlights not only HDR ability, but also the differing field-of-view provided by all these wide-angle cameras. Most notably, the Huawei P40 Pro’s wide-angle lens does not show as much of the scene as its competitors. However, there is less distortion and fish-eye effect.

The P40 Pro’s photo is also a little blurred when you zoom in, which may have been an error on my part, or a software issue. Still, I took a single photo, and that’s the one which will be judged here. The OnePlus 8 Pro also suffers from a lack of detail in the background, noticeable when zooming in on the white van.

Between the Galaxy S20 Plus and the iPhone 11 Pro, it’s Apple’s camera that takes the win thanks to its superb Smart HDR technology balancing the blue sky, green foliage, and shadows. The S20 Plus shades the water just a little too much, and has too much shadow at the edge of the photos.

Winner: Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Windmill

It’s a close battle between the iPhone 11 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus here, with the Samsung showing its usual high levels of saturation, while the iPhone tones it down ever so slightly. Both look excellent. The P40 Pro’s blue sky isn’t as dynamic, but there’s no denying the level of detail on the windmill itself. It surpasses the Galaxy S20 Plus’s efforts, and brings out more natural tones than the iPhone too.

The big loser is the OnePlus 8 Pro. The photo is blurred and lacking detail. Whether this was an error on my part or the camera is hard to know, but these tests are conducted to reflect real-life — one photo is taken, and that’s what the phone is judged on.

Conclusion? While I prefer the way the windmill is captured in the P40 Pro’s shot, the iPhone 11 Pro gets all the elements just right, without too much saturation.

Winner: Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Postbox bokeh

This shot was taken using portrait mode on the iPhone 11 Pro and the OnePlus 8 Pro, Live Focus on the Galaxy S20 Plus, and Aperture mode on the Huawei P40 Pro. They all do the same thing — blur out the background around a central subject. None of the cameras separated the flags in the top left of the photo, though they are not part of the postbox and instead strung behind it.

Look at the flag on the front of the mailbox to see the difference in how the iPhone and the P40 Pro captured creases, light, and texture compared to the OnePlus 8 Pro and the Galaxy S20 Plus. Then look inside the opening. A letter is stuck just inside, but it’s only easy to see on the iPhone and the P40 Pro’s shot. The Galaxy S20 Plus and OnePlus 8 Pro don’t handle shadows around the postbox well, losing plenty of detail around the edges.

That leaves the Huawei and the Apple phone. The iPhone 11 Pro squeaks by with a win here, although I don’t like the unnatural bokeh effect, which aggressively isolates the postbox. The shadow, color, and detail are more attractive than Huawei’s image.

Winner: Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Lego

This was taken indoors in moderate daylight. The Huawei P40 Pro’s massive sensor emphasized the natural bokeh, and rigidly focused on the center of the image, but the colors are a little unbalanced. The OnePlus 8 Pro balances the blacks and the tabletop well, but the reds are too vibrant and detail is lost.

The iPhone 11 Pro has better focus and detail, and deep blacks, while crucially keeping the reds under control. It’s close between it and the S20 Plus here, with the Galaxy phone just losing out by blowing out the gray pieces in the background.

Winner: Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Tree zoom

All four phones have different zoom capabilities, making a direct comparison quite hard. To best assess them, I took photos with the standard zoom recommendation on each — 2x on the iPhone, 5x on the P40 Pro, and 3x on the Galaxy S20 Plus and OnePlus 8 Pro. This is how most people will use the cameras, in my opinion.

There is a clear winner right from the start. Not only can the Huawei P40 Pro get closer to the subject, but it also has by far the best color balance of the four, with a brown tree trunk rather than gray of the S20 Plus, and natural yet still vibrant green leaves. The S20 Plus is too saturated, and the OnePlus 8 Pro lacks detail. The iPhone 11 Pro takes a great photo, but it can’t match the Huawei here.

Winner: Huawei P40 Pro

Alloy wheel, full zoom

All four phones have zoom features, and this was taken using the maximum on each. The length of zoom varies, and the results are very different. Still, it’s important to see what each phone can do.

The iPhone 11 Pro manages a 10x digital zoom, and although the intended subject is the wheel, you see the side of the car. It’s obvious what everything is, although you can’t make out the words on the brake caliper, or identify the logo on the wheel very easily.

Both the OnePlus 8 Pro and the Galaxy S20 Plus shoot at 30x digital zoom. The Galaxy S20 Plus’s photo is superior, with better color balance, deeper blacks, and less pixelation. The Huawei P40 Pro reaches 50x digital zoom, and although there is some pixelation, you can see the letters on the brake caliper, recognize the logo, and even see the ground behind the wheel through the spokes. It’s very close between the S20 Plus and the P40 Pro here, but the greater detail at an even closer zoom edges it for the Huawei phone.

Winner: Huawei P40 Pro

Biscuits

Another shot taken inside, this time of dark chocolate biscuits on a blue plate, and that’s a key part of assessing the images here. The only cameras to take a photo with an actual blue plate in it was the P40 Pro and OnePlus 8 Pro, while the Galaxy S20 Plus and iPhone 11 Pro really show a gray plate.

The iPhone and the S20 Plus have a high level of detail, while the P40 Pro suffers a little by blowing out the edge of the biscuit in a way the others did not. The OnePlus 8 Pro falls somewhere in-between, with a blueish plate and a decent level of detail.

None of the cameras nail this photo, so I went with the photo I’d share without editing, and that would be the Huawei P40 Pro.

Winner: Huawei P40 Pro

Night mode

Taken at 9:15 p.m., 30 minutes after sunset and in half-light, the criteria for taking the photo was based on whether the iPhone 11 Pro’s auto Night mode activated or not. For this shot, it did, and selected a 2-second exposure time. On all the other cameras, Night mode has to be manually selected.

The Galaxy S20 Plus falls down, lacking detail in the fence, the railings, and the ground. The OnePlus 8 Pro is held back by a blue tint to the scene, but is otherwise a pleasing level of detail and balance.

The iPhone 11 Pro’s golden glow from the recent sunset is very attractive and gives the photo a lot of atmosphere, but it emphasizes a glow that wasn’t really there. The P40 Pro is considerably more realistic, with a great balance of colors on the ground, and revealing more detail in the trees. Interestingly, there was not much difference between the P40 Pro’s normal photo and its night mode image.

Winner: Huawei P40 Pro

The iPhone 11 Pro and Huawei P40 Pro are neck-and-neck

There are nine different photos comparisons in the test, and the iPhone 11 Pro won five of them. The Huawei P40 Pro won four. Neither the OnePlus 8 Pro nor the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus managed to win a single category.

None of the cameras took a bad photo, and all could be happily shared with minimal editing. However, the iPhone 11 Pro produced the most consistent results, as it came close to winning even in the categories it ultimately lost. The combination of stunning colors, delicate balance, and HDR, plus super dynamic range and detail, makes it a fantastic camera in almost all situations.

What about the others? The P40 Pro came second, and its camera may still need to be fully realized through software updates. In our review, it impressed hugely, and my recommendation over the Android competition remains. The OnePlus 8 Pro did well, but couldn’t keep up in most shots, often misreading color. And while the Galaxy S20 Plus has good specifications and does take attractive photos, when put alongside the P40 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro, it couldn’t quite stand out enough to win.

The Apple iPhone 11 Pro is our winner, and its dependability makes it an easy recommendation for anyone who wants to take excellent photos without any fuss.

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