9 Top Smartphone Cameras in 2018

Best Smartphone Cameras 2018 Compared

Every year new smartphones with better cameras hit the marketplace. To make it easier for you to understand which smartphones are great for photography we compared the best smartphone cameras in 2018:

  1. Apple iPhone X from $899.99 (175 Amazon Reviews)
  2. Google Pixel 2 at from $359.99 (66 Amazon Reviews)
  3. HTC U11 at $349.94 (293 Amazon Reviews)
  4. Huawei Mate 10 Pro at from $469.99 (490 Amazon Reviews)
  5. LG V30, Nokia 8 at from $394.49 (60 Amazon Reviews)
  6. Nokia 8 at from $362.99 (117 Amazon Reviews)
  7. Samsung Galaxy Note 8 at from $398.99 (1,331 Amazon Reviews)
  8. Sony Xperia Premium at from $387.93 (196 Amazon Reviews)
  9. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus  at from $521.00 (1,331 Amazon Reviews)

1. Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone X, GSM Unlocked 5.8", 256 GB - Space Gray  | from $899.99    175 Amazon Reviews

iPhoneX - Probably the best smartphone camera in 2018
The iPhoneX – Probably the best smartphone camera in 2018

The iPhone X has a dual 12 megapixel rear camera system to go with the 7 megapixel front camera (TrueDepth Camera). The aperture on the rear cameras have been improved, at least the telephoto one. The wide angle lens retains the/1.8 aperture which we have already seen in previous launches in 2017.

The telephoto lens has been improved. It now has an aperture of f/2.4 up from f/2.8. Additionally, the telephoto lens is now stabilized. The main wide angle camera was already stabilized as we have seen it in previous iPhones. The comparative focal lengths on the two rear cameras (on a 35mm format equivalent) being 25mm and 56mm respectively.

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The faster aperture on the telephoto lens gives it that slight bit of advantage when it comes to low light shooting. About 1/3 stop faster. An interesting thing that was noticed is that when shooting in low light and zooming in with (seemingly) the telephoto lens, the iPhone X is actually using digital zoom on the wider lens. It appears even though the telephoto lens has improved, the system has been configured to switch to the more ‘reliable’ of the two cameras when you are shooting zoomed-in in low light.

Speaking of low light, the iPhone X’s sensors seem to be doing an excellent job. The quality of the images is really good, considering the small sensor. Apple has used a new Image Signal processor which is to be credited for that.

In bright light, the iPhone betters anything that you have seen before. The closest rival, and we shall come to that shortly, is the Google Pixel 2. Of course, the latest Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is another claimant to the title. Auto-focusing on the iPhone X is powered by an on-sensor phase detection technology.

Related Post: Best Video Cameras under $1,000

The front-facing camera, conveniently named as TrueDepth Camera is a 7 megapixel one. Don’t fret reading its resolution; this is the most advanced selfie-camera you will currently find in the market. Apple uses an artificial background blur technology in this phone which creates that smooth mushy blur that is reminiscent of DSLR systems.

The TrueDepth technology uses what Apple states thousands (30,000+) of tiny infrared dots on the face that you are (or the camera thinks you are) trying to focus on. These dots create a depth map of your face, the same sort you see when actors playing out their superhero alter ego in front of a green screen. At the same time, an infrared image of your face is also created.

That said, there is a major issue trying to take a selfie with the iPhone. Strangely enough, the location of the shutter button isn’t convenient. Even some cheaper Android phones from Samsung has something like a second floating shutter button. Not the iPhone X. This makes it difficult to take a selfie without blocking the frame while you attempt to click the shutter with your finger.

With the iPhone X, you also have RAW support in the form of DNG. This gives a shade more processing flexibility compared to other phones in the market. Additionally, the sensor is capable of shooting 4K videos at varying frame rates (maximum 120 / 240 fps).

The problem with the iPhone is sometimes as a photographer you feel a bit claustrophobic at the way the phone treats you. Using the sliders to adjust the camera settings or when using a photo editor are two times when you will feel it the most.

Overall, I feel the iPhone X’s camera is not only about the lens and the sensor, but also about the software that works in the background. It is a great choice for casual shooters as well as the snap-happy individual looking for a powerful device that takes great pictures with minimal human interference. Is it a great choice for someone looking for an ILC stand-by? Not really.

Apple iPhone X, GSM Unlocked 5.8', 256 GB - Space Gray
175 Amazon Reviews
Apple iPhone X, GSM Unlocked 5.8", 256 GB - Space Gray
  • An all‑new 5.8‑inch Super Retina screen with all-screen OLED Multi-Touch display
  • 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras with Dual optical image stabilization
  • Wireless Qi charging
  • Splash, water, and dust resistant
  • Sapphire crystal lens cover

Related Post: Become a Better Photographer Using Your Smartphone

2. Google Pixel 2

Google Pixel 2 64GB Unlocked GSM/CDMA 4G LTE Octa-Core Phone w/ 12.2MP Camera - Just...  | from $359.99    66 Amazon Reviews

Google Pixel 2 Unlocked 64gb
Google Pixel 2

If you have seen the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 and didn’t quite like what’s on offer, probably you would look at the Google Pixel 2 and its larger sibling the Google Pixel XL. The Google Pixel 2 is the latest and widely considered as the greatest smartphone that ever slides down a factory assembly line (before the Samsung S9 Plus that is). Now, that’s a big claim considering that there is a certain entity known as the iPhone X lurking around. Let’s take a closer look at the Pixel 2’s camera and find out more about it. The Pixel 2 XL is pretty similar to the Pixel 2, and much of the details discussed here would apply to the camera on that phone as well.

The Google Pixel 2 comes with a single rear camera. The resolution on the camera is a healthy 12.2 megapixel. I am never a fan of high resolution on a small sensor. So, I am quite happy with this. The aperture on the lens is a solid f/1.8. Incidentally, the rear camera does come with optical image stabilization (how technology changes over the years).

The camera comes with dual pixel auto-focusing that incorporates an on-chip phase detection mechanism.

The front-facing camera is an 8 megapixel f/2.4. Again, not much of a difference regarding resolution when compared with the iPhone X. Except for the TrueDepth technology and the dual rear camera system. But then the Google Pixel 2 is powered by some pretty serious software, which, just like what we have seen on the iPhone X, produces fantastic results.

Incidentally, the Google Pixel 2 also comes with a very nice background blur feature that is best used for portrait shots. Something iPhone enthusiasts may want to watch out for. The results are very smooth and flattering to the extent that it is eerie. But at other times because the way the depth map (stereo) generated technology works thanks to the on-chip phase detection technology, if there are two faces in a scene that are close to each other, both are acceptably in focus. Which should not be the case in real-world scenarios when shooting with a proper ILC.

But what makes the Pixel 2 a really interesting phone camera is the underlying HDR+ technology. The HDR+ technology is a revamped mechanism which produces deeper colors, and more vibrant images. However, mind you this technology won’t be applied when you use anything other than the default camera app. Speaking of colors and tone mapping, I don’t like the fact that sometimes the skin tone on people’s faces turn out to be greenish. Sure I can adjust with the tap of a few options, but I don’t quite like people turning green SOOC.

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We start with low light imaging capability as that is where the real test is for a small sensor, and for that matter any sensor. Interestingly, the Pixel 2 performs well when shooting in low light situations. Surprisingly, well to show very little noise at all and very little artifacts from the software trying to artificially boost the exposure. It is better than the performance of the iPhone X in similar lighting.

The iPhone uses a slow shutter speed to compensate for the low light, in the process creating blurry images at times. The Pixel 2, on the other hand, produces sharper images by combining a series of faster exposures that bypasses the problem of low light.

In good lighting, you will have sharp, detailed and very vibrant images. To clarify, the vibrancy is natural and not over the top. With changing the light and the camera set to auto, the white balance adjustments sometimes are off the target.

To make the deal sweeter, and to make sure that you never have a reason not to shoot (which does not make sense when you have a phone like the Pixel 2), Google is giving away free unlimited storage on the cloud till 2020. You can store as much video and still photos as your heart chooses to.

After 2020 only compressed version of your images and videos will be available for free. To access the highest quality you will need to make a payment. With storage becoming dirt cheap, you will probably never wait that long to back up your images and videos on an external drive.

Google Pixel 2 64GB Unlocked GSM/CDMA 4G LTE Octa-Core Phone w/ 12.2MP Camera - Just...
66 Amazon Reviews
Google Pixel 2 64GB Unlocked GSM/CDMA 4G LTE Octa-Core Phone w/ 12.2MP Camera - Just...
  • This Verizon UNLOCKED device is being sold for use with CDMA or GSM carrier networks.  Please check with your carrier...
  • 5" Touchscreen display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920
  • 12.2 MP Camera
  • 64GB of internal storage
  • Includes New OEM A/C Adapter & Data Cable

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3. HTC U11

HTC U11 with hands-free Amazon Alexa – Factory Unlocked – Sapphire Blue – 64GB  | $349.94    293 Amazon Reviews

HTC U11 with hands

The HTC U11 was the top smartphone camera in the business before the Google Pixel 2 and the iPhone 8 and X, marched ahead of it. At a rating of 90, the HTC U11 was at par with the original Google Pixel on DxOMark. So what made the HTC U11 such a fantastic camera that even made DxOMark drool?

The HTC U11 has a 12-megapixel f/1.7 rear camera and a 16-megapixel f/2 front camera. You would think that the HTC U11 is more of a selfie camera because of the higher resolution of the camera at the front rather than the back.

The HTC U11 had what is known as phase detection auto-focusing. This smartphone was one of the pioneers in that aspect before other smartphone cameras further improved the system.

Auto-focusing is fast and locks focus without hesitation. When it was launched, it was the most rapid auto-focusing system even bettering the impressive speed of the iPhone 7 Plus.

Like some of the other top-end smartphones (that released this year), the HTC U11 does have optical image stabilization. It also has good, pleasing colors and the ability to produce a lot of detail in most lighting situations.

One area of discomfort is when shooting in bright conditions; the camera tends to overexpose for the scene. You would struggle to capture good detail when shooting in bright light, especially the sky in a landscape scene. It would be best if you set your exposure to slightly negative exposure compensation. Start with about a stop (or 2/3rd) and then adjust accordingly.

Having said that you might want to use the built-in HDR mode as well. This mode takes several images of a scene each time adjusting the exposure ever so slightly and then combine all these exposures to produce a single exposure for a larger dynamic range.

The test of any photographic sensor is when the lighting is less than optimum. I am referring to quantity and not quality here. Most small sensors as we have seen with compact cameras struggle to produce a decent exposure without noise. The HTC U11 does not have a large sensor, understandably so. It produces very good results with very little noise in the mix. Regarding noise, the HTC U11 comes with a perfect noise suppression algorithm which produces exceptionally clean images. Compared to some of its contemporaries (the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and the Google Pixel) the performance is better. But when compared to something like the latest Google Pixel 2, low light images of the two compared does show up differences. And quite rightly so.

In good light, the HTC U11 produces crisp shots, adequate details, and decent colors. I only use these subdued adjectives because I have just finished reviewing the Pixel 2 and the iPhone X.

HTC U11 with hands-free Amazon Alexa – Factory Unlocked – Sapphire Blue – 64GB
293 Amazon Reviews
HTC U11 with hands-free Amazon Alexa – Factory Unlocked – Sapphire Blue – 64GB
  • WORLD'S FIRST SMARTPHONE WITH HANDS-FREE AMAZON ALEXA: Always on microphone activates Alexa on the go by simply saying...
  • ONE OF THE HIGHEST RATED SMARTPHONE CAMERAS EVER: DXO mark of 90: 16 MP front facing camera and 12MP UltraPixel...
  • WORLD'S FIRST EDGE SENSE SQUEEZE: Squeeze the sides of the phone to open and interact with your favorite features; open...
  • STUNNING DESIGN: Sleek curved glass wrapped around a rigid metal frame with 5.5" Corning Gorilla Glass 5 Quad HD...
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)

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4. Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Huawei Mate 10 Pro Unlocked Phone, 6" 6GB/128GB, AI Processor, Dual Leica Camera,...  | from $469.99    490 Amazon Reviews

Huawei Mate 10 Pro Unlocked Phone 6 inch 6GB 128GB
Huawei Mate 10 Pro, 6″ display

With a rating of 97 (as rated by DxOMark) the Huawei Mate 10 Pro is rated the same as the Apple iPhone X. No mean feat considering that the iPhone X is a fantastic smartphone for photography. But these two smartphones add up to the same rating points for entirely different reasons (and not just for their camera features and performance).

When an average consumer buys a smartphone designed for photography s/he is not looking for something that requires too much of human intervention for shooting great pictures. What s/he looks for is a powerful camera that shoots shareable images every time. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro serves that requirement very well.

The Mate 10 Pro comes with a dual-camera set-up. These lenses are Leica Summilux – H units.  One of these is backed up with a 12-megapixel RGB sensor and the other with a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor. The camera has optical image stabilization on it. There are also two ISP’s to go with the two lenses.

Both the cameras have a fast aperture of f/1.6. Both the cameras are using multiple frames and combining them to produce a sharp image. The selfie or the front-facing camera on the Mate 10 Pro is an 8-megapixel f/2 unit. It comes with a special portrait mode.

Speaking of the fast f/1.6 aperture I have to put in a few words about the camera’s ‘bokeh’ abilities. The Mate 10 Pro does produce nice background blur. The reason for that is the camera can create a nice subject to background separation.

The results are more natural looking compared to the Google Pixel 2. This is because unlike the Pixel 2 where the priority is the faces, even if they are at different focal distances from the camera, with the Mate 10 Pro, it is the focal plane that gets priority and not the face.

Thus, if there are any other objects on the same focal plane, they are also brought into focus. Which is not the case with the Pixel 2 (at least during portrait mode). Thus, with the Mate 10 Pro, the results are more natural compared to something like the Google Pixel 2.

Auto-focusing on the Mate 10 Pro is powered by a set of 4 auto-focusing technologies. These include laser AF, depth detection, contrast detection and finally the very accurate phase detection auto-focusing.

Auto-focusing is reliable, but this is not the best in the class. Dual pixel AF that we have seen in some of the other phones (already discussed above) does a better job.

With such a wide open aperture low light photography capabilities of the camera is a foregone conclusion. Shooting in bright light produces very soothing colors as well. White balance on auto mode produces slightly warmer tones.

However, that is not over the top. Details are retained in both the highlights and in the shadows and the overall dynamic range of the images in bright light is very good. That said, this is not a DSLR and so expecting something in that line for dynamic range isn’t realistic at all.

Huawei Mate 10 Pro Unlocked Phone, 6' 6GB/128GB, AI Processor, Dual Leica Camera,...
490 Amazon Reviews
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Unlocked Phone, 6" 6GB/128GB, AI Processor, Dual Leica Camera,...
  • The HUAWEI FullView Display is a stunning new 6-inch screen with an 18:9 display ratio, barely-there bezel and HDR10...
  • With 2X the speed of 4G LTE, Huawei Mate 10 Pro gives you the ultimate gigabit LTE experience capable of speeds up to 1...
  • With a large 4000 mAh battery coupled with smart battery management that learns from user behaviors, power-waste is...
  • Huawei new intelligent Leica Dual Camera with and ai powered real-time scene and object recognition delivers exceptional...
  • HUAWEI's SuperCharge technology not only provides a whole day of power with a single 20-minute charge, its 15-layer...

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5. LG V30

LG V30+ H930DS 128GB/4GB Dual Sim Factory Unlocked GSM Smartphone - International...  | from $394.49    60 Amazon Reviews

LG V30 H930DS 128GB, 4GB
LG V30 H930DS 128GB, 4GB

The LG V30 is the flagship smartphone of the company. The dual camera system comes with an aperture of f/1.6 and f/1.9 respectively. The primary camera offers a resolution of 16 megapixels and is equipped with optical image stabilization.

On the other hand, the secondary camera has a wide angle lens. This camera has a resolution of 13 megapixels. However, this camera does not have image stabilization. The lack of image stabilization will not affect you at all as the wide-angle perspective, and the fast aperture plus the focusing set to infinity will not struggle in good lighting.

The selfie or the front-facing camera has a resolution of only 5 megapixels. But more than the specs, which is disappointing surely, the lens does not capture too much detail, which is understandable given the low resolution. The colors on the whole are acceptable but the exposure can be off at times.

When it comes down to performance, the LG V30 is an average shooter compared to some of the other high-end smartphone cameras that we have read about here. Colors are okay but not as vibrant as Samsung or Google or Apple’s state of the art phones. As a flagship camera, you would expect nothing but the best. Unfortunately, the LG V30 does not live up to that expectation.

Unfortunately, that is not the case with the LG V30. Another area of unhappiness is the dynamic range. It is quite clearly not at par with the other flagship shooters that we have read here. Though the LG V30 does seem to retain a healthy amount of detail in the highlights, which is nice, it struggles to replicate the performance in the shadows. Especially, in low light conditions, the LG V30 struggles to reproduce the same magic. The result is noise and lots of it when you enlarge an image to review on your computer.

The fact that LG’s user interface is somewhat a pain to use does not help matters. Quick access to the camera via the menu is difficult.

Auto-focusing on the primary camera is not exactly lightning. It is slow in good lighting, but strangely enough, AF performance in bad lighting is faster. The LG V30 produces good sharp shareable photos in decent lighting but only of stationary subjects. The camera struggles when you are trying to photograph a moving subject.

LG V30+ H930DS 128GB/4GB Dual Sim Factory Unlocked GSM Smartphone - International...
60 Amazon Reviews
LG V30+ H930DS 128GB/4GB Dual Sim Factory Unlocked GSM Smartphone - International...
  • Hybrid Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by), GSM only, no CDMA (won't work with Sprint, Verizon, Boost, etc.). Please...
  • 6.0 inches screen, 1440 x 2880 pixels, 18:9 ratio
  • Android 7.1.2 (Nougat), Dual 16MP+13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
  • Octa-core (4x2.45 GHz Kryo & 4x1.9 GHz Kryo), 128GB ROM, 4GB RAM
  • Factory Unlocked International Version, has no warranty in the US

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6. Nokia 8

Nokia 8 TA-1052 64GB Tempered Blue, Dual Sim, 5.4", 4GB RAM, GSM Unlocked...  | from $362.99    117 Amazon Reviews

Nokia 8 TA-1052 64GB Tempered Blue, Dual Sim, 5.4", 4GB RAM
Nokia 8 TA-1052, 5.4″ display

The Nokia 8 best feature is a dual camera system designed in collaboration with Zeiss. The twin cameras are powered by a 13 megapixels RGB sensor and a 13 megapixels monochrome sensor. The RGB camera has an aperture of f/2 and comes with optical image stabilization.

The optical quality of the Zeiss lens, theoretically, should be great. However, in reality, the images produced by the Nokia 8 are okay, but not excellent. They are certainly not stunning and certainly not in the same league as something like the Google Pixel (original) or even the iPhone 7 Plus. With a rating of 68, even DxOMark acknowledges that and the smartphone camera barely makes it to the list of the top camera phones. Stillm on the subject of the front-facing camera, this is the camera that you would be using for shooting selfies.

Unfortunately, this camera to disappoints when you compare it with the likes of the Google Pixel 2 and the rest of the top smartphones in the business.

Auto-focusing with the front camera is always a hit and miss kind of a thing. In low light, the deficiencies of the front camera become all too easy to understand. That said the camera is capable of producing some bokeh, or in other words, there is noticeable background separation with the background out of focus. But the effects are not on par with some of the class-leading smartphones that we have discussed already.

To elaborate, the Nokia 8 has lower contrast and dynamic range when shooting outdoors and in bright light conditions. Details are not satisfactory and that is one area no photographer would be willing to compromise. I am not referring to the casual photographer though, I am referring to someone who already owns an ILC. In low light situations the Nokia 8 struggles and displays ample amount of noise, especially in the shadow areas. Sharpness of images is also quite disappointing. Please note that I am only referring to its features based on its claim to be the flagship Nokia phone for photography.

Auto-focusing is yet another area of disappointment, when you compare it with the likes of iPhone X, the iPhone 8 Plus and the Google Pixel 2 and the original. It lags at times and speed is not up to the mark.

Nokia 8 TA-1052 64GB Tempered Blue, Dual Sim, 5.4', 4GB RAM, GSM Unlocked...
117 Amazon Reviews
Nokia 8 TA-1052 64GB Tempered Blue, Dual Sim, 5.4", 4GB RAM, GSM Unlocked...
  • OS: Android 7.1.1 (Nougat), Display: 5.3 inches, IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, Chip:Qualcomm MSM8998...
  • Unlocked cell phones are compatible with GSM carrier such as AT&T and T-Mobile, but are not compatible with CDMA...
  • Please check if your GSM cellular carrier supports the bands for this model before purchasing, LTE may not be available...
  • This device may not include a US warranty as some manufacturers do not honor warranties for international items. Please...
  • The box contains: Your new device, USB cable, Charger (May be foreign), Documentation.

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7. Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 N950 Factory Unlocked Phone 64GB Midnight Black (Renewed)  | from $398.99    279 Amazon Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8

About a year back Samsung had a huge, huge setback in the form of the no-fly ban on its flagship Galaxy Note 7. The turn of the New Year saw they come back in the form of the new Galaxy Note 8. The Note 7 and the Note 8 is the quintessential phablet design that combined the conveniences of a smartphone with the usability of a tablet. The phablet design was here to stay.

Though there are some aspects of the Note 8 that could be deliberated upon, we are concerned only about the camera and its capabilities, namely still photography.

The Note 8 comes with a dual camera set-up. Both these cameras are powered by a 12-megapixel sensor each. The main camera is a wide angle one which is a 26mm f/1.7 lens. The other telephoto lens is a 52mm one which has an f/2.4 aperture. It comes with optical image stabilization. I am never a fan of digital zoom and the Note 8 comes (thankfully) with a 2x optical zoom on the secondary telephoto lens.

One of the striking features of the phone (phablet) is its beautiful background blur feature. This is done using the twin camera system of the phone. The effect is similar to what you would see on the iPhone 7 Plus. The stand out feature is the ability to control the amount of bokeh. There is a sliding bar which allows you to increase or decrease the bokeh effect.

Samsung has used phase detection auto focusing on the camera. Auto-focus capabilities on the Note 8 is excellent. Contrast, colors, and details are great in bright lighting conditions. Colors are vibrant, and the contrast is stunning. The 12-megapixel sensor along with the high-quality lens is able to capture a lot of detail. The only problem area seems to be that in really bright conditions the camera tends to blow out the details in the highlights. So, if there are patches clouds in the sky chances are they will become blobs of white. You could try underexposing the scene (if you need more detail in the highlights) or better still make use of the capable HDR feature of the camera.

On the other hand when shooting in darker conditions, such as when shooting indoors etc. the Note 8 makes better exposures compared to outdoor scenes. The dynamic range is slightly better. However, in some cases when the ambient lighting is very low images can become slightly darker. You may want to use the HDR mode again or try a slower shutter speed or higher ISO. DxOMark had tested and reviewed the Note 8’s camera and gave it 100 rating for the camera (the first ever smartphone camera that received that rating).

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 N950 Factory Unlocked Phone 64GB Midnight Black (Renewed)
279 Amazon Reviews
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 N950 Factory Unlocked Phone 64GB Midnight Black (Renewed)
  • Internal Memory: 64GB and 6GB of RAM
  • 4G LTE speed Provides fast Web connection for downloading apps, streaming content and staying connected with social...
  • Dual 12.0MP rear-facing camera Record your favorite memories with good resolutions, with enough detail for print. Also...
  • This devices is compatible with GMS carriers only, and not complatible with CDMA

8. Sony Xperia Premium

Sony Xperia XZ Premium G8142 64GB Deepsea Black, Dual Sim, 5.5", GSM Unlocked...  | from $387.93    196 Amazon Reviews

Sony Xperia XZ Premium
Sony Xperia XZ Premium

The Sony Xperia Premium is the new flagship of Sony’s smartphone lineup, and it sure has some pretty tough competition to beat.  The highlight of the Xperia Premium is Sony’s 3-layer stack technology. The main camera is a 1/2.3″ 19 megapixels stacked BSI CMOS sensor and is paired with an f/2 lens with a 25mm focal length.

Bright light and low light, contrasting scenes with both shadow and highlights are tough challenges for a DSLR sensor, let alone the puny sensor of a smartphone. But these are the extremes that a good camera is expected to perform well in.

The images in bright light are well exposed and punchy in contrast. Colors are rendered well. However, in mixed situations, where the scene has both highlights and shadows the dynamic range of the Xperia Premium is slightly on the dull side. It has a definite bias towards the highlight areas, trying to underexpose the image to retain details in these areas. In the process, it will push the areas that are in the shadows further down.

In some cases, the lens suffers from ghosting as well when the sun is in the frame. These lenses are not in the same league as some of the premium ILC lenses and they are susceptible to ghosting and flares.

Low light images are fine as long as you don’t have bright patches such as the sun through a window in an otherwise dimly lit room and such, when the sensor goes crazy (as already explained above). It would be best to avoid these scenarios or shoot in the HDR mode and try to extract as much dynamic range as possible.  The white balance SOOC can sometimes be off too. Especially in mixed lighting situations.

What the Sony Xperia Premium does do well is in the auto-focusing department. This is one area where DxOMark gives the phone (camera) a higher rating. Overall this is a nice smartphone camera. Is it comparable to the best in the business? No.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium G8142 64GB Deepsea Black, Dual Sim, 5.5', GSM Unlocked...
196 Amazon Reviews
Sony Xperia XZ Premium G8142 64GB Deepsea Black, Dual Sim, 5.5", GSM Unlocked...
  • Memory: 64GB / 4GB RAM, OS: Google Android 7.1 (Nougat), CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, Display: 5.5 inches,...
  • Unlocked cell phones are compatible with GSM carrier such as AT&T and T-Mobile, but are not compatible with CDMA...
  • Please check if your GSM cellular carrier supports the bands for this model before purchasing, LTE may not be available...
  • This device may not include a US warranty as some manufacturers do not honor warranties for international items. Please...
  • The box contains: Your new device, USB cable, Charger (May be foreign) , Documentation

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9. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Factory Unlocked Smartphone 64GB - Midnight Black - US Warranty...  | from $521.00    1,331 Amazon Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is the latest flagship camera launched by Samsung. It was launched along with its younger sibling the Galaxy S9. Since we are concerned about the camera specs and its performance we will stick to it. One minor detail that we couldn’t ignore was a study (by TechInsights) which states that the camera on the S9 Plus is the third priciest component of the phone. Sounds like music if you are a photographer.

The S9 Plus shares some of the specs of the Galaxy Note 8 that we discussed above, in the sense that it has the same two cameras set up as the older system. However, the S9 Plus’s main camera comes with a variable aperture lens.

This is a really interesting feature that lets you control the exposure and the depth of field in different lighting situations. In bright light conditions, the lens switches to the slower f/2.4 aperture to ensure a faster shutter speed and prevent a highlight blow out. In dim lighting conditions, the lens switches to the f/1.5 aperture so that a lot of light can be captured for better exposure. The variable aperture mechanism also means that you can control the bokeh depending on the scene.

The secondary camera has a f/2.4 aperture (fixed) lens. Underneath the lens is a 12 megapixel ‘SuperSpeed’ sensor. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is the sharpest and the highest rated smartphone camera ever to be tested by DxOMark. It gains a whopping 99 points which catapult it to the top of the ranking, ahead of fantastic cameras like the Apple iPhone 8 and X and the Google Pixel 2. On the merits of the camera alone it gets a total point of 104 which is unprecedented.

Another mentionable feature of the S9 Plus is its Dual Pixel phase detection auto-focusing mechanism. This is not the first time though we see this state of the art auto-focusing system on a smartphone camera. But its presence on the S9 Plus gives it the added advantage compared to smartphones which don’t have this feature.

Now comes the actual performance review based on real-world scenarios. The S9 Plus does perform exceptionally well when shooting in bright light especially outdoors. There is no dearth of dynamic range. Though I wouldn’t compare this with something like the Nikon D850 or the Sony a7R II.

But when it comes to smartphone cameras, this is the best that you can get. Colors in a scene are well replicated, and there is good noise suppression as well.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Factory Unlocked Smartphone 64GB - Midnight Black - US Warranty...
1,331 Amazon Reviews
Samsung Galaxy S9+ Factory Unlocked Smartphone 64GB - Midnight Black - US Warranty...
  • Super Speed Dual Pixel Camera with Rear Dual Camera
  • Infinity Display: edge-to-edge immersive screen, enhancing your entertainment experience**
  • IP68 rating: withstands splashes, spills, and rain so it can take a dip, worry-free***
  • Internal Memory 64 GB. Expandable Storage up to 400GB****
  • Fast Wireless Charging: Avoid the wires and power up quickly by placing your phone on a Fast Wireless Charger *****

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