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Hans van de Bruggen @verbiate
, 19 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
I brought my iPhone XS, iPhone X, and Pixel 2 with me today to compare the cameras.

I haven't seen a proper shootout between these 3, so I decided to do one. The Pixel 2 camera is better than iPhone X, but is Pixel 2's camera better than iPhone XS? Will post what I find here.
For context, I've always enjoyed iPhones, but I moved to a Pixel 2 last year because the photos were just that much better. I wouldn't call myself a fanboy, exactly—I like to use whatever I feel is the better product. Last year, the Pixel 2 camera was clearly the better product.
This year, I've been eager to see what Apple would bring to the table. There were some terrible comparison shots posted by The Verge & echoed by the Android press that claimed the Pixel 2 was still the better camera. As in "we don't know what makes a photo good or bad" level.
I figured I should find out for myself. Will post the photos when I get home, along with a link to the originals and maybe even a blind A/B/C shootout. Stay tuned!
And we're back! I'm truly blown away by these results. I took photos in a variety of conditions, including situations that were downright cruel to a camera. Here's an example: we're in a dark room with bright neon lights and the light outside coming in. Here are the originals:
As expected, the iPhone X blows the outdoors out completely, along with much of the neon sign. The Pixel 2 has greater dynamic range, and is able to capture the light outdoors without crushing the darker colors. But the iPhone XS is able to keep the most detail from outside:
Even more impressively, it does this without "crushing the blacks". It actually preserves MORE detail from the dark parts of the image while doing the same with the bright parts. This implies a greater dynamic range than the Pixel 2…
This improved dynamic range was a key draw to the Pixel 2 over the iPhone X camera, as it allows you to capture more detail from parts of the image that would normally be over or underexposed. Here's another example from all three:
The iPhone X fails this one pretty badly, too. Notice how some of the leaves are blown out where the reflections were particularly bright. Pixel 2 also struggles, but does a better job of it. The XS handles this properly, while managing to bring out more detail in the shadows.
Here's another set:
In general, the iPhones tend to prefer brighter images than the Pixel 2, but the XS is able to do this without blowing out the highlights. Notice how in these images the shadowed areas have more detail on the iPhone photos, but how the bright areas like the wall keep their color
The Pixel 2 also has issues with HDR Halos sometimes, usually in the sky when the subject is backlit. The sky seems to glow a little where it borders the buildings here. The effect is usually slight, but you do start to notice the shift in color substantially in some cases.
And speaking of color…
…the other common criticism of the Pixel is that it tends to undersaturate, especially in darker parts of the image. This image looks a bit stoic on the Pixel, while it looks more jubilant (and true to life) with aquamarine glass, lush green trees, and vibrant blue sky on the XS
While no single camera took the best photo every time, these results were indicative of the larger trend. I honestly thought I'd have reason to hang on to the Pixel 2 for certain shots, but it was so regularly outperformed by the XS that I no longer see the need.
What about the Pixel 3? Early comparison shots seem to show they've taken the undersaturation criticism to heart and have overcompensated by turning the dial to 11. This is unfortunate, because the results come out a bit more syrupy and "Samsung" than with the 2.
The Pixel 3 does seem to have the leg up with the selfie camera's dynamic range(!) and in lowlight. Still, I still feel comfortable calling the iPhone XS the better point-and-shoot camera overall this year, and I don't feel like I'd be missing out on a more magical alternative.
(And don't get me started on video, portrait mode, or zoom options! 😤)
Thanks for reading! I've got a big stack of example photos I'll post somewhere if anyone is curious to see more samples. Hope this was useful!
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