Best Camera Phone of 2019
发表于2019-04-11
 
        The camera is increasingly becoming the main selling point of flagship smartphones. We took the top performing flagship smartphones from our mobile phone test and submitted them to our separate camera lab test to see how they compare with dedicated compact cameras.
 

        All mobile phones are subjected to hundred of individual tests in our mobile phone test conducted at a top European test lab, where camera and video tests comprise 20% of the total test score. In a separate test conducted in the top global imaging lab, we test compact cameras, bridge cameras, mirrorless system cameras and digital SLRs. In order to determine which is the best camera phone, we took the 5 leading flagships currently on the market:

  • Samsung Galaxy S10
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  • Google Pixel 3XL
  • iPhone XS
  • Huawei P20 Pro

Spoiler alert: two of the above flagship smartphones were found to have a serious imaging issues with one of their lens.

 
 

Looking at the camera specifications alone, the three main camera lens on the Huawei Mate Pro, including a 40 MP main wide lens, a 8MP 5x telephoto lens and 20 MP ultrawide lens stand out as the best specifications in the group. However, our lab tests have repeatedly shown that higher resolution is no guarantee of higher quality images.

On video resolution, the Samsung S10 and iPhone Xs stand out with both offering 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) at 60 frames per second compared to 30 frames for second on the other models.

For selfies, the Google Pixel 3 XL has gone with the unusual configuration of 2 selfie camera lens, yet only a single main camera lens.

All of the phones are equipped with some premium camera features including HDR and Raw recording mode. The Samsung and Huawei models also include manual focus option, a feature not available on either the Apple or Google models.

One commonly seen feature on most premium smartphones which we were surprised to see absent from the Google Pixel 3 XL was facial recognition.

Let’s see how they performed in the lab tests:

Outdoor- daylight

  1. Apple iPhone Xs
  2. Samsung Galaxy S10
  3. Tie: Google Pixel 3 XL and Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  4. Huawei P20 Pro

Our outdoor test is conducted in a controlled lightroom environment simulating a bright outdoor landscape in a scene with high contrast and natural colors. 

 
 
        Compare below the close-up of the two balls of yarn of the top smartphone image taken by the iPhone Xs, against the bottom smartphone image taken by the P20 Pro. Notice the clarity and extra detail of the iPhone photo; while the image taken by the P20 Pro is slightly blurred and less sharp.
 
  
 

Indoor – portrait

  1. Apple iPhone Xs
  2. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  3. Tie: Huawei P20 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10
  4. Google Pixel 3 XL

Our portrait test is conducted in an indoor living room setting without flash.

 
 
        Observe the natural skin tone on the mannequin in the top image from the iPhone Xs compared to the unnatural yellow tint of the bottom image from the Pixel 3 XL. Also, notice the greater details and clarity of individual strand of hair on the iPhone image, compared to the more blurred, soft image of the Pixel 3 XL.

 

    
 

Lowlight

  1. Apple iPhone Xs
  2. Samsung Galaxy S10
  3. Huawei P20 Pro
  4. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  5. Google Pixel 3 XL

For lowlight performance, evaluate performance in three different settings: outdoor, portrait, as well as a test chart to assess image noise. In the outdoor lowlight environment moving objects were simulated with a rotating color pattern on the spinning wheel. The image was assessed for motion blur,  image noise as well as overall image quality.

 
 
        The Samsung Galaxy S10 has excellent outdoor lowlight image quality, able to capture objects in motion without blur and retaining details and clarity despite the compromised light environment. The Google Pixel 3 XL had difficulty capturing the same image as can be seen by slightly blurred rotating color pattern and higher image noise in the bottom image from the Pixel compared with the detailed, sharp images from the Galaxy S10 on top.
 
    

 

Image Stabilization

  1. Samsung Galaxy S10
  2. Google Pixel 3 XL
  3. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  4. Apple iPhone Xs
  5. Huawei P20 Pro

Image stabilization is evaluated by fixing the camera phones onto a vibrating rig that simulates shaky hands. All of the flagship smartphones in this test are equipped with optical image stabilization, however they are not all equally effective as can be seen in the steady top image taken with the S10 vs the slightly blurry image taken with the P20 Pro.

  
     
 
    
 

Movie Quality

  1. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  2. Google Pixel 3 XL
  3. Huawei P20 Pro
  4. Apple iPhone Xs
  5. Samsung Galaxy S10

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes out on top in the movie test with the best video and sound quality, while the Samsung Galaxy S10, despite 4K resolution, is noticeably behind in video image quality, although its sound quality is very good.

Ease of Use

  1. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  2. Huawei P20 Pro
  3. Google Pixel 3 XL
  4. Apple iPhone Xs
  5. Samsung Galaxy S10

Distortion

  1. Apple iPhone Xs
  2. Google Pixel 3 XL
  3. Huawei P20 Pro
  4. Huawei Mate 20 Pro – severe distortion with ultrawide angle lens
  5. Samsung Galaxy S10 – severe distortion with ultrawide angle lens
 
        The Huawei Mate 20 Pro was the first smartphone to add a third 16mm ultrawide angle lens. Samsung has taken this route as well with the inclusion of a 12mm third ultrawide angle lens on the Galaxy S10.

The benefit of an ultrawide angle lens is the wider field of vision, able to capture a panoramic display with a single shot, without the usual pan-and-scan image stitching. However, they are not without a tradeoff, as any photographer who has used a fisheye lens is well aware: image distortion. In order to fit a wider field of vision onto the image sensor, the sides of the image become increasingly distorted. Consider if you were taking pictures of high buildings; with an ultrawide angle lens, the sides of the buildings are no longer straight, but rather start to curve the further away from the center of the image. In order to address the distortion issues, many DSLRs and mirrorless system cameras have a distortion correction feature that can be switched on when using a wideangle lens to correct the issue.

However, the ultrawide lens on both the Huawei and the Samsung lack any distortion correction feature, resulting in extremely distorted images. The edges of a proper undistorted image should be straight and line up with the edges of the frame. This is the case with the image taken with the standard wide-angle lens of the iPhone XS (top image below). However, observe the four corners of the chart in the middle and bottom of the three images below taken by the ultrawide lens of the Galaxy S10 and Mate 20 Pro, respectively, and notice how they curve in, revealing two reference arrows in each corner, only the tips of which are visible in the undistorted top image taken with the iPhone Xs standard wide-angle lens. This distortion is increasingly severe going further away from the center of the image.

 
  
 
    
         
        Distortion is not the only issue, these ultrawide angle lens creates images that suffer from color fringes (chromatic aberration), significant image noise and digital artifacts. Click here for full details about the distortion and other issues of the ultrawide angle lens of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

 

Which camera phone is right for you?

 
 
Pros
  • Very good overall image quality
  • Accurate colors

 Cons

  • Only a few settings can be controlled by the user
  • Limited dynamic range
        If you are looking for a camera phone that can take very good detailed photos in all lighting conditions with accurate colors, the iPhone Xs is the best overall choice at the moment.
 

Pros

  • Excellent movie quality
  • Focus point by default in the middle
  • Intuitive focus tracking function available

       Cons

  • Satisfactory lowlight performance without engaging Night Sight feature
  • No facial recognition feature

The Google Pixel 3XL has impressive overall image quality from the single camera lens and excellent movie quality. 

 

Pros

  • Ai blurs background to mimic bokeh look of a system camera

       Cons

  • Satisfactory lowlight detail
  • At 40MP resolution, zoom not available
  • Portrait and night modes limited to maximum 10MP resolution

The P20 Pro has satisfactory overall image quality, but fails to live up to the hype of a 40 MP main camera and 4 cameras overall.


 

Pros

  • Excellent movie quality
  • Accurate colors
  • Ai blurs background to mimic bokeh look of a system camera

      Cons

  • Extreme image distortion with ultrawide lens
  • Satisfactory lowlight performance
  • At 40MP resolution, zoom not available
  • Portrait and night modes limited to maximum 10MP resolution

The ultrawide third lens of the Mate 20 Pro is unfortunately the Achilles heal of what is otherwise the best movie camera of the flagship smartphones with accurate colors and detailed images from the other camera lens.

 

Pros

  • Excellent image stabilization
  • Micro SD slot available

      Cons

  • Extreme image distortion with ultrawide lens
 
       The ultrawide lens also proved to be the Achilles heal of the Galaxy S10, which  is otherwise a great overall camera phone capturing very good image quality with excellent image stabilization and the highest dynamic range of tested smartphones. If you are looking for a Samsung camera phone with excellent overall image quality, we recommend the Samsung Galaxy S9+ [link to review in cameras], which is second only to the iPhone Xs in overall photography performance of a smartphone.
 

        Note: evaluating the top flagship smartphones as dedicated cameras and subjecting them to a complete image and photography evaluation, we reach a different verdict for the best camera phone vs. our results in the mobile phone test. If you are looking for a top performing smartphone where the camera and video capabilities are important, but not the primary consideration, take a look at our ratings in the smartphone test  

Are camera phones replacements for a dedicated compact camera?

The top flagship smartphones have demonstrated that the camera functionality of a smartphone has come a long way and can capture great images on a device that is always close at hand. Which begs the question, are dedicated compact cameras headed the way of the dinosaur?


 
 
        When you are looking for professional image quality and manual settings for a camera that you can still slip into a coat pocket, a high-end compact camera with a large image sensor and standard zoom lens can capture images beyond the capabilities of a flagship smartphone. Case in point, all of the reference images in this report were taken with a Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II currently available for less than ¥4,000
 
        Also, if you want to capture the action of a sporting event, wildlife in action, or any object at a distance you cannot control, then a compact camera with superzoom will serve your needs far better than any smartphone. The recently released Canon PowerShot SX740 HS  is equipped with a 40x zoom, only slightly larger than a smartphone, and available for ¥2,500 

 

 
        To find out more ratings of compact cameras, DSLR and mirrorless system cameras. Please look at camera test.
 
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