Articles

Pixel 3 camera test vs iPhone XS, V40, & P20 Pro | Last Cam Standing XV


The P20 Pro has dominated Last Cam Standing
since Huawei released it — but this will be its toughest opponents to date. Google’s Pixel 3 XL, Apple’s iPhone XS,
and LG’s V40 all have heavy-hitting cameras, and this looks to be an epic showdown! Last Cam Standing is PCWorld’s video series
that determines the best phone camera for still images in a King-of-the-hill style battle. Whichever phone wins moves on to face the
next major smartphone release – so hit that subscribe button to see the next fight! First up, let’s meet the current champion,
the powerhouse that is Huawei’s P20 Pro. Since its release earlier this year, it’s
dominated the competition thanks to impressive specs and a Leica partnership. But the P20 Pro can’t stay at the top forever,
right? And these three challengers are out for the
title. The first is Google, and it’s back with
the Pixel 3 XL, the follow up to what some have said is the best smartphone camera ever
made. Google continues to stick with the single
camera experience and rely heavily on computational photography to offer killer images. But can one camera really keep up in this
fight? We’ll see shortly! Next up is Apple and it’s iterative XS. On paper the camera system doesn’t look
too different from last year’s phone, but this time Apple is diping its toe into the
computational photography game. We’ll see if they do it as well as Google
does! And lastly we have the LG V40 ThinQ. It seems so long ago that LG dominated Last
Cam Standing for most of 2017. Let’s hope its latest phone featuring three
cameras can topple the only other three camera setup in this fight — the P20 Pro — and
bring LG back to former glory. As always, I’ll be focusing mostly on the
main camera of each phone, using them in auto mode as they were configured out of the box. The P20 Pro’s Master AI is on by default
but the results can easily be dismissed — which is why in most cases I took two versions of
the same shot. When Master AI has an effect on the results,
I’ll be sure to call it out. The tests will be broken into four categories:
Color, Clarity, Exposure, and Extra Features. Extra features is where I dive into suplimentary
tests for things like RAW capture, low light modes, and extra lenses. We hired the wonderful Kaylee to model for
us and she was awesome – give her a follow on Instagram. But enough chit chat, let’s get to some
of the best results of the battle! First up is color, and here we’ll be looking
at things like color reproduction and white balance accuracy. In full daylight here, with Kaylee in front
of the Bay Bridge, we notice long-standing trends when it comes to white balance. Looking at the concrete shows Huawei having
purplish hues, Apple warming things up while exhibiting greenish hues, and LG also having
a greenish hue — just not as warm. But where Pixel phones used to err on the
cooler side, the Pixel 3 isn’t too blue, which is a welcome change. Sticking with this photo for a bit longer,
lets look at the overall saturation and focus on Kaylee’s yellow shirt and the blue sky
behind her. The P20 Pro’s blues are saturated but the
yellow is the most muted of the bunch – and the Master AI version pumps up the blues even
further. The V40 has plenty of saturation to go around
and doesn’t look natural at all. And Apple is the opposite of Huawei – with
the iPhone XS having muted blues and pumped-up yellows. In this regard, it’s the Pixel that is once
again exhibiting the closest colors to natural. Heading into a parking garage with mixed lighting,
we see the same trends. But this time let’s focus on Kaylee’s
skin tone. The iPhone’s shot warms her skin up, which
is flattering, but the furthest from accurate. LG’s shot has her skin a bit too yellow,
and while Huawei’s is desaturated, it’s pretty close to accurate. But it’s the Pixel’s shot that I feel
has the best of both worlds, and is accurate and flattering. But even with all this praise, the Pixel has
a problem. See that empty spot where a photo should of
been? Well, there were a few instances during testing
where the Pixel didn’t save the images. This problem that has been reported by many,
and I can also confirm it hit me as well. So while tests show again and again the same
great results for the Pixel, having to worry if your phone is saving photos is a huge concern
— and Google needs to address it ASAP with a software update. All that said, the camera with the most accurate
and pleasing colors in every situation is the Pixel. It finds the right mix of saturation in each
scene and the best color temperature for almost all situations. So Google’s Pixel 3 XL wins the color category! The next category is clarity. Here we’ll be looking at things like the
sharpness of each camera, and how well they stay sharp in low lighting situations. Right off the bat, I’ll say that it’s
been hard for competitors to contend with the 40 megapixel sensor that’s in the P20
Pro – even though it defaults to a 10 megapixel image using pixel binning. Looking at this shot across the neighborhood
and zooming in, we see so much more fine detail in Huawei’s shot. But surprisingly not too far behind is the
iPhone’s photo, showing plenty of detail on the houses despite some grain. The Pixel does fine, but the V40 doesn’t
have a good showing here. Moving to a photo that’s closer to our subject,
and things are a bit different. Zooming in on Kaylee’s face reveals the
P20 Pro to be super soft, even worse that the V40’s capture. We’re also seeing more bokeh in the background
on the P20 Pro’s shot for some reason — and this isn’t the Master AI’s version. So either Huawei is applying some sort of
processing because I was shooting a person, or it missed focus. Moving to another shot shows the iPhone as
the sharpest of the bunch. Unfortunately, the detail in the V40’s photos
have been consistenly bad, and that goes for each of LG’s lenses. Swap in the Master AI’s version of this
scene and it hits the sharpness of the P20 Pro even further. But this other photo of Kaylee has the P20
Pro fairing better this time, so I’m not sure if this inconstistency is due to recent
updates or something else. But here the iPhone just edges out the Pixel,
having a bit more texture retained on the wall. So what how about low-lighting scenarios? In my typical garage shots, the P20 Pro just
kills it. The detail that’s retained on the bricks
is impressive, and only the iPhone comes close to having the same level of definition. I’m a bit disappointed in what the Pixel
delivers here — and before anyone asks: No, Night Sight hasn’t been released yet, so
this is just the result from auto mode. We’ll have to wait longer to see how Google
improves low light situations with A.I. tricks — though I cover Huawei’s and LG’s low
light modes in the extra features category. Moving into a darker spot in the garage shows
each phone really struggling. It’s always amazing to see how the images
break down in these circumstances. The Pixel and V40 also start to loose accurate
white balance readings on top of loads of noise The iPhone held its shutter open the longest
and was the most prone to hand shake. It’s still the P20 Pro that does the best
here. And in the darkest spot of the garage I can
find, the P20 Pro holds up the best as well, with the iPhone coming in at a surprising
second. The Pixel continues to display heavy amounts
of chroma noise, and the V40 is just soft all around. So this category ends up being a toss up. In low-lighting scenarios, the P20 Pro is
by far the best option, but for some reason or another it was inconsistent in bright light. And the iPhone XS was consistent in bright
light but not the best in low light. So I’m going to have to call the clarity
category a tie between Huawei’s P20 Pro and Apple’s iPhone XS. The third category is exposure. Here we’ll be looking at dynamic range and
how each camera chooses to expose for a scene. This first photo is a challenging one. Not only is Kaylee halfway in the light, part
of what’s in the light are white pants! And surprisingly it’s the iPhone that has
the flatest image, meaning there’s more information in the brightest and darkest parts
of the photo. It’s not as dynamic as the P20 Pro’s version
— but it does allow me the most flexibility to add contrast back in post. The same results are present in the alley. The V40’s photo is starting to loose some
color in the sky, and both it and the Pixel 3 have crushed the darkest parts of the building. This is another great example of the iPhone
retaining highlights therefore not blowing out the side of Kaylee’s face. Unfortuantely the V40 does, along with the
P20 Pro, and it’s a shame. The Pixel does an OK job at protecting the
highlights, but has less shadow information in her dark hair. So while some of this might come down to personal
preference, you can’t deny how much exposure information is present in the iPhone’s photos
thanks to Apple’s computuational processing. It can look over-processed at times, and these
aren’t the most dynamic-looking photos, but it’s a hard departure from past iPhones
and I applaud Apple’s strategy here. So the Apple iPhone XS wins the exposure
category! The fourth and final category looks at extra
features, and here we’ll go over some of the trademark features that set each phone
apart. When it comes to lens and focal length options,
the V40 stands on top. Yes the P20 Pro has three lenses as well,
but the black and white sensor isn’t as generally useful as the super wide angle on
the V40. And that wide angle is the best LG has ever
made — though it’s still not up to par with the imaging results of any main camera. But if we look specifically at each telephoto
camera side by side with Google’s Super Res Zoom, you see a couple things. First off, the telephoto lens on the P20 Pro
is by far the best performer. And second, while Google is getting better
at processing zoomed-in photos, you just can’t beat having a dedicated lens. Google needs to stop being so stubborn and
just add more damn cameras to the Pixel. Going back to low light performance for a
bit, I found the P20 Pro’s Night Mode to be far superior than LG’s Super Bright Camera. And unfortuantely, the Night Sight mode everyone
is talking about on the Pixel wasn’t out in time for this video, so I don’t know
how it will fair — though early reports look promising. And when it comes to the built-in camera app
experience, I was happy to see LG’s app return to its former glory. It features some fun modes like cine shot and
flash jump-cut, and powerful tools for professionals like RAW capture – and even 10-bit HDR video
recording at 4K. But even though LG’s camera app is fast,
powerful, and reliable, and there are three valuable lens options, the whole package is
wasted on sub-par image performance. I don’t care how awesome the experience
is if the resulting captures are ho-hum. So while LG’s V40 ThinQ technically wins
the extra features category, it’s with a big caveat. So that’s it for the categories, but who
won?!? We almost have a four-way tie, but with technically
1.5 category wins, the winner is Apple’s iPhone XS! Now I have to be honest with you: I personally
would never use an iPhone and it feels weird to give it the win. The P20 Pro had a really good run, but I have
to go with what the tests conclude and there’s no denying the power of Apple’s new computational
processing. I am stunned by how much dynamic range is
present in the iPhone’s photos — it’s a huge leap over previous versions and proves
just how important computational photography is going forward. Add on top of that consistently sharp images
and a powerful portrait mode, and you have a camera system that’s worthy of the title. So what do you think about the results? Sound off in the comments, I’m curious to
know. And be sure to subscribe because the Mate
20 Pro is next in line for a shot at the title and it hopes to avenge the P20 Pro! So stay tuned for the next episode of Last
Cam Standing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *