iPhone XS vs Galaxy Note9 – Which Is Better In Low Light?

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Both the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and the Apple iPhone XS claim to have the world’s best cameras. While both take great photos in good light, how do they perform in low-light conditions?

Let’s find out in our photo and video comparison of the Apple iPhone XS and the Samsung Galaxy Note9. See for yourself which smartphone has the best low-light camera performance!

Updated @ 2018-12-25 : Minor updates of the article, with some additional information.

First posted @ 2018-12-18

 

iPhone XS vs Galaxy Note9 – Low Light Camera Performance!

We compared the Samsung Galaxy Note9‘s low light performance against the iPhone X back in September, just before the Apple iPhone XS (US | UKShopee | Lazada) was released.

The iPhone XS maintained the same dual-lens camera module from last year’s iPhone X, with software improvements like Smart HDR and better tone mapping. The only hardware upgrade we could tell was the ability to record stereo sound for its videos.

iPhone XS vs Galaxy Note9 Low Light Camera Performance!

What this means is the  iPhone XS has very similar photographic capabilities to the Samsung Galaxy Note9. They both use 12 MP image sensors with 1.0 µm pixels, paired with f/2.4 lens that offer 2X optical zoom with optical image stabilisation. Where they really differ in is their wide-angle cameras.

The iPhone X’s wide-angle camera uses a 12 MP image sensor with 1.22 µm pixels, paired with f/1.8 lens that support optical image stabilisation.

The Galaxy Note9, on the other hand, uses a 12 MP image sensor with larger 1.4 µm pixels, paired with a Dual Aperture lens that can switch between  f/1.5 and f/2.4. It also supports optical image stabilisation.

Here is a table comparing the key features of their main cameras.

Main Camera SpecificationsSamsung Galaxy Note9Apple iPhone XS / XS Max
TypeDual Camera System with wide and telephoto lensDual Camera System with wide and telephoto lens
Main Camera Features- 12 MP Dual Pixel sensor
- 1.4 µm pixel size
- can switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures
- optical image stabilisation (OIS)
- 12 MP sensor
- 1.22 µm pixel size
- f/1.8 aperture
- optical image stabilisation (OIS)
Telephoto Camera Features- 2x optical zoom
- 12 MP sensor
- 1.0 µm pixel size
- f/2.4 aperture
- optical image stabilisation (OIS)
- 2x optical zoom
- 12 MP sensor
- 1.0 µm pixel size
- f/2.4 aperture
- optical image stabilisation (OIS)
Built-in FlashDual-tone LED flashQuad-LED flash
Video Recording Capabilities4K video : up to 60 fps
1080p video : up to 60 fps
720p video : Up to 960 fps
4K video : up to 60 fps
1080p video : up to 240 fps
720p video : 30 fps
Camera Switching While Recording VideoYesNo
Live Focus CapabilityYesNo
Dual Capture CapabilityYesNo

As you can see, there are other differences between the two camera systems :

Now, let’s take a look at how well they both perform in low-light conditions!

 

iPhone XS vs Galaxy Note9 – Low Light Video Shootout

Let’s kick it off with a comparison of their low-light video recording capabilities. This time, we tested them with and without their flash turned on.

With and without the flash, the Samsung Galaxy Note9 (US | UKShopee | Lazada) was definitely better at recording low-light videos than the Apple iPhone XS (US | UKShopee | Lazada).

It is not just about the brightness. Thanks to its quad-lens flash, the iPhone XS has better control of the light. But it lacks contrast compared to the Galaxy Note9.

Here is an example of a night dancing session at the Curve. The singers are on a well-lit platform, but the dancers are not lit by street lights. The Samsung Galaxy Note9 was not mounted on any gimbal.

Despite the changing brightness of the scene, the Samsung Galaxy Note9 did a great job of instantly adjusting the brightness of the subjects. This is not an easy feat when we switched focus to the dancers, because the background is much brighter.

What we ended up with is a happy balance of reasonably bright subjects without overly bright backgrounds. In fact, you can see right into the restaurant behind the dancers!

Next Page > iPhone XS vs Galaxy Note9 Low Light Photo Shootout + Verdict

 

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