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Camera comparison: Pixel 4 vs Galaxy S10 vs iPhone 11 Pro

It's the battle of the smartphone cameras.

In this three-way camera match up, we have the highly anticipated Google Pixel 4 up against the top dog of the Android world, the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Apple's current flagship, the iPhone 11 Pro.

Last year, thanks to Google's advanced image processing, the Pixel 3 camera blew everyone else out of the water. But a year is a long time in a market that innovates at such a fierce rate - have the rivals caught up?

We put the three cameras through their paces to see how they performed.

Shooting with the sun behind you is not always possible, and less than perfect light conditions put the dynamic range of your phone camera under pressure.

The shot taken with the iPhone 11 Pro has plenty of contrast, but the darker areas on the statue appear entirely black.

Quality is a bit better with the Pixel, but the image still looks darker overall.

The Galaxy S10 fares much better, it lightens the whole scene without washing out the sky too much.

The Galaxy S10 takes this round.

An indoor scene with mixed lighting.

The Pixel 4 impresses here. The photo looks sharp with the AI setting white-balance a bit colder than it was in reality. The result is bright with realistic colours.

Both the iPhone and Samsung appear warmer, with the iPhone slightly overdoing the saturation.

Pixel 4 is the pick of the three in this case.

Both iPhone 11 and Galaxy S10 have a "2x" button to launch into the telephoto, but the Pixel 4 instead relies entirely on a ‘pinch-to-zoom’ function.

The Pixel 4’s "Super Res Zoom" technology combines all data recorded while you take the picture to build a sharper zoomed image.

In this photograph shot at 2x zoom, the Pixel 4 shot is marginally sharper than the Galaxy S10.

The iPhone 11 struggles with excessively warm white-balance and too much contrast.

Artificial, dim lighting and bright colours, too heavy depth of field mode in this case. Unusually for the Pixel 4, it gets the white balance wrong, giving the picture an overly yellow tinge. Once run through Google Photos auto-adjustment. However, the result is much improved but not enough to compete with the vibrant colours of the iPhone 11.

Late afternoon light can be an interesting test for dynamic range. Here the iPhone 11 comes out with warm, saturated colours while the Pixel 4 is a bit underwhelming. The Galaxy S10 delivers the right balance with realistic colours.

Galaxy S10 wins this out.

Green playing field and blue sky. The Galaxy S10’s efforts are slightly underexposed, but you get a deeper blue sky. The iPhone is overly bright, making it look artificial, the Pixel 4, on the other hand, seems just right. There is little difference in terms of overall quality. so this round comes down to personal preference.

Maximum zoom puts the sophisticated Google software to the test. Unlike its competitors, the Pixel 4 gathers data from multiple images, building a sharper image. While the iPhone 11 Pro's falls apart, the Galaxy S10 fares better, but it's still inadequate compared to the Pixel's smooth lines and lack of noise.

Thanks to its image processing software, the Pixel 4 wins the zoom comparison hands down.

Another example of the differences in how the three devices handle colours and shadows in well-lit scenes. You'll notice a sharper distinction between light and shadow on the iPhone 11, resulting in excessive contrast when compared to the more realistic Pixel 4 and Galaxy S10.

Of the two, the Galaxy produces more vibrant colours.

Not a clear winner here but the iPhone is undoubtedly the loser.

One of the few examples in which the Galaxy failed to impress, the image looks washed out compared to the richness of colour of the Pixel 4. The iPhone 11 has warmer tones, but overall, colours are not as natural as in the Pixel.

Another win for the Google Pixel 4.

By now you must have realised that each of the three devices has an unmistakable style. In this photo, the deep blue sky reflected in the pond, make the Galaxy S10 the one anyone would likely pick as their favourite. The Pixel 4 looks more natural, but I know which one I would share on Instagram. The iPhone fails to brighten the dark areas making it the worse of the three.

The same image but with the wide-angle. The iPhone doesn't perform too well in gloomy autumn mornings, and the Galaxy has an edge thanks to its ability to brighten dark areas without washing out the rest of the image. The dark grass patch on the lower right is too dark on the iPhone while the Galaxy makes another highly shareable shot.

Surprisingly, you won't find a wide-angle option on the Pixel 4. Yep, one of the most useful and fun innovations on smartphone photography is missing from Google’s latest, a major flaw if you want a camera for all occasions.

Another example of a situation where the wide-angle makes all the difference. Slightly warmer tones on the iPhone 11, better on the Samsung and the Pixel 4. The level of detail is almost identical on all three, but this is another winner for the Galaxy S10. When it comes to the wide-angle version, the iPhone comes out the worse as the sunlit brickwork on the right loses all details compared to the Galaxy S10.

A close-up with depth of field effect on a busy background. Another shot with pleasant colours from the Samsung, but it's a tie overall.

A convincing win for the iPhone 11 with the S10 right behind.

An extreme close-up in good lighting. Should be an easy one to get right but too many devices struggle to get the focus right first time. The bright colours also expose the excessive saturation you often find on phone cameras.

The Galaxy S10 nails the focus but the colours are rather washed out. Compare it with the iPhone and its signature oversaturated reds are a bit over the top. The Pixel 4 is the best of the three with the high contrast, realistic colours and excellent choice of focus.

Good edge detection is what separates a decent selfie cam from a great selfie cam. In these portraits all three devices handle hair almost perfectly with the Galaxy S10 the only one that reveals some imperfection. Skin tones are best on the iPhone but the Pixel 4 delivers a sharp looking image.

The iPhone 11 Pro shades it when it comes to selfies.

In very low light things can get very different, especially as you examine the details. Here the Pixel 4 comes out as the best of the three with some incredible level of detail.

Night shots are where the three devices differ the most. It is all due to the different way they handle dark conditions. The Galaxy S10 doesn't brighten the shadows as much as the other two, the result is dimmer overall but still sharp and realistic. The iPhone 11 is the brightest and capturing the most detail in the darker areas without adding noise. The Pixel 4 is almost as bright but the image stabilisation fails to match the excellent result of the iPhone.

When detecting low light, the Pixel gives you the option to switch to Night Mode, the iPhone 11, instead makes this decision for you. The Galaxy S10 leaves this option entirely manual and many new users may miss it. Once enabled, the result produced with the Galaxy S10 is realistic but doesn't come close the vivid colours that the iPhone delivers.

When it comes to Night Mode, the iPhone wins out easily.

Verdict

Does the Pixel 4 confirm Google's dominance when it comes to camera quality? Well, it's complicated.

Every one of these three devices has a signature "look" that in most cases is a matter of personal preference. The iPhone 11 Pro will no doubt delight existing iPhone customers that will recognize a clear improvements over its predecessors.

The iPhone trumps its two Android competitors for Night Mode performance and selfie photography while the Galaxy S10 seems to still deliver the more realistic colours in a variety of situations.

If we single out the two Android devices, the sheer versatility the Samsung flagship makes it our pick over the Pixel 4.

The latest Google phone is still an outstanding performer however, looking sharp in almost all conditions and excelling in low-light but the lack of wide-angle option means the Samsung is the more complete package. But if you’re an iOS stalwart, you’ll be thrilled by the 11 Pro’s upgrades.

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