Today’s flagship phones are often judged primarily by their ability to take a decent picture. That’s good for consumers, as companies including Samsung, Apple, Google, and Huawei have raced to innovate and bring new features to their high-end devices. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus from Samsung and the iPhone 11 Pro from Apple represent the best of the best — class-leading smartphones that push the photography envelope and set the bar against which all other phones will be held.
Naturally, we have to see just how well these competitors perform against one another. In our direct Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro camera comparison, we have the shots that reveal which phone is the better pick for the discerning photographer.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro camera basics
Three-lens systems are now the norm for leading phones. That means standard, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses adorn the rear, capable of providing people with a range of imaging options. Here’s a quick rundown of the camera specs for the Note 10 Plus and iPhone 11 Pro.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
- Standard: 12MP, f/1.5 – f/2.4, OIS
- Wide-angle: 16MP, f/2.2
- Telephoto: 12MP, f/2.1, OIS, 3x optical zoom
- Depth Vision VGA camera
- Selfie: 10MP, f/2.2
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro
- Standard: 12MP, f/1.8, OIS
- Wide-angle: 12MP, f/2.4
- Telephoto: 12MP, f/2.0, OIS, 2x optical zoom
- Selfie: 12MP, f/2.2, depth control
As you can see, the hardware configurations are fairly similar. In addition to these raw specs, the two phones offer a wide array of shooting modes, settings, and tools. Both the Note 10 Plus and the iPhone 11 Pro offer portrait shooting, panorama, hyper-lapse and slow motion, as well as advanced selfie modes. Each can capture 4K video from the front and rear cameras, and advanced HDR is always available. Last, the two cameras can each shoot in the dark via enhanced night modes.
On a feature-for-feature basis, the two phones are on equal footing.
Continue reading: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera review
Many people never do more than whip their phone out of their pocket, take a quick snapshot, and tuck the phone safely away. You’re walking down a city street and see something odd or interesting and you stop to take a picture. We’ve all been there. That’s what everyday shooting is and it’s where phones need to excel. Here is a collection of samples taken with the Note 10 Plus and iPhone 11 Pro to demonstrate how each performed under normal circumstances using the standard, telephoto, and wide-angle lenses.
First we have some samples taken with the standard lens during the daytime. Both cameras do a fine job in easy shooting conditions. Neither should have a problem with these shots, and they don’t. I do think the (pushed) color of the Samsung is more appealing, but the iPhone’s color is more accurate. The Samsung did a better job of pulling details out of the shadows.
These were captured with the camera app set to 2x optical zoom only. No digital zooming was employed here. We have pretty much the same situation here as we did with the standard lens — more appealing color from Samsung, and a better exposure, too. Still, the iPhone does nail focus and detail.
Here you see two wide-angle shots, one taken at night of Times Square and the other closeup of the Vessel. Apple delivered a more detailed wide shot of Times Square, but it fudged the color. The iPhone also failed with the close-up, wide-angle of the Vessel, as you can see it blew out the background and managed to overexpose the copper metal. I could take wide-angle shots all day.
Continue reading: I spent a week with the iPhone 11 Pro Max
Portrait, HDR, selfies, and night modes
Moving on from the simple shooting modes, we’ll follow up with images captured from the more advanced features. Each phone has a bevy of extra camera features, but I would call the ones we tested below the most important. People like to take artistic shots of their friends and family, want them to have balanced exposures, and would prefer that low-light shots don’t suffer from horrifying levels of grain.
Here is a portrait sample taken of some statues in the Port Authority. For each, the focus point was the chin of the woman on the left. You can see the bokeh effect on those remaining statues behind her. I’d call these pretty close to even, though Apple’s tool is easier to use. It also has better “studio” effects for changing the background. The Samsung’s shot is fine, but the color is off a little.
Next up, a shot that demonstrates high dynamic range. You can see in this alley shot that the iPhone 11 Pro and the Note 10 Plus had to balance heavy shadows in the alley with the bright sky above. I’d call both winners in this instance, though the colors are a tad nicer from the Samsung.
We can’t forget selfies, so here’s me saying “Cheese!” This is a challenging shot, though you wouldn’t think it. The sun was directly overhead, the sky was bright blue, and my hat cast a shadow over my face. I think the bokeh effect turned out better in the Apple, though it’s not bad from the Samsung. Exposure is another story. The iPhone 11 Pro’s result is a tad dark, while the Galaxy Note 10 Plus’s image borders over-exposure.
Taking pictures in low-light settings is really challenging. These samples are good. First, the hotel. The shadows cast by the hotel’s lights create a really neat effect on the brick. I like the color and detail here, though Apple’s shot is a little soft. In the second, we have a shot taken not only in low light, but at 2x zoom, which means the lens is slower than it would be via the standard lens. I think both these shots turned out well, though the color is more accurate from the Note 10. Grain and noise is kept in check, considering the circumstances.
Then there’s night mode, which really amplifies what the phones can see. Here, I took a shot of a local park in the dead of night. There were some street lamps nearby, but otherwise it was dark. I wish I could merge these images. The Apple shot shows way more detail, but has a slight yellow tint to it. A lot of the detail under the trees is lost on the Note 10. Either way, these are very good considering how poorly phones would have done as recently as a year ago.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the winner
Apple and Samsung each has its strengths when it comes to smartphone photography. The samples here demonstrate that the iPhone 11 Pro and Galaxy Note 10 Plus are solid imaging devices that can easily replace a dedicated camera for most people.
Taken as a whole, I would call the Note 10 Plus the winner here, though the iPhone 11 Pro is right behind it.
This concludes our Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro camera comparison. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.