The Galaxy Note 9 is the closest competitor to the best smartphone camera in the world, the Pixel 2

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

I’ve finally found a phone that can keep up with the Pixel 2’s camera in a real way, and it’s called the Galaxy Note 9 by Samsung.

Take it easy, there, I tell myself. The Pixel 2 is still the undefeated champ, winning round after round of camera comparisons. Some have come close with valiant efforts, but none as close as the Galaxy Note 9.

This isn’t to say that the Galaxy Note 9 takes nearly identical photos as the Pixel 2 XL. Samsung adds its own flair to the Galaxy Note 9’s camera that makes photos look good in different ways.

For transparency’s sake, I actually used the Pixel 2 XL for the photo shoot, as it’s the model I had with me at the time. But both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have exactly the same camera, so it’s fair to say that the Pixel 2 XL represents Google’s latest lineup of smartphones.

Note that some of these photos may look blurry or pretty bad on some standard 1080p resolution screens due to the high resolution of the images.

Check out photos taken with the Pixel 2 XL and Galaxy Note 9:

Both phones took similar photos where the details in the shadows are pretty much lost, which is fine, but it would have been nice to see a little more detail in the trees. Something to note is the Note 9 photo is razor sharp compared to the Pixel 2 XL’s slightly softer shot.

Personally, I prefer the Pixel 2 XL’s slightly softer look, as the sharpness in the Note 9’s photo looks odd in such a calm setting.

Both phones took pretty similar shots of the sound, too. The Galaxy Note 9 is keeping up with the Pixel 2 XL.

Here, the Galaxy Note 9 brightens up some of the darker shaded areas a little too much, resulting in a flatter-looking photo next to the Pixel 2 XL’s.

The Galaxy Note 9 delivers an extra-sharp photo once again, which looks great on the cloud. However, the Pixel 2 XL has more depth and contrast, and you can see more detail as a result.

This also shows how the Pixel 2 XL’s camera really accentuates darker spots. Its photos are more dynamic with more depth and contrast than the Galaxy Note 9’s camera.

There’s no doubt here that the Galaxy Note 9 reveals more details in the shadowy areas, especially towards the right of this photo of the local fauna.

I understand why some might prefer the Galaxy Note 9’s photo here, but its lighting and colours looks heavily altered, and it doesn’t look natural. The Pixel 2 XL delivers a photo that’s much closer to real life.

One thing the Pixel 2 XL doesn’t have is a 2x optical zoom lens. The Galaxy Note 9’s second 2x zoom lens lets you take better shots of subjects further away.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

The Galaxy Note 9’s 2x zoom lens also lets you take much better shots when fully zooming in.

Here, the Galaxy Note 9’s sharpness works against it.

Up close, the Pixel 2 XL takes a softer photo with better colours.

This one is interesting, as both phones clearly handle humans differently, at least in this sunny outdoor situation. Both phones take great photos here, so it’s up to you which one takes the kind of photo you prefer. Personally, I prefer the Pixel 2 XL’s.

Taking things indoors, the Galaxy Note 9 takes a brighter shot. It looks good, but the Pixel 2 XL captures a better sense of what this chicken joint looks like inside.

And when the light gets a little too dim or the subject is dark, the Galaxy Note 9 can use its variable aperture to allow more light to hit the camera sensor. It makes for better low-light photos as a result.

My cat Wally’s face and coat are more visible in the Galaxy Note 9 photo due to its variable aperture. Some call it a gimmick, but it seems to make a difference.

On a sidenote, do you think Wally’s fur is predominantly black or brown? My wife says his fur is black and I think she’s colorblind. Send me a tweet telling me what you think (@tonyvstech).

This is a good example of Samsung adding its extra flair to photos, and it can really work out sometimes.

And if you’re not into the natural world, both phone cameras handle the colours, straight lines, and sharp angles of cities extremely well.

Is there a winner here?

I’m not going to sit here and tell you which phone has the best camera, not when they’re so close in terms of photo quality. The best thing you can do is see what camera you think takes better photos. Some prefer the more natural look that the Pixel 2 delivers, others like a little bit of extra flair and image processing that makes their photos pop, like the Galaxy Note 9 (and the Galaxy S9, for that matter).

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