Samsung’s flashiest and most advanced smartphone has 3 camera lenses, but it still can’t beat Google’s year-old Pixel 3

Image
The Pixel 3, left, and the Galaxy Note 10. Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
  • The SamsungGalaxy Note 10 Plus I’ve been using has been a fantastic phone, but I often wished I was taking photos with the GooglePixel 3 instead.
  • The Galaxy Note 10 is capable of taking great photos, but even with its three camera lenses, it doesn’t give me the same confidence that the Pixel 3 and its single lens gives me.
  • The extra lenses are for zooming and ultra-wide photos, but those great features don’t matter as much if the photos don’t turn out well. Photos from the Note 10 often look overly processed.
  • You can edit the photos to look less processed with pretty good results, but it’s still an extra step to improve the photos.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus I’ve been using has been an absolute treat, especially after using the Pixel 3 for several months.

The Note 10 is faster, smoother, and has significantly better battery life than the Pixel 3. By comparison, the Pixel 3’s specs are sorely lacking. The 4 GB of RAM in the Pixel 3 just doesn’t cut it for speed, and the phone has notoriously poor battery life. Plus, the Pixel 3 started at $US800 at launch, which isn’t cheap, especially for a smartphone with questionable performance.

And then there’s the S Pen – I’m a big fan of the S Pen. I don’t need it, but it’s been incredibly useful to scribble down spur-of-the-moment thoughts and reminders. And the S Pen makes more complex tasks on the Note 10 less daunting by offering more precise taps.

But when it comes to taking photos, I mostly wished I had the Pixel 3 and its single lens instead of the Note 10 Plus and its three camera lenses.

See why I wished I had the Pixel 3 instead of the Note 10 for taking photos:


First off, I want to make clear that the Note 10 can take great photos!

Image

In fact, I actually prefer the Note 10’s photo over the Pixel 3’s here. But this is a a rarity.

Image

I should also mention that the Note 10’s ultra-wide camera gives you options that the Pixel 3 doesn’t have. I’m a huge fan of having the option to seamlessly switch to an ultra-wide lens on the Note 10.

Image

But there are often things about the Note 10’s photos that don’t look right. It’s like the Note 10 is allergic to shadows, contrast, depth. The lighting is completely flat, and the blue sky and buildings toward the back look fake.

Image

The Pixel 3’s photo, on the other hand, gives you a much better sense of what I was looking at.

Image

Thankfully, if you don’t like the Note 10’s photo, you can edit them. This is an edited version of the Note 10’s photo where I added a little contrast, toned down the brightness, and de-saturated the colours a little. Now, the photo looks like it has depth, and the buildings at the back don’t look as fake.

Image
I edited this photo straight from the Note 10 using the S Pen. In a way, the Note 10’s large screen and S Pen is perfect for quick and more precise photo edits. Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

This photo from the Note 10 actually looks fine — until you see what the Pixel 3’s photo below. You’d never know from the Note 10’s photo that the trees and the grass are different shades of green.

Image

The Pixel 3’s photo reveals just how much extra processing the Note 10 adds to photos, and there’s no option to turn off that extra processing. I’ve tried turning off HDR on the Note 10, but it does nothing. I also tried turning off Samsung’s Scene Optimizer to no avail.

Image

Again, you can edit the Note 10’s photos if you don’t like the way they look. I edited this on my Windows 10 laptop with Samsung Dex.

Image
I basically just toned down the brightness and added a bit of contrast. Samsung’s Photo Editor app is great for simple touch-ups, but to get the photo to look the way I like, I’d need a more comprehensive photo editing app. Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

For this edit, I hooked up the Note 10 to my Windows 10 laptop and edited the photo through the Samsung Dex software. It basically shows a desktop version of the Note 10’s Android operating system where I can use the Note 10’s apps.

I simply opened the Gallery app in Dex and edited the photo using my mouse and my laptop’s screen. It’s easier than editing photos on a smartphone screen, even one as large as the Note 10’s 6.8-inch screen.


There are times when the Note 10’s extra processing isn’t a bad thing. The Note 10’s photo below is more appealing than the Pixel 3’s.

Image

Sometimes the Pixel 3’s photo can look a little too dark.

Image


Read more:
I’m seriously doubting the Google Pixel 3’s dominance as the best smartphone camera after taking it on vacation


I should also note that the Note 10’s Night Mode is better than I initially thought.

Image
Unfortunately, I didn’t get an equivalent shot with the Pixel 3. Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

At the end of the day, the Note 10 can still take great shots of things that matter.

Image

However, I still prefer the Pixel 3’s camera. It isn’t perfect, and I’ve questioned its photos in the past. But it gives me more confidence than any other smartphone that it will take a great shot. When I’m testing phones these days, I often wish I was taking photos with the Pixel 3 instead.

Image

The Note 10’s camera doesn’t give me as much confidence that the photos will turn out well. Instead, I’m usually fearing that it will process the photo too much.

Editing is a solution, and the Note 10 is the best phone for things like on-device photo editing. But I’d really rather not have to go back and edit photos, if I can avoid it.