In theory, the camera on Apple’s new iPhone 12 Pro and Samsung̵7;s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra look the same. Both have triple-lens camera clusters with improved low-light performance, 4K HDR video recording capabilities and advanced autofocus systems. And while both produce excellent results overall, each has strengths and weaknesses in different categories.
In terms of zoom capabilities, it’s hard to compete with the Note 20 Ultra’s 5x telephoto camera, which can make any distant subject look like it’s right in front of you, especially when you compare it to 2x camera on iPhone 12 Pro. For portraits, the iPhone usually produces better results thanks to a more natural (or blur) bokeh effect. But picking a winner outright across every category isn’t too obvious, as both use a fine combination of hardware and computational photography tricks to get great shots in almost anything. situations.
We put the camera inCheck out how well they handle zoomed-in, portrait, landscape, and video.
Read more: Compare the camera of Note 20 Ultra with iPhone 11 Pro
Great for landscape, super wide and HDR photos
I brought these phones to some of my favorite landmarks around San Francisco and found them to give excellent results, whether I was shooting a foggy morning in Golden Gate Park or the scene. majestic sunset over Pacific Ocean.
In bright enough situations, it’s hard to discern which phone took which photo, as color, detail, and dynamic range are both great on both. For reference, I left the phone at its default settings to best emulate the normal human experience: Smart HDR on the iPhone 12 Pro is turned on as well as Scene Optimizer on the Note 20 Ultra. Improvements to the high dynamic range on the iPhone 12 Pro, called Smart HDR 3, produce well-balanced shots on the main rear camera. Parallel to the regular HDR mode on the Note 20 Ultra, the photo looks very nice and produces a very natural result as you can see in the comparison below.
The iPhone 12 Pro also uses a computational photography technique called Deep Fusion on all of its cameras to accentuate textures and reduce noise. See the 100% crop on the image below from the main rear camera, and you’ll see each shot is sharp and retain details even in less light.
The Note 20 Ultra’s main wide-angle rear camera has a 108-megapixel sensor that lets you crop and change frames even after you’ve taken a snapshot. You can also get more depth of field on your photos without the need for software tricks like portrait mode, thanks to that larger sensor. But sometimes, the depth of field (or blurred background) effect is so is so shallow that I have to check if my shots are in focus after shooting. A technique called pixel binning on the Note ensures that the photos taken at 12-megapixel resolution (which works by default) look great, because all the details from the 108-megapixel photos are compiled into 12 megapixel images – I usually take all photos in this setting.
The ultra-wide camera on both phones is also excellent in good lighting, though I found that in tougher lighting conditions the iPhone 12 Pro produces a more well-balanced and well-saturated photo. than. The iPhone’s super wide lens also fixes distortion better than the Note 20 Ultra, it looks a bit curved at the edges, a characteristic of the super wide lens.
Zoomed images are a clear win for the Note 20 Ultra
The Note 20 Ultra has 5x optical zoom compared to 2x optical on the iPhone 12 Pro, so it’s no surprise that the Note 20 Ultra produces better results in this category. With enough light, the photos taken at 5x with the Note 20 Ultra looked sharp and well-balanced. Good quality zoomed shots meant I started using the phone’s zoom more than I expected, especially in situations when I couldn’t get close to my subject. like when I photographed sunset on Ocean Beach and didn’t want to walk in the sand (or wade into the water).
The Note 20 Ultra also gives you the option to narrow your subject beyond 5x with a combined optical / digital zoom that can be increased from 10x to 50x. Photos start to look pretty pixelated at the full 50x range, but at 10x in good lighting, the hybrid zoom still produces usable shots.
On the other hand, the iPhone 12 Pro maxes out at 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom, but the 2x optical zoom looks sharper than the equivalent 2x digital zoom on the Note 20 Ultra. Even though the phone has 5x optical zoom, it doesn’t use the telephoto camera to zoom in from 2x-4x, it does use the digital zoom on the wide main camera.
Portrait mode: Better on iPhone 12 Pro
Both phones give you the option to take a portrait of anything with a blurred background effect. On the Note 20 Ultra, it’s called Live Focus and Portrait Mode on the iPhone 12.
Both phones do a good job of identifying the edges of the subject to figure out what to focus on, but the iPhone does a lot better at capturing shadows and highlight details in it, and my subject in general. sharper than the same photo on the Note 20 Ultra.
Even in less-than-ideal conditions, when my subject was backlit, both phones gave satisfactory results. However, in the image below, I prefer the golden light from the iPhone, and I was able to retain more detail where the sun shines on my hair.
Selfies and night portraits
On the front camera, the exposure and white balance of the iPhone was more pleasant and matched my skin tone more accurately. The Note 20 Ultra washed out my skin tone and made my hair look darker. But with a strong backlight, the dynamic range is a bit wider on the Note 20 Ultra’s selfie camera for photos and videos.
The iPhone 12 Pro does a great job with a night portrait mode that keeps your subject sharp and well-lit even when the sun goes down. The Note 20 Ultra doesn’t have that option, so you have to take regular night shots without blurring or use direct focus mode and run the risk of making your subject look dark and blurry.
Night mode photos are too close to call
The iPhone 12 Pro has added a night mode to the selfie and ultra-wide cameras, so all three cameras now have better low-light performance compared to previous iPhones. The Note 20 Ultra also lets you use the night mode on a large scale.
But the new lidar scanner on the back of the iPhone 12 Pro means night-time autofocus is super fast, and it feels faster than the laser autofocus system on the Note. The iPhone 12 Pro also has a slightly faster main camera with a maximum aperture of f1.6, which lets in more light than the f1.8 main camera on the Note 20 Ultra. In the night shot, like in the image below, you can clearly see the advantage of having a wider f1.6 camera aperture. But for this photo, I really liked the bluesy blue sky the Note created, even if the photo was a bit darker.
Both phones produce beautiful low-light shots, but if I had to pick one of my favorites, I’d be leaning towards the Note 20 Ultra as it produces more consistent results in all light shots. low light that I shot with the wide main camera. The iPhone 12 Pro usually produces a brighter photo but the results in night mode didn’t look satisfactory to me.
Video on the iPhone 12 Pro is hard to beat
I like the Note 20 Ultra’s Pro video recording capabilities, including its 8K recording capabilities. But the iPhone 12 Pro captures better video overall. Image profile is well balanced, colors look realistic and especially the sharpness is very smooth. I recorded the video on this page entirely on the cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro and Note 20 Ultra so you can really see what they are capable of.
The iPhone 12 Pro also gives you the option to record in Dolby Vision HDR, which looks great when played back on your phone’s display or compatible display. As a word of caution, though, my retail iPhone 12 Pro has HDR enabled in the camera settings, so unless you just want to play back video on your phone’s screen (or own a compatible TV). like with Dolby Vision for playback), you may want to disable this feature now, otherwise the video may not display correctly. The Note 20 Ultra can also shoot at HDR 10 Plus, although playback is not smooth at the same resolution and frame rate.
But if you’re looking to customize your video settings, the Note 20 Ultra has more options to choose from in the default camera app than the iPhone 12 Pro. This includes live focus video mode (at 1080p) that blurs the background behind your subject, aforementioned 8K recording at 24 fps, and Pro Mode that lets you fine-tune Manually adjust the exposure, white balance and focus. There are also loads of resolutions, frame rates and frame rates to choose from.
Which phone has a better overall camera?
While each excelled in different categories, it was difficult to pick out the outright winner as both phones are fun to use for taking pictures. For the best zoom on a smartphone, the benefits of a larger image sensor, and great low-light shots, go for the Note 20 Ultra. But for the best of both worlds between stills and video recording, the iPhone 12 Pro is a better match.
Don’t forget this is the first year that Apple’s iPhone Pro models will have a slightly different camera. The iPhone 12 Pro Max, which went on sale in November, adds features like the sensor-switch image stabilization system on the wide-camera and 2.5x optical zoom, instead of 2x on the iPhone 12 Pro. We’ll be testing that phone against the Note 20 Ultra when it’s available.
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