Want your selfie photos to start standing out from the crowd? Then you should pick up either a Galaxy Note 9 or a Pixel 3, as both phones topped the first-ever front camera rankings put out by DxOMark.
The camera benchmarking site routinely rates camera performance for leading smartphones, but for the first time, it's now evaluating front cameras separately. The initial rankings cover a dozen different phones, with DxOMark testing both still and video images for quality, color and other criteria. While DxO is starting out with 12 front cameras, it plans to add the selfie cams of other smartphones to the mix going forward.
The Note 9 and Pixel 3 finished with matching scores of 92, though the two phones excelled in different areas. The Pixel 3 took better quality still images, according to DxO, while the Note 9 produced better selfie videos.
Digging deeper into the findings, the Pixel 3 won praise for its focus system as well as its performance in both indoor and low-light settings. DxO cited the Note 9's exposure and color results, and notes that Samsung's phone is a little better at handling exposures for faces.
The DxO report also points out that the two phones' front cameras take different approaches to photo noise, with the Pixel 3 placing more emphasis on texture and accepting some noise as a result and the Note 9 prioritizing a clearer image over capturing fine details.
The Xiamoi Mi Mix 3 and its pop-up camera finished third in DxO's front camera rankings. Unfortunately, that phone's not available in the U.S. The iPhone XS is widely available in this country, though, and it placed fourth, thanks to high image quality in bright-light conditions for both still images and video. The XS's TrueDepth camera struggles in lower light, according to DxO.
Google's phone is our pick for the best smartphone camera overall, thanks in large part to software features that improve the images it captures. When we've pitted the Pixel 3 against the Note 9 in a smartphone face-off, we thought Google's phone took better selfies with sharper images and more detail, though the Note 9 handled skin tone and colors well. (That match-up used a Pixel 3 XL, but Google's 6.3-inch phone uses the same camera as the 5.5-inch Pixel 3.)
However, we thought the iPhone XS took a better portrait than the Pixel, as Google's phone struggled with applying background blurs in Portrait mode.