iPhone 8 Plus vs. Galaxy Note 8 Camera Face-Off: Apple Has the Edge

Both the iPhone 8 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8 have dual cameras and a 2x optical zoom. And both let you blur out the background of your portraits and happen to take gorgeous photos. But only one device can win our camera shootout, and Apple now has the edge over Samsung.

Based on comparisons of several photos taken outdoors and indoors, the iPhone 8 Plus wins what is a very close contest. Apple has upped its game by delivering more vibrant and natural-looking colors and improved contrast. The Note 8 tends to offer better detail and is very fast, but it can sometimes create overly bright images that can look blown out.

Round 1: Group photo

Comparing these group shots represents a microcosm of the key differences between the iPhone 8 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8. The iPhone 8 Plus' shot does a better job of capturing my colleague Henry's warmer skin tone, whereas he looks unnaturally pale in the Note 8's photo. Meanwhile, Cortney's black pants look black in the iPhone 8 Plus image but more on the blue side in the Samsung shot.

On the plus side for the Note 8, it does a better job with some of the details. For instance, you can make out the texture of Henry's sneakers much better, and his hair looks more defined. For better or for worse, the Samsung phone camera also tends to smooth out faces as if there were a beautify filter being applied.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Round 2: Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building is easily one of the most photographed landmarks in New York City, and the building itself looks best in the Note 8's photo. It's brighter, and it's easier to make out the flowers in the foreground and the No Stopping Anytime sign hiding behind the plant.

When you look to the right of the building, though, you'll see that the iPhone 8 Plus renders the blue sky accurately, while it's washed out in the Note 8's image. The gold dome to the right also looks clearer.

Winner: Draw

Round 3: Fountain

This scene in Madison Square Park represents an interesting challenge, as there's a fountain in the foreground and trees surrounding it. If you're taking into account the entire frame, the Note 8 delivers the best overall picture, thanks to better dynamic range; you can see more details in the leaves in the shade.

However, the iPhone once again offered better contrast, as well as a deeper shade of green in the plants surrounding the fountain.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Round 4: Portrait Mode

Thanks to their dual lenses, both the iPhone 8 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8 let you artfully blur out the background when snapping portraits, using a bokeh-like effect. It's called Portrait Mode on the iPhone and Live Focus on the Galaxy.

The Note 8 gives you more control, as it features a slider that lets you adjust the intensity of the blur effect both before and after you shoot. With the iPhone 8 Plus, you get just one setting, but you can add various lighting effects afterward.

For this round, I used both phones in their default portrait modes. The iPhone 8 captured a more pleasing image in sunlight. The skin of our subject, Sherri, looks more natural in the iPhone's shot, whereas the Note 8's image has a haze to it. The iPhone 8's image also has better contrast.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

iPhone 8 Plus

Round 5: Flower close-up

This lantana flower offers a rainbow of colors, including yellow, pink, red and purple, but the iPhone 8 Plus' image looks crisper. As you zoom in, you can make out more detail in the yellow petals, including flecks of orange as you get toward the edges. The various hues in the iPhone 8 Plus' shot also pop.

To be fair, there's more grain in the iPhone 8 Plus' image as you zoom in, but overall, it's the better shot.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Round 6: 2x zoom

For up-close photos, the iPhone 8 Plus and Note 8 leverage their telephoto lenses to provide a true 2x optical zoom. It makes a huge difference in the types of photos you can capture. For instance, I could see more of the Empire State Building with both phones, though there's a pretty clear winner for image quality.

The Note 8's photo is sharp, but it also seems dark and a little underexposed. The iPhone 8's shot is brighter and better renders the sunlight, and it delivers more vibrant colors. You can also make out more blue in the sky, and the gold dome in the background on another building has more shimmer to it in the iPhone shot.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Round 7: Indoors (no Flash)

You can't hide from us, squirrel. I used the iPhone 8 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8 to capture this shot of the straw-made animal along with an oversized acorn, a golden pumpkin and some fake nuts.

In this case, the Note 8 came out on top, as the iPhone blew out the right side of the straw mat. The grooves in the top of the acorn and the facets of the pumpkin also look sharper. The squirrel is a bit more visible in the iPhone 8's image and the colors look richer, but the Note 8 wins this round.

Winner: Galaxy Note 8

Round 8: Indoors (with Flash)

If you want to really illuminate a subject, the Note 8 is your best bet, as it has the more powerful flash. This is evidenced by this shot of a fabric pumpkin: Both the pumpkin and the wooden barrel underneath look brighter in the Note 8's image than in the iPhone 8's photo. As a result, you can also make out more of the grain in the wood as well.

But if you look closely, you'll see that the Note 8's flash creates a hotspot right underneath the pumpkin, whereas the quad-LED True Tone flash on the iPhone 8 Plus delivers a more uniform look. The orange is also deeper in the pumpkin itself in the iPhone image.

Winner: Draw

Bottom Line

Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 has one of the best dual cameras on a phone yet, and it gives you more flexibility than Apple's iPhone 8 Plus, whether it's adjusting the blur effect on Live Photos or choosing between a close-up and wide-angle shot after you snap the picture. And yet, the Note 8 falls a bit short of the iPhone when it comes to overall image quality.

The two phones tied in a few rounds, but the iPhone 8 Plus pulled ahead with its more vibrant colors and superior contrast. Samsung's phone also seemed to struggle a bit outdoors.

You can't go wrong with either phone, but the iPhone 8 Plus takes this face-off.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.