Both phones take great photos in daylight, but we have to admit the iPhone X's are a little harder to love. Apple's more toned down approach to colors often leaves images a little lifeless. This is evident in all shots but the model cars, in particular, look especially bland. Meanwhile, the skies have a particular iPhone shade of blue - a grayish one.
On the contrary, Samsung's color science, while not to everyone's liking, still delivers more punch and much more consumer-friendly photos straight out of the phone. And it's not really going to extremes - we've seen saturation dialed higher in other high-end models.
We're not huge fans of the iPhone's foliage either. Oftentimes bushes end up looking... past their prime. Grass and leaves appear more vivid, and more natural, coming out of the S9+.
Detail levels are comparable between the two, just as the resolution numbers would have you expect. What is markedly different is how the two go about canceling noise. The Galaxy's noise suppression algorithms are superior and manage to produce super clean looking shots, with no detrimental effect on fine detail. Mind you that could lead to a somewhat plasticky look in some solid-color surfaces.
Clouds against a blue sky also appear painted with much too coarse a brush in the iPhone's photos. The Galaxy does a much better job.
We've noticed an iPhone-specific processing trait in the past that we observe on the X too - it has to do with amping up the contrast in regions of high-frequency detail like the bush in front of the snail above, giving it some extra definition compared to the Galaxy. It's perhaps a little too much, and the S9+'s shot looks more lifelike if a little extra warm.
The iPhone isn't as adept at noise reduction, plus it's probably got more noise to fight in the first place - you know, smaller sensor and smaller pixels.
Looking at 1:1 magnification, you can see noise contouring the borders between contrasting colors (look the windows in the last third shot above). The S9+'s windows are squeaky clean, and we don't mean the cleaner has done their job well - the difference in the noise reduction artifacts between the two is quite stark.
The Galaxy S9+ is the first S-series phone to come with a telephoto camera. Taken directly from the Note8, the tele shooter is no stranger to us, and we've previously established its advantage over the iPhone's.
Simply put, you can expect sharper shots from the Galaxy's telephoto camera. The color tuning and noise properties don't really change once you're in the 2x mode, so the S9+ is, again, overall superior.
And here's a tight crop we picked for you.
Those were pretty much ideal conditions for taking pictures, but what happens when the light levels drop? Join us on the next page for some low-light camera samples.