Let's kick things off with the easy stuff, still images in good light. Both phones have the same resolution cameras and despite minor differences in lens focal lengths, cover a similar field of view. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the two resolve comparable levels of detail. That doesn't mean there are no differences.
What's emerged as our unintentional moire test, for example, reveals that the iPhone and the Galaxy deal differently with repeating patterns that outresolve the sensor/lens combos. Where the iPhone 8 Plus does show false colors on such occasions, the Galaxy Note8 tends to create its own, simpler, patterns.
Additionally, the Note8 draws straight lines with superior precision and definition. Better edge detection or sharpening algorithms, the result is there. Check out the thin lines in the brown facade on the building to the left in the second pair of samples above.
It's probably a good time to mention that our iPhone 8 Plus unit seems to be suffering from an unusual softness in the right side of the frame of its primary camera, all the way from top to bottom. It's not an issue we've experienced with other units, nor is it present on the smaller iPhone 8. You should therefore try to ignore it for the purpose of this comparison - we did.
Anyway, the two phones may be comparable at detail preservation, but the Note8's shots are a touch sharper and less noisy without sacrificing fine detail in the whole noise reduction process. Neither is particularly great at rendering grass - the Note8's oversharpening is easily revealed there, while the iPhone 8 Plus tends to smoothen the high-frequency detail.
One major difference should have been immediately evident, even just by looking at the tiny 160x120px thumbs - the two phones don't really render color the least bit alike. The Note8's output is generally livelier compared to the iPhone's somewhat muted rendition. That said, the 8 is better than the 7 in this respect - the old iPhone produced downright dull images.
Now, that's not to say that we're necessarily fans of one over the other. The Note's over-the-top blue skies, for one, might not be to everyone's liking, and some folks may prefer the more restrained and true-to-life take of the iPhone.
Additionally, the Note8's images are more contrasty, and with that you might expect more clipped highlights and black shadows than the iPhone's slightly flatter output. That, however, is not the case and the Note actually manages to better hold on to detail in the extremes.
Now, let's zoom in a little. 2x, to be precise. Both, phones' secondary cameras offer twice the focal length of their primary shooters, so 56mm on the iPhone 8 Plus and 52mm on the Note8. The difference in coverage is barely visible, though you might need to make a few steps with one of the phones to match the other's specific framing, if it's that critical. It rarely is.
While detail levels are similar, the Note8 produces sharper, much cleaner images with less noise. The iPhone's slightly longer focal length does give it the upper hand on occasion - by getting that little bit closer, the iPhone can see things the Note misses.
The Note8 still has the better contrast and dynamic range - at the same time giving you more pop and an edge in highlight preservation. Speaking of pop, just like on the primary cam, the blues are similarly over the top - some folks do prefer to see the sky in photos like it was when they were there.
You can check out how the iPhone 8 Plus compares to the Galaxy Note8 in the controlled environment of our studio. We've thrown in a OnePlus 5 in there for good measure, as it's got a somewhat similar camera setup. The tool will also give you a glimpse of the low-light shooting capabilities of the phones, a topic we'll more closely examine on the next page.