Now let's get to the good part - the camera samples. As you'd expect from a top-tier smartphone, the Galaxy Note10+ produces excellent photos with impressive dynamic range and resolves plenty of detail. The variable aperture comes in handy in well-lit scenes as it eliminates the edge softness that usually goes with wider aperture. Colors are punchy and some may even say that they are a bit over the top. Do note that all photos were taken with the Scene optimizer option turned on.
However, they are great for social media sharing and the majority of people will find the pictures more attractive with the colors popping out more. No noise can be seen in either of the scenes.
And here are a few samples from a hiking trip we took. They're from the main camera, the telephoto and the ultrawide, all shot with Scene Optimizer on.
Comparing the S10+ and the Note10+ side by side reveals subtle, barely detectable differences. Pixel-peeping is required to draw any conclusions. Overall, the Note10+ tends to use lower exposure, higher contrast and colors are somewhat juicier. There's also a subtle improvement in the HDR algorithm. Which in turn, while having its benefits, could be the reason we got some soft areas in some of our sample photos. Once again, the difference in the rendition is quite subtle. Notice the trees and the water in the photos - the S10+ is sharper but the Note 10+ usually has the shadow and highlight detail slightly better developed.
When compared to the OnePlus 7 Pro, there are more noticeable differences. For instance, the Note10+ has better dynamic range across the board. The two resolve the same amount of detail with the odd case of both losing some detail in particular shots, probably due to failed image stacking more than anything else. The 7 Pro's color reproduction, however, seems more natural. We are yet to find the reason for the Note10+'s softness in some parts of the scenes - it could be from the HDR or it could be the noise reduction acting up. We will do a more in-depth camera comparison in the future.
The processing is pretty similar to the main camera with expectedly less detail. Dynamic range is still pretty good despite the limitations of the telephoto lens. Detail is nice and colors are attractive, to say the least.
Going against the Galaxy S10+, we see the same processing differences. The HDR on the Note10+ is slightly improved and handles scenes with varying light better. The wider aperture allows the software to bring up the shutter speed and thus reduce the probability of shaky photos.
As for the ultra wide-angle camera - the lack of autofocus could be limiting at times but the Note10+ does have some advantages over its competitors - it has a wider field of view and barrel distortion is well contained even with the lens correction turned off (it's like that by default).
Don't expect any major differences between the Galaxy S10+ and the Note10+ in terms of wide-angle photography - they share the same hardware. The Note10+ has a slight edge over its sibling due to the improved HDR.
Low-light photography is where things get interesting. This is where flagships race to be the best in the field. The Galaxy Note10+ is no exception to the rule and does some awesome night photos with good detail, impressive dynamic range (once again), attractive colors and virtually non-existent noise. However, just like the Galaxy S10 family, it has trouble with neon signs and other light sources. The neon signs, for example, come out smudgy while lamps are sometimes overexposed.
This is where the Night mode comes into play. It achieves a brighter exposure, yet it doesn't lose detail in the highlights. It also resolves more detail in the shadows. Light sources and neon signs look better in general too. To put it simply - dynamic range is further improved. No artificial sharpening can be observed. Colors do look nicer too.
We found that in some rare cases, if the software decides that there's enough light in the scene, it just won't do aggressive image stacking, even with the Night mode turned on. It would default to the smaller aperture on the main camera (f/2.4) and the only improvement you will see in this case is sharper image compared to the standard Photo mode. Anyway, we've noticed a slight loss in detail in some rare occasions when using the Night mode and we theorize that the noise reduction brushes away some of the fine detail.
Our verdict on the Night mode is a mixed bag. We can't say it's necessarily better than the Photo mode. We recommend taking a picture of the scene using both modes and then deciding for yourself which one looks better. Don't get us wrong, though, the Night mode is okay but it's not always better. Perhaps in really dark scenes, the Night mode has an edge over the standard one.
Going against the Galaxy S10+, we were hard-pressed to find any noticeable differences. The Note10+ tends to shoot brighter pictures due to the higher ISO but still captures more detail without introducing more noise to the scene. The same applies for the Night mode comparison. Everything else looks pretty much the same.
The big surprise is the comparison to the OnePlus 7 Pro. It appears to capture better overall photos with and without the Night mode. The Note10+ brings out information in the shadows as it keeps the exposure higher but has issues exposing correctly some of the light sources in the dark scenes. Well, at least compared to the 7 Pro. The latter's photos are sharper, with more detail in the highlights. The only slight advantage of the Note10+ seems to be the dynamic range, which becomes less prominent when comparing both phones' Night modes side by side.
This is in stark contrast to our Galaxy S10+ vs OnePlus 7 Pro comparison where the former was a clear winner by a mile. Now, the 7 Pro seems to be ahead of both in most aspects. Since we did this comparison, the 7 Pro received several camera updates so this might explain the unexpected outcome in our short comparison here. We will try to delve deeper into this once the Note10+ gets officially released with the latest software updates and then we will do a more in-depth camera shootout.
Moving onto the telephoto camera, we observe similar behavior to the Galaxy S10+. When there's not enough light, the software defaults to the main camera and crops out the image. The results aren't bad, per se, but it's not a real telephoto, that's apparent.
Interestingly, the Night mode is now available on the telephoto camera as well, which wasn't the case for the S10+.
One workaround to force the use of the telephoto lens in the dark is to switch to the Portrait mode as this always activates the 2x telephoto camera. You then bring the blur down to the minimum using the slider and enjoy optical zooming in poorly-lit environments.
The wide-angle camera produces more than usable low-light shots without ever resorting to the Night mode. If you aren't looking close enough, which is totally fine for sharing on social networks, the pictures turn out pretty nice. In fact, the only benefit from turning on the Night mode is the improved dynamic range - more detail in shadows and highlights. However, images look a lot softer with the Night mode due to the aggressive noise reduction. In the end, we recommend using the normal Photo mode when taking low-light wide-angle stills and if need be, you can brighten up the shadows later with some editing.
Once you are done with the real-world sample photos, we suggest you try some pixel-peeping in a more controlled environment with our photo compare tool.
And some 2x telephoto comparison:
With the introduction of the 3D ToF sensor on the back of the Note10+, portraits turn out amazing. The edge detection is almost flawless. Of course, there are a couple of missed spots here and there but these can only be seen upon closer inspection. Otherwise, the software does a great job even with more difficult subjects with lots of stray hair.
As before, the Portrait mode can use the main camera and the telephoto one and we've got samples with both. The wider aperture on the new telephoto lens helps a bit in low-light situations.
Moreover, the skin tone is natural and the HDR does a great job preserving the highlights and shadows even when a more complex environment is introduced. As before, you can adjust the strength of the blur and play around with different effects.
The selfie camera has been re-used from the S10 generation. The only difference is in the aperture - the Note10+ has a smaller opening perhaps to allow Samsung to make the punch-hole smaller. It produces nice selfies with impressive dynamic range. The best part is that it retains the autofocus, which reduces the chance of soft selfies and your face will always be in focus.
Edge detection isn't ideal, which was expected given that there's no secondary sensor to provide depth information. That's why the Galaxy S10+ is better in this regard.
Like on the S10+, the camera app gives you the choice of taking a regular 10MP photo or a 'zoomed-in' version which is only 6.5MP and is really a crop of the center of the original frame. While both options cater to different situations, we were displeased that the camera always defaults to a cropped field of view instead of remembering the last used setting.