Those of you who've been following us for some time might have noticed that we've rarely praised a Sony phone camera. They make the sensors for most smartphones, they have some of the best dedicated cameras - why can't they make a proper smartphone camera? You might have read something along those lines.
If we've criticized the company's flagships before, it hasn't been for a lack of reasons, but it has brought some name calling our way. You can't please everyone, but the Sony loyalist may feel a little warmth reading this, for a change. This time around, the Xperia XZ2 proved to be as good and, on occasion, even superior to the Galaxy S9 in this shootout.
The funny thing is, Sony's phone hit the Galaxy where it hurt most - low-light photography. Support it properly, and the XZ2 will deliver better pictures that the S9 at night, in full auto at that. The Galaxy saves face with solid output when shooting handheld - courtesy of OIS, and a bright aperture, so not all is lost in the dark.
In daylight we'd really struggle to pick a winner. If you refrain from close-up scrutiny, the two are actually very hard to tell apart and when you do zoom in, it's a clash of approaches, neither strictly better than the other - the super-clean Galaxy versus the noisier but more detailed Xperia.
An unlikely winner in another area, the Galaxy is our pick for slow-mo video recording. Yes, Sony introduced it last year, and even upped the resolution this year. But it's Samsung that's wrapped slow-mo in more approachable and easier to use software, ultimately making it better as a whole.
Regular videos, on the other hand, are that little bit more likeable coming out of the Xperia, the 4K/30fps ones in particular, but it's not a night-and-day difference. What can possibly have you leaning either way is the 4K/60fps capabilities of the Galaxy and the HDR recording of the Xperia. Pick one.
Pick the Galaxy S9 or pick the Xperia XZ2, but do it for something other than the camera, because in that particular respect they're neck and neck. And if the Samsung edges ahead in one area, the Xperia quickly makes up for it with a narrow win in another. Yes, choosing the best cameraphone is extra hard this year. Or should we say, rather easy? Everybody's doing such a great job that the premium segment actually has us spoiled for choice.