Daylight is when most of your video capture will take place. Right? Well, at least that's how we see it and that's what we tested for. Our Compound daylight torture test scene, a.k.a. Scene 1, is great for examining a number of things all at once. Sort of. The six different positions in it present different challenges, so we've grabbed 6 screenshots from each phone's footage for a side-by-side appraisal.
In the first and second position Angie is well lit and it's a nice opportunity to judge detail and color rendition. The Nokia obviously rules when it comes to the former - it's got 4 times the resolution, duh. It does, however, tend to overexpose Angie's face, losing detail there, though the hair is super well defined. Colors are generally the coldest of this bunch, and skin tones have a yellowish cast.
It's nothing like the iPhone X's overly artificial warmth and general dreamy look. We admit, even if it's technically not accurate, we find it subjectively quite pleasing - for us Caucasians a warm skin tone simply looks better and you'd probably prefer not to look at each and every blemish. Or wrinkles - there are some old men around the office too. Not that we're referring to our text editor, not at all!
The Galaxy S8 (or S8+, or Note8, they're all the same) can record 1440p, so it comes in second behind the Nokia in resolution. It captures plenty of detail too, and the 1440p mode comes with the added bonus of a more natural look compared to the slightly overprocessed 1080p videos. Samsungs paint skin tones with just an extra bit of added yellow, be it rear or front cameras, and the Galaxy S8 is no different.
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro's footage is nice and detailed though there's some of that iPhone haziness. Exposure is handled well, and colors have a slight pinkish tint.
The vivo V7+ tends to expose brighter than most, a bit like the Nokia in this scene, with both the good and bad consequences. Skin tones are quite pleasing, though.
The Pixel 2s (either size) has some of the best skin tones in our book, but detail is just about average and it has been known to wipe out the occasional skin details. Okay, most of them.
Position 3 is one of the most difficult and many phones failed here. Exposure bias on your face is a must in this strongly backlit situation and we'd expect most phones to prioritize on that. The best ones could even engage some sort of dynamic range optimization algorithm and potentially save some of the highlights, but that's bonus points.
The majority just end up with clipped highlights, and the vivo and the Mate figure that they might as well at least have the face well exposed - those two have the brightest exposures and the best skin tone preservation in this scene. Meanwhile the iPhone is struggling with focus, and the Nokia does matrix exposure metering which leaves the face completely dark. The Pixel 2 is the second darkest sample here - we were expecting more from #teampixel.
It gets a little easier as we move into Position 4, where the bright backlight isn't as dominant. Still most phones are struggling to find a balance between noise and noise reduction, with most leaning towards the latter and losing fine detail. The Mate opts for a little more noise, and it's not looking all that bad. But what's that about, Nokia?
Position 5 should supposedly ease up on the contrast, with the column providing some shade from the outside light, though things do remain mightily challenging.
Which brings us back close to our starting point, so we can examine how quickly the phones adapt back to improved lighting.
Moving into our studio for our second scene, where we tested the phones in low light. The setup includes a light meter on the desk where Angie is sitting. We set the lights for the start of each video so that the meter reads exactly 20lux and midway through the clip we increased the light to full blast, or around 1200lux, for comparison.
As you can imagine, none of these videos was ever going to be amazing, but we figured we'd push the limits anyway.
The Nokia's footage is severely underexposed and particularly noisy - high video resolution is one thing, but low-light performance is quite different.
The Pixel 2 doesn't fare too well here either. Its footage may be practically chroma noise free, but is very soft and has a weird processed look to it. The iPhone X is especially bad as well, and so is the OnePlus 5T.
The vivo V7+ decreases shutter speed below that 1/33s threshold we mentioned. While this makes the videos brighter and the screenshots appear clearer, in fact the frame rate ends up anywhere between 15 and 20fps and the footage looks quite choppy.
The least bad low light selfie video has to be the one out of the Galaxies. Some way to put it, but that's how it is.
For comparison, check out screenshots of the same scene with the lights on at full blast.
The things the screenshots don't reveal include stabilization, focus, and audio quality. We were most impressed with the OnePlus 5T's and the Galaxy S8's stabilization algorithms, while the Pixel felt almost as good, but still a notch behind. The Mate 10 Pro did an okay job of smoothing handheld videos too, while the iPhone X wasn't at the level we expected. The vivo and the Nokia were the shakiest of the bunch.
Obviously, we've put up the samples on YouTube, so you can examine the actual videos yourselves.
When it comes to focus, the phones with autofocus generally struggled badly in low light, which is to be expected. There was also the occasional hunting we observed even in good light on both the Galaxy S8 and the Nokia 8. With fixed focus phones on the other hand, you need to be careful to stay in their sweet spot.
As for audio quality, the iPhone X and the Pixel 2 record mono audio at 96kbps. That looks worse on paper than it sounds in reality, but we still feel that whatever savings are achieved in file size and what... processing power?... are unjustified and these two should immediately switch to stereo recording and bump up the bit rate. The mics are there and if the makers are not that stubborn it could probably even happen in a software update.
The Galaxy S8 and the Nokia 8 record in stereo and devote 256kbps to that so it's no surprise they sound the best here. Both are clean with no background noise, but the Galaxy still has the upper hand in our view.
The OnePlus 5T's stereo track gets a lowly 96kbps, but does well within those bits. The Mate 10 Pro and the vivo V7+ have pretty bad audio with the Mate having a constant noise behind your voice, while the vivo sounds hollow and exhibits odd left-right volume pulsations.