Camera Test: Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Huawei P40 Pro vs OnePlus 8 Pro vs Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro – low-light fiasco for Samsung
After comparing the 2020 flagships with their respective predecessors it is now time for an all-flagship comparison between the crème de la crème of Android smartphone cameras.
For this comparison, we are going to look at the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, Huawei P40 Pro, OnePlus 8 Pro, and the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro. All of these high-end smartphones cost roughly the same, and neither OnePlus nor Xiaomi, brands that built their initial image as flagship killers, are particularly cheap any longer and have accepted that camera quality is where it counts.
High-End Smartphone Camera Setups in Comparison
The OnePlus 8 Pro features a cluster of four lenses at the back. The sensor behind the main lens is a Sony IMX689 with an aperture of f/1.78 and optical image stabilization. The secondary wide-angle lens features a 48 MP IMX586 sensor and an aperture of f/2.2. The quad-bayer color filter in both Sony IMX sensors supports 2x2 pixel binning. The final lens is an 8 MP telephoto lens (74-mm equivalent) with 3x optical zoom and optical image stabilization.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra features a large 108 MP sensor (ISOCELL Bright HM1) with an aperture of f/1.8 and not just 4x but 9x pixel binning. Accordingly, the resulting image is 12 MP large. The 48 MP zoom camera (103-mm equivalent) supports 4x optical zoom, and a 12 MP ultra-wide angle lens (f/2.2) as well as a 3D depth of field camera complete Samsung’s quad-camera setup.
The Mi 10 Pro features a similar 108 MP sensor with a very light-sensitive wide-open aperture of f/1.69. The Samsung S5KHMX sensor’s 0.8 µm pixels are combined into a single 1.6 µm pixel (4x pixel binning). Unlike on Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra Xiaomi does not combine nine pixels into a single super pixel but only four, resulting in a higher resolution of 27 MP. The main camera is further accompanied by a 12 MP telephoto lens (1/2.6-inch sensor, 50-mm equivalent) and an 8 MP telephoto lens (1/4.4-inch sensor, 94-mm equivalent, optical image stabilization) for close-ups as well as a 20 MP ultra-wide angle camera (1/2.8-inch sensor, 16-mm equivalent).
The P40 Pro features the brand-new 50 MP RYYB sensor with a size of 1/1.28-inches. It is thus much larger than the one on Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra and comes with a pixel size of 1.22 µm. It is supported by a 40 MP ultra-wide angle lens (f/1.8, optical image stabilization), a 12 MP periscope camera (f/3.4, 120-mm equivalent) with 5x optical and 10x hybrid zoom, and last but not least a 3D depth of field camera.
|Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
|Huawei P40 Pro
|OnePlus 8 Pro
|Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro
|Camera setup rear
|Camera 1:: 108 MP, f/1.8, 26 mm, 1/1.33", 0.8 µm; Camera 2: 48 MP, OIS, f/3.5, 103 mm, 1/2.0", 0.8 µm; Camera 3: 12MP, f/2.2, 13 mm, 1.4 µm; Camera 4: 0.3 MP, 3D, f/1.0
|Camera 1: 50 MP, 1/1,28", 1,22 µm, f/1.9, RYYB color filter, Octa-PDAF, OIS; Camera 2: 40 MP, 1/1.54", f/1.8, OIS; Camera 3: 12 MP, f/3.4, RYYB, OIS; Camera 4: 3D
|Camera 1: 48 MP f/1.78, phase detection AF, laser AF, contrast AF, OIS,; Camera 2: 48 MP, f/2.2, wide-angle lens; Camera 3: 8 MP, f/2.44, OIS, telephoto lens; Camera 4: 5 MP, f/2.4, color filter
|Camera 1: 108 MP, f/1.7, 1/1.33", 0.8µm; Camera 2: 8 MP, f/2.0, 1.0µm, Camera 3: 12 MP, f/2.0, 1/2.55", 1.4µm; Camera 4: 20 MP, f/2.2, 13 mm
|Camera setup front
|40 MP, f/2.2, 26 mm, 0.7 µm
|32 MP, f/2.2, IR camera
|16 MP, f/2.45
|20 MP, f/2.0, 1/3", 0.9µm
Photos Taken during the Day
High-resolution cameras are available in all high-end smartphones even if those extremely high resolutions are rarely ever available to the end user. A technology referred to as pixel binning combines several pixels into a single pixel, thereby improving light sensitivity immensely and increasing the level of detail captured by the cameras. All four smartphones in this comparison support this technology, and except for the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro with 27 MP they all produce 12 MP (OnePlus 8 Pro, Galaxy S20 Ultra) or 12.5 MP (Huawei P40 Pro) images.
The Bokeh effect on our portrait photos turned out as expected on all four contenders, and the blurred background was separated very neatly from the frog in the foreground. The Huawei P40 Pro and the OnePlus 8 Pro had trouble focusing on the object in the foreground. In return, the latter showed the best-looking contrast without oversharpening the objects. Like on pretty much all daylight photos taken in this test the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro’s photos are slightly overexposed but very crisp in return. In our opinion, the best portrait photo was captured by the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: good contrast, realistic colors, and rich in details. That said, the Mi 10 Pro did not perform much worse in capturing our frog.
When looking at focus in regular photo mode, the results were the exact opposite. The OnePlus 8 Pro showed very crisp results rich in color without looking too unnatural. The P40 Pro took very good-looking and crisp photos, although color accuracy was not necessarily its strongest selling point. That, in return, was handled very well by Xiaomi’s flagship phone. Unfortunately, it was the only aspect it handled well, because compared to its competitors brightness and contrast are in dire need of improvement, and focus even more so.
One thing we noticed is that the Huawei P40 Pro’s ultra-wide angle photos were significantly less wide-angled than on the other three devices. In return, the 40 MP camera offered very sharp photos, particularly around the edges and in the corners. This is where the other three smartphone cameras showed visibly less focus than in the center, with the OnePlus 8 Pro being the best of the rest in this case. Samsung S20 Ultra’s ultra-wide angle photos were unexpectedly poor. The photos lacked overall focus, were oversharpened, and poor in detail when compared with its competitors. The Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro's ultra-wide angle camera showed the same overexposure-issues as the main camera.
When evaluating zoomed-in photos we limited ourselves to realistic zoom levels that are usable in everyday situations. And this is where the Mi 10 Pro really shines. Xiaomi’s flagship phone offered the highest level of focus and the most natural color representation in both zoom levels, 5x and 10x. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and P40 Pro showcased major lack in focus, and the latter also suffered from a blue tint very well visible in whites. Due to its telephoto lens’s low focal length the Oneplus 8 Pro never achieved the same level of photo quality as the S20 Ultra or the P40 Pro, and it was nowhere near the Mi 10 Pro’s quality.
Photos Taken in the Dark
Low-light photography is arguably the toughest and most challenging situation for smartphone cameras, and once again Huawei’s P40 Pro is the king of the hill albeit its Android competitors managed to catch up quite nicely. At the same time, we did notice some blurriness around the edges when compared to the P30 Pro. The largest low-light leap this year can be attributed to OnePlus. The 8 Pro might still suffer from more overall noise than the P40 Pro, however its focus is spot on and so is its dynamic range. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. Due to the autofocus not working correctly on Samsung’s flagship phone, photos taken in the dark are very blurry. In addition to the lack of focus the S20 Ultra also suffers from insufficient illumination. The Mi 10 Pro is somewhere in-between those two extremes. Just like in daylight Xiaomi’s contender suffers from incorrect exposure, and focus could use some improvement as well.
When using the night mode on each smartphone, which takes several photos and combines lighting information and details in order to create a single ideal image, the results were staggering, to say the least. In this case, Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra presented us with a photo with almost perfect focus, dynamic range, and illumination resulting in what is quite possibly the best image in this particular test.
When using the zoom lens, the Mi 10 Pro created great low-light photos in 5x mode. The somewhat soft edges were lower in contrast than on its competitors for a more natural look. Surprisingly, the two periscope cameras in the P40 Pro and S20 Ultra produced images with less focus than the OnePlus 8 Pro with its 3x “optical” zoom that required a lot more additional computation and post-processing in software. Colors were also very unnatural on both devices.
The ultra-wide angle lenses on all four devices performed similarly to the telephoto lenses in the dark. The P40 Pro’s photos showed the most details by a longshot, and its focus and illumination turned out comparatively well. The OnePlus 8 Pro’s ultra-wide angle camera performed very well at night as well albeit not as good as Huawei’s flagship phone.
Photos Taken with the Front-Facing Camera
And it’s all just a little bit of history repeating: Samsung manages to defend its title as the selfie king of Android smartphones. Compared to its high-end rivals the S20 Ultra's front-facing camera created sharp high-contrast photos. Even with decreasing light (see sample photo 2 below) photos turned out very well while the Huawei P40 Pro and Mi 10 Pro only managed to capture dramatically overexposed shots. In addition, the P40 Pro suffered from a visible red tint in low light. Skin colors were unnatural, and the results were pretty much useless. That said, low-light selfies were too much to ask for of all four cameras.
Verdict – OnePlus may not be the best in any particular area, but it is the best 2020 all-rounder
We can easily name a winner in three out of our four categories. The Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro has the best zoom lens, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra takes the best selfies, and the Huawei P40 Pro's ultra-wide angle camera plays in its own league this year.
However, formulating such a distinct verdict for the main camera is much harder because all four competitors performed very well in daylight. None of them turned out to be disappointing, although if we had to pick one that lagged behind ever so slightly it would be the Xiaomi. That said, the device that produced the best photos under ideal conditions turned out to be the OnePlus 8 Pro, closely followed by the P40 Pro with reversed order in low-light situations. All things considered Huawei’s flagship probably offers the best main camera due to its low noise ratio in low-light scenarios. The Galaxy S20 Ultra produced shockingly poor low-light photos in normal photo mode, yet significantly better results in night mode, which leaves us hopeful that Samsung might be able to address this with a future software update.
Once again, no manufacturer managed to create the perfect smartphone camera.