If you’re thinking of upgrading your phone, the chances are you’re looking at something produced by one of the two big leading cellphone manufacturers, Apple and Samsung. If you’re anything like me, you’ll already know their release schedules and most of the expected features before the key notes take place and the releases are even announced and the chances are, you’re more interested in the camera and social media gadgets than the ability to make calls. Sound familiar? I was asked by Three UK to take the current new releases (at the time of writing) from both brands to test out the camera functionality, after all, who doesn’t love a good selfie these days right?
Where’s better to test camera functionality than the tourist trail in London? Nowhere! Armed with the iPhone X (pronounced 10 to mark the tenth anniversary of the iPhone) and the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, I hit up the vibrant Bermondsey Food Market to see what I could capture, before moving along the South Bank via Tower Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe. It’s worth me mentioning here that I’m an Apple fangirl. Ever since I jumped on the bandwagon with iPhone 4, I’ve been a devout returner and my home is kitted out with Apple gadgets galore. iMac, iPad Pro, iPad Mini, Air Pods, Apple TV, AirPort, you name it, I’ve got it – I kind of feel it necessary to declare my potential for bias before we move on.
Ok, so, under the guidance of my photographer friend Rob Percy, I started learning to get to grips with the latest Android offering from Samsung. The S9 Plus is a big phone, bigger than any of the iPhone models and has an edge to edge screen meaning it’s easy to line up and snap pictures. It is however pretty hard for an iOS user to get a handle on, to me the phone set up felt clunky, in comparison to the iPhone X (more on that later) it takes more clicks to complete each task, including unlocking the screen, which I found super frustrating. Yes, both phones have facial recognition, but the Samsung still requires some extra faffing to get into where as the iPhone reads your eyes and unlocks instantly. Let’s look at the merits of each phone and its respective camera individually:
SAMUNG GALAXY S9 PLUS
It’s a slick looking phone, clean lines, massive screen with a cool little curved edge that looks and feels expensive. Not quite a point and shoot if you want to achieve the best photographic results as this particular phone allows you to shoot in raw format. Be warned, this takes some mastering, it requires a lot of post production and manipulation but might just be worth it if you’re looking to ditch the DSLR. Images created on this device are sharp and the light is automatically adjusted and refocussed in automatic mode – the more you’d select for ease and speed. Editing is a little more tricky on this device if you’re moving from IOS to Android, I’d need way more than a day to get to grips with it but if you’re already using a Samsung phone and planning on upgrading, I’m assured the tools for image capture are the same as the previous model so you’re all gravy. The S9 (as with other Samsung models) has a built in virtual assistant called BIXBY, and i hated its constant patronising, like an overbearing parent. “Are you sure?” Yes I’m fucking sure BIXBY, Samsung are a million miles away when it comes to competing with Apple and Google in the VA arena, however, BIXBY does have some benefits in camera mode; if you point and shoot using BIXBY mode, the camera will highlight points within your screen capture to focus on and then provide more information, an awesome feature for travellers and tourists with a thirst for knowledge.
What you really want to see is the camera footage though right? I’ve got to admit, the camera is insane. It’s an amazing piece of kit packed into a cellphone and when you think about the cost which is around £800 (at the time of writing) it’s in the same ballpark as a mid range DSLR but has way more benefits than just being a camera.
One of the things Rob and I discussed during this camera trial, is that screen variation matters. There’s a little bit of understanding of inception required for this bit; the pictures above were taken using a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus which has a particular type of screen optimised for that device. When you view them on that screen you see them as they were meant to be, all crisp and clean and vibrant. However when you take those images and view them on a different screen, as you’re doing right now, you dilute some of that quality as your own screen perceives, translates and displays them within the limitations of your own device. Still with me? Basically, they look the best on the device they were taken on and that goes for any device, what you see when you look through another screen shifts the parameters a little, to illustrate my point, here’s some third layer cellphone inception for you, an image I took on my iPhone X, of an image I took on my Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, viewed through the screen of whichever device you’re holding right now….. Mind. Blown.
The iPhone X marks a departure from the expected format of cellphones from Apple. Since the first iPhone, things haven’t changed that much and apart from size and internal features and functionality, the phone itself has largely remained the same. That is until now. The X marks the tenth anniversary of the iPhone and a brand new luxe take on the iPhone. The home button and headphone jack are gone in order to make the phone more streamline (it actually looks very like the Samsung model) and there’s a new edge to edge screen to play with. It doesn’t take long to get used to the missing home button, I’ll admit, the first 15 minutes were frustrating but it’s plain sailing and feels pretty natural after that. The controls are simple; simple enough that my mum could use it with ease and that’s a pretty good guage for user testing.
The camera is a simple point and shoot and is optimised for use straight away. According to Apple it’s a big step up from previous iPhone cameras and is the first phone in the line up to utilise Apple’s new technology and dual lens mechanism. This means that the Portrait mode that is available on the iPhone 7 and 8 Plus models that every Blogger loves, is now available on the front facing camera too. Just let that sink in.
Editing images in post production is easy, I’m not talking photoshop, FaceTune or filtering images with colour washes, I mean editing the settings to bend light, or enhance shadow within the image; real editing tools to make images strong and bold. Simple slider functionality is available to edit each image as you wish and there are downloadable apps such as LightRoom if you do want to shoot in raw or using pre-set editing tools. But what about the images? Well, they’re crisp and require very little in the way of manipulation, however I’m going to say something a little controversial, I have both the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X and in all honesty, I think the camera on the iPhone 8 Plus is better. *Gasps* I know right? Definitely a shocker but I’m not disregarding it, having Portrait mode available when you’re shooting selfies or anything else front facing is invaluable and therefore a winner.
You can see from both sets of images that a selfie looks different, the one taken on the Samsung uses light to blur out imperfections and highlight more vibrant colours, whereas the iPhone image offers a more HD style perspective, leaving you to correct anything in post production. Both have their benefits and uses, and both are super smart, intelligent devices that will no doubt sell in droves and with only £100 between the two, cost isn’t really a deciding factor
Both phones are great, my honest opinion is that the majority of sales will come down to upgrading from a previous model by the same brand. Generally speaking if you’re in the Android camp then you’re rooted there, and the same goes for established iOS users. I liked the Samsung’s camera but hated everything else about it, it felt slow and clunky and not as slick as the iPhone. It feels weird for me to say that because I’m also a Samsung fan, my TVs, refrigerator and washing machine are all Samsung, but they just haven’t done enough for me to leave Apple and rely on the device as my lifeline to the world. Way too many clicks to do anything and despite the camera coming up aces, I’ll be passing on this one, sorry Samsung.
The iPhone X is a no brainer for me, I’m a fangirl, we’ve established that, Apple have stepped away from the usual release model with the X and I like it, it feels slick, it’s definitely heavier than previous iPhone models but it’s more compact than the 7 and 8 Plus models, with a bigger screen. Yeah you guessed it, I bought it, but i’m betting you knew that was coming didn’t you?