Pixel 4 XL vs. iPhone 11 Pro vs. Note 10 Plus vs. OnePlus 7T: Camera shootout

It has become harder than ever before to say which smartphone delivers the best camera. There are numerous factors to consider, but ultimately this is great news for consumers, as it means we can happily capture the important moments in our lives and expect strong results.

But some phones do edge out over others. Let’s put together the new Google Pixel 4 XL, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, and the OnePlus 7T for a four-way camera shootout to narrow down the best option currently available.

Camera specs

First, a quick note on specifications. The Pixel 4 XL has a 12.2-megapixel lens (f/1.7) paired with a 16-megapixel telephoto lens offering 2x optical zoom (f/2.4), and both have optical image stabilization (OIS). It has an 8-megapixel (f/2.0) front camera.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max kicks things up with a triple-camera setup. All three have 12 megapixels, with the f/1.8 main lens, an f/2.0 telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom, and an f/2.4 ultra-wide-angle lens. The first two lenses have OIS. The front camera packs 12 megapixels and has an f/2.2 aperture.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus technically has a quad-camera array. There’s a 12-megapixel main camera (with a variable aperture f/1.5-f/2.4), and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom (f/2.1); both have OIS. The ultra-wide-angle lens has 16 megapixels (f/2.2), and the last is a time-of-flight camera used to capture depth for portrait mode. On the front, there’s a 10-megapixel lens with an f/2.2 aperture.

Finally, there’s the OnePlus 7T, which is the most affordable phone in the list, but it also has a triple-camera system. There’s a main 48-megapixel camera (f/1.6) with OIS, a 12-megapixel telephoto lens offering 2x optical zoom (f/2.2), and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens (f/2.2). The selfie camera is a 16-megapixel lens with an f/2.0 aperture.

Disclaimer: Photography is subjective, so the wins I award may not line up with your favorites, and that’s OK. I also used a professionally calibrated monitor to view these photos, so keep in mind that the photos might look different based on the screen you’re viewing them on. During this test, I also carried Google’s Pixel 3 with me, but for the sake of simplicity I separated that camera shootout, so you can check out how the Pixel 4 stacks up to its predecessor here. It’s why you’ll see some similar photos between the comparisons.

The Cube

pixel 4 xl astor place cube
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max cube daylight
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus cube astor place
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t cube astor place daylight
OnePlus 7T.

Starting at the Alamo, also known as the Astor Place Cube, all these photos aren’t drastically different. The Pixel 4 has far too much grain throughout, and it’s the one photo where you can see the underside of the cube the least (I do like its sky the best, though). Sadly, the iPhone 11 Pro isn’t a great shot. The sky is simply too overexposed, and I’d take the Pixel’s photo over it.

The OnePlus 7T’s shot is quite good, but look around the edges and you can notice a bit of distortion. Look at the window panes behind the cube, where it says Astor Place, and you’ll see they’re sitting at an angle, unlike the frames on any other photo. It’s strange. The photo is also a little too warm — even the sky has a reddish hue, which definitely wasn’t the case in real life.

That leaves the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus in the top slot. It has nice colors, and although the sky isn’t as good as the one on the Pixel 4 photo, it manages to keep it under control while keeping the rest of the shot well-exposed.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Digital zoom: Statue

pixel 4 xl statue digital zoom
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max statue digital zoom
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus statue digital zoom
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t digital zoom statue
OnePlus 7T.

Google’s Pixel 4 uses machine learning to clean up and improve digitally zoomed-in photos. These pictures were captured at around 5x digital zoom on all these phones.

What I like most about the Pixel photo is how it looks the least sharpened or processed. The iPhone comes close, but the leaves aren’t as pleasing to look at, and the colors are a little greenish overall. The Samsung shot lags behind, as its details look fuzzy.

The last two come close, but look at the leaves to the left of the statue, and they look heavily sharpened on OnePlus’ photo. I also prefer the building’s color in the background of the statue on the Pixel 4’s photo, netting it a narrow win.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Digital zoom: Pillars in the distance

pixel 4 xl pillars
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max pillar digital zoom
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus pillar digital zoom
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t digital zoom pillars
OnePlus 7T.

Here’s a clearer example showing off the perks of Super Res Zoom on the Pixel 4. Its image is the clearest, not just with the pillars and buildings, but also with the branches and leaves in the foreground, all of which looks like an afterthought on all the other phones. The iPhone comes dead last as it’s too pixelated, and next is Samsung for lacking detail.

OnePlus isn’t far behind, but it lacks depth, and the overall photo is a little on the overexposed side. It’s another win for the Pixel 4 XL.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

2x optical zoom: Cafe

pixel 4 xl cafe at astor place
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max cafe daylight 2x
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus cafe daylight
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t the cafe daylight
OnePlus 7T.

All these phones have a 2x optical zoom option now, so let’s test it out. These photos of a cafe in Astor Place aren’t too dissimilar across the board, but we can firmly put the OnePlus 7T dead last. The photo is completely flat, almost as though someone cranked black levels all the way to nonexistent. It’s not visually pleasing at all. I’m cutting the Samsung Note 10 Plus next because the two girls’ skin tones are far too bright, as is the girl’s hoodie, which almost looks like it’s glowing.

The latter two will come down to personal preference. I think the Pixel photo delivers the most natural skin tones over the iPhone 11 Pro, and I prefer the darker, more brown color of the structure, instead of the warmer version in the iPhone photo. Zoom all the way in and you’ll see less grain on the interior of the building in the Pixel 4 shot, giving it the narrow win. I’d be more than satisfied with the iPhone’s photo, though.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Portrait mode: Dog on a bench

pixel 4 xl portrait mode dog on a bench
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max dog portrait mode daylight
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus dog portrait mode daylight
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t dog portrait mode daylight
OnePlus 7T.

You have no idea how hard it is to snap four consecutive pictures of a dog in the same pose. Right off the bat, we can cross off the OnePlus 7T again. While it’s a cute photo, my dog’s face isn’t quite sharp, and the whole image looks a bit flat. The iPhone does the best job of accurately outlining my dog’s body and applying the blur effect, while Samsung’s phone comes second. The Pixel comes close, but it messes up the part between my dog’s right leg and his body. Zoom in all the way, though, and the Samsung and iPhone photos are slightly sharper.

The iPhone’s photo is brighter, warmer, and has a natural blur effect that trails off toward the bottom of the dog’s body. It’s almost perfect, and the bokeh effect is superbly strong. The Note 10 Plus comes close here, and I do think it does a better job with white balance, but it doesn’t quite measure up.

Winner: iPhone 11 Pro Max

Portrait: Selfie

Let’s turn the camera around and snap a selfie, but let’s use portrait mode! There are two standouts here: The iPhone 11 Pro and the Pixel 4 XL. While I think the OnePlus 7T does a wonderful job with HDR, the colors are a little too bright and lack contrast, and look closely at my face and you can see it’s not quite in focus. The Note 10 Plus snaps a great shot, with solid detail and great HDR, but it’s also lacking contrast.

Now take a look at the Pixel and iPhone photos, and the detail on my face looks fantastic. I think the Pixel wins out here for its better HDR (though I still like the skies on the Samsung and OnePlus photos), but I also prefer my skin color on the Pixel image as it looks more natural.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Food

pixel 4 xl food test
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max food test
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus food test
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t food test
OnePlus 7T.

This is an easy win for the iPhone 11 Pro Max. There’s a reason the food is so red — there’s a red heat lamp above me — yet the iPhone manages to keep each food item looking distinct, and even manages to maintain the color of the surrounding area.

The Samsung shot is so red the food looks as though it’s blending into each other, and the OnePlus photo isn’t as detailed as the Pixel 4. The latter is still a little too red throughout. Using Night Sight mode on the Pixel 4 (not seen here), I was able to achieve a look similar to the iPhone.

Winner: iPhone 11 Pro Max

Williamsburg Bridge

pixel 4 xl learning based white balance bridge
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max williamsburg bridge
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus williamsburg bridge
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t williamsburg bridge
OnePlus 7T.

These are all good photos, but I’m partial to the Pixel 4’s photo as it has the least grain, especially compared to the iPhone and OnePlus photos, and it’s the most detailed. I love the color of the rails, as it’s a much deeper red hue compared to the other photos.

The iPhone 11 Pro’s photo is my next favorite, though there’s too much of a yellow tone, and while I think the OnePlus shot is a little more detailed than the Note 10 Plus’ photo, the colors look a little muted and flat.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Looking out the balcony

pixel 4 xl deli normal night
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max normal deli
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus deli night normal
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t deli nighttime
OnePlus 7T.

This is a surprise. I initially awarded the win to the OnePlus 7T because it lit up the whole photo well, but look closely at the brickwork on the center building on this photo, the Pixel, and the Samsung photos. They’re all a blotchy mess. only having the most detail in this low-light shot (no night modes were used). Look closely at the deli sign, and it’s sharpest on the OnePlus photo.

Now zoom in on the iPhone photo and be amazed at the sheer detail it captured. I’d rather use this photo and brighten it up in post than go with a photo that’s poor in detail.

Winner: iPhone 11 Pro Max

Night Mode: Overpass

pixel 4 xl night sight overpass
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max night mode
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus night mode building
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t nightscape building
OnePlus 7T.

You can’t go wrong with any of these photos. All of these were captured using each phone’s dedicated night mode. If you want the most natural look, the iPhone delivers. The most detailed is the Pixel 4 — look at the trees in the distance, and even the grass at the foot of the building on the left — it’s much clearer than on the other photos. The OnePlus doesn’t perform the best here, with the least detail and slightly off colors.

I’m giving the win to the Pixel 4 because the difference in detail is noticeable if you look closely and compare it to the iPhone, but I would totally share the iPhone photo without hesitation as well.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Night mode: 2x zoom

pixel 4 xl night sight williamsburg bridge
Night Sight. Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
iphone 11 pro max 2x telephoto night
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus telephoto 2x bridge
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t telephoto bridge 2x
OnePlus 7T.

Interesting tidbit: You can’t use night mode on the 2x telephoto lens on some smartphones. That includes the iPhone and the OnePlus, whereas night mode does work on the Note 10 Plus and Pixel 4. Let’s write off the OnePlus 7T here because it produces an awful tone and it’s blurry. Next is Samsung’s Note 10 Plus, which is also blurry and lacking in contrast.

The Google Pixel 4’s photo has significantly less grain than the iPhone 11 Pro’s photo, but these two are among the few that aren’t blurry. The bridge, in real life, wasn’t as yellow as the iPhone makes it out to be, but it wasn’t as white as the Pixel’s photo. You can make an argument for ambiance here, but based on the sharper details found on the Pixel 4’s photo, and that I think its photo looks a little more pleasing, it gets the win again. You can always edit it to make it warmer if that’s what you prefer.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Low-light portrait: Indoor dog

pixel 4 xl portrait dog indoors
Pixel 4 XL.
iphone 11 pro max portrait mode dog night
iPhone 11 Pro Max.
note 10 plus dog portrait mode night
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
oneplus 7t dog portrait night
OnePlus 7T.

Portrait mode often doesn’t work well in low-light scenarios, but it’s increasingly getting better across the board. I posted these four photos on Twitter and asked the Internet to choose the best, and the Pixel 4 XL won by a landslide. Why? It does a fantastic job of capturing all the hairs of my dog and manages to apply the blur effect perfectly. It also exposes him well without looking too grainy.

The iPhone 11 Pro’s photo comes next, even though it’s super dark and my dog is grainy. That’s because the blur effect is really good, and my dog is very much in focus. It’s easy to simply brighten this shot up, and it’ll look excellent. OnePlus comes third because sadly my dog is out of focus, and I’m not a fan of Samsung’s photo at all. Sure, my dog is the brightest here compared to any other shot, but it completely loses the ambiance of the scene, overexposes the background, and doesn’t retain much detail in my dog’s fur.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Low-light selfies in portrait mode

None of these phones fared tremendously well here in this Portrait mode selfie on the Williamsburg Bridge. Now, I do have photos captured without portrait mode as well as with night mode (only Samsung and Pixel supports night mode on the selfie camera), and Samsung came out on top for its most pleasing colors for the normal selfie, but Google won the night mode challenge.

But this is a Portrait mode challenge, and it’s clear Apple is dead last. It’s a fuzzy mess with not-so-great colors, but at least the blur effect is strong and accurate. The other three photos have similar levels of detail, but I have to go with Samsung’s photo because it delivers pleasing colors. I do like the OnePlus photo — I think my face has an ideal amount of contrast here — but the blur effect is really weak. The Pixel 4 goes a little too hard with the harsh, yellow tones and it also completely messes up my hair.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Overall winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

The Pixel 4 XL takes the top slot in this competition with eight wins, with the iPhone in second place, the Note 10 Plus in third, and the OnePlus 7T last. Does this mean the Pixel 4 XL is the absolute best camera phone? Not necessarily. Choosing favorite photos is a subjective process, and you might not have picked the same winners as I did. That’s because I have a certain preference for a style, but I did try to look at the technical details as much as possible.

The two standouts are the iPhone and the Pixel though, and that’s undeniable.

Editors' Recommendations

AMD vs. Intel

AMD Ryzen 9 3900x