OnePlus 6T vs. Galaxy S9 vs. Pixel 3 vs. LG G7 ThinQ: Camera Shootout

How the OnePlus 6T's camera stacks up against other flagships

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 3 is our phone of the year for delivering an excellent device alongside meaningful artificial intelligence features. But if we could pick a second place Android winner, it’d be the OnePlus 6T. The company continues to surprise by offering a powerful flagship phone at a price that won’t make your wallet slam shut.

OnePlus phones often fall short in one area, however: the camera. The OnePlus 6T is good for the price, but the camera is its Achilles’ heel when compared to other flagships. While we know it can’t beat other flagships in this category (particularly the Pixel 3, which has a camera that blows nearly all other phones’ cameras away), if you’re considering upgrading to the OnePlus 6T, here’s how the camera stacks up to a few high-end phones, including the Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, and the LG G7 ThinQ, which are a little pricier.

Disclaimer

Before we begin, a few things to note. We captured photos in this test as the average person would — just by tapping on the shutter button. Sometimes we’ll tap on a subject to focus, but we wanted to make sure test results are similar to what most users can expect when they take photos with these phones. There were no tripods involved, no editing, and no use of manual modes, which some of these cameras provide. Our picks, which we try to root with objectivity and facts, are still subjective. You may find yourself disagreeing with a few choices, and that’s all right; in the end, it’s the photograph you like that wins.

For low-light photos, we also opted not to use Nightscape on the OnePlus 6T, or Night Mode on the Pixel 3, though we do have some examples at the bottom showcasing what these modes can offer.

Evening stroll in Chelsea

From top left to bottom right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

Our first shot is set in Chelsea, New York, a few hours before sunset. These are all good photos, but let’s nitpick. Starting with detail, zoom into any part of all four photos, and there’s a clear winner: The Pixel 3. The building in the center of the image, in the background delivers crystal-clear definition in the Pixel photo, and you can even easily see lights on each floor thanks to excellent contrast. The Galaxy S9 comes second with solid detail, and while the OnePlus 6T matches, it had considerably more noise. The LG G7 disappoints, as everything looks muddled close-up.

The G7 offers a solid photo otherwise, though it’s a little dim. We’re put off by the Galaxy S9’s result because the sky is overexposed, though we like almost everything else about it, especially the warm tones. OnePlus makes a good effort here, but we’d like more contrast, as the photo looks a bit too faded. Colors look good, and there’s a nice mix of warm and cool tones.

The Pixel 3 takes the win here, though. The contrast is excellent, and every part of the photo looks well detailed. Nothing is under- or overexposed, but it’s not perfect. The photo can look a little too warm, so it may not be up to everyone’s taste, but it’s the photo we’d share of the lot.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

Sunny morning in Harlem

From top left to bottom right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

This is a tricky photo, because it’s early in the morning and sunlight is shining through the trees in Harlem. It can be difficult to find the right exposure, and even the best phone cameras can struggle. The G7 comes last again, because it produced unappealing colors on the leaves of the trees. It looks unnatural.

The Pixel 3 does a good job trying to keep the colors and exposure of the leaves accurate, but it underexposes the tree bark. Look at the tree on the left side — in the Galaxy S9 and OnePlus 6T photos, you can see details on it, but these are hardly present on the Pixel 3 photo.

It comes down to the OnePlus 6T and the Galaxy S9 for us. Both offer similar levels of detail, but the 6T has more contrast, and it definitely boosts the saturation up a little. The Galaxy S9 is a better exposed photo, and it looks incredibly natural. We’re giving the edge to the S9 for accuracy, but the 6T does a commendable job here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Clear day in Lower Manhattan

From top left to bottom right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

These photos of the World Trade Center taken in Lower Manhattan are all shareable, but side-by-side there are things we like and don’t like. First and foremost, the Galaxy S9 comes last in this test. Zoom in just a little to anywhere in its photo, and you’ll notice everything is a little blurred or fuzzy. We stood still as best we could and tapped-to-focus on the tallest building for all these photos, but the S9 delivered our least favorite results. It shouldn’t have had an issue — the S9 should have nailed this on the first try, but this is what most users would have ended up with. While the photo looked fine on the S9, we didn’t initially see a problem until we looked at it on a larger computer screen back at the office. Overall, it’s a shame, as it’s an otherwise decent photo. We like the balanced exposure, though colors look a little flat.

The LG G7 does a surprisingly good job with detail, but sadly we’re not fans of the color of the two background buildings, which look far too blue. It’s down to the OnePlus 6T and Pixel 3, and while we like how the buildings in the foreground are better exposed on the 6T photo, there’s stronger detail and contrast in the Pixel 3 photos. The sky is also a nicer shade of blue. While the Pixel 3 wins, it’s a close call.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

DSLR-like portraits

From top left to bottom right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

Portrait Mode is now a staple feature on all smartphones, from budget to flagship phones. It’s done either through a single-camera or dual-camera system, with a depth map that detects the subject from the background. Once detected, a blur effect (bokeh) is added to produce a DSLR-style photograph. This one is an easy win for the Pixel 3, though the runner up isn’t the next most expensive phone, it’s the OnePlus 6T.

We’ve mentioned this already in our review, but Samsung’s Portrait Mode function is among the worst we have seen on a flagship smartphone. It has continued to give us photos with a soft focus, which ends up looking blurry or of poor quality. There’s a good blur effect, with a mostly accurate cutout around the subject, but it’s far from being a photo we want to share. There’s a beauty mode that smooths facial features, but we turned it off for all of these photos.

The LG G7 does an admirable job here. There’s more definition give to the subject, with a strong blur effect, but it looks a little too Photoshopped. The OnePlus 6T looks more natural and has a good cutout, but we wish the blur was stronger. It’s our second favorite of the lot.

The Pixel 3 blows the others out of the water. The level of detail on the subject is stunning, and the color, tone, and cutout accuracy is fantastic.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

Parked motorbike

From top left to bottom right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

Portrait Mode doesn’t have to be used on people (unless it’s an iPhone XR). Sometimes it’s fun using it on other subjects, and it can enhance how photos look. The Galaxy S9 comes last again, because it continues to produce fuzzy photos.

The other three phones offer good photos. The LG G7 comes third for not being as sharp as the 6T or Pixel 3 photos. We like the warm temperature, but notice the license plate of the car behind it — the camera thinks it’s in the same depth plane, when realistically it should be blurred. The Pixel 3 messes this up too. The OnePlus 6T does a good job with cutout accuracy, but we really do think the blur effect needs to be stronger here. The photo also has unnaturally cool tones. The Pixel 3 crops in a little more than the others, but it has the strongest detail, excellent blur strength, and a nice mix of warm and cool color temperatures. The cutout isn’t the most accurate, but it’s the photo we like the most.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

Evening selfie

From left to right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

Who doesn’t love a good selfie? This selfie was taken in an area with decent lighting in the evening, and all of these photos are good enough to share. However, they all do a poor job of dealing with the sky in the background.

The Galaxy S9 has solid detail, but the subject’s face and the rest of the photo is too warm. The G7 photo is on the cooler side, but it looks good. The OnePlus 6T photo is the least sharp, but the subject has a natural skin tone. The Pixel 3 photo once again stuns with spectacular detail. You can see individual hair strands on the subject’s face, which are far more mushy in the other photos. There’s better contrast, and while it’s a little on the warmer side, it’s easily the best photo of the lot.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

Low-light selfie

From left to right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

Most of us probably end up taking selfies when sufficient light isn’t available. But phone cameras are getting better at taking photos we’d want to share in this kind of lighting. There are two clear losers here: The Galaxy S9 and the LG G7. The latter is blurry, though it would be a decent photo if it delivered better image stabilization. The S9’s photo is far too warm, overexposed in some areas, and it’s not as sharp.

It’s another close match between the OnePlus 6T and the Pixel 3. While the Pixel 3 is a hair more detailed than the 6T photo, the background is too warm. The OnePlus 6T gets it just right, and the subject has more natural colors. There’s better white balance here. The OnePlus 6T takes its first win.

Winner: OnePlus 6T

Morning outdoor Portrait Mode selfie

From left to right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

Many phones have ported over Portrait Mode to work with the front cameras as well. While the results typically aren’t as strong, it’s a good way to get a better-looking selfie, especially in good lighting like in these photos.

The Galaxy S9’s Selfie Live Focus mode is leaps and bounds better than on the rear camera. The subject is well-detailed, though there’s still an odd glow, and the background is far too overexposed. The LG G7 is fighting for a win here, with good details, color, and blur, but the overexposed background makes it a photo we don’t want to share. It’s a similar story with the OnePlus 6T; there’s excellent detail, natural colors, and a good bokeh effect. The background even looks a bit better than in the G7 and S9.

The win, perhaps unsurprisingly, goes to the Pixel 3. Impressive detail takes the cake yet again, but more importantly it’s the only camera that can deal with the bright background effectively. The blur cutout around the hair doesn’t look as natural as some of these other phones, though (also in the left side above the shoulder), so it’s not perfect. Still, it’s the most pleasing photo as you don’t have to deal with a bright white background.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

Late night eats

From top left to bottom right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

It’s not the most enticing food picture, but the meal was delicious. Which of these photos would we share? Not the Galaxy S9’s photo, considering it’s blurry. The OnePlus 6T has the most defined photo, but the color tone of the crust makes it the least appetizing of the lot. The G7’s photo is a bit too fuzzy around the edges. The Pixel 3 wins again, but we’re not too fond of any of these photos.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

Night skyline

From top left to bottom right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

Low light is still a weak point for almost all smartphone cameras, but the technology has advanced a great deal in just a few years. We’d any of these photos, except the LG G7. It overexposes almost all the lights in the skyline. The Galaxy S9’s sky doesn’t look noisy, which we like, but it also overexposes a good deal of lights — zoom in on the billboard on the left corner, or at the World Trade Center. The lights are blown out. It’s still a solid photo though.

The Pixel 3 does a fantastic job with exposure here — you can see the varied lighting and color throughout the city, and nothing looks too overexposed. The billboard is still a little too white, but compare it to the rest of the photos and it does the best job. When we take a photo of a skyline, this is the photo we want. The OnePlus 6T does a surprisingly good job here, beating out the S9 and G7 with light management. It’s not as colorful or fun as the Pixel 3 photo — which some people may like — but it also isn’t as grainy as the Pixel 3. We like the Pixel 3 photo more here, but for a more natural look, the OnePlus 6T is a great alternative.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

Waiting for a ride

From top left to bottom right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

These photographs were captured near Washington Square Park late at night in New York, and we like all of these results. But there is a winner. It’s not the G7, because while it has good detail, the color temperature is too yellow, and it unnecessarily flares the lights. The Galaxy S9 comes third, because it’s a little too red for our tastes.

The OnePlus 6T is on the warmer side, but it’s not as strong as the S9 photo. More importantly, the photo itself is brighter all around with good detail. But it’s the Pixel 3 that brings it home as the brightest photo, with excellent white balance. Look above, and you can see the higher floors of the building are far easier to see in this photo than the others. It’s not the absolute sharpest photo, but it comes close.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

Walk in the park

From top left to bottom right: OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G7 ThinQ

Here’s another easy win for the Pixel 3. Tthe Pixel 3 and the Galaxy S9 are the only two photos that expose the surrounding area well. Of these two, the S9’s background is less defined, and the Washington Square Arch is overexposed and slightly blurry.

The OnePlus 6T and LG G7 deliver good photos, but the surrounding area is too dark. The 6T’s arch is also a bit too warm. The Pixel 3’s photo is just right.

Winner: Google Pixel 3

Other camera features

From left to right: OnePlus 6T Nightscape, Pixel 3 Night Sight, LG G7 ThinQ Ultra Wide Angle Camera

The cameras in the Galaxy S9, LG G7, Pixel 3, and OnePlus 6T can do a lot more. We’ve added a gallery of photos showcasing some results from using features like Night Sight or Nightscape on the Pixel 3 and OnePlus 6T; or the ultra-wide-angle lens on the LG G7.

Conclusion

It’s not a surprise to see the Google Pixel 3 win most of these categories — it’s our pick as the best camera phone after all. It should be noted that it’s the most expensive phone on this list at $799 (barring discounted prices). But we’re surprised at how well the OnePlus 6T managed to match or surpass the Galaxy S9 and the LG G7 — phones that initially costed more when they launched (both can now be found for lower prices). It truly is a “flagship killer,” and OnePlus continues to show you don’t need to spend so much money on a good phone.

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