Compare top 4 flagship phone: Galaxy S8 vs HTC U11 vs iPhone 7 vs Sony XZ Premium

8 months ago

Today, we will compare top 4 flagship phone: Samsung Galaxy S8, HTC U11, iPhone 7, Sony XZ Premium in camera contest.

There was a second theme that prevailed in the comment section – you wanted to see more. The U11 review unit was only available to us for a limited time and we hardly gave it any rest while it was at our disposal. But we managed to log some quality time with it working on the review so we decided to keep the shootout streak going and try to set up another camera comparison. To see how the camera performs when pitted against other top tier devices, we took the HTC U11 out on the town along with the Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone 7, and Sony Xperia XZ Premium.

The cameras on the Xperia XZ Premium are pretty much the same as they are on the Xperia XZs. On the back, you get a 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera with a stacked sensor, which allows you to capture video at 960fps for a super-slow-motion effect. The camera captures about one second’s worth of footage and then stretches it to about five seconds, which is fun to play with. You also get 5-axis stabilisation for the front and rear cameras, 4K video recording, and the ability to launch the camera app and capture an image by simply holding the shutter button down.

Where the U11 falters is in the finer details. When zooming in or cropping, you can see HTC’s artificial sharpening and noise reduction going full throttle. There’s nothing subtle about it. Even the Galaxy S8 — which we criticized for having going overboard with noise filtering and blurring out finer details — produced an image that was much more sharp and detailed than the U11’s. It’s quite surprising. In most of these outdoor/landscape cases, I actually much preferred the Galaxy S8’s images, with a nice mix of detail, colors, and dynamic range.

I will say, the U11 was better at, not only brightening up shadows, but pulling color information from inside those dark areas of the photo. This is where the phone almost always has a leg up on the Galaxy S8. That and low light.

This is surely starting to sound repetitive, but the iPhone 7 , Samsung S8, Sony XZ Premium and HTC U11 all capture beautiful 4K videos. There are some standout features we can’t forget to mention here, like Sony’s SteadyShot with Intelligent Active 5-axis stabilization and the new camera RAM cache that enables the headline 720p@960fps slow motion video recording, among other things.

The iPhone 7 has its impressive zoom to boast of and great video stabilization which works in 4K. The HTC U11 is surprisingly lacking, as far as video recording goodies go. Still, that is in no way detrimental to the overall quality of the experience and resulting videos.

There is plenty of pixel-peeping to be done in our video compare tool. Some of the observations from the photo section are applicable here as well. The higher resolution sensor can’t help much when you are shooting either 1080p or 4K videos on any of the phones. Interestingly, we noticed that the iPhone 7 still shows slight signs of corner softness. Overall, the HTC U11 comes out a bit above the competition. Detail in its shots is plentiful, and sharpness is excellent in all but the extreme corners of the frame.

Lowering the lights down to our standard 28 nits gives the U11 an even more noticeable advantage due to its wider aperture.

Shooting at night or in low light conditions and things become a lot more… indecisive. It’s almost quite sad because no one phone completely dominated the other. That just goes to show you how tricky mobile photography is, but if there was one phone that was consistent throughout all of these tests, it was the iPhone. Not in a good way, mind you. The iPhone low light photos were always dark, noisy and devoid of color, but at least they were sharp.

The Galaxy S8 actually performed more closely to the iPhone. Images were sharp for the most part, but almost always dark and flat. Colors were drab (almost like there was a sepia filter applied) and if there was something brightly lit in the scene, the metering will darken the entire image to compensate. It’s basically the exact opposite of how the U11 handles metering in the same scenes. In the end, it’s nowhere near the quality you get from the Google Pixel or HTC U11 although at times, it was a tad more sharp.

Conclusion

They are just too different in terms of both hardware and additional features and thus suited for diverse photography needs and styles.

  1. The HTC U11 has the fastest autofocus, based on the Dual Pixel technology, just like the Samsung Galaxy S8.
  2. The iPhone 7 Plus is more versatile thanks to the dual camera setup.
  3. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium has the widest field of view and highest resolution sensor. Also, a proprietary in-sensor RAM cache solution allows for 720p@960fps slow motion video recording and automatic burst mode when you are trying to capture any action.