OnePlus 6 vs iPhone X vs Google Pixel 2 camera comparison: our final result could surprise you

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What is the first thing most people do when they get a new and swanky flagship phone in their hand? Check the quality of the camera, of course. Here’s the thing though, checking for the quality of the images on your phone isn’t the ideal way to test your smartphone camera’s shooting chops. And, that’s where Mr. Phone comes in. 

Let me walk you through our latest super extensive camera comparison. This time we shall compare the brand new OnePlus 6’s cameras against the iPhone X and the Pixel 2. Sounds exciting? Well then, let’s not waste any time and get right down to it.

OnePlus 6 12

Note: The update to enable the selfie portrait hadn’t reached the OnePlus 6 at the time of publishing this camera comparison. 

Specs

Let’s start off by comparing the camera specs. In fact, we’ve made it easier for you guys this time. Here, take a look at a chart instead of me writing about it. 

Note: If you want to look at full resolution images click on the resized images below.

Wide 1

For our wide angle test, I used the entrance of our office as the photo sample. It makes for a good comparison picture primarily because the image is littered with a lot of different elements like cars, trees, buildings, etc. This helps us look for minute differences in details and colours. 

OnePlus 6 wide 1

OnePlus 6 wide 1

But trust me, comparing the images was tough. All the three samples look pretty identical when you don’t look at the 100% crop . However, you will immediately notice the Pixel 2’s tendency to over-dramatise images by underexposing dark areas and cranking up the contrast. The auto-HDR is actually the culprit here. While it does look good, I can assure you that it is not an accurate representation of what your eyes actually see. And, as far as colour saturation and details are concerned, all the phones are on par. Therefore, I can’t really pick one image that comes out on top. 

iPhone X wide 1

iPhone X wide 1

Having said that, when I scrutinised the 100% crop of all the three samples I noticed that the OnePlus uses a wider 25mm focal length to capture the image — compared to the 28mm used by the iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2. Therefore when you look at the samples closely the OnePlus 6’s image is the only one that keeps the words “Big Bazaar” in focus, at the edges. Moreover, the lens distortion around the edges is slightly better balanced in the OnePlus 6’s image. Honestly, you need microscopic eyes to spot the difference so it won’t really matter. 

Pixel 2 wide 1

Pixel 2 wide 1

I am going with the OnePlus 6 in this round, but it was a very, very, very close call. I mean, the difference is barely negligible. 

Wide 2

In this wide shot of the water hose, the OnePlus 6 and the Google Pixel 2, both, exhibit a warm colour cast that makes the whole image look yellower than normal. The iPhone X captures the fairly natural looking colour tone of the lot. Note that this can be fixed in post processing, easily.

OnePlus 6 wide 2

OnePlus 6 wide 2

As far as details are concerned, the OnePlus 6 once again manages to retain the details across the image. The Google Pixel 2 isn’t far behind, though. It is surprising to see the level of details you can achieve with the OnePlus 6 really. 

iPhone X wide 2

iPhone X wide 2

Since a colour cast can be fixed in post processing, I am going to give more preference to detail retention and the OnePlus 6 comes out on top again. 

Pixel 2 wide 2

Pixel 2 wide 2

Close up

OnePlus 6 close up

OnePlus 6 close up

Oh, Google what sorcery have you done with the camera software? I mean, look at the image of a red hibiscus captured by the Pixel 2. I can easily fool anyone by making them believe that this photograph was captured using a DSLR. The iPhone X suffers with noise bleeding and reds look extremely saturated. The OnePlus 6 does a good job with details and edge detection, but ends up creating a warm colour cast once again. 

iPhone X close up

iPhone X close up

The Pixel 2 wins by a huge margin for outputting the most natural looking image of the lot with plenty of details. 

Pixel 2 close up

Pixel 2 close up

HDR

All the three phones are extremely powerful and therefore use the power of their individual processors to shoot images in auto-HDR by default. But just for fun, I decided to switch off and switch on the HDR mode to see how the individual algorithms function when you control them manually. I mean, for these phones, this test doesn’t matter but I decided to try it nonetheless. 

OnePlus 6 Non-HDR

OnePlus 6 Non-HDR

OnePlus 6 HDR

OnePlus 6 HDR

I found out that the iPhone X does zilch to improve the dynamic range. Let me know if you spot anything different in the non-HDR and HDR images. Except for maybe bringing out some details from the shadows by fixing the noise around the edges. The Pixel 2 definitely does a better job with HDR, wherein the camera brings out some amount of details in both the highlights and the shadows. Oddly enough, the OnePlus 6 decides to underexpose areas already exposed properly. Furthermore, it ends up adding more noise; something that was completely unexpected. 

iPhone X Non-HDR

iPhone X Non-HDR

iPhone X HDR

iPhone X HDR

Here’s the thing, like I mentioned before, this is more like a bonus round for you guys to figure out how these cameras use the HDR mode. But since I have to pick a winner, I shall go with the Pixel 2. Google’s HDR algorithm is pretty lit in my opinion. 

Pixel 2 non HDR

Pixel 2 non HDR

Pixel 2 HDR

Pixel 2 HDR

Portrait Mode

OnePlus 6 Portrait

OnePlus 6 Portrait

As far as the faux depth of field in Portrait Mode is concerned, the iPhone X does the most natural job despite being the most dull and dreary photo of the lot. Firstly, it focusses only on the face and the rest of the body is out of focus. It is no doubt a very aggressive algorithm, which we’ve already identified from our past comparisons. 

iPhone X Portrait

iPhone X Portrait

What I like about the Pixel 2’s edge detection is that it identifies even strands of hair. That apart, it also captures some insane amount of details. The OnePlus 6’s edge detection is fairly good and it finds a neat middle ground between the Pixel 2 and the iPhone X, but we all know that the Pixel 2 wins this round. 

Pixel 2 Portrait

Pixel 2 Portrait

Video 4K 30fps

To compare the video recording of these three phones, I shot a 4K 30fps footage using all the three phones. I noticed that the OnePlus 6 does a great job of stabilising the image despite the fact that it uses only electronic image stabilisation. In fact, as far as stabilisation is concerned, all the three cameras are mostly on par. The same is the case for detail retention. 

If you look closely, the iPhone X underexposes the area below the sunshade. On the flipside, both – the Pixel 2 and the OnePlus 6 – offer over-saturated colours. And, the iPhone is the most muted of the lot. Moreover, the iPhone X also shoots at a lower bit-rate of 25Mbit/s. In comparison, the Pixel 2 shoots at 47.95Mbit/s whereas the OnePlus 6 captures a 42.14Mbit/s. What this means is the Pixel 2 and the OnePlus 6, capture more information, and therefore offer more details. And that’s the reason why even the file sizes are higher. 

Here’s where the OnePlus 6 pulls out a trump card: it records stereo audio at 48KHz. The Pixel 2 and the iPhone X are pretty old school that way and capture only mono audio. Overall, OnePlus’ strategy of finding a middle ground pays off once again. After intense deliberation, I decided to crown the OnePlus 6 as the winner in this round.

Selfie

OnePlus 6 selfie

OnePlus 6 selfie

Clearly, when you are capturing selfies, the OnePlus 6 offers far more details using its 16MP front camera. Take a look at the 100% crop of the image to figure out for yourself. Look at the area around Ashish’s beard and the black stain mark on his white t-shirt. It is filled with details. 

iPhone X selfie

iPhone X selfie

No prizes for guessing, the OnePlus 6 takes the cake in this round too. 

Pixel 2 selfie

Pixel 2 selfie

Front camera video 1080p 30fps 

I also shot a video sample using the front camera, considering a lot of folks use 4G for video calling. The OnePlus 6’s front camera has a very narrow field of view. But it captures more details thanks to the fact that it is shooting a higher bit-rate image. Essentially, all the pores and pimples on your phone will be visible very clearly. While the iPhone X and the Google Pixel 2 capture a wide angle footage, I am afraid the OnePlus 6’s image quality is better. Moreover, the stereo sound recording offered by the OnePlus 6 is of far superior quality compared to the iPhone X and the Pixel 2, both of which capture mono audio once again.  

Now the narrow field of view might be annoying for some, I don’t really have an issue with it as such. In fact, I am crowing the OnePlus 6 as the winner once again. 

Low light

OnePlus 6 low light

OnePlus 6 low light

I shot an image around 7:30 in the evening, when it wasn’t entirely dark. The OnePlus 6 image looks vibrant and colourful, compared to the others. For example, the blue colour of the building has been cranked up a couple of notches. As far as detail retention and noise reduction is concerned, you really cannot tell the difference between the three images. However, pixel peeping will show you that the OnePlus 6 shot has a lot of noise around the edges.

iPhone X low light

iPhone X low light

The Pixel 2, on the other hand, captures a clean image with an accurate colour reproduction as well. The iPhone X image has a greenish colour cast and looks slightly dull too. The Pixel 2 wins this round. 

Pixel 2 low light

Pixel 2 low light

Low light with flash

OnePlus 6 low light with flash

OnePlus 6 low light with flash

Okay, most flagships smartphones these days don’t need flash because low light performance is generally pretty good. But in extremely low light situations having a good dual-LED flash helps.

iPhone X low light with flash

iPhone X low light with flash

But – compared to the iPhone X and the Pixel 2 – the dual-LED, dual-tone flash on the iPhone X falls nice and soft on the subject. It makes the subject look very natural. I will go with the iPhone X in this image. 

Pixel 2 low light with flash

Pixel 2 low light with flash

Selfie low light

OnePlus 6 low light selfie

OnePlus 6 low light selfie

Okay, here’s a word of advice. Don’t use any of the three phones in extreme low light to shoot images.

iPhone X low light selfie

iPhone X low light selfie

If you must, use the Pixel 2. 

Pixel 2 low light selfie

Pixel 2 low light selfie

Selfie low light with flash

OnePlus 6 selfie flash

OnePlus 6 selfie flash

And if you want take better looking selfies in low light, use the screen flash. The OnePlus 6 takes a very noisy image not worth using. The Pixel 2 shoots a soft selfie.

iPhone X selfie flash

iPhone X selfie flash

And our winner, the iPhone X captures the most natural image with proper soft lighting on the subject’s face.

Pixel 2 selfie flash

Pixel 2 selfie flash

Verdict

Before I conclude my findings of the OnePlus 6’s camera performance against the iPhone X and the Pixel 2, I want to apologise about one thing. Here’s what I said about the OnePlus 6’s cameras in my review of the phone: “However, don’t expect flagship-grade images like you can capture from a Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy S9, or an iPhone X.”

You see, I was wrong. If you are planning on buying the OnePlus 6, you can still…very well…expect the phone to reproduce flagship grade images and in some scenarios beat the flagships at their own game too. In fact, it captures better pictures than the iPhone X in most scenarios. 

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Looks like OnePlus has refined the camera algorithm once again this year. In fact, the company has also improved the video recording quality and the low light performance by a lot. 

Also read: Nokia 7 Plus vs OPPO F7 vs Redmi Note 5 Pro camera comparison: the mid-range war

Overall, the takeaway here is the OnePlus 6 doesn’t compromise on image quality and it definitely doesn’t cut corners…much either. 

What do you guys think? Are you impressed by the OnePlus 6’s camera prowess? Let us know in the comments below. 

Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?