iPhone XS Max vs Galaxy Note 9 Camera Comparison: Which One Is Better?

iPhone XS Max vs Galaxy Note 9 Camera Comparison: Which One Is Better?
Image Source: Apple.com (screenshot)

The iPhone XS Max and Galaxy Note 9 are the most expensive smartphone offerings from Apple and Samsung. Both the phones are beasts when it comes to performance. And they both have received camera improvements over their predecessors to capture better photos. So, which device takes better pictures in real-life situations? Let’s dive into a detailed iPhone XS Max vs Galaxy Note 9 camera comparison to find out.

iPhone XS Max vs Galaxy Note 9: On-paper camera specs

If you look at the on-paper specs, not much has changed on the iPhone XS Max compared to last year’s iPhone X. It sports a 12MP wide-angle lens with an f/1.8 aperture and a 12MP telephoto sensor with an f/2.4 aperture. Both the lenses have optical image stabilization and are capable of 2x optical zoom.

Dig deeper and you’ll find that Apple has used a new image sensor which, combined with a faster processor, captures much better images than iPhone X. The portrait mode has received a new slider adjustment that allows you to adjust the blur effect to your liking after clicking the picture. The front camera on the iPhone XS Max is 7-megapixel. The XS Max also has a Smart HDR feature that significantly improves the image quality.

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Apple has also enhanced the XS Max’s dual camera with software smarts to pump up shadows and automatically fix red-eye. It has also added more portrait lighting effects to the XS Max.

The Galaxy Note 9 has a 12-megapixel Super-Speed Dual Pixel wide-angle lens with variable apertures of f/1.5 an f/2.4; and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with a fixed aperture of f/2.4. The camera can automatically switch between the two apertures depending on the lighting conditions to take better pictures. The Note 9 also offers 2x optical zoom and up to 10x digital zoom.

Samsung’s flagship has an 8-megapixel front snapper for selfies, which is impressive. The device features super-slow motion video and slow-motion while the iPhone XS Max gets only slow-motion video. The Note 9 also boasts a couple of AI smarts such as Flaw Detection and Scene Optimizer to enhance the photography game. The Flaw Detection notifies you immediately after you click a picture if something is wrong with it. As a result, you can take another photo without losing the moment.

The Scene Optimizer feature automatically analyzes the scene and adjusts the saturation, contrast, white balance, and brightness to take stunning photos. In short, it selects the best settings for the shot.

iPhone XS Max vs Galaxy Note 9 camera comparison

Folks at Tom’s Guide conducted exhausting tests to find out which device takes better pictures in different situations. They found that the iPhone XS Max produces “more natural photos.” Due to the Scene Optimizer feature, the Note 9 photos are often “dramatic” and appear to be “lightly edited.” It doesn’t mean the Note 9 camera is bad in any way. It’s more about your personal preferences.

The Note 9 and XS Max take different approaches to image processing. However, Tom’s Guide pointed in their iPhone XS Max vs Galaxy Note 9 camera comparison that the XS Max is better at capturing sharp details. The Note 9 pictures depict a “warm and inviting scene” but the XS Max focuses more on “realism and clarity.”

In Cnet’s camera comparison, they said the Note 9 has the same camera as the Galaxy S9 Plus, but with scene optimization. The Note 9 pictures look “good though a bit confounding.” It takes brighter low-light shots and the selfies also appear sharper. Thanks to its dual apertures, the Note 9 excels in low-light conditions. The Note 9 pictures in low lighting have a little less noise than the XS Max pictures.

In most of the scenarios, the iPhone XS Max produced better images than the Note 9. Apple has improved its low-light game, but it’s still behind the Note 9.


The quality of smartphone cameras has risen dramatically since last year. The XS Max appears to have the upper hand overall but the Note  9 takes better images in certain situations. Both the handsets have some special tricks up their sleeves. However, most of the casual users are unlikely to notice any major differences between them.

The Note 9 and XS Max will face new competition next month in the form of Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. The Pixel handsets are rumored to have only a single camera on the back, but they will have Google’s expertise in software and AI. The Pixel devices have always been among the best camera phones, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the upcoming Pixel 3 outperforms both the Note 9 and XS Max in the photography department.

Also, you can check out our full-fledged iPhone XS Max vs Galaxy Note 9 comparison here.

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