The iPhone 8 Plus has a great camera, but its biggest rival may be a member of its own family.
Apple's 10th anniversary iPhone X features a new design and extra features, including slightly different cameras. So how much better are the cameras on the iPhone X, and are they worth at least $200, £200 or AU$550 more than the 8 Plus?
Both the X and the 8 Plus share a dual-lens, 12-megapixel camera, with slightly different specs. Here's the breakdown:
- Wide lens is f/1.8 on both, with optical image stabilization (OIS)
- Telephoto lens is slightly faster on the X (f/2.4 vs. f/2.8)
- Telephoto lens has OIS on the X only
As for the front-facing camera, both have the same resolution at 7 megapixels, but on the X it's part of a larger setup called the TrueDepth camera. This includes an infrared camera, sensors and light projectors capable of perceiving depth.
Apart from powering FaceID, Apple's face-unlocking feature, this camera can produce the portrait mode effect for selfies.
iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus camera specs compared
|iPhone 8 Plus||iPhone X|
|Wide-angle only||Both lenses|
|1080p, 720p||1080p, 720p|
|24, 30, 60||24, 30, 60|
|30, 60, 120, 240||30, 60, 120, 240|
|H.264, HEVC||H.264, HEVC|
|$799, £799, AU$1,229||$999, £999, AU$1,579|
|$949, £949, AU$1,479||$1,149, £1,149, AU$1,829|
To test the phones side by side, we mounted them on a rig so the camera lenses would align as closely as possible. Because the orientation of the cameras (vertical on the X and horizontal on the 8 Plus) it's difficult to get them to produce an identical field of view.
When piecing together this comparison, certain displays made some photos from the iPhone X look more saturated and vibrant than those from the 8 Plus. Overall, in most situations, the phones produce very similar images in terms of color, detail and dynamic range.
The X's OLED screen makes images brighter and more vibrant than those on the 8 Plus when you're looking at photos on the phones.
Portraits shot on both phones look very good at reduced magnifications. When you look at them at increased magnification, fine details such as hair look sharper on the X.
The portrait mode that creates the blurred background or bokeh effect looks similar on both phones. But the X has the edge because the image looks sharper.
Colors also appear to be consistently more saturated on the iPhone X than on the iPhone 8 Plus. You'll notice it most on the feathers and face in the portraits of the emperor above. The orange and pink of the feathers on his hat look more vibrant on the X, on the 8 Plus colors seem to be slightly duller. Skin tone is also different. His face looks a darker on the 8 Plus with more of a bluish pink hue, whereas the X shows more of a peach tone that comes across brighter.
X marks the (selfie) spot
Portrait mode with the front-facing camera on the iPhone X is a lot of fun. You access it in the same way as the rear camera: swipe to portrait mode, select the lighting option you want, position yourself in the frame so the device detects your face, then snap away.
It doesn't seem to do as good a job as the rear camera in blurring hair, but it's nice to have the option compared to the regular selfie camera on the 8 Plus. It's worth noting that other phones like the Google Pixel 2 have the ability to produce the portrait mode with software, without the need for a depth-sensing camera array like on the X.
Zoom in for closeups
There's no significant difference between photos taken on the telephoto lenses on the X and 8 Plus in daylight or well-lit situations.
For video, shooting any sort of tracking, walking or moving shot with the 2x lens is where you'll notice the stabilized lens most. If you're keeping the phone relatively still, you probably won't notice much difference.
OIS helps to make a smoother and more watchable video -- we see it being useful in a situation where you need to get closer to a subject, like filming a school recital or performance.
Photos in low light taken on the wide-angle lens are similar. Both phones exhibit flare in the same spots if a light source hits the lens in the right way. The 8 Plus blows out highlights on bright areas a little more than the X, like the glassware on the bar in the example below:
For portraits in low light, the phones show a much bigger difference. The exposure on the X's photo is brighter and more even across the subject and the background, resulting in a more flattering look. In contrast, the same photo taken on the 8 Plus has more noise.
The exposure values for the X are f/2.4, 1/30, ISO 500, while the 8 Plus is f/2.8, 1/60, ISO 1250.
There are subtle differences when using the telephoto lens for closeup shots. When zooming into 100 percent magnification, the X appears sharper, particularly in areas where there is a lot of detail. This makes sense given the OIS and wider aperture in the second lens, which means the shutter can stay open longer to let in more light.
As for video, the difference in quality when switching between 1x and 2x is hardly noticeable when filming a static shot. The OIS does help in making a more watchable result when filming at 2x on the X in low light. But it's worth saying that neither phone produces a particularly pleasing video image in low light as there's lots of noise.
Flash is still not superb
When using the LED flash with portrait mode, photos from both phones tend to produce red-eye on subjects. Both images show a lot of noise and even with slow sync you can definitely tell these photos were taken with a flash.
And the winner is...
There's not a huge jump in image and video quality between the 8 Plus and the X. But the X definitely has the edge over the 8 Plus in low light, and on the selfie camera if you have to have the portrait mode effect.
If you're making a buying decision based on camera features alone, it's not worth spending at least $200 more to get the stabilization and faster telephoto lens on the X. But the X has many other features that may make that price jump worth it for you.