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In everyday situations under good bright lighting both cameras excel. But each phone has a different goal. The Galaxy S9 is all about brightness. When I view Galaxy S9 pictures on its gorgeous display, photos look well-exposed; however, off the phone -- like on my computer -- those same pictures look overexposed. In reality, if you have a Galaxy S9, you'll mostly likely view your photos on the phone. On the other hand, Google is all about pushing the dynamic range and contrast of its Pixel 2 photos. In most situations, this is welcome. But sometimes it really underexposes a photo in order to protect highlights from blowing out.

Take a look at the pictures below that I took off some carrots at the farmers market, The image from the Pixel 2 looks darker but keeps the highlights on the carrots under control, The Galaxy S9 photo looks brighter, The Pixel 2's white balance skews pictures toward a green/blue tint (great for landscapes) while pictures from the Galaxy S9 are warmer with a slight magenta tint (great for skin tones), In the pictures of the Transamerica Pyramid above, the Pixel 2 nails the building's colors, while the Galaxy room skull b&w iphone case S9 makes them look artificially warm..

The Pixel 2, like nearly every other phone, has a fixed aperture so it controls exposure by adjusting the camera sensor's light sensitivity (ISO) and by changing the shutter speed (how long the sensor is exposed to light). The Galaxy S9 has a third way to control exposure: Aperture. It can change between two apertures: f/2.4 and f/1.5. Check out this story for a more in-depth explanation on how Samsung's variable aperture works. While there's been a lot of hubbub about variable aperture, something that is overlooked is that at f/1.5, the Galaxy S9 has the widest aperture ever seen on a phone. It has the ability to gather a ridiculous amount of light, which in turn means less noise (those blurry grainy bits) and less reliance on noise reduction -- some phones' noise reduction can make your photos look like a courtroom sketch.

By default, the Galaxy S9's aperture is f/2.4, which ensures sharp images with less lens distortion around the edges, A lens' sharpest spot is the middle, while the edges tend to be the softest, At a narrower aperture like f/2.4, the aperture blades form a ring blocking the outer edge of the lens, When it's dark, room skull b&w iphone case the Galaxy S9 opens automatically to the wider aperture f/1.5 to let in more light, Dual aperture on a phone is kind of like having your cake and eating it, too, The Pixel 2's f/1.8 fixed aperture can't adapt to different situations..

Above are pictures of a building in Nob Hill before sunrise. The photo from the Pixel 2 has a bunch of noise in the clouds and in the texture of the building. The Galaxy S9 shot, is free of noise. It's remarkable seeing a photo this clean taken with a phone camera. Does this mean the Galaxy S9 is the low-light king? Yes. And no. While its images no doubt look brighter and have less noise than any phone I've tested, the Pixel 2 handled high-contrast low-light situations better. Take a look at the pictures above taken inside the Zeitgeist bar in the Mission. You can't see any noise in the Galaxy S9, but the highlights are blown on the menu board and there's motion blur from people moving. This shot had a long shutter speed, which is odd because the aperture is so wide.

In the Pixel 2 photo you can actually read what's on the menu because of the way the phone stacks multiple photos to improve dynamic range, In medium-light situations like indoors, the Galaxy S9 yielded better results, while the Pixel 2 tended to underexpose photos, Above are two photos of a cappuccino I took room skull b&w iphone case inside Four Barrel Coffee, The Galaxy S9 nails the exposure, Look at all the textures it captured from the woodgrain of the table to the tiny bubbles in the cappuccino foam, In case you're wondering, the Galaxy S9 kept the aperture at f/2.4 instead of opening the lens wide open..

The Pixel 2 protected the highlights in the foam but underexposed the photo to do so. Both phones offer portrait mode, which separates a person in the foreground while artistically blurring the background. It's reminiscent of the photos taken with a DSLR and a fast lens. The mode on the Galaxy S9 is called "Selective Focus" and different from the "Live Focus" version found on the Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 8. Live Focus uses the dual rear cameras to take portrait photos. Selective Focus uses the single rear camera.

The Pixel 2 produced portrait mode photos that were absolute stunners, The Galaxy S9 took portrait shots that were slightly more natural-looking and softer on details, Many times, these shots had inconsistent blurring, For example, the right shoulder was blurred, but the left one was in focus, When I showed portrait mode shots to people who were the subjects, they preferred the ones from the Pixel 2 noting the better detail and sharpness captured in the face, room skull b&w iphone case Both the Pixel 2 and the Galaxy S9 are single rear camera phones and rely entirely on digital zoom to get closer to your subject, The Galaxy S9 Plus has a second telephoto camera which gives you the option of 2x optical zoom..

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