Best smartphones for low-light photography

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Smartphones have come a long way when it comes to photography. Pioneered initially by the likes of Sony and Nokia, many have now achieved success in smartphone camera technology. Thanks to continuous optimisations both in terms of hardware and software, you can now capture detailed macro shots, high-resolution slow-mo videos and much more with smartphones.

That being said, low-light photography can still be a slightly difficult task. While many companies now offer an option to use manual mode with finer controls, the auto mode is really what most amateurs use. 

With new algorithms and learning's over the years, several companies have made a lot of progress when it comes to low-light photography.

To make it easier for you, we have compiled a list of the best smartphones for low-light photography, across different price segments. There is something for everyone.

Google Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL

Not so long ago, Google’s Nexus smartphones left a lot to be desired when it came to photography. However, over the last two years, Google has made huge progress in smartphone photography. 

With the launch of the new Pixel series, Google promised an improved photography experience and as results have shown, the Android-maker has delivered for two years in succession, making the Pixel smartphones the best options when it comes to smartphone photography.

The Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL both deliver great results and thanks to Google’s software chops and the new Pixel Visual Core chipset, the Pixel 2 and 2 XL are some of the best smartphones you can buy right now. 

It’s worth pointing out that both phones come with identical cameras, so you can choose either if camera is your primary area of focus.

Read the Google Pixel 2 XL review.

Apple iPhone X

Apple has been a pioneer in smartphone photography, creating the standard that competitors aspired to. The iPhone X is outdone only by the Pixel 2s, but it's still an excellent shooter.

With the iPhone X, Apple has once again delivered on the photography front. The phone comes with dual 12MP cameras on the back, with a telephoto lens paired with one of the sensors. 

The iPhone 8 Plus also features a similar setup, but the telephoto lens on the iPhone X is aided by optical image stabilisation and a wider f/2.4 lens.

As a result, the iPhone X is the better option among the two when it comes to low light photography. It can achieve slower shutter speeds without blurring the photo, while the wider f/2.4 lens helps capture more light. 

Read the Apple iPhone X review.

Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+

Samsung Galaxy S9+ is the newest in the list. Thanks to it's newly introduced variable aperture mode, the phone now clicks impressive low light shots. The aperture switches to f/1.5 to adjust for low light, which enables it to capture ample light for well-lit shots in dark conditions. 

In comparison with the Galaxy S8+, the new camera reduces noise and captures more details. Colours don't fade out and the exposure is well balanced. 

Read the Samsung Galaxy S9+ review

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung has been a stalwart in the camera phone space. Its latest flagships, the Galaxy Note 8 and the Galaxy S8 Plus are no different – they are the best smartphone cameras that Samsung has to offer so far, and they deliver in real world tests too.

The Galaxy Note 8, with its dual 12MP cameras, delivers great results in low light conditions. The primary 12MP sensor comes with Dual Pixel PDAF and f/1.7 aperture, and the secondary 12MP telephoto lens offers bokeh effects. 

Features like OIS, PDAF and 2x optical zoom bring the Galaxy Note 8 almost at par with the Pixel 2/2 XL. 

Where Samsung stutters is in producing image detail, instead choosing to brighten the overall frame, sometimes unnaturally.

Read the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review.

OnePlus 5T

Coming to the mid-range, there are plenty of options if you are looking for a phone that offers value for money and yet packs a camera that gives good results in low light conditions. The OnePlus 5T delivers decent results with its 16MP + 20MP dual camera.

OnePlus says that the secondary camera kicks in when light levels drop below 10 lux, and though it's not perfect, the 5T is indeed a better shot than the OnePlus 5.

Read the OnePlus 5T review.

Honor View 10

The Honor View 10 was launched in November last year and it brings something new to the table. The phone has a dedicated NPU (Neural-Network Processing Engine) chip, and Honor has integrated artificial intelligence in the camera app as well. The camera's Scene detection mode is powered by AI, where the View 10 uses the NPU to determine the best settings based on the subjects.

In real world, too, the integrated AI delivers. The 16MP colour and 20MP monochrome sensor help the phone capture decent photos in low light conditions.

Read the Honor View 10 review.

Honor 9i

In the budget smartphone segment, companies often focus on delivering good value for money. There are some good camera phones launched recently, with the Honor 9i being a prime example. Honor has utilised a dual camera setup on both the front and back, to deliver improved photography experience.

The Honor 9i features a 16MP primary camera along with a 2MP secondary camera. Honor uses the 2MP sensor to capture depth information and this is pretty helpful in low light conditions as well. For its price and after considering the other options available, the Honor 9i is a noteworthy option.

Moto G5 Plus

The Moto G5 Plus is without a doubt the best smartphone camera in the budget range, albeit not without faults. The phone uses a dual-pixel sensor and f/1.7 aperture to improve the photography experience.

While the Moto G5 Plus does not have a dual camera setup, the phone manages to perform surprisingly well even with a single camera. Thanks to its f/1.7 aperture and the Dual Pixel PDAF sensor, the Moto G5 Plus manages to surprise even with its single 12MP rear camera. 

If you are looking for a smartphone with a good camera under Rs 15,000, the Moto G5 Plus offers a very good package, all things considered.

Read the Moto G5 Plus review.