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 the manual mode with finer controls, the auto mode is really what most amateurs use. 

With new algorithms and learnings 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. So, there is something in here 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 a huge progress in smartphone photography. 

With the launch of the new Pixel series, Google promised an improved photography experience and as results are there for all to see. The Android-maker has delivered for two years in succession, making the Pixel devices 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 have 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 6

The OnePlus 6 doesn't reproduce largely distinct pictures compared to the OnePlus 5T. It has a 16MP and 20MP shooters still Sony sensors with f/1.7 apertures.

OnePlus has bumped up the size of the sensor on the main 16MP camera by 19%, and it now has a 1.22um pixel size (up from 1.12um), allowing it to let in more light and thus perform better in low-light conditions. 

That’s not all though, as the OnePlus 6 features OIS (optical image stabilisation) and EIS on the 16MP rear snapper, further improving low-light shots, and reducing camera shake and the consequent blurring.

OnePlus 6 Review

Huawei P20 Pro

The Huawei P20 Pro has three cameras arranged across its back. Main camera has an ultra-high resolution 40MP sensor. It is backed up by a 20MP black and white sensor that helps with processing, including decreasing image noise and improving dynamic range.

The third camera has a 3x 'zoom' lens and an 8MP sensor, letting you zoom into a scene without using digital zoom.

When you use the Huawei P20 Pro’s Night mode, it merges a barrage of images over 3-6 seconds. It uses the OIS to produce well lit images and the software processing makes the shot look even more natural without fiddling with the details.

Huawei P20 Pro review

Nokia 8 Sirocco

The Nokia 8 Sirocco is the flagship from Nokia in 2018. Like other phones from the company, the Nokia 8 Sirocco's camera is backed by Zeiss optics. You get a 12MP main camera sensor alongside a 13MP telephoto lens, which lets you click pictures with blurred backgrounds and 2X zoom. 

As for the low-light shots, the Nokia 8 leverages the f/1.8 aperture and 1.4µm sensor size to absorb light from the surroundings and reduce noise without compromising with the details. It reproduces bright colours even in dimly lit shots. 

Nokia 8 Sirocco review