It would appear that 2019 is the year of the wide-angle lens in smartphones. Samsung and Xiaomi just added one to their recently launched flagship phones; Vivo did the same to its mid-range V15 Pro, and Huawei did it late last year with the Mate 20 Pro. There’s even very reliable rumors that the next iPhone will get one too.
Quite frankly, I don’t know what took them all so long, considering that LG has been doing wide-angle lens since 2016, and they’ve long been proven useful. A wider field-of-vision allows more things to get into frame, which is not only practical — you don’t have to back up 15 feet just to take a group photo or capture a tall building — it also looks cool as hell, with that cinematic vibe.
So anyway, since we have three flagship devices with wide-angle lens right now, I figured why not do a good ol’ fashioned photo shootout? In this post I’ll be comparing the longstanding wide-angle king LG’s V40 against Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro and the current it phone of the moment, the Samsung Galaxy S10+. I would have included Xiaomi’s flagship Mi 9 in here too, but Xiaomi didn’t give me access to the Mi 9.
Some quick rules
- All of these photos were captured using each phone’s wide-angle lens, shot in point-and-shoot situations without messing with the exposure dial. The point is to show how these cameras fare if they’re used by a complete noob.
- By the time you see the images on this website, most likely on your phone, the photos will have been compressed somewhat, but please note that I did in fact examine all of these photos on a desktop monitor first. Unedited photos in its full size can be found in this Google Drive folder too if you want to examine yourself.
- I’ll share some 100% crops to show how some of the shots looked when blown up to full size on a computer screen.
- Most of these shots were taken in gloomy/dark situations. That is by design. Every smartphone in 2019 — even the budget ones — can capture vibrant and detailed images with good lighting and sunlight. The key that separates a good camera from a great one is how it performs in challenging situations.
- Ultimately, my comments are just my opinion, if you don’t agree, feel free to download the unedited shots and do your own examination. If you don’t like what I had to say — too fucking bad. This site is free, LOL.
Specs (just the wide-angle lens)
Samsung Galaxy S10+: 16-megapixel, f/2.2
Huawei Mate 20 Pro: 20-megapixel, f/2.2
LG V40: 16-megapixel, f/1.9
Alright, enough numbers, roll the photos
So in this first set, right off the bat you can see that the Galaxy S10+’s wide-angle camera has the widest field-of-vision (123-degrees) of the three cameras, so it has the widest image, but also suffers from barrel distortion (the corners of the photo appears curved) the most. The shooting condition at the time was average — there was still sun out but it was a rainy, overcast day. Of the three shots, the Samsung Galaxy S10+’s image appears the most natural and true to real-life, but the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s image, with its digitally enhanced lighting and sharpening, appears the most pleasing. Weirdly, the V40’s image suffered from terrible dynamic range, as the lower half of the photo — the road — is drenched in shadows. This is an anomaly, as the V40’s f/1.9 aperture kicked the other two camera’s butts later in terms of pulling in light. I think this speaks to the inconsistency of the V40’s camera software.
Let’s zoom in to 100%…
The Mate 20 Pro, with a larger 20-megapixel sensor and further digital trickery, retained the most details when zoomed in. This will be the consistent result going forward. And apologies for the inconsistent caption font in the photo.
In this set, once again, the S10+’s image suffers from distortion, while the other two shots did not. The V40’s lower f/stop pulled in most lighting here, as the building’s top floors appears very dark in Huawei’s shot. Once we zoom in to 100%, notice that Huawei’s shot again has the most details, but Samsung’s crop looks clean too. LG’s meanwhile, looks a bit soft, particularly the Chinese words on the sign above the two dudes.
All three phones just keep trading leads, as the LG V40 clearly wins this set. The Mate 20 Pro’s image, as usual with Huawei devices, is over-sharped, looking unnatural. This overly processed sharp look may be fine when shooting skyscrapers, but on vegetables? Nah. Samsung’s image is the most natural in terms of lighting. But LG’s shot is just cleaner.
Y’all know how the Mate 20 Pro is supposed to the low light king? Well that’s only true when we shoot with the main camera, ideally with night mode on too. In that situation, the Mate 20 Pro can do wonders and stomp on every non-Pixel phone. But in this particular test of using the wide-angle lens and in point-and-shoot situation, the Mate 20 Pro’s really losing here in terms of producing a well-balanced image. The sidewalk on the right side of the Mate 20 Pro’s image is just way too dark. Samsung’s image is solid, if a little bit soft in all the corners. LG’s image is unusually bright here, but it’s a look that most would probably prefer. Let’s zoom into that puddle of mud.
Because Samsung’s wide-angle FOV is wider, there is less pixel sharpness whenever you zoom in, as you can see here, that puddle of mud is, like the Puddle of Mudd song, blurry.
All three images look great here, with accurate, vibrant colors. But when we zoom in, the Mate 20 Pro’s image is noticeable sharper.
Finally, in terms of video recording — I’d advise that users should only use the wide-angle lens when they absolutely need a wider shot, because all three phone’s wide-angle videos pale in comparison to footage shot with its main “normal” camera. But just for the sake of testing I shot a short walking clip at night with phone’s wide-angle lens anyway. Notice Huawei’s footage is the worst of the bunch — micro-jitterness with really muffled sound due to the heavy wind. The S10+’s footage turned out the best, with mostly stable footage even as I was walking. The V40’s footage had a bit of swaying with each step, and over-exposes the lights on the right side of the frame.
So which wide-angle camera is the best? Tough call, but I think I’d have to go with the LG V40, as the shots appear the most polished. I mean, they have been doing the wide-angle for years before others jumped on the bandwagon. But the Huawei Mate 20 Pro does have on trick that the other two can’t touch — its wide-angle lens can double as a macro lens with a focus point that’s way closer than the other two.
The LG V40 and Samsung Galaxy S10+ can’t get this shot.