Which photo looks better to you?

  • On paper, and in technical comparisons, the iPhone XS ranks among the world's best smartphones when it comes to photography.
  • But in a blind test conducted by popular YouTube vlogger Marques Brownlee, the iPhone XS flunked out in the first round.
  • Crazier still, it lost against a BlackBerry smartphone. Google's Pixels, renowned for their camera quality, fared just as poorly.

One of the main reasons that people buy the iPhone is for its ability to take high-quality, detailed photos. And it certainly does that!

But based on the results of a new video from YouTube vlogger Marques "MKBHD" Brownlee, it seems like another factor may be far more important: Brightness.

In a massive blind photo test that Brownlee conducted over social media, he pit 16 different smartphones against each other. Both the iPhone X and the iPhone XS flunked out in the first round to less capable smartphones - Xiaomi's Pocophone F1 and TCL's BlackBerry Key2, respectively.

That's right: Apple's flagship iPhone from this year and last failed out in the first round, against phones that are barely considered competition normally.

Google's flagship Pixel line did just as poorly, albeit against more technically competitive devices.

The photo on the left is from the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which won overall. The runner up, on the right, was the Pocophone.

His test was simple: Put two photos of the same subject next to each other and have his millions of social media followers vote on which looked better to them.

It's hardly a scientific poll, but that's not the point - what you see is what matters.

Most people are looking at photos on smartphone screens, through social media apps that compress images. They're using apps on their smartphone to edit images before sharing. They're trying to see faces clearly. Does the image "pop?" Is it bright?

That kind of interaction with photos leads to a different type of preference.

"The most important thing to people, when viewing these photos straight out of camera, was just exposure - brightness, basically," Brownlee says in the video. "Nine times out of ten, the brighter, more saturated, more punchy-contrasty photo, won. Every single round - it's pretty consistent."

Brownlee used a bracket system for the voting, a la March Madness — a necessity given the wide competition across 16 different smartphones.

It says a lot about what actually matters in smartphone cameras, and what may matter to you.

Are you taking a lot of extremely detailed photos with your smartphone? If the answer is no, then maybe you can wait a little longer next time before upgrading your smartphone - or maybe it's finally time to start considering those mid-range, less expensive smartphones.

If nothing else, the video is a fascinating look into modern smartphone camera options - see it for yourself right here:

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