One of the biggest annoyances with Apple’s phones is that the company always differentiates between its two flagship models by giving the larger model additional features in the camera department. I really like that Google hasn’t followed suit, ensuring both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are on parity.
Google also steers clear of enhancing the rear camera of the Pixel 2 XL with dual-sensors – but don’t let that put you off, though, since this is a stunning snapper. The 12-megapixel camera is now optically stabilised, has a wider f/1.8 aperture for better low-light shots and a new Portrait mode for effectively blurring the background.
Those specs may not sound groundbreaking – and, on paper, there isn’t much here we haven’t seen before. But Google’s skill is in the software and the processing tricks it applies after the shot has been taken.
Its Auto-HDR+ function – which will require you to take a deep dive into the settings to turn it off – is what makes everything tick along. This levels exposure when the sun is harsh, taking multiple snaps every time you hit the shutter and combining all the images thereafter. The results are truly stunning, with natural-looking colours and fantastic dynamic range. Photos display a real depth, which makes this camera great for taking scenic landscapes and city shots.
Photos captured are also some of the most detailed I’ve seen from a phone. Everything from the expressions on distant faces to intricate details in a flower’s petal are visible.
The f/1.8 aperture gives a nice blurry background
The focus system is fast and great for macros
Photos are colourful and vibrant
Landscape shots have lots of depth
The majority of premium phones in 2017 are capable of taking excellent shots in sunny conditions, but the Pixel 2 XL impresses even in lighting that isn’t quite so ideal. Low-light photos are bright, have good exposure and still manage to capture subtle colours and shadows. The addition of OIS is clearly at play here, but that wider aperture helps too.
The f/1.8 lens is great for naturally blurring the background in macro shots, but a dedicated Portrait mode artificially adds even more blur around a subject. It works well, with both the front and back camera, but it does struggle to accurately blur around hair.
Video capture is another strength of the Pixel 2 XL. The camera uses both optical and electronic stabilisation to help avoid jankiness, resulting in a smoother image. Footage is recorded up to 4K 30fps, but you’ll probably want to stick to 1080p at 60fps if you’re shooting anything with a lot of motion.
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