Google Pixel – Camera
Since so many phone makers rely on DxOMark benchmark scores when their cameras actually aren’t very good (*cough* HTC and Sony *cough*), I wasn’t particularly excited about the numbers regarding the camera on the Google Pixel.
How wrong I was; this is one of best smartphone cameras I’ve ever used. It’s easily as good as the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 (currently, the two best) and in certain situations it’s probably better. But it’s the complete experience here that makes the camera on the Pixel an absolutely pleasure to use.
There isn’t much on the spec sheet that’s been improved over the camera in the Nexus 6P. It still has a 12-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash, laser autofocus and 1.55-micron pixel completed with an f/2.0 lens. What it does have over the Nexus 6P is the new Sony IMX378 sensor (upgraded from the IMX377), which boasts native phase-detection autofocus, plus much faster HDR thanks to SME-HDR tech.
Combine these important upgrades with the better software and speedy CPU and you have one hell of a camera.
What’s even more impressive is that this camera manages to battle with the best even though it lacks OIS – a flagship phone staple – and I honestly can’t say I’ve noticed its absence.
Most cameras these days take excellent daytime snaps, but it’s in low-light performance that the Pixel really stands out. It exposes light well, keeps noise to a minimum while also managing to pick out tremendous amounts of detail.
Even in low-light, the colours are fantastic
Detail is fantastic
There’s a lovely depth to photos
The camera is stunning even at night
You’ll get reliably great photos
Google pushes you to shoot in HDR+ mode – this is on by default – and I tend to use it all the time. It produces photos with unbeatable dynamic range and a feeling of depth that even the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 can’t manage.
Colours, too, are excellent: punchier and more vibrant than the iPhone 7, but less saturated and much more true to life than the Samsung Galaxy S7. I’d say it’s the perfect mix of the two.
But the best thing about this camera is just how fast it is. Opening the app with a double-tap of the power button is near-instantaneous, and autofocus is the same. There’s almost zero shutter lag when you shoot, and all the processing for HDR+ is carried out in the background, so it doesn’t hamper performance at all. It’s so much faster than previous Nexus phones it’s almost unbelievable.
The excellent performance carries through to video recording, too. As you’d expect, the Google Pixel can shoot in 4K, but a great trick is how it uses the gyroscope to add in a fantastic software-based stabilisation. The captured footage is silky-smooth, and in 99% of situations footage looks completely realistic and not manufactured.
The 8-megapixel selfie camera is similarly impressive, again benefiting from auto-HDR+. Its f/2.4 aperture is slightly narrower but it still performs well in varying lighting conditions.
The final highlight is free uploads of all your snaps (at full-resolution) and 4K video to Google Photos, which just happens to absolutely blow every other photo storage out of the water. It’s the cherry on the top, and makes living with 32GB of storage more practical.
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We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.