Is The Pixel’s Camera Setup Really Worth The Hype?

Is the Pixel camera really the best that a smartphone has ever had? We tell you.

Google’s new phones, Pixel and Pixel XL, have been rocking the news lately. The general market consensus is that they are both ready to take on the iPhone, and virtually every other flagship of the year, if not beat them back to the benches.

With this article, we’re not going to dig too deep into the phones and their specs, rather, we intend to concentrate on the cameras that the devices sport.

Google has been building the hype around the cameras on their new phones, stating quite often that their cameras are the best that anyone has ever put in a smartphone.
 Now that might not be factually true, because the smartphone industry is at a juncture where most high-end devices have cameras that are quite similar, at least on paper; yet there are also very different technologies that are out there on various brands’ flagships.

So such a statement can’t be taken at face value, rather should be chalked up in the Hyperbole column.

Traditionally iPhone cameras have ruled the market for many years, mostly thanks to the better imaging sensor and algorithms employed by Apple, if not by their savvy advertising. If the standards that Google holds their Pixel cameras to are indeed as high as they say, they seem ready to take on virtually every smartphone camera in the current market.

Let’s start with the camera hardware.

For starters, both devices feature same camera combination — which is a departure from how most brands do their “Plus” or “XL” devices — cameras are usually a bit point of differentiation.

The Pixels sport a 12.3 megapixel Sony IMX378 image sensor that features 1.55um pixels and a f/2.0 lens to help capture light better. There aren’t too many devices sporting that exact combination, but most devices are in the ballpark of a 12 megapixel rear camera, and a f/2.0 aperture.

The front camera is an 8 megapixel camera, which is quite good, and up to the market standard. But it is the rear one where all the focus lies.

So, where do the plus points for Pixel lie?

In their software. Google’s photography software and the add-ons, to be precise!

The first of these is HDR+ which is a better version of HDR that exists on Nexus devices. (Different versions of HDR exist on most high-end devices in the market these days.)
 There is no delay in clicking the pictures any longer because the Pixel’s HDR+ leverages the Snapdragon 821’s new Hexagon digital signal processor, which allows the camera to begin capturing RAW photos in the background as soon as the camera app is opened!

These images are all underexposed and once combined (after the shutter button is pressed), produces a much sharper, less noisy shot with dramatically more detail in highlights that would normally be blown out in other smartphone cameras.

The launch time for the camera app too, is extremely quick. The camera app comes with a hybrid form of autofocus — the Pixel uses a combination of phase detection and laser auto focus, for mostly stellar results. It’s quick and accurate in most settings.

The cameras also come with a few quite delightful add-on features.
 With the purchase of the Pixel, you get a free and unlimited full-resolution storage of your photos and videos on Google’s servers. Yes, you got that right! You don’t have to pay any fee, nothing at all, to keep storing photos on the Google servers until the end of time.
 In comparison, most other services like Apple’s iCloud, and Microsoft’s OneDrive give you 5 or 10 GB of free space, beyond which you have to pay for additional storage space.

Another add-on feature that is quite delightful is Google Photos.
 Pixel cameras work with Google Photos which automatically creates content, like slideshows, from the pictures you’ve taken. This kind of a feature exists on OneDrive as well, but the substance and synergy with which Google Photos operates is so much better.
 Apple, has gotten a lot better with the iOS 10 update, in this respect, but it is still nowhere near as good as Google Photos!

So more often than not, you tend to take pictures and never look back at them, but with Pixel, and these add-on features, that is certainly going to change, where you can conveniently and successfully dig into your massive archive of photographic memories.

Moving to the video capabilities on the devices — like most other high-end devices these days, the Pixels are capable of shooting 4K UHD video. The difference being, Google uses a couple of tricks to keep the video steady — using a combination of hardware and software features to help with rolling of shutters and smooth out the videos.
 The downside to this being, that while it looks all but perfect in the day time, in low light, it doesn’t do as amazingly as we would want it to.

There are of course some features more delightful than the others, and these are: with video capture is the option to pause in the middle of the video, making it perfect for capturing an event, birthday, or wedding, without having to worry about splicing together clips after the fact. The second one is the ability to take still photos while recording video, which technically is just a screen capture of the video being recorded.

All in all, the video abilities of the Pixel devices are fairly good. The videos are clean, stable, and the cool features are an add-on.

The final verdict is that if you tend to shoot portraits, the Pixel camera is not the best thing in the world for you, iPhone 7 Plus may be better. But if brighter colours, sharper detail throughout the backgrounds of photos and capable low-light photography is more important, it’s the Pixel that does the job for you.

It’s a new chapter for Google phones and this duo seems to have earned its name.


Originally published at Chip-Monks.