The Google Pixel 3 Camera - A Photographer's Dream Point-And-Shoot

We’re doing something a little different this week! Rather than featuring another recent shoot, I wanted to show off my new Google Pixel 3 and give you a review from a photographer’s perspective. The primary reason I chose this phone was the outstanding camera feature so I’ve done a little bit of comparing below.

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My husband has the iPhone X which is used in the comparison shots, so in full disclosure I must add that this is a comparison between last year’s iPhone and this year’s Pixel. This year’s iPhone does have a bit better camera based on reviews so don’t consider this purely an “iPhone vs Pixel” debate.

To start, I compared the general photography quality in a pretty normal lighting situation. All of the images were taken in natural light at mid-day, with no additional lights on in my apartment to conflict with the color of the window light. My cat was situated on the couch and then again on the floor near her food dish (surprise surprise).

This was taken on a Pixel 3 with the standard camera setting

This was taken on a Pixel 3 with the standard camera setting

This was taken on an iPhone X with the standard camera setting

This was taken on an iPhone X with the standard camera setting

This was taken on a Pixel 3 with the standard camera settings

This was taken on a Pixel 3 with the standard camera settings

This was taken on an iPhone X with the standard camera setting

This was taken on an iPhone X with the standard camera setting

I also wanted to test out the back camera portrait mode on each phone, as well as the zoom functionality on each.

This was taken on a Pixel 3 back camera with portrait mode

This was taken on a Pixel 3 back camera with portrait mode

This was taken on an iPhone X back camera with portrait mode

This was taken on an iPhone X back camera with portrait mode

This was taken on a Pixel 3 back camera with portrait mode

This was taken on a Pixel 3 back camera with portrait mode

This was taken on an iPhone X back camera with portrait mode

This was taken on an iPhone X back camera with portrait mode

This was taken on a Pixel 3 at maximum zoom

This was taken on a Pixel 3 at maximum zoom

This was taken on an iPhone X at maximum zoom

This was taken on an iPhone X at maximum zoom

Of course I had to test the selfie camera, so get ready for a whole bunch of photos of my face (which I rarely post on this website!). Same deal as above, testing the regular camera as well as portrait mode for each.

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera

This was taken with the iPhone X selfie camera

This was taken with the iPhone X selfie camera

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera

This was taken with the iPhone X selfie camera

This was taken with the iPhone X selfie camera

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera with portrait mode

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera with portrait mode

This was taken with the iPhone X selfie camera with portrait mode

This was taken with the iPhone X selfie camera with portrait mode

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera with portrait mode

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera with portrait mode

This was taken with the iPhone X selfie camera with portrait mode

This was taken with the iPhone X selfie camera with portrait mode

One of my favorite features of the Pixel 3 is its unique wide angle selfie camera! You don’t need an obnoxious selfie stick to be able to get the background in your photos anymore…

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera at wide-angle

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera at wide-angle

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera at wide-angle

This was taken with the Pixel 3 selfie camera at wide-angle

The most impressive feature of the Pixel 3 is definitely NightShot, the nighttime mode of the camera. It’s technically not released yet but it is possible to get the beta version through a third-party app, which is what I’ve done for the photos below. That means that (while unlikely) Google could theoretically make it even better than pictured here, which would just be insane because oh my gosh this setting is going to be the best for any photos taken indoors or after sunset!

This was taken with the Pixel 3 camera with regular settings

This was taken with the Pixel 3 camera with regular settings

This was taken with the iPhone X camera with regular settings

This was taken with the iPhone X camera with regular settings

This was taken with the Pixel 3 camera using night mode

This was taken with the Pixel 3 camera using night mode

This was taken with the Pixel 3 camera with regular settings

This was taken with the Pixel 3 camera with regular settings

This was taken with the iPhone X camera with regular settings

This was taken with the iPhone X camera with regular settings

This was taken with the Pixel 3 camera using night mode

This was taken with the Pixel 3 camera using night mode

All in all, I have found that the Pixel 3 has a great combination of dynamic range, color accuracy, and extra features that really make it stand out as a camera phone. Yes, the images look a tad bit flat SOOC compared to the pixel, but the colors were definitely more accurate to the cool window light and the flatness of the image while maintaining good dynamic range is actually a LOT better for stylized editing - and who isn’t going to tweak a bit before posting to Instagram? In addition, the zoom seems way sharper and cleaner and as someone who tries to avoid zooming as much as possible because of quality loss, that’s a huge plus. The back camera portrait mode did seem better on the iPhone than the Pixel, but I found the selfie camera for both nonportrait and portrait modes to be more flattering on the Pixel.

And seriously, NightShot is a dream of a camera feature. Those last photos of the shark on the toilet seat (the only way I could get a truly dark photo in the middle of the day when I was shooting this) had just a bit of light coming through the nearly-closed bathroom door and yet that NightShot image looks like it could have been taken right next to a window. Looking at the messy tabletop above that in the post (which was a dim corner of my apartment with no immediate windows to light the space) I may not have needed the night mode necessarily but it did result in an overall crisper, brighter image. Here’s another one just for good measure (and because my cat is just so freakin’ cute).

Taken on a Pixel 3 with regular camera settings

Taken on a Pixel 3 with regular camera settings

Taken on a Pixel 3 with night mode

Taken on a Pixel 3 with night mode

That’s not to say it’s a perfect camera yet, however! I did find myself frustrated a bit with some of the controls. There is no “manual” equivalent, for example; you can’t control ISO/f stop/shutter speed/white balance as separate controls or even control the level of depth using portrait mode as you can with the more recent iPhone models. As a photographer, that lack of control is a little difficult to deal with since I’m used to controlling every little thing in my DSLR.

You do get the option to brighten or darken the photo with a slider, by good golly is it hard to use with one hand. I’ve posted screenshots below to show what I mean, but essentially the slider remains pretty out of reach of your hand no matter what orientation you’re shooting in, and all the buttons in the app take up so much space either way which just keeps that slider further from your hand. If you’re trying to take a selfie while holding something, you’d better hope that the camera gets exposure just right or you’re out of luck.

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