There’s been a lot of deserved praise heaped on the Google Pixel 3 and 3a series of smartphone cameras. But since those smartphone photography juggernauts came out, the landscape has shifted a bit. Does that mean that Google is still on top?
Since the release of the Pixel 3, 3 XL, 3a and 3a XL, Apple has launched a new generation phone, the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro and Pro Max models. The latter two contain not just two, but three lenses, adding a wide-angle lens to the telephoto and standard ones. Google added an extra telephoto lens as well to its new Pixel 4 and 4 XL models, but since the series previously only had one camera and relied on computational photography techniques to smoothly zoom in, the total number of lenses is now two, down one compared to Apple’s pro models.
MacRumors pits the two top-range smartphones from Apple and Google (the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the Pixel 4 XL) against each other, and while the results were pretty clear cut for video, with Google blowing out many highlights in the test and not offering 4K video on its front-facing camera, the results were not so clear when it came to photos.
The site looked at how Apple’s new Night Mode fared against Google’s new iteration of Night Sight as well as how each camera did in portrait mode (spoiler alert, neither camera is awesome and it seems like software still has a long way to go here).
There are also comparisons of how each camera looked in broad daylight, though one clear advantage that Google can’t compete with on a hardware level is Apple’s wide angle lens, which opens up more shooting possibilities. The other lenses performed about the same.
What’s not covered, unfortunately, is the astrophotography mode on the Pixel 4, something that’s not possible at the moment on the iPhone. To not have to lug a DSLR and tripod out to a far-off field removed from city lights is a huge deal for many. Apple also offers the new HEIC format for smaller file sizes.
There’s also differences in camera apps to consider, and while Apple’s default camera app is quite stripped down, there are a wealth of options on the app store, while Google goes the opposite direction, offering more features in its default app but not having the same options available in the Play store.
Of course, none of this accounts for personal preferences in software. Some photographers are just not going to want to use iOS or Android just to get to their preferred camera (though after many years of Apple, I switched to the Google Pixel 3a and enjoy the experience).
You can check out more comments from Macrumors in the video above.