Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max vs. Google Pixel 4 XL: Who Has the Better Camera?

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.

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10 Comments

It's pretty close all around. DPR claims that Apple is better at Portrait Mode shots because of the Pixel's 1.5 magnifier, and Pixel is better at Night Mode because of its ultra-high resolution that goes into play. Of course, only Pixel has astrophotography until next year's iPhone.

If it were just the camera, I'd get the Pixel, but I love the Apple interface and as I said, it's pretty close all around.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max vs. Google Pixel 4 XL: Who Has the Better Camera?

Huawei! :-)

... really? The pixel 4 footage is cropped closer to him so obviously the exposure will try and match his face rather the the room average...

Like... he didn't figure this one out?

I thought my Pixel 3a was going to be 'meh' copy of the Pixel 3 photo-wise, but with the camera it definitely punches way above its weight. To see what kind of images are possible with this 'lowly' phone, check out the reddit Pixel3a group: https://www.reddit.com/r/Pixel3a/

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I feel the same way. For the $279 I paid for it, the 3a makes a great camera in a pinch.

J Maloney's picture

Hey Wasim, This is a photography website for photographers. Not a snapshot forum. Leave the phones at home. Use a real camera with a real tripod socket, PC/hotshoe connector, real lenses and real exposure control. We are really, really tired of articles comparing phones that fall way short of being a real tool for real photographers.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I'm not sure if this is joking or serious, but a few years ago I probably felt the same way, but not anymore. I used to carry around a 1" sensor camera as my walkaround but the Pixel 3a easily hangs in there with that now.

Assuming adding articles about mobile phone cameras, which are still cameras, don't prevent other articles about SLRs and MILCs, I'm very happy to have them, and hope they continue. It is the only segment of the photography category which is innovating on a monthly basis. Frankly I think they could teach the SLRs and MILCs a thing or two (e.g., imagine a D850 with the computational wizardry of the Pixel). Keep 'em coming.

What an elitist shitty approach.

Go take a look at Eric Van Nynatten in IG and tell me what he does with an Iphone 11pro isn't worth wall space.

Robert Nurse's picture

Sounds like tongue in cheek. These phone cameras are getting more and more sophisticated and are probably what's driving (at least partly) reduced revenue for camera companies.