The Pixel 4 Camera Makes Google’s Latest Smartphones Worth Buying
When you talk about the Google Pixel smartphones in public, the first thing people usually ask about is the camera quality. With a Pixel smartphone in my pocket, I’ve always been the designated photographer in my friend group. However, just because Pixel phones have traditionally had excellent camera quality doesn’t guarantee every new Pixel device will live up to our expectations. And with the Pixel line, our expectations are high indeed. So with the Google Pixel 4, we had to ask ourselves: Does it continue the Pixel legacy as being one of the best smartphone cameras?
A lot of articles may string you along with reasons why the Pixel 4 may or may not be the best and then ultimately leave you with “we can’t tell you what is the best.” I don’t want to do that: I want to give you a definitive answer to the very basic question. That being said, I understand this is very much my opinion and it may not match up with what you value. With that in mind, I believe the Pixel 4 camera is the best smartphone camera right now—I don’t even consider it a competition. The Pixel 4 does so much right that it seems no other OEM can figure out, and I say this after using smartphones like the Huawei P30 Pro, Huawei Mate 30 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, Samsung Galaxy S10+, Samsung Galaxy Fold, and so many more.
The reasons I believe the Pixel 4 camera is just that good stem from the UI to the back-end processing. The UI is very simple and there is no excess clutter in it. It makes every action you are trying to make very intentional. There really isn’t much of a chance to, for example, accidentally switch between modes.
Even your grandparents will have no issues using the camera app
If you do accidentally switch modes, it won’t be that hard to get back to where you wanted. Everything is easy to find and traversing modes or tweaking settings are very seamless. There are only 4 main modes, with the less useful ones being tucked off into a “More” tab. If you are looking to change settings, well, you’ll likely never need to. If you do, it’s a simple swipe down with all the options in plain and simple English. You could give your grandparents this camera and they will know how to use it. In short, the app is simple and intuitive.
The back-end processing is also stellar. Google is now using the Live HDR+ algorithm with a new principle they call “what you see is what you get.” This essentially means whatever you see in your viewfinder will be what the picture looks like. You don’t have to wait for the processing to happen to see your final shot. Along these lines is the new Dual Exposure camera. This lets you edit the picture before you take it by changing both the highlights and brightness before you take the photo. All of this is powered by the Pixel Neural Core in the Pixel 4. This processor is also the reason why the Pixel’s stellar HDR+ algorithms are available in third-party apps like Snapchat and Instagram. I legitimately get messages asking about my phone when they see my social media pictures taken from the Pixel 4.
That’s great and all, but none of that means anything unless the pictures it takes are actually good. Well, as you would imagine, the pictures it takes are great. It blows away any other phone camera I’ve ever used. From Night Sight to just regular photos out of the front and rear cameras, the Pixel 4 is absolutely amazing.
Embedded below are just a few of the pictures I took on the Pixel 4 XL, but there are also two albums full of more shots that I took as well as photos from the smaller Pixel 4 taken by XDA’s Editor-in-Chief Mishaal Rahman. Everything from the telephoto zoom to just the main pictures to astrophotography is amazing. Scroll down to view the entire albums in high quality—we’ve organized the photos by section so you can quickly see the quality of photos from the main camera, selfie camera, telephoto camera, etc.
I should note that even though we have two sets of albums here, one for the Pixel 4 XL and one for the Pixel 4, the two 2019 Pixels have the exact same cameras. The Pixel 4 XL pictures are just some pictures I took throughout the days I’ve had the phone and the Pixel 4 pictures, from XDA Portal Editor-in-Chief Mishaal Rahman, are some he took throughout his usage of the Pixel 4. Again, embedded below are just a few samples, but you can view the full, organized Google Photos albums in original quality by clicking the links at the bottom of the article.
The main camera takes absolutely amazing pictures. Below are just two of the many Mishaal and I took. As you can see, both pictures have a lot of detail and very good dynamic range. In classic Pixel fashion, neither of these pictures need any editing after the fact. Both are ready to share or post just right out of the camera.
Both selfie shots are very good. On the picture of Mishaal to the left, you can see it has a lot of detail and his face isn’t too dark even though the sun is behind him. As for the photo of me, it is able to pick up the blue in my eyes, which is actually something most selfie cameras can’t do well. It also has a decent bokeh effect as both shots were taken in portrait mode, which uses the telephoto camera. In the picture of Mishaal, it has very good edge detection but in the picture of me, the edge detection wasn’t as great. This is because most phones cannot do a great job with uncombed and messy hair. All in all, this is a very good selfie camera phone.
Pixel 4 Telephoto Camera
The first photo below is out of the normal wide-angle camera and the second is out of the telephoto zoomed in to 8x, the maximum the Pixel 4 allows by default. Thanks to Google’s Super Res Zoom algorithm, 8X zoomed photos look so good that they almost don’t look zoomed in at all. It saves a lot of detail in the bricks and stone. This looks like an all-around great photo, even when zoomed.
Astrophotography is one of the Pixel 4’s highlight features for the camera. It’s essentially Night Sight on steroids. As you can see below, it can easily take very good pictures of the stars. The Pixel 4 takes anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes to fully take photos, and once it’s done, the photos look beautiful. You can even touch them up with the Astro filter in Google Photos to make them look even better.
Pixel 4 Video Quality
A lot of people don’t like the video recording quality on Pixel phones. From the demos below, it doesn’t actually look that bad. If you start to pixel peep or focus on the microphone quality in really windy areas, it might not stand up to scrutiny. If you are just looking for a basic, no-frills video taking experience, the Pixel 4 is actually a very decent smartphone for video, even if it can’t record in 4K 60fps.
I hope our photos show off how good the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL cameras are. I have used a lot of phones from the Huawei P30 Pro to the OnePlus 7 Pro to the Xiaomi Mi 9T, and out of all the smartphones I’ve used, the Pixel 4 is by far my favorite for photography. You’re always going to get a good photo with Pixel cameras, and most of the time you’ll be blown away by the results. It’s not just meaningless hype—it really is that good. That isn’t something you can say about many products or features, but it really is true for the Pixel 4 camera. Even more than just camera quality, it’s easy and fast to use. Google did an all-around amazing job with the Pixel 4 camera, and I’m excited to keep it in my pocket until the Pixel 5.