When Google announced their Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones on 4th October this year, they highlighted their camera prowess. These devices boasted the best camera in any smartphone, and it’s not just them saying it, the claim is backed by DxOMark’s highest ever rating of 89 for any smartphone.
I like the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones primarily for their pure Android experience. I’ve been using the Pixel XL, and its amazing camera performance has somewhat changed how I take photos.
Every smartphone before the Pixel XL has always had the problem of shutter lag, as well as long shot-to-shot cycle time in the earlier years. Taking impromptu photos on smartphones had been highly inconvenient. Add to that the unimpressive image quality, there wasn’t a lot of motivation to take many photos. If one didn’t want a proper DSLR for their typically large size, more compact mirrorless cameras were a lot more useful.
Last year’s Nexus 6P was pretty good. But it still wasn’t great in terms of image quality, and its capture speed wasn’t impressive either. It wasn’t anywhere near the iPhone standard. Some Android smartphones were getting pretty good, like those from Samsung, and the Nexus 6P wasn’t quite there yet.
This year’s Pixels however is wholly different. Many reviewers have agreed that, even if you don’t think the Pixel and Pixel XL are better than this year’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, it’s at least quite comparable, both in terms of speed and image quality.
It is truly so. I’m really taking lots and lots of photos now with the Pixel XL. So much that I’m taking less with my Sony Alpha a6000. That’s quite something to say about the Pixel XL. There are times I’m willing to give up using a mirrorless camera, and instead just do with the Pixel XL.
The Pixel XL’s camera app itself remains quite unimpressive. It’s too simplified, without much controls, and lacking any shooting modes or effects. This is about the app itself. The camera is great, but the camera app seems to lack many features often seen in phones from other manufacturers.
I personally don’t fancy special effects much, but perhaps there might be some usefulness in having different shooting modes for various scene types.
Google’s take, however, is for everything to be automatic. I suppose most of us would prefer the camera app to figure out everything on its own anyway.
To that end, I think the camera and its app works very well. There are times I wished I could have a “sport mode” where shutter speed is increased to freeze fast moving action. But apart from that, I almost always get great photos.
Whether it’s indoors, outdoors, food, or people, the Pixel XL I have consistently produces great photos.
One of the most important improvements in the Pixel XL camera is the truly zero shutter lag. You get exactly the photo at that instant that you press the shutter. Not after. Not even a noticeable fraction of a second later.
A cool bonus with the Pixel and Pixel XL devices is the unlimited photo storage at full, original, resolution in Google Photos. I’m shooting and uploading an average of 40+ photos each day, way more than the average I’ve been doing in the past. Now, the thing I’ve to worry about is having to organise my photos. Fortunately, Google Photos does lend a helping hand to automatically suggest putting photos into albums for me.
Finally, with this year’s Google smartphone, I can concentrate on composing and taking great features, and not have to worry if the camera will do its job properly. At least most of the time.
Note: All photos in this post are directly from the Google Pixel XL, no edits, no touch-up, no adjustments, nothing. (However, they are auto-resized by WordPress for online posting.)