Google Pixel 3A Camera Review

by Robb Sutton
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Below is the transcript from my Google Pixel 3A camera review on YouTube. You can find the purchase links below (which help out the site!) and please like and subscribe on YouTube if you found the review useful.

Disclaimer: This Pixel 3a was provided by Google for review purposes.

Google Pixel 3a –

Google Pixel 3a Camera Review

Hey guys…how’s it going? It’s Robb Sutton back with another video. Back in the beginning of May, Google actually sent me out one of their new Google Pixel 3a smart phones and they asked me to test it out and see what I thought. So instead of doing a regular comparison video, just like you would see on most of the tech channels, I really want to focus on the camera and compare with a $399 phone does versus a $1,200 phone, which is my daily driver, iPhone XS Max. And while we do this today we’re actually going to be enjoying a Scofflaw Double Jeopardy. They are a new brewery out of Atlanta. One of the brewers is actually from Russian River Brewery out in California. So if you like IPA and you know the world renowned Pliny the Elder, this is one of those brewers and he’s now down in Atlanta making some great IPA’s and other beers if you have a chance to check them out. So let’s get into it.

Google Pixel 3a Camera Review

So at least on the spec list you are getting some discounted features and one of those discounts does mean you are not getting Google’s visual core which would get in the Google Pixel 3 or the upcoming 4. All of that image processing is offloaded to the processor and graphics processor inside the phone. So what kind of difference that makes? I’m not really sure but typically it’s a little bit of a performance it. Another thing to keep in mind when you’re looking at the 3 versus the 3a is that your unlimited storage on Google photos is actually limited to compress images on the 3a versus your originals on the 3 but that actually equates to is because of the compression. What would be a 3mb file size is actually closer to 1.2mb so you’re not getting that full quality that you would have like you would with the three another thing to keep in mind, which I’m not going to talk about too directly here because I’m not a big selfie guy.

Some Spec Comparisons on the Google Pixel 3a

I’m always the guys taking the picture not being actually in it. You are not going to get the wide angle selfie camera like everyone seems to have loved on the Google Pixel 3 you’re getting just your regular single lens on the front. So before we jump into the computer and actually take a look at the images and I tell you what I think about the overall Google experience, let’s take a quick spec review on what the iPhone XS Max camera is versus the Google pixel three if you’re going to be 12.2 megapixels on the three versus 12 megapixels on both of the cameras on the iPhone, the wide angle lens on the iPhone is going to carry an aperture of 1.8 and the telephoto is going to be 2.4 on the 3aa. The single lens, it’s going to carry a wide open aperture of 1.8 on the iPhone.

You have optical image stabilization on both of the cameras and on the Google 3a. You actually get optical plus electronic stabilization to overall both camera’s systems seem to be really comparable. The biggest difference being the XS Max is going to get that two lens system or the Google pixel is going to have a single one, but the Google pixel also adds in electronic stabilization on top of their hardware, optical stabilization. So now that we’ve gotten all the initial BS out of the way, let’s go ahead and take a look at some images I took with both of these phones.

Image Comparison – Pixel 3a vs. iPhone XS Max

Okay, now let’s sit down and go through the images and see what I came up with. As I mentioned before, these are snapshots style images. They are not going out and trying to take the nastiest picture of a waterfall you’ve ever seen, it’s mostly dogs, kids, and regular just life.

So let’s take a look. So these first shots are actually of our Jeep out in the sunrise in the morning. First we’re going to take a look at the iPhone and then switch over to the Google phone. I don’t know if you can notice through these, but I’ll try to zoom in here in just a second. What you’re looking at is a little bit warmer picture on the iPhone side with a little bit colder image on the actual Google side. The Google images tend to have a little bit more contrast as well. As you could see actually through the Jeep area and up in the trees. I found some unique characteristics with each, so let’s go ahead and run through that. Now. First, if you start up on the Jeep side, there seems to be more noise and less sharpness and the iPhone photo versus the Google phone and you could see the black fenders and black tires don’t have as much noise and the lines seem a little bit clear. However, when you go up into the trees, you seem to get a little bit of haloing effect around the trees and the increased contrast almost kind of hurts the detail up on the tree end where the iPhone looks a little bit more natural up on the tree line and you don’t get as much as that hit of that haloing effect. So it really seems like farther out the iPhone team tended to do a better job of actually capturing what was real, where the Google phone tended to capture the Jeep better in the foreground.

The next picture is a sunset on Lake linear.

There’s the iPhone and the Google phone. Ironically on this side, the iPhone seemed to be on a little bit cooler end while the Google phones seem to capture a little bit warmer image with the sunset. Again, I’m starting to see more contrast on the Google phone versus the iPhone. There also seems to be more detail and less noise in the Google phone versus the iPhone when it gets down into the shadows.

So the next picture here is that my son, just while we’re waiting on the sunset, kind of just being goofy. So in this case the Google phone actually looked a little bit warmer again. So if we go back to the iPhone shot, you can see there’s more blues in the shadows versus oranges like you see with the Google phone on this shot, I didn’t notice a lot of difference in detail and noise.

Now let’s go into portrait mode. So I decided to here to do the token shot of whatever you’re drinking while grilling and so I did this one actually on purpose because the Google phone and the iPhone and handled portrait mode very differently where the iPhone uses both the telephoto and wide angle lens to actually create a map and give you the depth from there. And software. Google phone rely solely on software to give you the depth effect. Both of them are adjustable aperture wise is really just the, you know, software boring up the background. But the unique difference with the Google phone is that you can actually pick where your focus is and on the iPhone you can not, if you see in this iPhone shot it loses half the glass.

It can’t distinguish the glass from the background. So what you get is clear looking beer, going around the edge of the can and the edge of the glass. It’ll actually disappear and fake it like it’s the background when it isn’t and contrast. When you use the Google phone, you can actually pinpoint that focus point right here on the lip of the glass and it’ll actually capture that entire glass. Now it isn’t perfect. There are some blurry areas back here that shouldn’t be on both the cans and the glass, but the overall experience on using portrait mode with difficult situations is much better on the Google phone. I’ve also found since the iPhone uses both lenses to actually map that distance. You run into a lot of situations where you pick up portrait mode in the iPhone, yet you find yourself walking forwards and backwards trying to find that sweet spot where the iPhone is happy with being able to create that depth with the Google phone.

As soon as you put it in the portrait mode, you can just frame it and go, you don’t have to do any of this walking back and forth where it says move farther away like you do with the iPhone. The overall portrait mode experience is much better on the Google phone than it is with the iPhone and they should take notes on being able to adjust that focus point because it makes a big difference when you’re trying to capture images.

Then we can go back into the just the standard image. Right now we’re looking at the iPhone and then over to the Google phone. The Google phone here seemed to pull out a little bit more of the reds. This is direct bright sunlight in the middle of the day seems to be very comparable.

So the next thing I wanted to do here is kind of subtract the software side from each of the phones. So I took both of these images and and Adobe Lightroom CC mobile. It’s in a low light situation of my dog sleeping on the stairs, sticking his nose through the bars. Here’s the Google Pixel 3a and then the iPhone, like we saw with the Jeep shot. The iPhone seemed to get a lot warmer and actually pull out some saturation even with shooting in raw. Then the Google pixel that seems to be a lot cooler when you zoom in on the image.

(Images were too large to upload. Check the video for the comparison)

They both do a good job of being pretty sharp, but the iPhone seems to pick out the hairs on my dog a little bit better than the Google pixel did. One thing to note, I also tried out the night-shift mode that you can get on the Google Pixel 3a I wasn’t overly impressed with it. What it really seems to be doing is using the electronic image stabilization to create a long exposure shot and basically crop in on it and what it’s trying to do is really heighten the whites and the brighter colors of whatever subjects is you’re shooting and leaving the shadows alone and ends up with a very muddy looking picture. If you actually zoom in on it, it’s like someone that used noise reduction too heavy and the lines aren’t really sharp. It does I guess help out for like an Instagram photo if you really need it in a really dark situation. But if you have any subjects that are moving, it makes it really difficult to get a shot that’s worth anything.

Overall Thoughts on the Google Pixel 3a Camera

So what was my overall experience on the pixel three eight versus the iPhone one? I think Google nailed it on the user experience when it comes to taking photos with a smartphone, the portrait mode is a lot easier to use and has a lot better accuracy. It seems to be quicker to just take that snapshot and move on with the rest of your day or the iPhone. It takes a little bit more to clunk around, in my opinion. They really could take some notes from Google and what it’s like to take an image quickly and just get that snapshot and run on the other side. Both of these phones, I have a lot of features I really don’t use. We didn’t talk about the selfie cameras today because I don’t really do selfies.

I also don’t use a lot of like the portrait mode settings the iPhone has for studio lighting and all this other stuff either. When I’m shooting with my phones, I really just like to get the shot and move on. So overall I got to hand it to the Google pixel here on this one, especially given the $399, I’m using a $1,200 phone as a daily driver. I pick up a $400 phone and my photo experience is better. I think we all can agree that we’re actually using our phones now more as devices than talking on and one of the major things I do with my phone is take snapshots of my family, pets, everything else. So I was really impressed, especially for a $400 device, how well it did. And after using some friends of mine’s pixel 3’s, I can’t really tell that big of a difference.

So when it comes solely to taking pictures, I have to believe right now the Google pixel three eight is the best bang for the buck for taking pictures of the smart phone. So guys, that’s what I have on like Google pixel three as far as photography goes on the rear facing camera. If you guys have any experience with it, please hit up the comment section below. I’d love to hear what you think. If you ever get a chance to check out, scoff luck, go for it. Be careful of this double jeopardy though it is 10% and until then onto the next one. Thanks for watching guys. Don’t forget to subscribe and hit that like button.

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