Google Pixel 2 camera review

Google Pixel 2 camera review

Posted on Feb 3, 2018

I’ve had a big expectation about the Google Pixel 2. From the moment I’ve seen the first sample photos and read the DXO Mark review, it seems that the Pixel 2 has really one of the best photo cameras on the market.
For this Google Pixel 2 camera review, I had the opportunity (thanks to to try for a month the device in the base variant.

Google Pixel 2 camera specs

(The Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel 2 XL shares the exact same camera, hardware, and functions. )

Sensor Size 1/2.6"
Camera Resolution 12 Mpxl
Maximum Aperture Value f/1.8
Focal lenght (equivalent in the 35mm format) 27mm
Optical Stabilization Yes
Raw Capture in the camera App No
Full manual exposure mode in the Camera App No
Portrait Mode Yes
Extra photographic related features Unlimited full quality upload to Google Photo, Pixel Visual Core Chip
Video Up to 4k, 30fps

The hardware of the Pixel 2

Talking about the hardware I have a very mixed feeling.

The Google Pixel 2 feel like a 2018 device inside a shell of 2015. The device has quite a big bezel on the front where are placed the front speaker. The screen is just 5″, that I still feel good as a size, but looks a bit smaller compared to a direct competitor, I would say that the front of the Google Pixel 2 doesn’t give you so much “emotions”.  You can have a different situation if you buy a Google Pixel 2 XL, but I hadn’t the chance to test that device.

I still prefer, talking about the design, the back side of the device. This two materials, opaque and polished white create an interesting look, at least a bit more original than the other devices on the market.

The lens of the Google Pixel 2 looks quite big, this to gather enough light for the f/1.8 aperture. On the back of the device, there’s also the fingerprint scanner to unlock the device. Unlucky there’s not an option, as on the OnePlus 5t, to use it as the camera shooting button.

The device, thanks to the main plastic construction and the smaller size, feel very light in hand. It can be for someone a good fact, for someone else it could get the feeling of a cheap device. Considering that the price of the Google Pixel 2 isn’t so much of a cheap device, some user would prefer if Google would use more premium material also on the smaller versions of their phones.

Google Pixel 2 camera review

Let’s talk now about the real topic of this post that is the camera review of the Google Pixel 2.

Are you curious to know what I really think about it? Well, I can say that the Google Pixel 2 has an amazing camera. But I have some reserve to declare it totally the best one out here. Let’s try to explain.

Google already for years has a quite big advantage on the algorithm they use in their own camera system.

Since the time of the Google Nexus 5, they start to implement their own HDR+ solution. In the last years, the Google’s algorithm got better and better.

How do the Google HDR+ works? Basically, when you press the button, the camera takes a series of photos that then merge together. This process gives an enormous advantage in the way of recording more dynamic range and minimize the noise. This process is implemented by other competitors as Apple, Samsung, OnePlus, but I can tell that from my tests in past years, the implementation of Google’s algorithm is the best one especially when we talk about noise average cancellation.

Usually, the producers tend to apply a bit too strong noise reduction to clean up the image. The result is to have some smearing on the details. The HDR+ algorithm on the photos shot with the Google Pixel 2 camera prevents this smearing and we have some very good, clean pictures even in more difficult light situations.

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Google Pixel 2 portrait mode

The Google Pixel 2 got everyone a bit surprised with the announce of the implementation of a working, and convincing, portrait mode using only one lens!

We’ve to recap that all other producers like Apple, Huawei, Samsung and OnePlus use the dual lens setup to build a depth map to create the correct blur for the photo. Google was able to achieve the same result using only one lens with the dual pixel split on the sensor.

The results from the first sample from Google look very impressive, and I can confirm from my own test that it works. I’ve to say however that the results aren’t so perfect all the time. I could notice some photos where the background wasn’t uniformly blurred and present a hole in the mask; sometimes also the edges of the object aren’t so perfect. In the situation when it works, the portrait that comes out is very pleasing with amazing colors and details.

I’m sure that Google will be able to improve the portrait mode on their next devices to get a better mask from the shots. I’ve to remember that the portrait mode on the Google Pixel 2 works also on the front-facing camera.

The low light photos: Google Pixel 2 camera review

Low light photos is a challenge for all the smartphone producers. In this field, there’s the bigger battle to achieve the best looking photos. Like said above, the Pixel 2 use the HDR+ algorithm to produce a final photo with amazing details and low noise even on the dark situation. Let’s say however that shooting in a really dark environment is still a hard task to this small sensor devices: you can notice enough digital noise especially on flat surfaces as a sky in your photo.

I’ve noticed that the device is always able to keep a lower Iso value, I’ve recorded ISO 995 the lowest value in an almost totally dark environment.

For this Google Pixel 2 camera review, I’ve shot some low light photos during the Christmas time in the city where I was born, Triest located on the north side of Italy.

google pixel 2 camera review
1:1 detail of the above pictures shot with the Google Pixel 2 camera
google pixel 2 camera review
1:1 detail of the above pictures shot with the Google Pixel 2 camera
google pixel 2 camera review
1:1 detail of the above pictures shot with the Google Pixel 2 camera

The specific hardware

The Google Pixel 2 is also the first device to use the “Pixel Visual Core”. Basically is a SOC (System on Chip) that is able to perform all the heavy calculation that the image requires. This chip has been enabled from the last Oreo 8.1 update and allows to get a faster output of the image shot and a more efficient power consumption. I haven’t had the chance to use the Pixel 2 before the 8.1 update, so I can’t tell you how much of the improvement in speed, quality, and phone battery gives this new chip.

Google Pixel 2 camera review photos

google pixel 2 camera review

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  • Ingrid
    Posted at 22:00h, 15 May Reply

    Thank you so much for this post; the photos are gorgeous and it has really helped me to decide to get the Pixel.

  • Mattia
    Posted at 18:58h, 01 March Reply

    Cool, thanks!
    Were they all shot in auto mode?

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 19:09h, 01 March Reply

      Yes! I almost always use the Auto mode on the smartphone shots I’m doing. In this way I can test the device with the same level that will use another user. Sometimes for some shots, I’m using the Pro Mode in Lightroom with the HDR .raw mode.

  • Mattia
    Posted at 16:01h, 01 March Reply

    Are those last 5 really from a Pixel 2?
    To my untrained eyes it seems like they’ve been shot with a DSLR

    • Alessandro Michelazzi
      Posted at 18:39h, 01 March Reply

      Ciao Mattia, thanks for your comment! They are of course all shot with the Google Pixel 2 smartphone! If you are interest to have a look in the details, soon I will share my original full resolution file on my Patreon page!

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