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Just how good is the Google Pixel's camera?

We took the Google Pixel out for a spin in San Francisco, and its camera blew us away.


Lynn La

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1 of 26 Josh Miller

Capturing SF with the Pixel

Not only did the Google Pixel (and its larger counterpart, Pixel XL) impress us with its polished design and helpful Assistant software, but it also blew us away with its camera. To test out how well it took photos, I took it out for a whirl around San Francisco. All shots were taken in HDR+Auto mode at full resolution. None of the pictures have been edited or cropped.

If you want to see how well the camera did against the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (another phone with a superb camera) check out our photo shootout and video comparison here.

Editors' Note: This gallery was originally published on October 16, 2016 and has been updated.

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Visiting Sutro Baths

Lots of natural sunlight and interesting scenery made this photo a breeze to capture.

For more about the camera, read CNET's explainer on how Google hopes to woo photography enthusiasts with the Pixel.

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Tiny little leaves

In this closeup shot, the small leaves in this plant are well defined and sharp.

Again, the camera is set with HDR+Auto mode on. To see why the Pixel's HDR mode is unique, check out our deep dive here.

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Inside the Taco Shop at Underdogs

Though you can't really tell, this taco shop was dimly lit, though there was light coming in from the open door behind me.

If you want to know how to get the most out of your the handset's camera, check out CNET's eight essential Pixel camera tips.

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Ain't nothing but a hound dog

Unsurprisingly, this basset hound was a slow mover, so it wasn't difficult to snap a good sharp shot.

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The mood at Yancy's Saloon

This bar scene was taken at night, and it was extremely dark. The Pixel managed to brighten up the environment a lot, and you can even see some details in the framed photos in the background.

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50 shades of yarn

The camera was able to capture the subtle nuances in the different shades of grey yarn. At full resolution, you can also see the detail in the fibers. I touch focused the camera at the center of the frame, so the edges are a little blurred to the left.

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Post-lunch selfie

Here, the front-facing camera is used in a dimly lit restaurant. Aside from brightening up the scene, the lens is also wide enough to fit a lot of content in the frame.

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Picking up a pine cone

The camera was able to capture the fine detail of the pine cone.

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A succulent at night

It's hard to tell, but I took this photo at night with little light around me. Though there is a lot more digital noise, this is still a clear shot.

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The greenery at Golden Gate Park

Another easy scene in broad daylight, but the HDR rendering does give it a surreal, artificial look.

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Delicious chips and salsa

This photo was taken in a dimly lit restaurant, but you can still see the fine detailing in every chip and tomato chunk.

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Another look at the chips

Another shot of the chips. The scene in real life was much more darker than this photo lets on.

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Night time in SOMA

Here, the light sources in this night shot are evenly exposed with little light flare.

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Posing at the steps

A regular portrait shot: Skin tone looks even and there's a lot of depth to this picture.

16 of 26 Vanessa Orella/CNET

Great pose, bad Lens Blur

The camera's major weak spot is Lens Blur, an optional mode that uses software to blur out the background for artsy images. However, results are inconsistent, and you can see how wonky it is around this model's hair.

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The nursery at General Store

Another outside shot.

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A close-up shot of the crevices

Close-up detail in a tree bark.

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Looking towards the light

This setting had some tricky lighting as I was facing towards the sun. The scenery, however, looks evenly exposed.

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Setting up shop

A well-lit shot indoors. I focused the camera onto the center bottles of ink in the middle shelf. As a result, the edges are a blurred.

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Flowers in the breeze

Though the flower was moving constantly due to a light breeze, I managed to take a sharp picture of it.

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Street art at night

Though you can't quite tell, this mosaic was taken outdoors at night, with little to no light around.

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My allegory

Here is another scene with tricky lighting. I was inside a cave pointing outward. The camera managed to take a neat shot.

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Prickly picture

A close-up shot of a cactus outdoors. I like the soft focus in the background and you can see a lone strand of fiber (hair?) stuck between the spines.

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A very unoriginal shot

I like how the detailing in the pebbles turned out in this #basic shot.

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Your mega-guide to the Pixel

To learn more about the phone, check out our ultimate Pixel how-to guide for all the tips and tricks.

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