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iPhone vs. Pixel: photos

Here are the results of our shoot-out between the Google Pixel 2 and the iPhone 8 Plus at San Francisco's Pier 39. 

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana / CNETRead the article
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Landscape -- Pixel 2

The iPhone 8 Plus and the Pixel 2 use high dynamic range (HDR) image processing, combining multiple frames taken in quick succession into a single image. Landscapes on the Pixel 2 look brighter and sharper up close. 

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Landscape -- iPhone 8 Plus

But the vibrant colors and greater contrast on the iPhone's shot of Alcatraz make it seem more dramatic.

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

People -- Pixel 2

The same can be seen in this shot. The Pixel's is brighter with more accurate colors and details.


People -- iPhone 8 Plus

But the iPhone's shot appears to have more detail because of the greater contrast and color.


Zoom -- Pixel 2

But the downside of having one lens is that the Pixel 2 only has a digital zoom and the shot of Alcatraz at 2x looks washed out and grainy relative to the iPhone's.


Zoom -- iPhone 8 Plus

The iPhone uses the telephoto lens to zoom in on a shot without sacrificing image quality at 2x as you can see in this shot.


Close-up -- Pixel 2

This shot of the salt looks good, until you see the same result on the iPhone. The color of the salt is more accurate here, but you start to loose detail on the grains at the top.


Close-up -- iPhone 8 Plus

The greater contrast and saturation favors this shot and makes the grains of salt look sharper.


Portrait mode -- Pixel

When the Pixel 2 gets it right, it can produce even better portraits than the iPhone 8 Plus. The colors in this shot of Frisco Fred are more accurate, there's more detail in his face, and I liked having a wider angle to chose from.

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Portrait mode -- iPhone

The blurred background effect around his face looks good, but the hues are too warm and the card in his had is not in focus.

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Portrait mode -- Pixel (fail)

But the iPhone was a lot more consistent. Many Pixel attempts looked more like this one where the cards are blurred out.


Inanimate objects -- iPhone

The iPhone nailed the effect almost every time even when dealing with inanimate objects like the salmon in this shot.


Selfies -- Pixel 2

Selfies in general look better on the Pixel. The colors are more vibrant and the shot is sharper.

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Selfies -- iPhone 8 Plus

The front-facing camera on the iPhone has a narrower lens and the shot doesn't look as crisp.

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Portrait mode selfies -- Pixel 2

Plus the Pixel 2 has portrait mode on the front-facing camera, although it's far from perfect...


Flash -- Pixel 2

The Pixel 2 uses a dual LED flash. In this shot Lexy's face looks sharp, but the flash gave her a slight red-eye and washed out her skin.

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Flash -- iPhone

The iPhone uses a quad-LED True Tone flash and its new Slow Sync technology which allows for a slower shutter speed and a short burst of light from the flash, together producing a more even exposure throughout the photo. The light here seems more natural and you can see more of the foreground, although you do lose some detail in her face.

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Low light -- Pixel 2

The Mirror Maze looks sharp in this shot and the colors look just as vibrant as in real life. This year Google added a faster f1.8 lens, which lets in more light than last year's f2 model, and it added built-in optical image stabilization (OIS) that holds the camera steady to counteract shaky hands that often spoil shots in dim conditions.

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Low light -- iPhone 8 Plus

The iPhone 8 Plus also did an impressive job at capturing the maze, but it's not quite as clear and there's more noise on the pillars.

Published:Caption:Photo:Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET
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