Google Pixel 2 XL camera analysis: Not as good as we expected

By Prasid Banerjee | Published on 27 Oct 2017
Google Pixel 2 XL camera analysis: Not as good as we expected
  • The Pixel 2 XL certainly has a good camera, but there's a nagging white balance issue that we don't like.

The last of this year’s flagships is finally in here. The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are in India, and they bring what have been touted to be the best smartphone cameras in the world right now. We got our Pixel 2 XL review unit yesterday, so it’s been just about a full day with the device. In that time, we were able to take the phone’s camera out for a spin and take some sample shots with the device.

That gives us a chance to analyse the camera and its output. And we must say, for a phone that’s touted to have best camera in the world today, the Pixel 2 XL has been disappointing in some respects. Here’s why.

Note: This is not a review of the Pixel 2 XL. There are a lot of tests that are yet to be performed before we can pass a verdict on the device, including its camera.

Talking about the camera

At the offset, it’s important to mention that the Pixel 2 XL has an excellent camera as far as details are concerned. Whether it’s in low light or in daylight conditions, the camera produces noticeably more details than flagships like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Apple iPhone 8 Plus and others. However, it’s worth noting that the difference between these camera is miniscule when compared to daylight shots.

Shot in low light with Samsung Galaxy Note 8

The Google Pixel 2 XL(₹ 39999 at flipkart) (left) produces a distinct bluish tint, while the Galaxy Note 8 slightly oversaturates the photo. The Note 8's results are more pleasant though

100% crop of photos above, shows that the Pixel 2 XL (left) produces much more detail than the Note 8 (right)

Daylight shot, by the Galaxy Note 8

Both the Pixel 2 XL (left) and Galaxy Note 8 (right) shoot impressive shots in daylight

There's precious little to choose from between the two phones, although the Pixel 2 XL (left) does produce slightly better details

Indoor incandescent lights, shot by the Galaxy Note 8

Pixel 2 XL (left) drastically undesaturates the photo, while the Note 8 is oversaturated, but closer to source

Incandescent light, shot by Galaxy Note 8

Pixel 2 XL for once produces better colours than the Galaxy Note 8 (right), although not by much

On closer inspection you see greater details from the Pixel 2 XL (left).

The book that says "Teacher's Tale" has a slight texture on it, which is completely removed by the Galaxy Note 8 (left)

It all seems nice, right? Here’s the problem. The Pixel 2 XL’s camera seems to have a distinct issue with white balance. In many of our photos, colours of leaves seem undersaturated, while in indoor shots, the camera sometimes produced a bluish tint on the image. While this hasn’t happened in our daylight shots yet, it seems like a regular occurrence in low light and indoor shots. In the image of the Buddha above, the Galaxy Note 8 produces an oversaturated photo, but given that it’s shot under a yellow incandescent light, the yellow tone in closer to source than the Pixel 2 XL’s version.

With the Pixel 2 XL, Google’s focus is on producing true-to-source images, something Apple has always excelled at. But, like the Pixel 2 XL’s display, images seem to be duller than what we’ve seen so far. 

Notice the bluish tint on this photo. The wall on the back is supposed to be white. There's a hue all over the photo.

Although this one's a minor hurdle, flaring up of the lights is not seen on the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8.

Having said that, it’s possible that this is a unit specific issue here. And even with the issue with white balance, the Pixel 2 XL has a great camera just for its details. We’re just a tad skeptical about this being the best camera in the world today.

Other features

Despite having only one sensor, Google used its software prowess to add a bokeh mode to this phone. The Pixel 2 XL uses a dual-pixel camera and it tries to use the two pixels to gather depth data here. While the feature did produce some impressive bokeh's at times, it also failed to blur the background sometimes. The bokeh/Portrait mode is carried over to the front camera as well, which is an impressive feat by Google. It will take some more shooting before we can reach a conclusion about the bokeh mode, but for a single sensor, this seems to be a job well done.

Rear camera bokeh on the left and front camera bokeh on the right

Pixel 2 camera samples

Google Pixel 2 XL full sized photographs

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Camera samples

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 full sized photographs

Google Pixel 2 XL Key Specs, Price and Launch Date

Release Date: 01 Sep 2017
Variant: 64GB , 128GB
Market Status: Launched

Key Specs

  • Screen Size Screen Size
    6" (1440 x 2880)
  • Camera Camera
    12.2 | 8 MP
  • Memory Memory
    64 GB/4 GB
  • Battery Battery
    3520 mAh
Prasid Banerjee

Trying to explain technology to my parents. Failing miserably.



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