Google's Pixel and Pixel XL have a very special new camera: here is why

Starting today, Google is entering the phone market with its first two phones: the 5" Google Pixel and the 5.5" Google Pixel XL.

Packed to the gills with the latest and most powerful specifications, these phones are meant to show not just processors and hardware firepower, but the best of a new type of Google, a smarter search engine that is also a personal assistant. 

On top of that, Google says the Pixel phones have some of the very best cameras on a handset. Is that really so? Let's take a look at the camera of the new Pixel phones.

First off, both phones have the absolutely same cameras: working the camera magic is a 12-megapixel Sony IMX378 image sensor with large, 1.55-micron pixels and a fairly wide, f/2.0 aperture. And while there is no secondary rear camera here (akin to the one on the new iPhone 7 Plus, for instance, or the Huawei P9), there is something quite magical going on behind the scenes.

That special sauce is HDR+, a high-dynamic range shooting mode that makes it possible to capture extremely wide and beautiful color, even in very challenging lighting conditions. HDR photography is not something new per se, though: most phones these days have it and it all works in a similar manner.

The real difference with Google's new Pixel phones, however, is that the HDR+ mode is a very subtle effect that does not introduce any huge contrast or saturation boosts. And it's also enabled by default for every picture. The latter is a big deal: HDR is also a huge challenge to the processor of a phone. An HDR image is captured as the phone captures multiple regular images and layers them together, and what this means is that it usually results in slow capturing of images and ghost-like effects when shooting moving objects.

Google claims to have made what looks like the fastest HDR-shooting handsets out there and that's what makes pictures taken on the Pixel phones so special.

Finally, there is also some advanced software stabilization for videos that makes them look extremely sleek, even despite the fact that the Pixel phones lack optical image stabilization (OIS). All of this combined together, makes for one promising camera. We, for once, can't wait to test it in detail in the very near future.

source: Google



2. nate358

Posts: 63; Member since: Dec 24, 2013

Wait, what? No OIS!?!


Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

No need. I find that good EIS works better for videos that standard or even top-shelf OIS. The fact that this thing uses the gyroscope to do its job (like the XZ) means the videos should be great. Just look at the iPhones... As for photos, if the HDR is a fast as they say, this thing will not have trouble taking pictures. Besides, a good HDR works better for lowlight than your run of the mill OIS.

24. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

LG V20 has both EIS and OIS, and with DIS too. The Pixels' EIS might be great, but OIS still matters in videos, and especially when it comes to photos. HDR can't perfecly replace a hardware stabilization in all scenes, regardless of however fast the HDR might be.

25. combatmedic870

Posts: 986; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

You have no idea what your talking about. Top shelf ois can give you more then 5 stops. HDR doesn't make up for the lack of shutter speed. A blurry HDR better then a clear non HDR?


Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Tell that to the people that own the 6P. Tell them how insufficient their HDR+ lowlight shots are. If this is as fast with HDR as they claim, it won't be blurry unless you've got Parkinson's.

41. combatmedic870

Posts: 986; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

But.... HDR have nothing to do with low light. Do you even know what HDR means?!?

29. dimas

Posts: 3420; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Supersaf to the rescue. In the future if he gets a pixel phone, of course.

3. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

Spec wise, the phone is damn good. But why would I buy this phone over, some of the other devices this year? Note 7's iris scanner? Apples 3D Touch? Motorolas mods? LG's dual lense camera? And this is.... the best camera? Ok, maybe I'm asking for too much but how does it differentiate from other smartphones?

9. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Good at DXO mark look at the picture they taken.. Never saw this level of quality from any smartphone ever... S7 and LG G5 and IPhone 7 look like s**t compared.. Then you have a fully integrated experience its truly 100% google. But to be truthful the camera is just out of this world. I hope its will be available as a demo phone ( half price ) from the carrier i work for.

11. John-Knotts

Posts: 380; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

Um lol

43. ShaikhJGI

Posts: 361; Member since: Jan 10, 2014

Ok S7 Edge got 88 Points in DXO & this one got 89 Points. Just a matter of 1 point is s**t for you huh??

4. Rich123

Posts: 88; Member since: Oct 30, 2014

PA's specs say OIS. Is this hardware OIS or software averaging of multiple shots?


Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

It uses the gyroscope, so technically it is OIS, but in reality EIS is the more honest thing to call it.

5. SuperAndroid507

Posts: 361; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

That's Sony, making outstanding imaging hardware everybody else make good use of, except....... Themselves....

7. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

There X performance was on top and the XZ preserves the most detail as well, even with its wide angle lens!


Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Picture sample's are meehhhh not that awesome! Pictures have noise and gets blurry when zoomed in just a overall just meeehhhh Price is to high for such an Android phone!

10. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Go see on DXOmark they made sample picture in the review.. Its just crazy good.


Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Euhm I checked the pictures on DXOMark before I posted! Btw DXOMark is not reliable!

37. TerryTerius unregistered

And you say that because?

40. iushnt

Posts: 3157; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

Because they didn't give iPhones top scores..

8. torr310

Posts: 1703; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

I also always have the HDR enabled on my Galaxy S7 and I love the result of the HDR pictures.

13. zeppo

Posts: 200; Member since: Jul 21, 2015

Put fanboyism aside, this is the best smartphone camera currently until next year.

14. shield

Posts: 869; Member since: Sep 12, 2015

f/2.0 :D S7/E/N7 f/1.7, LG V20 f/1.8... Pixel and Pixel XL EIS no OIS :D LG V20 EIS, DIS and OIS. Axon 7 EIS HIS and OIS :D Fake 89score on dxomark no better low-light photo.

16. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

The sensor, quality of the lenses and software are the most important factors anyways.

23. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

That still doesn't rule out the importance of OIS. A smartphone can have both the EIS and OIS. Heck, some smartphones not only have both EIS and OIS, but also DIS or HIS as well.

28. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

True, everything helps, and I would rather have a camera hump than a flat camera without OIS.


Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

You do realize that Electronic Image Stabilization is the same this as Digital Image Stabilization, don't you? Please stop making up things. You act like OIS is what determines a good photo. It, like other aspects, helps. I'd rather Google perfect everything else and forget OIS, than to pack it in and implement it poorly like the Mi5 and OnePlus 3's wobbly video.


Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

I also believe that dxomark score is bogus!

26. combatmedic870

Posts: 986; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

A 2.0 lens vs a 1.8 and 1.7 lens is negligible(1/4 stop) . Especially since the sensor is larger.

19. Rich123

Posts: 88; Member since: Oct 30, 2014

Ah, ha!'s article Google Pixel: "A great DXOMARK score doesn’t mean “The best smartphone camera”". Explains OIS or lack of. Its all in the HDR+ mode. Averaging of multiple images.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless