Pixel 6 Pro's jaw-dropping camera 7 months and 1,000 photos later: Making me a real photographer?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Pixel 6 Pro's jaw-dropping camera 7 months and 1,000 photos later: Making me a real photographer?

Above are the conventional definitions of "photography" and "photographer", and while they look rather clear, sitting pretty under the thumbnail of the story, their definition has been blurred.

The first photograph ever was taken by Nicéphore Niépce in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France, somewhere between 1826 and 1827, making Niépce the "OG" photographer, as kids like to say. But it's now been nearly 200 years since humans discovered "digital paintings", and, of course, the definitions of "photographer" and "photo" have been shaken up like a salad bowl with the lid on it. The reason?

Smartphones. I know I'm jumping ahead of the entire camera revolution, which involves things we can't even imagine, as well as dry plates, film, and, of course, the modern-day digital cameras, but it's smartphones that managed to put a camera in everyone's pocket.

Camera phones have changed:

  • What makes an event an event worth being photographed
  • What makes a photographer a photographer
  • What makes a photo a "professional photo"
  • How many photos we take
  • How we preserve photos
  • How we share photos
  • Why we take photos

That's both incredible and challenging, considering that taking hundreds of photos can detach you from your environment, distract you from your actual holiday, etc. But! Today we're here to talk about the good traits of phone cameras!

And what better example of a fantastic phone camera than the Pixel 6 Pro - the long-awaited hardware upgrade to Google's remarkable computational photography revolution! Let's find out if the Pixel 6 Pro made the average Joe (in this case, Martin) a "real photographer"...

Pixel 6 Pro - the most praised (phone) camera I've ever seen...

Before I show you a bunch of photos I've taken with the Pixel 6 Pro, I must say that the inspiration behind this story was the sheer amount of praise and compliments the Pixel 6 Pro received from friends and family during my last trip to Spain. But also, during my other trip to Spain… and my trip to Berlin...

So, why were my friends and relatives so mind-blown? The resolution? The megapixels? The colors of the photos?

Not really! It's because… the photos looked like they didn't come out of a phone. And, no, they weren't able to express that with words, but I noticed the fascination in their eyes, particularly when it came to photos taken with the 4x periscope camera of the Pixel.

Sure, part of it was the sheer zooming capabilities of this camera, which punches way above its weight, but what really made them want "that phone" was the bokeh in the photos.

What's bokeh and why it makes the Pixel 6 Pro's tele lens the best in the business

For those who don't know (including my uncle), bokeh is "the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in out-of-focus parts of an image". In practical terms, bokeh is what makes the subject of your photo stand out from the environment that surrounds it. Bokeh is hardly present in scenes where there isn't a clear subject (scenery, landscape photos), which is why the ultra-wide cameras on your phone don't deliver any of it.

The properties of the Pixel 6 Pro's periscope lens are as follows:
48 MP, f/3.5, 104mm (periscope telephoto), 1/2", 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 4x optical zoom. 

Needless to say, all of this plays a role in helping this camera take pictures that are often indistinguishable from a DSLR photo, but what really matters here is the size of the sensor and the detail it's able to gather. The Pixel 6 Pro has the largest telephoto sensor on any phone (shared with the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and Huawei P50 Pro).

This helps Google's camera gather more light and introduce more background blur (bokeh) into photos at close-mid distances. On the other hand, the pixel-binned 48MP shots make the Pixel's zoom images the most detailed ones we've ever seen come out of a single telephoto sensor on a phone. And it's not just sharpness (which some manufacturers achieve via post-processing, which might lead to an artificial look). I'm talking real detail...

I'm not sure if it shows, but the best and most photos I've taken were taken with the 4x periscope zoom camera. This lens is so good that it just makes you take more and more pictures. If you want a smartphone camera that comes the closest to a "proper camera" photographic look, then this is the one.

My tips for taking "DSLR-like" photos with the Pixel 6 Pro are:

  • Use the 4x periscope camera whenever the conditions allow it
  • Find a subject that stands between you and your main subject - it'll give your photos depth

The Pixel 6 Pro's camera system isn't perfect by all means - the ultra-wide-angle lens must be replaced by a newer and bigger sensor, and the main camera needs some additional HDR, lens flare, and noise-reduction tuning. But the 4x periscope lens is about as close to perfect as I've ever seen on a phone. It's a masterpiece.

In the end: Does one of the best camera phones on the planet make you a "real photographer"?

Yes... and no.

The Pixel 6 Pro's camera system can be so good to the point that it's annoying. I took pretty much all the photos during my last holiday, and there were another 11 people there who just… wanted me to take photos of them with my phone.

So, yes - I became a photographer. And as far as today's trends are concerned, it turns out that I absolutely fit the definition. In fact, probably better than an "actual photographer", since I'm able to snap, edit and share the photos with my "clients" immediately.

And yes, the Pixel 6 Pro can absolutely replace a "real camera" if you know how to use it. Again, especially the 4x periscope lens. For the record, it also depends on what your definition of a "real camera" is.

The Pixel can replace virtually any point-and-shoot camera because it delivers excellent dynamic range, true-to-life colors, great detail, incredible versatility, some of the best video quality on any phone, and some of the best microphones out there - if you're into that.

Can it replace a cinema camera? Of course, it can't. But I've heard there's another phone for that - the iPhone with its Cinematic Mode, which I got a chance to test in detail, and boy do I have some thoughts on it!

Until then… let's wish for a better ultra-wide-angle lens and perhaps a Cinematic Mode on Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. OK, Google?

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