Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Google Pixel



The Galaxy S8 has one of the best cameras, but the Pixel has the best camera.

The Google Pixel was crowned by many to be the new camera champ of all phones: Google’s marvelous HDR+ trick in the camera really did a great job. Every image shot on the Pixel by default features this very subtle HDR+ effect for added dynamics. But now we have the Galaxy S8 with an improved camera module and we’re curious to see whether it can capture even better-looking photos.

First, the specs, though: we have 12 megapixel rear cameras on both phones and 8MP front cameras. The Pixel uses a 1/2.3" Sony IMX378 Exmor RS sensor with 1.55-micron pixels and an f/2.0 lens on top of that. The Galaxy S8 relies on a smaller, 1/2.6" Sony IMX260 or Samsung S5K2L1 with 1.4 micron pixels and an f/1.7 lens on top. Both record 4K video, but the Galaxy also has optical image stabilization (OIS) that the Pixel lacks.

The camera apps on both phones are rather clean and simplistic, but we find the one on the Galaxy more intuitive and easier to use. The Pixel has different settings in different places, and it’s a bit hard to find what you are looking for, plus it requires a swipe and a few second pause to switch between photo and video mode, which is a bit annoying. The Pixel does not have a pro mode, nor can it save RAW files via the native camera app. The Galaxy S8, on the other hand, does have a Pro mode with manual control over things like white balance, ISO, shutter speeds, etc, and you can save RAW files from it. You can also select lower resolution and different aspect ratios for your images in the S8 camera.

Image Quality

Specs aside, what people really care about is the end result: do the actual pictures look great? The answer is a resounding yes, for both phones. Just after looking through a few images, it was clear that the camera performance on both phones is top notch. But there are differences, and camera geeks will notice them.

Here is the trend that we see: the Galaxy S8 captures images with slightly less contrast than the Pixel, and that have a little added saturation boost. The Google Pixel, on the other hand, has a very natural look – its images have a bit higher dynamics and a slightly more engaging look. The Pixel has more noise as well, though, and detail was smudged towards the edges of the picture, while the S8 delivered impressively noise-free images that were equally sharp across the full frame.

Subjectively, the Pixel is still the camera to beat, with pictures that capture the eye more and have a little more depth to them, but the Galaxy S8 definitely gets very, very close in terms of image quality.

These are also two of the best front cameras around. Both feature a very similar viewing angle, that is neither too wide, nor too narrow, so that you can capture your selfies with just enough context about the place you visit, or with a group of people. The Galaxy S8 front cam now features auto focus and delivers pictures with a slightly blurred out background that makes your subject pop, while the Pixel has no background blur and everything on it looks a bit more flat. In terms of colors, the Galaxy tends to burn the highlights, while the Pixel does better with dynamics and delivers a more balanced picture. The Pixel is also the sharper of the two, and we mean sharp in a good, natural way.

Video quality

Both the S8 and the Pixel support 4K video, with similar quality as in images: the S8 has a little less contrast and saturation, but it’s also a little bit brighter and better for low light shooting.

Video stabilization is a key aspect of hand-held smartphone videography, and both phones offer stabilization, but in a different way. The S8 features optical stabilization that contributes to more stable videos but also comes with a typical jello effect to videos that is particularly noticeable at the edges and overall the stability of the videos is decent, but not great. The Pixel does a much better job stabilizing shots despite its lack of OIS. It uses an electronic stabilization feature that crops a bit in the frame, but delivers very solid, natural looking stability to your footage.

On a positive note, focus is extremely fast and reliable on both phones. Both phones adjust to varying exposure with a smooth, gradual response which is nice. Overall, we would give the Pixel the slight edge in terms of video recording prowess, but again, the S8 is very close behind.

Sound quality

You have a single bottom-firing loudspeaker on both phones and both sound above the average for a phone. That is to say they are fairly clean and louder than many others, with more definition and fuller sound profile. That’s great news for those who watch a lot of video on Facebook and/or YouTube without bothering to put headphones on. Which one is better? It’s hard to pick, so let’s just say they are on par.


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