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Google Pixel 6 Pro Review

Google Pixel 6 Pro Review

Google devices have led the way in computational photography for a number of years now. Reluctant to adopt multi-camera systems for a number of years, Pixel’s popularity among photographers proved empathically that camera software was every bit as important as camera hardware. But as the competition was beginning to pull away in terms of both software and hardware, it was time for the Google Pixel team to step up to the challenge of putting out a genuine Flagship Smartphone contender. With the Pixel 6 Pro, Google has answered many of the criticisms of last generation’s Pixel 5-series devices. Although the Pixel 5 performed decently, it lacked the RAW power, specs and frankly the class that many people were hoping for.

Google Pixel 6 Pro in hand

Google Pixel 6 Pro in hand

Entering a world with semi-conductor shortages playing havoc with gadget release and development cycles, Google had the foresight to shift away from Qualcomm’s popular Snapdragon processor platform and develop its own for the Pixel 6. The logic of bringing chip development in-house is intended to deliver the slickest Android mobile experience available on any device. As well as ringing in significant improvements in power management and overall device performance. Facing stiff competition from rival devices in the form of Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, OnePlus 9 Pro and of course, the iPhone 13 Pro, let’s dive in and see how well Pixel 6 Pro performs as a smartphone for photography lovers.

Google Pixel 6 Pro next to the iPhone 13 Pro

Google Pixel 6 Pro next to the iPhone 13 Pro

Pixel 6 Pro At a Glance

  • From £849 body only 12GB/128GB model
  • 50MP Octa PDAF Quad Bayer wide camera, 1/1.31-inch sensor, f/1.85 aperture
  • 12MP ultrawide camera, 1/2.9-inch sensor, f/2.2 aperture
  • 48MP telephoto camera, 1/2-inch sensor, f/3.5 aperture, 4x optical zoom
  • 6.7-inch (170 mm1) display, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, QHD+ (1440 x 3120) OLED at 512ppi, upto 120Hz
  • Operating System – Android 12
  • Processor – Google Tensor, 12GB RAM/128GB

Google Pixel 6 Pro – Hardware and Design

Starting at a competitive $899/£849, the Pixel 6 Pro comes in three storage options; 128GB, 256GB and 512GB. There’s no expandable storage here unfortunately. All models harness the power of Google’s in-house developed Tensor 5nm process chipset, bolstered with 12GB LPDDR5 RAM. It has a non-removable 5,003mAh battery, supported by 30W wired charging and 23W wireless charging. The display of the Pixel 6 Pro is a bright 6.7-inch QHD+ (1440 x 3120) AMOLED panel, with a 120Hz refresh rate and an impressive pixel density of 521ppi. Comparatively, the top spec iPhone 13 Pro Max, matches the Pixel 6 Pro for display size, but its 458ppi resolution looks humble in comparison.

Google Pixel 6 Pro in hand

Google Pixel 6 Pro in hand

The curved glass of the Pixel 6 Pro’s display will undoubtedly split opinion. Particularly since Apple began to nudge the general trend back towards flat-edged displays with the iPhone. Samsung and Google’s flagships stick with curved edges that smoothly roll off into the frame of their top tier devices. The look is sleek, but it does lead to some shadowing in the edges, slight colour shifting as you angle the device and the occasional input mishap. However, the display remains one of the most attractive I’ve used on any device. Text, images and videos are all rendered with a refreshing richness and clarity that is hard to beat.

Google Pixel 6 Pro cameras

Google Pixel 6 Pro cameras

Another area of a potential clash in taste is the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro’s statement camera array. The Pixel 6 Pro features a triple camera setup, which is housed in a broad black bar intersecting a two toned glass back panel. The look is reminiscent of Thomas Bangalter’s iconic silver Helmet that he wore as the taller member of Daft Punk. It’s a bold approach that calls back to the Google Nexus 6P and sets the Pixel 6-series apart from the competition.

Google Pixel 6 Pro in hand

Google Pixel 6 Pro in hand

The whole device is encased in Gorilla Glass Victus, the toughest glass available on an Android device – front and back – with an aluminium frame. There are three colours available at launch, Stormy Black (Black/Grey), Sorta Sunny (Gold/Peach) and Cloudy White (White/Silver). Whichever colour you go for, the Pixel 6 Pro looks and feels premium, which is a marked step up for the Google Pixel device family. I recommend investing in a case however as the glossy finish of these devices make them prone to slipping from hands and smooth surfaces.

Google Pixel 6 Pro

Google Pixel 6 Pro

On paper, the power and build quality requirements for this device to be considered a flagship are well and truly satisfied.

Google Pixel 6 Pro – Camera and Performance

Each year, Pixel devices are widely regarded as delivering some of the most impressive photo capabilities on any smart device. This year is no exception. Having compared this device directly with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, courtesy of a loan from Vodafone, I can confidently say this device offers class-leading camera performance when it comes to stills. But that isn’t the whole picture, so let’s get into the details.

Wide-angle camera, 1/877s, f/1.8, ISO40, 24mm equivalent

Wide-angle camera, 1/877s, f/1.8, ISO40, 24mm equivalent

The Pixel 6 Pro’s camera array comprises five sensors, including a spectral light and flicker sensor. The main sensor is a 1/1.31-inch 50-megapixel Quad Bayer unit, produced by Samsung. Its lens has an f1.85 aperture with an 82° field of view (23mm equivalent). The device’s innovative ISOCELL GN1 sensor places two photodiodes within a single pixel. Then through software, the device merges the pixel data readings from each diode and merges it into one. This dual pixel technology delivers an effective 100 million phase detection autofocus points. In use, the PDAF system of the Pixel 6 Pro combined with laser detect autofocus (LDAF) is fast in all lighting conditions and consistently outperformed the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Additional Camera Features

  • Super Res (Digital) Zoom with telephoto up to 20x
  • LDAF (laser detect auto-focus) sensor
  • Spectral and flicker sensor
  • OIS (optical image stabilisation) on wide and telephoto

But the magic doesn’t stop there, this sensor also utilises its pixel merging capabilities in lowlight. By combining the data readout of four adjacent 1.2μm-sized pixels, the sensor can quadruple its light gathering power when outputting a 12.5-megapixel file. As a result, images produced by the Pixel 6 Pro have a noticeable HDR feel to them, conveying an impressive level of dynamic range. Detail retention in both shadows and highlights tend to lean towards hyper realism, which won’t suit everyone. This is particularly noticeable in high contrast and low light scenes.

Pixel 6 Pro, Low-light, 1/25s, f/1.8, ISO146, Wide-angle camera

Pixel 6 Pro, Low-light, 1/25s, f/1.8, ISO146, Wide-angle camera

In challenging low light, the Pixel 6 Pro will switch to Night Mode and take a couple of seconds to gather light data. In some situations it will also offer an image stabilisation scope to help you keep the phone extra steady. Although it also has highly capable optical image stabilisation on its main wide and telephoto camera units. After some quick processing, the Pixel 6 Pro can produce an image that is beyond what our eyes alone can see. It’s an impressive trick that finds light where there’s very little illumination to be found. But it’s a tendency that some may find off putting.

2x zoom, 1/1192s, f/1.8, ISO42, Using wide camera

2x zoom, 1/1192s, f/1.8, ISO42, Using wide camera

Unfortunately, there are limited manual controls available with the Pixel 6 Pro’s native camera to manipulate shutter times. It only offers basic sliders for exposure level and white balance. However, it is possible to capture in both RAW and JPEG formats simultaneously if you prefer to process your images more subtly. There’s also a cost to the approach that Google has taken with this sensor, it’s locked to outputting 12.5-megapixel images only, despite the 50-megapixel resolution of the sensor.

4x telephoto camera, 1/218s, f/3.5, ISO31, 104mm equivalent

4x telephoto camera, 1/218s, f/3.5, ISO31, 104mm equivalent

The periscope telephoto camera of the Pixel 6 Pro has a 48-megapixel 1/2-inch Sony IMX586 sensor (0.8μm) at its heart and offers 2x and 4x optical zoom with a maximum f3.5 aperture. There’s little drop in quality when you opt for either of its base zoom positions. I found the 4x zoom, which offers an equivalent 104mm focal length, produced particularly attractive portraits. But it was also good for capturing distant subjects, such as building details. However, I did notice degradation in the consistency of colour and detail representation if you slide between those two positions, say at 3.2x zoom for example.

Ultra-wide camera, 1/669s, f/2.2, ISO52, 16mm equivalent

Ultra-wide camera, 1/669s, f/2.2, ISO52, 16mm equivalent

At 0.7x, offering a 114° (~16mm equivalent) field of view, the ultrawide camera of the Pixel 6 Pro has a 12-megapixel sensor (1.25μm) and a maximum aperture of f2.2. It does a decent job of allowing you to take in landscape scenes and extreme angles of close up subjects. But it doesn’t feel quite wide enough when compared to the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s ultrawide camera with its 120° field of view. In terms of image quality, it’s a similar story with wide-angle images as it is with the rest of the Pixel 6 Pro’s camera performance. Its output is vibrant in good light and frankly, surreal in lowlight. The Pixel 6 Pro tends to lean towards warmer tones in most situations, but I found it to produce pleasing images overall that require little adjustment, if any, before publishing or sharing.

Google Pixel 6 Pro, Motion capture mode, 1/100s, f/1.8, ISO117, 24mm

Google Pixel 6 Pro, Motion capture mode, 1/100s, f/1.8, ISO117, 24mm

A double tap of the device’s power button will open the camera almost instantaneously, even from a locked screen. This means you’ll rarely miss a shot. And speaking of missing shots, the Pixel’s “Motion Mode” makes capturing moving subjects effortless and fun. Combining data from its multiple cameras, the Pixel 6 Pro is able to combine the blur of motion while using AI to detect and freeze subjects. The trick? The Pixel 6 Pro’s 50-megapixel camera runs at a faster shutter speed than the 48-megapixel one. It’s the first time a smart device has introduced a feature that allows me to capture images that I actually want, rather than simply including a new gimmicky function that swiftly gets boring and forgotten about.

Pixel 6 Pro telephoto capture, 1/100s, f/3.5, ISO229, 104mm equivalent

Pixel 6 Pro telephoto capture, 1/100s, f/3.5, ISO229, 104mm equivalent (click to enlarge)

Here's the same picture taken with the iPhone 13 Pro Max for comparison

Here’s the same picture taken with the iPhone 13 Pro Max for comparison, 1/100s, f/2.8, ISO200, 77mm equivalent (click to enlarge)

There’s a raft of other intelligent features that showcase the power of the Google Pixel’s Tensor processor and comprehensive camera software including Top Shot, Live HDR+ and Face Unblur. But Magic Eraser is one of my other favourite features on this device. This AI tool can detect potentially unwanted features of a scene after you’ve captured the image, allowing you to remove bystanders at beauty spots or unsightly road signs for example. Using content aware fill Magic Eraser can seamlessly replace obstacles with AI-generated details that mimic the surroundings. I found results vary, but as an AI-powered feature, it will improve with time. Even at this stage, it’s a clever function to have built into the camera app of the device natively and it’s the best implementation I’ve seen of this technology on any smartphone.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Camera App

Google Pixel 6 Pro Camera App

The only area that I feel let’s the camera of the Pixel 6 Pro down is its video performance. Spec-wise, the Pixel 6 Pro is solid. It offers both HEVC and H.264 formats, 4K-video recording at up to 60fps, 4K timelapse with stabilisation, Astrophotography timelapse and more. It’s not short for features by any means, I just expected the actual look of its videos to match the quality of its photos. Unfortunately, it falls a little short. Compared to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which sets the bar for mobile video, the Pixel 6 Pro is noticeably behind.

Pixel 6 Pro, detail, 1/534s, f/1.8, ISO54, 24mm equivalent

Pixel 6 Pro, detail, 1/534s, f/1.8, ISO54, 24mm equivalent

While footage has elements of sharpness, even in average lighting, traces of image noise muddy darker areas. While colours feel unnaturally saturated and overly warm. There’s no way to dial down the processing on video either. As with photos, you can only adjust its white balance and exposure sliders. To its credit, the Pixel 6 Pro’s video is very well stabilised and good enough for capturing moments to share on social media, but it doesn’t yet compete with the quality of iPhone 13 Pro video, which approaches cinematic. One feature I do like however, is you can switch between using the device’s microphone and a bluetooth microphone. This could be a great benefit for vlogging or on-the-go reporting.

Lastly, if you’re keen on capturing content throughout the day, the Pixel 6 Pro’s intelligent power management and large battery will get you through an entire day out comfortably.

Google Pixel 6 Pro – Verdict

The Pixel 6 Pro is the most pleasing Android device to capture images on and in the rare scenarios where it doesn’t surpass the competition, it at least holds its own. If you’re a keen photographer and want a device that will help you capture beautiful images in a range of scenarios, any time of day, the Pixel 6 Pro is very hard to beat. Considering the Pixel 6 features the same main camera and software as the Pro, only lacking 4x zoom, it may even be the better option at its price (from £599) if you can forgo a telephoto lens.

The Pixel 6 Pro is not perfect by any means and personal preference will always affect how people perceive varying image processing tendencies between devices. But the sensor and software technology at the heart of this device is capable of producing some seriously impressive photos. The Pixel 6 Pro is a device that makes me want to take more pictures, confident that I’ll be getting great results. Having the benefit of Google’s best smartphone features and powerful AI in a device that genuinely let’s me leave my dedicated camera at home when I’m not working is something I’ve been hoping for years.

4.5 stars

Google Pixel 6 Pro Specifications

Google Pixel 6 Pro Selfie camera

Google Pixel 6 Pro Selfie camera

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How to Use Google’s Pixel 6 Action Pan and Long Exposure

How to Use Google's Pixel 6 Action Pan and Long Exposure

The Google Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 camera has several features that help you fake some of the coolest photo styles and techniques out there. Whether it’s removing things from your photos or blurring the background in your selfies, Google’s clever software makes complicated photo effects surprisingly easy. There’s some other fakery to play with on the Pixel 6 range, too — adding motion blur to photos of moving objects.

There are two modes to play with, Action Pan and Long Exposure. Although both rely on your photos having motion in them to work, the execution and end results are quite different. But is the fake effect convincing enough to justify the effort it takes to learn how to use these features?

Where to find them

These modes are accessed under the Motion option in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro’s camera app. Action Pan, “focuses on a moving subject and adds a creative blur to the background,” while Long Exposure, “adds a creative blur to moving subjects in the scene.” Put more simply, Action Pan blurs out everything around something that’s moving, while Long Exposure blurs the thing that’s moving and leaves everything else in focus.

Action Pan and Long Exposure mode on the Pixel 6.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

We can also consider them to be variations of Google’s Portrait mode, where image recognition and A.I. decide what should be kept in focus and what should be artistically blurred out. Both these Pixel camera features have Beta tags, so consider them a work in progress and don’t expect flawless results immediately.

Action Pan

We’ve all seen those photos by motorsport photographers where the car appears frozen in a blur of motion around it, and that’s what Action Pan attempts to replicate, just without the expensive camera equipment and skill usually required to take such shots. There’s no real skill needed to use Action Pan at all, but there is a knack to getting it right. The feature works in the same way whether you use the Pixel 6 Pro or Pixel 6, and the results are broadly similar.

You can use Action Pan with the normal camera, the wide-angle camera, and the telephoto. What you need to remember is to follow your subject as you take the photo, otherwise the final picture doesn’t always add a convincing blur. There’s also a fair amount of trial and error here, and not every photo will be what you hope for. It’s the timing that makes it difficult, as there’s no guidance on when to snap the best shot, especially when the subject is not very close.

The examples above were taken with the Pixel 6. The software saves both a normal photo and one with the Action Pan blur effect added. It’s surprisingly realistic, adding motion blur to the wheels and the body of the vehicle, while keeping the front fender closest to the camera in focus. The background rushing past and the effect on the road completes the look and emphasizes why it’s important to track the moving subject when you take the picture.

By looking at the Pixel 6 Pro’s photos in the second gallery, you can see that there’s no real difference in the effect, but the original photo does differ a little due to the sensors on each phone not being the same. Here’s a top tip to make Action Pan photos stand out even more. Find the picture in Google Photos, go to the Tools menu, and select Sky, where you can adjust the ambience of the image. The version below was taken during the day on the Pixel 6 and has the Ember Sky filter added, making it look like it was taken at sunset.

Action Pan mode on the Pixel 6 with Ember sky.
Action Pan with Ember Sky filter Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Action Pan is fun to use, but mostly if you’re interested in taking photos of cars. It struggles to add the same motion effect realistically to people, cyclists, or animals, which does limit the feature’s appeal.

Long Exposure

If Action Pan is rather limited in the situations where it can be used effectively, it’s no different for Long Exposure. It’s also slightly harder to get the best from it. The best way to explain how it works is to imagine Action Pan but in reverse, where the moving object is blurred out, and the surroundings remain in focus. Professionals take photos of car lights streaking down the road at night or smooth photos of flowing water using this technique.

You can shoot Long Exposure photos using all the camera lenses on the phone, but timing and composition is even more important to get a good photo here. The reason is that the method of shooting a Long Exposure photo is inconsistent. You tap the shutter button, and the camera appears to watch for movement, but it doesn’t always recognize it, so it either stops shooting too early or continues shooting after the moment has passed. I haven’t been able to figure out how to make it work well.

In the gallery above, there is an example of how Long Exposure gives moving water a sheet-like look. This was taken with the Pixel 6 Pro using the 4x telephoto camera. The software keeps the water separate from the pipe and the rocky edge, and you can even still see the fish under the water’s surface. Technically it’s quite good, but I’m not sold on the effect, and prefer the look of the normal image.

The timing issues show up more when you’re taking photos of moving traffic. It’s not a mode where you can just take one photo and be happy with the results. You have to take quite a few, and even then, you probably won’t get many that look good. There are just too many variables, from the movement of the subject to the time the software allows for image capture. You can get an idea of the effect in the examples, which also show how it can have difficulty separating the moving object from the background.

How about at night? Long exposure times are used to capture the light trails of passing traffic, so can Long Exposure mode on the Pixel do the same? It can, but once again, you have to take a lot of photos to get one decent one, and the conditions need to be exactly right to be successful. The photos in the gallery above were taken with both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. To get the best results, it needs to be as dark as possible and as busy as possible. Unlike manually controlling the exposure, the software isn’t great at isolating one vehicle in the photo.

Are they worth using?

Yes, both modes are worth trying out, but I don’t think there is a lot of long-term appeal in either. They’re definitely not gimmicks — the effect can be very convincing — but only a niche audience is going to make a point of using them. For example, I have found Action Pan more fun to use than Long Exposure, but that almost solely comes down to me enjoying taking photos of cars.

I have not really found many suitable situations for Long Exposure mode yet, and the photos I have taken haven’t inspired me to really try. Unlike Magic Eraser on the Pixel 6, which I believe most people will use at some point, there’s a good chance many people will never use either of these modes more than once. Despite liking some of the results, even I probably won’t use Action Pan very often after I’ve finished writing this article, but there’s no denying how technically impressive the Pixel 6’s motion camera modes are.

Editors’ Recommendations




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Testing the Google Pixel 6 Pro for Landscape Photography

Testing the Google Pixel 6 Pro for Landscape Photography

Mobile phones have been hauling gains in usability for photography and videography year on year. It’s comfortably to the point where a cutting-edge smartphone in the right hands can create images — particularly those that do not require a narrow depth of field — that is indistinguishable from interchangeable lens cameras. The number of megapixels phones have been able to offer has been more than enough for some time. However, we’re beginning to see vast improvements elsewhere, which has elevated phones into a position where they are highly usable for certain types of photography. One genre that lends itself well to smartphones is landscape.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro has a 50-megapixel wide-angle lens, 48-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens. The camera is then supported by LDAF (Laser Detect Auto Focus) sensor for more effective focusing speeds. As is often the case with phone cameras, a lot of the heavy lifting is done by software, and the built-in AI for the Google Pixel 6 Pro is no different. There are a number of modes that allow for creative motion blur, toning, and even astrophotography modes.

In this video, Brent Hall takes out the Pixel 6 Pro on a fully-fledged landscape shoot to see how it performs. Personally, I’m impressed. What do you make of its results?

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Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results

Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results

Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 1

There are two things a camera should have to be good at astrophotography: a large image sensor and the ability to manually control camera settings. Yet somehow, the Google Pixel 6 Pro manages to capture stunning astrophotographs with the press of a single button. The image sensor, though much bigger than previous iterations of the Pixel line-up, is still tiny in comparison to mirrorless or DSLR cameras. But it’s the powerful machine-learning software within that makes the Pixel 6 Pro so good at capturing the stars.

So just how does Google’s latest flagship smartphone manage to produce photos that are star-studded, with minimal image noise and stunning clarity? I decided to put the Google Pixel 6 Pro to the test, focusing on a few key areas. I’ll be taking into account its ease of use, how Artificial Intelligence (AI) processes photos to clean things up, its color handling ability, and I’ll also take the photos into post-processing software to see whether it’s better to shoot JPEG or switch over to RAW — the results might surprise you!

Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 2
The Google Pixel 6 Pro is a low light beast, perfect for astro photos when paired with a tripod.

While PetaPixel has given the Pixel 6 Pro high marks overall and currently lists it as the best smartphone to leverage computational photography, in my eyes, it is also probably the best smartphone you can buy right now to capture night sky images. I realize not everyone buys a smartphone for this ability, but for those stargazers who want the convenience of astro shooting in their pocket, then this smartphone is the one to go for. For my money, the Pixel 6 Pro is not just a stopgap before you reach for a mirrorless or DSLR, it’s probably the fastest and easiest way to capture the galaxies with crisp precision.

Operation

Gone are the days of setting up your mirrorless or DSLR, squinting at the screen as you try to pinpoint focus on a dim star in the sky. There’s no need to calculate aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity, or warm up the lens barrel before shooting. All you need is the Google Pixel 6 Pro and a tripod.

Shooting astrophotography with the Pixel 6 Pro is an absolute doddle. There are two options for shooting in low light with the smartphone: Night Sight mode and Astrophotography mode. They each aim to overcome specific problematic shooting conditions.

Night Sight, which has been around on Pixel smartphones since 2018, works by using Artificial Intelligence to create well exposed low light scenes when shooting handheld. It looks for camera shake blur, motion blur, and other issues such as high image noise, and then works autonomously to remove them from the final shot.

Astrophotography mode, however, only appears when using Night Sight and the phone is completely still. It’s best to mount it to a tripod (I’ve used the Joby Gorillapod and accompanying phone holder with my Pixel 6 Pro) but you could also just prop it up on a rock.

Here are how to access both features:

Night Sight Mode

  1. Open the Camera app
  2. Swipe between modes at the bottom of the screen, navigating to the Night Sight option
  3. The shutter release icon will turn into a crescent moon, tap this and hold the phone as steady as you can while it captures the photo

Astrophotography Mode

  1. Navigate to Night Sight as above
  2. Make sure the phone is on a tripod or propped up against something and remains completely still
  3. The crescent moon shutter release icon turns to stars, tap it to capture an astrophoto
  4. Wait up to four minutes for the exposure to finish

One thing I really like about the astrophotography mode is that it displays a countdown timer on the screen. By counting down the exposure time, the average user is free to think about other things, rather than concentrate on technical settings such as shutter speeds and ISO. For pros who like shooting in manual mode this lack of control might be a little frustrating, but let’s face it, if you’re going to be shooting professional-grade astro images you’re not going to be relying on a smartphone.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 3
A helpful on-screen countdown timer makes it simple to keep track of longer exposures.

Another great feature is the level which appears when the phone reaches near-level. It appears as two lines, one labelled by degrees of how far out of alignment the phone may be. If you hit 0 degrees (completely level) then the Pixel vibrates slightly which makes it easy to get horizons dead straight without faffing.

Color Handling

Overall, color handling is good in the Pixel 6 Pro. The majority of the time the white balance is spot-on and does an excellent job at riding the fine line between reducing light pollution and keeping colors realistic. Occasionally though, it’s a little inconsistent. Swivel the camera round and take four or five different astro shots and you’ll likely end up with two or three different white balances. For example, a shot including the skyline of a distant city will produce a much warmer photo than one taken straight up at the stars with no foreground.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 4
Unprocessed
Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 5
DNG Processed: Due to light pollution the original JPEG image contains lots of magenta and orange in the lower third of the frame, a little color correction in Lightroom Classic and the problem is gone

Tapping the scene while shooting provides on-screen sliders to control highlights, shadows, and the color temperature. Though, if you’re in astro mode the movement from the vibrations from the tap will likely send it into Night Sight mode, so you’ll have to wait a few more seconds before it switches back. It’s a shame that the astro mode isn’t an option you can lock into like Night Sight is, and is definitely something I’d like to see added in a future update.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 6
Color temperature can be adjusted through a slider when tapping on the screen, but there’s no specific Kelvin scale control for cohesive white balance through a series of images.

JPEG vs RAW

The magic of Google’s new Pixel phones cameras isn’t in the hardware, even if it’s been updated for the latest line-up, but rather resides in the sophisticated AI-powered software that processes the images. I’m incredibly impressed by the Pixel 6 Pro’s JPEG handling when shooting astro as it reduces image noise astonishingly well, balances colors evenly, removes color artifacts, and also applies lens corrections to remove vignetting and lens distortions.

However, the phone does also offer the ability to shoot RAW files alongside JPEG. Normally when shooting any kind of photography, I always opt for shooting RAW and rarely bother with JPEG capture. But Google has done such an excellent job at automatically addressing imaging issues in the astrophotography mode that I’m considering making an exception for the Pixel 6 Pro.

These three photos below show the difference between the Google Pixel 6 Pro’s JPEG image, straight out of camera, a processed RAW version, and those same processed settings applied to its JPEG image. Personally, I think the processed JPEG looks the best:

Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 7
DNG Processed
Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 8
JPEG Processed
Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 9
JPEG Unprocessed

I imported the RAW files to Lightroom Classic and went about my usual processing techniques to remove noise, get good color balance, and let the stars shine, but I found that I couldn’t process the image as clean as the JPEG file it produced on its own. No matter what I did in Lightroom Classic, I was still left with some color artifacts and image noise. That said, I was able to tease out more detail in the RAW files as is to be expected. Sadly though I wasn’t able to make lens corrections due to the fact Adobe has not yet to incorporate the profile into Lightroom Classic.

After synchronizing the settings between RAW and JPEG files I think I actually prefer the look of the JPEG. I think this is all due to Google’s imaging algorithms whirring away in the background tweaking the shots during capture, but if it works, it works.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 10
JPEG Unprocessed
Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 11
JPEG Processed: The JPEG straight out of the Pixel 6 Pro is great, but with a little processing astro shots can look even better.

Areas That Could Be Improved

What is the first thing you think of when picturing astrophotography? If you’re anything like me, it might be a beautiful, wide vista with an expansive sky overhead. The Pixel 6 Pro’s new ultra-wide lens would be ideal for this kind of photography, but unfortunately, astro mode can only engage when using the standard lens at 1x or 2x zoom.

It would be great to utilize the new ultra-wide lens for astro to fit more of the night sky into frame, and perhaps this is something we’ll see in future editions of the Pixel line. Disappointing though it is for the Pixel 6 Pro, it’s not a deal-breaker. As you can see from the example images it still captures a decently wide field of view on the standard lens.

It would also be good to see and set color temperature values when capturing astro shots, which would benefit the cohesiveness of not only a series of shots but also the timelapse function.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Astrophotography Review: Stellar Results 12
A passing car ruins a four minute long exposure as it nears the end of the shot, some kind of lens hood might have prevented this.

The phone is susceptible to some lens flare and glare from light sources, even though in-built software is designed to intelligently reduce this as much as possible. This isn’t much of a problem when shooting during the day, but becomes more apparent with the longer exposures required for night photography. Passing car lights or flashlights easily flare across the lens, spoiling astro shots. While a lens hood would probably be asking a bit much of a smartphone, it would be nice to see some kind of improvement on lens shielding.

Stellar Results for a Compact Camera

A look at the price for the Pixel 6 Pro reveals that it’s extremely competitive at just $899. Price, along with the sheer number of incredible features the Pixel 6 Pro has including 4x optical zoom, an ultra-wide lens, and fantastic low light/astro shooting features means I can’t see why anyone would voluntarily opt for a compact point-and-shoot camera these days where convenience is paramount.

Overall, for a smartphone that can shoot astrophotographs as competently as this, the Pixel 6 Pro can’t be beaten. This is certainly its specialty and it performs extremely well. I’m sure with future software updates we’ll see this pushed even further, especially now that Google has a smartphone with new camera hardware and the self-created Tensor chip living inside.

Pros

  • Astrophotography feature makes shooting easy
  • Excellent processing removes image noise

Cons

  • Limited to four minute exposure
  • Heavy vignetting around edge of frame

Should You Buy It?

Yes, especially if you’re looking to upgrade your smartphone and are thinking of purchasing a point-and-shoot camera for astrophotography. There’s no need to get those two devices separately if you opt for this smartphone, and you’ll probably save a bit of money too. Thanks to the smart processing in the Pixel 6 Pro and freshly updated camera hardware you can easily capture astrophotographs so detailed that the Milky Way and other galaxies, constellations, and more are within reach. And all from something that slips into your pocket.

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Google Pixel 6 Pro Camera vs. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Camera

Google Pixel 6 Pro Camera vs. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Camera

The iPhone 13 Pro may be Apple’s latest smartphone, but its camera isn’t a big upgrade over the iPhone 12 Pro. So where does that leave Apple when it competes with the newly released Google Pixel 6 Pro. The iPhone and the Pixel have long fought for camera supremacy, and if the 13 Pro can’t always best its predecessor, can it at least beat Google’s latest model? To find out, I took both phones out for a couple of days to take a selection of photos, and the outcome may come as a surprise to some.

Camera specs and testing procedure

Before we look at the photos, let’s check the specs of each camera. The Google Pixel 6 Pro has a 50-megapixel main camera joined by a 48MP telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom, plus a 12MP wide-angle camera. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro has three 12MP cameras, with the telephoto providing a 3x zoom, and the wide-angle camera a 120-degree field of view.

Pixel 6 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro camera modules.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iPhone 13 Pro has iOS 15.1 installed, and the Google Pixel 6 Pro has Android 12. All photos were taken back-to-back, and all I did was press the shutter button. Once the shots had been taken, I compared them all on a color-calibrated monitor. You’re seeing the original photos below, just slightly resized to make them more suitable for online use.

This test was also performed at the same time that I put the Pixel 6 Pro up against the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and I’ve previously compared the iPhone 13 Pro with the iPhone 12 Pro in a similar camera test.

The main camera

The pub

Our first photo shows just what a big difference there is between the Pixel 6 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro’s cameras. The Pixel 6 Pro takes a brighter, more detailed photo with greater contrast, better white balance, and far more attractive colors. The iPhone 13 Pro’s photo can’t get close to the Pixel 6 Pro’s, in my opinion.

Main camera photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Look at the additional detail on the side of the pub building and the window in the roof that’s closest to the camera. The wall is bathed in shadow in the iPhone’s photo, yet you can see every brick in the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo, which it exposes without ruining the rest of the image. On the nearest chalkboard, you can make out where the writing has been erased on a regular basis, but this is not visible in the iPhone’s photo.

iPhone 13 Pro camera.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I don’t think the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo is technically bad at all, but of the two pictures, I’d always be happier with the image taken by the Pixel 6 Pro in this situation. It’s pretty, inviting, colorful, and shareable.

The car

This is an odd one, as although this is a photo taken with the main camera on the Pixel 6 Pro, it almost looks like it’s a poor wide-angle shot. It has elongated the car’s body in a strange way, making the back look far longer than it actually is.

Main camera photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The car in the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo is proportionally correct, and although there is a slight variation in the angle I took the photo, it seems unlikely this would cause such a drastic difference in appearance.

iPhone 13 Pro camera.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

However, the iPhone 13 Pro’s coolness remains, and though I like how it makes the car’s paint and wheels look, the overall tone is more realistic and natural in the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo. But because the car isn’t actually that shape, it can’t compete.

The dog

A friendly dog sat with me while I had coffee, and quietly modeled while I took a few photos. Compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo was the clear winner, but it’s a little closer between it and the iPhone 13 Pro.

Main camera photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Yes, the coolness of the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo is immediately obvious, but the scene has been captured in a similar way, complete with very attractive depth of field in both photos.

iPhone 13 Pro main camera.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

But again, the Pixel 6 Pro’s level of detail is astonishing, and the dog’s fur and nose are just a little sharper. Even though the iPhone 13 Pro comes close to it, the Pixel 6 Pro takes the photo I’d want to share, and that’s a very important distinction.

Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

The wide-angle camera

The sun

Not the easiest photo for either camera to take, as I was shooting directly into the sun, but the results are interesting. First, note the iPhone 13 Pro’s wider 120-degree field of view compared to the 114-degree field of view from the Pixel 6 Pro. It may not sound like much, but you can certainly see the difference in the final photo. I used the sun to line both photos up, showing the extra amount captured by the iPhone 13 Pro on the right of the shot.

Wide-angle photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iPhone 13 Pro’s photo has a considerably more silvery tone than the Pixel 6 Pro’s, but a slightly bluer sky, and less noticeable lens flare too. The Pixel’s sand looks more natural, and the footprints are better defined.

iPhone 13 Pro wide-angle camera.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It was a chilly, very windy morning, and both cameras capture the atmosphere well, but the Pixel 6 Pro’s natural tones and colors make the overall photo more appealing, despite the 13 Pro’s wider field of view and striking sky.

The beach

The Google Pixel 6 Pro takes a far warmer, slightly more saturated photo than the iPhone 13 Pro, with its cool tones. However, the iPhone 13 Pro’s wider angle does come into greater effect here, adding drama and scale to the sky and the sea on the right of the photo.

Wide-angle photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I also like the iPhone 13 Pro’s treatment of the sky, with more contrast, some sharper blues, and a moodiness missing from the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo. However, the pebbly beach is captured more attractively by the Pixel, due to those warmer tones.

iPhone 13 Pro wide-angle camera.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

While the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s photo of the same scene was very close to the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo in my previous testing, these are quite different from each other. I struggle to choose which one I like the best, and almost want to combine the iPhone’s sky with the Pixel’s pebbly beach. But because the beach is really the focal point, the Pixel 6 Pro is the winner in this one.

The park

Like the other photos here, the iPhone 13 Pro’s wider angle camera adds greater scale compared to the 6 Pro, and in this environment, the coolness has been minimized, making for a better balanced picture.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Camera vs. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Camera 13
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

However, the fall colors that are starting to show through are more evident in the Pixel’s photo, and the blue sky and less aggressively darkened clouds make it a happier scene and closer to what I saw with my own eyes.

iPhone 13 Pro wide-angle camera.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Overall, the Pixel 6 Pro’s wide-angle camera may not capture the same scale as the iPhone 13 Pro’s, but its warm tone, great white balance, and attractive colors and contrast mean the photos it takes capture your attention more. It beats the iPhone 13 Pro here.

Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

Portrait and macro mode

The sign

This portrait photo was taken with the zoom feature active, which adds a 3x magnification on the iPhone 13 Pro and a 2x magnification on the Pixel 6 Pro. For each photo, I tapped on the screen near the top of the post where it meets the directional sign.

Portrait mode photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Pixel 6 Pro understood the entire sign was the focal point, while the iPhone 13 Pro began blurring out the actual sign part as it extends into the distance. The portrait effect is ruined, and it’s clear an artificial bokeh effect has been added.

iPhone 13 Pro portrait mode.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

In the Pixel 6 Pro photo, the sign is better isolated, but there is still evidence of blurring where there shouldn’t be, so it’s not perfect. However, it has captured the scene more effectively than the iPhone 13 Pro.

The cup

The same problems are encountered in this photo of a coffee cup. Here I did not tap on the screen to take the photo and left the cameras to sort out the focal point and effect. Both understood it was the cup and my hand, but the iPhone 13 Pro seems to treat it as a “flat” item, while the Pixel 6 Pro recognizes the cup is round when it decides what to blur.

Portrait mode photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Pixel captures the strap on my Apple Watch Series 7 more effectively, there’s more texture on the cardboard cup than in the iPhone’s photo, and the edge of my hand is more sharply defined too.

iPhone 13 Pro portrait mode.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Look at the difference in the depth of field effect as well. The iPhone 13 Pro’s blur is far stronger than the Pixel 6 Pro’s, which does suggest it’s tuned more for portrait photos of people, and not really objects. That’s fine, but the Pixel 6 Pro’s better object recognition makes it more versatile.

The chestnuts

The iPhone 13 Pro has a macro mode that automatically activates when you get within a certain distance of an object by switching to the wide-angle camera. The Google Pixel 6 Pro does not have such a feature and is not very good at close-up photos at all.

Pixel 6 Pro photo of chestnuts.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Just like in the test against the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo is outclassed by the iPhone 13 Pro, which sharply captures plenty of detail and color. The Pixel 6 Pro can’t match it, focusing on the very center of the image and adding a distorted blur to the outer part.

iPhone 13 Pro macro camera.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Ignoring the difference in the overall photo, I prefer the colors and tone of the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo, making this photo one of the few times so far where it has beaten the Pixel 6 Pro in this aspect. While the iPhone 13 Pro can take much better close-up photos — an area it also beat the iPhone 12 Pro — it can’t match the Pixel 6 Pro’s portrait mode.

Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

Night mode

The path

Taken in the early evening and after the sun had set, anything beyond the gate post in this photo was in almost total darkness to the naked eye. I selected Night Mode on the Pixel 6 Pro, while the iPhone 13 Pro automatically activated it, and both cameras set the exposure time without me doing anything.

Night Sight photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iPhone 13 Pro beats the Pixel 6 Pro here, delivering a sharper photo with less noise and less blur on the walls and ground when you zoom in. While I do slightly prefer the Pixel 6 Pro’s warmer tone for the ground, the patches of damp and wet leaves do look more realistic for the time of day and conditions in the iPhone’s photo.

iPhone 13 Pro night mode.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Interestingly, both struggle to avoid noise in the leaves and trees, while the iPhone 13 Pro makes better use of the available light, especially in the top right of the image.

The tree

The photo taken by the iPhone 13 Pro is more like what I was seeing with my own eyes, with the yellow glow of the sodium street lighting obvious in all areas. The Pixel 6 Pro’s photo is much brighter, and almost completely eliminates the streetlights’ yellow tint.

Night Sight photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I prefer the iPhone 13 Pro’s treatment of the sky, which is less blue than the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo, and there’s more definition in the clouds. However, there’s a lot more detail in the street on the left of the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo, where you can make out the shape of the buildings, the windows, and parked cars.

iPhone 13 Pro night mode.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If the goal was to capture more information and add brightness, the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo is the winner. If the goal was to capture the scene as you were seeing it, the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo is the winner.

The monument

It’s a very similar situation in our last night mode photo, where the Pixel 6 Pro produces a bright, sharp photo that misses out on the texture and realism of the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo.

Night Sight photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The weathering on the monument and the wall is more defined in the iPhone 13 Pro’s picture, and both provide an almost identical amount of sharpness on the names and dates, which are entirely readable even without zooming in.

iPhone 13 Pro night mode.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This is a hard category to judge. Both produce great lowlight photos, and which one you prefer will come down to whether you want more brightness or more realism. For me, the iPhone 13 Pro’s ability to better replicate what I was seeing at the time wins out.

Winner: Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Optical zoom

The sign

The iPhone 13 Pro has 3x optical zoom, and the Pixel 6 Pro has 4x optical zoom, so there is a slight difference between the photos here. The focal point of this image is the sign, which is made of a mesh, meaning what’s behind it should be visible in the photo.

4x zoom photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This is more noticeable in the Pixel 6 Pro’s photograph, as the iPhone makes the sign considerably darker while emphasizing the text. The yellow text at the top of the sign in the Pixel’s photo is more apparent, and the trees in the background are sharper when you zoom in.

iPhone 13 Pro 3x zoom.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both photos show the sign in sufficient detail to read the text, but the colors and contrast are better in the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo.

The tree

Repeatedly throughout this test, the Google Pixel 6 Pro has shown how it emphasizes colors and boosts contrast over the iPhone 13 Pro, which has a consistently cooler tone and can obscure detail in shadow.

4x zoom photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This hasn’t changed with the optical zoom either, and you can really see the difference in this shot of a tree. The fall colors of the leaves, the texture of the branches, and even the colors on the trees in the background are richer and more apparent.

iPhone 13 Pro 3x zoom.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It’s better at separating the lower branches and trunk from the background, and all this despite getting in closer than the iPhone 13 Pro. Zoom in further, and there’s more detail as well. The Pixel 6 Pro beats the iPhone 13 Pro here.

Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

Overall winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

In my first set of photo tests, it was a close battle between the Pixel 6 Pro and the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but against the iPhone 13 Pro, the new Google phone had an easier time. It only lost one section — the Night Mode test — but even then, there will be people who prefer the brighter look over the iPhone’s realistic atmosphere. However, the iPhone 13 Pro’s macro mode is a feature the Pixel 6 Pro can’t match.

Pixel 6 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iPhone 13 Pro’s camera didn’t impress as much as I hoped when I put it against the iPhone 12 Pro, and I can’t help but wonder how the Pixel’s photos would compare to Apple’s 2020 smartphone instead. The iPhone 13 Pro still has a very capable camera, and it does take some good photos, but the Pixel 6 Pro is more consistent and takes more shareable, more eye-catching photos more of the time.

Editors’ Recommendations




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The Pixel 6 Pro is Google’s Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung?

The Pixel 6 Pro is Google's Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung?

The Pixel 6 Pro is Google's Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung? 14

Google’s New Pixel 6 Pro is the first real “flagship” smartphone from the company and boasts the specifications on paper to back that up. But how does it handle side-by-side comparisons against the industry’s leaders?

PetaPixel recently reviewed the new Pixel 6 Pro and found that it finally upgraded its hardware to match its vaunted software capabilities.

“Better hardware, even if the main image sensor isn’t new to the industry, means the software has more to work with to produce those excellent shots,” PetaPixel’s Ted Kristsonis says. “That shows with the Pixel 6 Pro, which puts Google right back in the conversation as one of the best.”

Kritsonis also says that while there is room to improve, this effort is a huge step in the right direction.

The Pixel 6 Pro is Google's Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung? 15

A review from Raymond Wong at Input agrees that the smartphone looks great in a vacuum, but when compared to the iPhone 13 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, there is room for improvement.

“Despite the main wide lens having a 50-megapixel image sensor, the Pixel 6s can only spit out 12-megapixel photos; there’s no way to shoot full-resolution pics like on other Android phones with high-resolution sensors. Most photos look as good as shots taken with the iPhone 13s or S21s. And sometimes, the photos look worse,” he reports.

The main issue seems to be with how the camera seems to rely too heavily on its processing in a way that might be overkill for the much better sensors than have previously been found on Pixel devices.

“Photos can be oversharpened; shadow and contrast detail inexplicably reduced; Night Sight still tends to over-brighten low-light photos to the point where much of a scene’s darkness is wiped out,” he continues. “As with past Pixel phones, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have a tendency to go a little overboard with the HDR processing. It boosts the color in the shadows, which is maybe what you might prefer anyway, but it’s not at all close to what the scene actually looked like. It really comes down to the processing you want.”

Input provided PetaPixel with a few examples that show the iPhone 13 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and Pixel 6 Pro photo results side-by-side in the same environments. Below is one set that compares the main cameras:

The Pixel 6 Pro is Google's Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung? 16
Pixel 6 Pro
The Pixel 6 Pro is Google's Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung? 17
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Pixel 6 Pro is Google's Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung? 18
iPhone 13 Pro

And below is another set that was taken with the Ultra Wide on all three smartphones:

The Pixel 6 Pro is Google's Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung? 19
Pixel 6 Pro
The Pixel 6 Pro is Google's Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung? 20
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
The Pixel 6 Pro is Google's Best, But Does it Beat Apple or Samsung? 21
iPhone 13 Pro

There is not anything inherently wrong with how the Pixel 6 Pro renders its photos. When compared to the other two devices, sometimes the photos it makes look remarkably better. However, other times, they look worse.

“My main pain point with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro cameras is that they’re not very consistent. Unlike the iPhone 13 Pro and S21 Ultra, where I’m confident in the shot I click every time, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro cameras feel more like a guessing game,” Wong says.

In short, the Pixel 6 Pro manages to hang with the best and come in at a significant discount but does not quite come in at the same level as the industry leaders. Price to performance might indicate it could be worth it, however, that is something prospective buyers will have to consider for themselves.

Wong’s full review can be read at Input, and PetaPixel’s review can be read here. Both reviews should be helpful for those looking at picking up the new device.


Image credits: Sample photos by Raymond Wong and provided courtesy of Input.

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Google Pixel 6 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Who wins?

Google Pixel 6 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Who wins?

The Google Pixel 6 Pro’s camera has a lot of consumer expectations behind it given the Pixel 5’s success and the new Tensor processor, but it also faces a lot of work to do to compete against the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the best camera Samsung has ever put on a phone. I took both the Samsung and Google phone out for the day to take a selection of photos, to answer the question: Which Android flagship has the best camera?

Camera specs and testing procedure

The Google Pixel 6 Pro’s 50-megapixel main camera is joined by a 48MP telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom, plus a 12MP wide-angle camera. How about the Galaxy S21 Ultra? It was released in January 2021, but still has an enviable specification with a 108MP main camera, a 12MP wide-angle, a 10MP telephoto camera for 3x optical zoom photos, and a 10MP periscope camera for 10x optical zoom photos.

The camera panels of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro side by side.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

For this comparison, photos were taken back-to-back using the automatic mode, meaning all I did in most cases was press the shutter button. I tested the main camera, wide-angle, optical zoom, portrait, and night modes, but not video. All photos have been compared on a color-calibrated monitor, then resized for a friendlier online viewing experience. Do remember this when looking at the examples below.

If you’re looking for a buying guide on the Pixel 6 Pro before diving into the photos, you can find one here and if you want to know the differences between the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, we’ve got that covered too.

The main camera

At the beach

This photo was taken mid-morning with the sun to the left of the photo, with the main camera on both phones. It sets the tone for the images that follow, as the first thing to note is how the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a higher level of saturation in the sky, darker clouds, and a “flatter” sea in the distance.

Pixel 6 Pro beach photo.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There’s a warmer tone to the S21 Ultra’s photo when you zoom into the water and sand in the bottom left, but the seaweed and remaining colors in the two photos are otherwise practically identical. The sky is the only real differentiating part here, and it may come down to personal preference for which one looks best.

Beach photo taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I find the Pixel 6 Pro captured the scene in a slightly more realistic way. It was astonishingly windy at the time, and the cooler tone of the Pixel’s photo better reflects the weather conditions in my eyes. The sea waves have also been better captured by the Pixel, so I’ll give it the win here, but it’s very close.

At the park

This photo continues to show how very close the S21 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro are to each other. The obvious difference is the tone of the sky, with the S21 Ultra adding a steely grey color to the clouds, unlike the more natural grey in the Pixel’s photo.

Main camera photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The S21 Ultra captures the water more attractively though, with more texture and depth, especially in the lower left of the picture. The Pixel 6 Pro does struggle with maintaining sharpness and detail up close, and this may contribute to the difference.

Main camera photo taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The S21 Ultra’s photo is typically Samsung, with its treatment of the sky and green grass, and unsurprisingly the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo is considerably more natural. I’d want to tone down the saturation and contrast a little in the S21 Ultra’s photo before sharing it, but I also appreciate not everyone will feel the same way. That said, I do prefer the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo.

The church

The photo of a church in good lighting emphasizes how both phones take extremely similar photos in normal conditions and where the strengths of Samsung’s camera can sometimes win over the Pixel 6 Pro.

Pixel 6 Pro photo of a church.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The S21 Ultra’s warmer tone really suits the scene, giving the brickwork more texture, and it brings out its age and weathering in a more visually appealing way.

Photo of a church taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Pixel 6 Pro is arguably better balanced, with more detail visible in the front window and when you zoom in on the clock face, but my eyes are constantly drawn to the S21 Ultra’s photo due to its overall look.

Friendly dog

As I sat and had coffee, I was joined by this friendly dog, who kindly posed for a few photos, and the results are quite different from the two cameras.

Pixel 6 Pro photo of a dog.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I absolutely love the way the Pixel 6 Pro has captured this scene, with stunning detail on the dog’s fur, immersive depth of field, and just the right tone and warmth to the colors.

Photo of a dog taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The S21 Ultra’s photo is good, but it doesn’t have the same emotion as the Pixel’s, with less detail in the fur, a shallower depth of field, and less emphasis overall on the photo’s obvious subject, the dog. All the other photos in this section are too close to call, and this one is the only one that pushes the Pixel 6 Pro ahead of the S21 Ultra in a meaningful way.

Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

The wide-angle camera

Beach scene

The Google Pixel 6 Pro has greater consistency between the main and wide-angle camera compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which ups the saturation even more, creating shadows and a lack of detail in certain areas of this photo. A good example is the wooden beach wall in the bottom left of the frame, which shows more grain and texture in the Pixel’s photo.

Wide-angle photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Look more closely, and there is less edge distortion in the Pixel’s photo, while in the S21 Ultra’s photo, the pebbles at the bottom remain natural-looking but oddly elongated. There’s evidence of some edge enhancement in both photos, but it’s more striking in the photos taken by the Samsung phone. You do have to look closely to spot it, though.

Wide-angle photo taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Like the main camera photos above, both are really great, but the Pixel 6 Pro’s lack of distortion is the tipping point for me as it makes the picture appear more natural.

Footprint in the sand

The lack of distortion is again noticeable in this photo of the sand, but it also demonstrates how the Pixel can miss out on detail up close, as the indentation in the sand is more defined in the S21 Ultra’s photo.

Wide-angle photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Leaving aside the distortion, the sand, in general, has more texture in the S21 Ultra’s picture, although the Pixel’s cooler tone is more representative of the real-life conditions.

Wide-angle photo taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If left to choose which one to share instantly, with no editing, it would probably be the Samsung’s photo, as the silvery, cooler tone of the Pixel’s photo is less visually appealing.

At the park

Taken in the same spot as one of the main camera photos above, this wide-angle photo also shows how close the two cameras continue to be.

Wide-angle photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The same differences in tone apply here as they did with the main camera’s picture, with the Pixel 6 Pro’s grey clouds giving the scene a very natural look compared to the blue tint in the S21 Ultra’s photo.

Wide-angle photo taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Pixel’s photo is also much sharper, with the S21 Ultra introducing a lot of unexpected blur in the background. While this may have been down to me, it’s unlikely as the tree on the right is in focus with no blur. Add the minimal edge distortion in the Pixel’s shot — the trees aren’t sloping to the side so much — and the S21 Ultra has to take second place.

Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

Portrait and Macro mode

Coffee cup

I took this photo without tapping on the screen to identify the subject, leaving it to the cameras to work out.

Portrait mode photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both get the color and tone right, although the S21 Ultra really boosts the red in my Apple Watch strap, there’s a lot more detail in the cup itself in the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo. It really brings out the texture of the cardboard compared to the S21 Ultra.

Galaxy S21 Ultra portrait photo.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Edge recognition is also clearly better in the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo. Both effectively isolated the cup — the S21 Ultra had the added challenge of the cup meeting the bench in the background — but a glaring error on the edge of my hand in the S21 Ultra’s photo gives the artificial bokeh effect away immediately.

Seaweed

This shot once again shows how uncomfortable the Pixel is with objects up close, even in Portrait mode.

Portrait mode photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s photo is hugely more detailed compared to the noisy Pixel photo, which also fails to isolate the subject as effectively too, despite me tapping on the screen to select the post this time. It’s not perfect though, with a piece of seaweed floating in midair on the right, which was blurred out completely in the Pixel’s picture.

Portrait photo taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I actually took multiple versions of this photo, all from slightly different angles, and the lack of detail in the Pixel’s photo was the same in each. I’m glad I did, as it proved this wasn’t an anomaly.

Chestnuts

While not shot with Portrait mode, this photo of chestnuts highlights how the Pixel 6 Pro is bad at taking photos close up, and why the S21 Ultra’s automatic macro mode makes the camera more versatile.

Pixel 6 Pro photo of chestnuts.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The camera switched to macro mode when I got closer to the chestnuts, resulting in a clear, sharp, and detailed photograph from the S21 Ultra.

Photo of chestnuts taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Pixel 6 Pro does not have a macro mode, and fails to focus on anything very close at all. It will simply ask you to move further back until it finds focus. As you can see from the photos, I’m at basically the same distance away in each one, yet there is a huge difference between the results. This issue generally lowers the Pixel’s versatility.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Night mode

The bench

Taken in the early evening, about an hour after the sun went down, it was what I would call dark outside. Cars had headlights on, and the streetlights were lit.

Night mode photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both cameras automatically selected Night mode and set the exposure time, and all the photos in this section were taken handheld.

Night mode photo taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This Pixel 6 Pro captures the conditions better than the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but I really like the sky in the Samsung’s picture. However, zoom in and the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo is sharper, and the tone of the grass and the path are much more natural.

The restaurant

Surprisingly, the sky in these pictures is broadly identical looking, but the rest of the Pixel 6 Pro’s colors are far more natural compared to the S21 Ultra.

Night mode photo taken with the the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The pavement and street are actually grey, the yellow car is more realistic, and the white balance is superb. Zoom in and the details are sharper in the Pixel’s photo — the license plate on the car, for example — but the difference in the main content is minimal.

Night mode photo taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both of these are really excellent, and it’s hard to split the photos of the bench either, despite the different look. However, the third photo gives us a winner.

Monster in the tree

While the color accuracy is very good in both photos, and is about the same between the two cameras as well, the Pixel 6 Pro’s focus and sharpness are far greater.

Night mode photo taken with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The S21 Ultra couldn’t quite match the Pixel 6 Pro’s accuracy here, and while there may have been some movement introduced, there are various parts of the monster that are perfectly in focus in the S21 Ultra’s photo, leaving less of a chance the subject was moving.

Night mode photo taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The differences are instead likely to be down to software and processing, and the Pixel 6 Pro clearly wins here. While the other two photos are similar enough to call it a draw, the third image suggests the Pixel 6 Pro will provide more consistent lowlight camera performance.

Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro

Optical zoom

Abandoned building

The Pixel 6 Pro has a stronger basic optical zoom than the Galaxy S21 Ultra, with a 4x magnification compared to the S21 Ultra’s 3x. The S21 Ultra does have a 10x optical zoom, which is excellent, and unmatched by the 6 Pro.

Pixel 6 Pro 4x optical zoom photo
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Getting closer using an optical zoom is not always the best option, and a 3x optical zoom often feels like the best compromise between a mostly useless 2x optical zoom, and a far too strong 5x optical zoom.

Galaxy S21 Ultra 3x optical zoom photo.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Pixel 6 Pro’s photo not only gets closer, but it is brighter than the S21 Ultra’s, and that reveals more detail such as the broken glass in the window. However, the texture and balance in the S21 Ultra’s photo give it slightly more atmosphere.

The pub sign

The Pixel 6 Pro’s excellent white balance shows up in this picture, while the contrast in the S21 Ultra’s photo gives the building more age.

Pixel 6 Pro 4x optical zoom photo.
Pixel 6 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

What matters is the text on the sign, which is readable in both. Zoom in and the S21 Ultra is perhaps slightly sharper, but the difference comes when you look at the window next to the sign. The creases in the curtains are more obvious in the S21 UItra’s photo, and I prefer the look of the brickwork overall, even if it’s not as perfectly balanced in terms of color as the Pixel 6 Pro’s camera.

Galaxy S21 Ultra 3x optical zoom photo.
Galaxy S21 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both these examples look great, but the 3x optical zoom does feel more usable, and there is no loss of quality even when you zoom in. If anything, the S21 Ultra’s zoom photos impress even more when you look closely. Add the 10x optical zoom option, and the S21 Ultra wins here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Overall Winner: Google Pixel 6 Pro (but it’s close)

Both the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Google Pixel 6 Pro are excellent camera phones, taking fantastic photos anyone will be happy with, almost regardless of the environment or time of day. The Google Pixel 6 Pro has taken three out of five wins here, making it the overall winner, something which it has done through its more natural color palette and tone.

Galaxy S21 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Interestingly, outside of Night mode, Google’s lead in features that require artificial intelligence and machine learning has been eroded, with Samsung producing great portrait shots and making an easy-to-use and very effective macro mode. The Pixel 6 Pro’s lead remains, but the gap to the best of the competition is shorter than ever before.

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Google Pixel 6 And Pixel 6 Pro Announced With Upgraded Cameras

Google Pixel 6 And Pixel 6 Pro Announced With Upgraded Cameras

Google has introduced a completely redesigned Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro that have a new distinct look and improved camera technology.

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Google Pixel 6 in Camera Phones

Pixel 6
 

Google has confirmed that the Google Pixel 6 and Google 6 Pro smartphones will be available in the USA from 28 October 28 priced at $599 and $899, respectively. 

The Google Pixel 6 and Google 6 Pro both feature a new design that has a distinctive matt black metal camera band that sits boldly against the smartphone’s body which is made with a polished metal unibody and transitions into curved glass.

Along with a new look, the cameras on the Google Pixel 6/6 Pro smartphones have had an upgrade with both featuring a new 1/1.3 inch sensor on the back. This primary sensor now captures up to 150% more light (compared to the Google Pixel 5‘s primary camera). Both phones also have completely new ultrawide lenses with larger sensors.

Pixels |
 

If you opt for the Google Pixel 6 Pro then, in addition, you get a telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom and up to 20x zoom with an improved version of Pixel’s Super Res Zoom. There’s also an upgraded ultrawide front camera that records 4K video.

New modes built into the camera app include Magic Eraser which, with a few taps in Google Photos, makes distracting objects disappear. Motion Mode also features options like Action Pan and Long Exposure, which bring movement to your shots.

Google Pixel 6/Pixel 6 Pro Camera Specs:

  • Pixel 6 Rear Camera – 50MP f/1.85 wide, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 7x super res zoom, LDAF, OIS, 4K video @ 30fps and 60fps
  • Pixel 6 Pro Rear Camera – 50MP f/1.85 wide, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 48MP f/2.5 telephoto with 4x optical zoom, 20x super res zoom, LDAF, OIS, 4K video @ 30fps and 60fps
  • Camera Features –  Magic Eraser, Motion Mode, Real Tone, Face Unblur, Panorama, Manual white balancing, Locked Folder, Night Sight, Top Shot, Portrait Mode, Portrait Light, Super Res Zoom, Motion autofocus, Frequent Faces, Dual exposure controls, Live HDR+
  • Pixel 6 Front Camera – 8MP f/2.0, fixed focus, 1080p video @ 30fps 
  • Pixel 6 Pro Front Camera – 11.1MP f/2,2, foxed focus, 4K video @ 30fps 

2 |
 

The Google Pixel 6 and Google 6 Pro are powered by Google Tensor, Google’s first-ever processor, and when released, will feature Android 12. 

You can pre-order the Pixel 6 today, which starts at $599 and $899 for the Pixel 6 Pro. The phones will be available on store shelves in the USA from 28 October 2021.


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Google Pixel 6 Smartphones Announced

Google Pixel 6 Smartphones Announced

October 19, 2021

Google has announced the new Google Pixel 6 range with a choice of the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro. Both smartphones will be available from the end of the month, from the 28th October.

Google say “you don’t need a full camera anymore” suggesting a smartphone camera is all you need.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Group Shot

Google Pixel 6 Pro Group Shot

The Google Pixel 6 features 2 cameras on the back, and will set you back £599. The cameras are an ultra-wide and wide-angle camera. The phone will be available in “kinda coral”, “sorta seafoam”, and “stormy black” colours.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro features 3 cameras on the back, and will set you back £849. A 4x telephoto camera joins the ultra-wide and wide-angle cameras. The 6 Pro will be available in “sorta sunny”, “cloudy white” and “stormy black”.

Google Pixel 6 Smartphones Announced 22

The Pixel 6 smartphons are the first to feature Google’s new custom processor called “Tensor” which brings the latest innovations in AI, including powering HDR+, as well as a Portrait mode that includes Face deblur, and an “Unblur” feature that works with people and pets.

Other key camera features include

  • Night sight
  • Night sight video
  • Magically remove blur
  • Object removal: Magic Eraser
  • Motion mode (adds blur, eg waterfall, light trails cars)

Plus Better portraits

The smartphone has been updated to accurately capture all skin tones, in every mode, and in every app, including 3rd party apps as well as video, thanks to improved AI. The camera also offers improved portrait background blur, with better definition in the edges around someone, including hair edges.

Google Pixel 6 Customised to you

Google Pixel 6 – Android 12 customised to you

Pixel 6 Smartphone features:

The Pixel 6 series runs Android 12 which is personalised to you, with improved accessibility, and customised colour palette. The phones feature 24hr battery life, with a 48hr extreme battery saving mode, as well as IPx8 water resistance. There’s a new live translate feature.

The smartphones come with a new Titan M2 security system, and Google are promising 5 years of security updates!

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Google Pixel 6 Series Accidentally Revealed Ahead of Official Launch

Google Pixel 6 Series Accidentally Revealed Ahead of Official Launch

Google Pixel 6 Series Accidentally Revealed Ahead of Official Launch 23

Google hasn’t had the best time thus far keeping the Pixel 6 under wraps since it was leaked with dead-on accuracy in May and more last month, but it isn’t getting any better: a product listing has fully revealed the smartphone a week before its official launch.

As screen-captured and shared by Evan Blass (known as evleaks on Twitter), CarPhoneWarehouse — a London-based phone retailer — appears to have accidentally published the entire Google Pixel 6 landing page that reveals all the details of the phone that has not officially been announced by Google and isn’t scheduled to be for another week.

The product pages for both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro were shared by Blass in two screenshots on Twitter, but the image compression makes the details difficult to read:

The two pages have since been taken down, but the Internet Archive remembers all, and both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro product pages are still available to view through it.

The two pages advertise the new Google Tensor chip that was revealed to be coming to the two devices in a webpage set up by Google earlier this year, so its inclusion here isn’t particularly noteworthy. That said, Google is promising that it will allow the phones to provide up to 80% better performance compared to the Pixel 5’s Snapdragon 765G chip.

The listing also shows that the Pixel 6 will be getting a 6.4-inch display with a nondescript variable refresh rate while the Pixel 6 Pro will get a slightly larger 6.7-inch screen with a 120Hz variable refresh rate that Gizmodo notes is similar to the one found on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro sport IP68 water and dust resistance.

Google Pixel 6 Series Accidentally Revealed Ahead of Official Launch 24

Camera features have always been part of Google’s selling point for its Pixel devices, and the listing confirms a lot of what was speculated in previous rumors. The Pixel 6 will pack a 50-megapixel main camera with a backup ultra-wide that doesn’t show a specific resolution. The listing does show that Google is touting this new main camera to let in 150% more light than the one on the Pixel 5.

The listing for the Pixel 6 Pro is a lot more descriptive, however. It shows that in addition to a main 50-megapixel main wide camera and 12-megapixel ultra-wide, it will also add a 48-megapixel telephoto camera that features 4x optical zoom and up to 20x hybrid zoom thanks to Google’s Super Res Zoom feature. The front-facing camera promises a 94-degree field of view, but specific resolution was not noted.

Google Pixel 6 Series Accidentally Revealed Ahead of Official Launch 25

The Pixel 6 Pro page also shows a graphic that superimposes the Pixel 5 sensor on top of the much larger Pixel 6 sensor, which explains the previous note about 150% more light-gathering capability. While not confirmed, it is likely that the sensor on the 6 and 6 Pro is the same.

Google Pixel 6 Series Accidentally Revealed Ahead of Official Launch 26

While this looks like a set of legitimate product pages, it’s all still technically speculative until Google officially announces the phones, an event which is scheduled for next week. But if what is seen here comes to pass, both Apple and Samsung may have a real competitor on their hands.

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