Google has just unveiled its latest Pixel 4 smartphone, after weeks of leaks. There’s a new face unlock feature, a high refresh rate screen, a faster Google Assistant, and spatial recognition using radar. All of these improvements look great and you should check out our full hands-on for all the details. But Pixel is synonymous with photography, so I wanted to see how the Pixel 4 fared against Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro.
- Main: 12.2 megapixels, 1.4 μm pixel width, dual pixel phase detection, OIS, ƒ/1.7 aperture, 77 degree field of view
- Tele: 16 megapixels, 1.0 μm pixel width, phase detection, OIS, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 52 degree field of view
iPhone 11 Pro Camera Specifications:
- Main: 12-megapixel, dual OIS, six-element lens, ƒ/1.8 aperture
- Ultra-wide: 12 megapixels, five-element lens, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 120-degree field of view
- Tele: 12 megapixels, dual OIS, six-element lens, ƒ/2.0 aperture
Google’s Pixel devices are the ones that have beaten smartphone photography for years, but strong Android competition from Huawei, Samsung and others has recently challenged the Pixel’s camera. We even called Apple’s latest iPhone 11 Pro camera the best on the market in our review last month, so the Pixel 4 now has some serious competition to beat.
I took to the streets of London earlier today to try out the Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 Pro side-by-side. I took all the photos at the same time, as close together as possible to get an identical image just using auto mode on both in-app camera apps. These photos were taken mostly in natural light and on a sunny, overcast day.
We won’t be testing the astrophotography feature in Night Sight or the included high-quality zoom on the Pixel 4, as we’ll have a review of those features soon. We wanted to provide some early real-world side-by-side photos for comparison before this full review to get a better idea of what the two cameras can do. Stay tuned for a full in-depth review where we’ll dig much deeper.
I started in a typical London park, picking the light between the trees and capturing a stealthy cyclist who managed to avoid the lens of the iPhone 11 Pro. Both handsets do a great job of capturing natural light through trees, shadows, and a tiny bit of lens flare.
Next, I wanted to try something with color mixed in with lots of natural light that floods Greenwich Market during the day. You’ll notice that the Pixel 4 does a much better job of balancing ceiling light here, with much less saturation than the iPhone.
One of the most revealing and interesting photos I took today was of a simple plush yellow cushion. You’ll notice the yellow fuzz looks much sharper on the iPhone 11 Pro (right) when you zoom in. On a phone screen, it’s hard to see the differences until you zoom in.
Next, it’s time to take human photos of hair and faces. The Pixel 4 captures the details of my face, beard and skin much better. The colors are a little cold and dark, but those of the iPhone are way too warm. I prefer the details and colors of the Pixel 4 as a whole.
When it comes to human hair, we’ll have to do a lot of testing in a variety of lighting conditions, but the Pixel 4 did better at getting the color right in our sample shots. The detail is very similar once you zoom in on both photos, though.
I’ll leave you with a few more images that you’ll really need to zoom in on to see the differences. The performance between the two during the day is quite similar at first glance. Overall, you’ll notice it’s hard to choose between the two unless you zoom in for more detail. Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro always looks more saturated with cooler tones, while the Pixel 4 opts for contrast in most shots and often looks warmer as a result.
We’ll be fully testing the Pixel 4 in the coming days, so stay tuned for a full review and many more sample photos.
Photograph by Tom Warren/The Verge