Google Pixel 3 XL Review-in-Progress – The Camera 9.5/10
Last week, our good friends at Google Canada sent us a #GiftFromGoogle that included a Google Pixel 3 XL, a Google Pixel Charging Stand, and the Google Pixel 3 XL official case. Over the past few days, we’ve been putting the phone through its paces, and are happy to say that overall, we are incredibly impressed with the latest from Google. While we haven’t had the device long enough to put a final score and verdict on it quite yet, we wanted to talk about a few of our favorite feature so far and scoring them individually, beginning with the all new Camera features.
Super Res Zoom
My biggest beef with cell phone cameras has been the inability to zoom in on a desired subject and take a quality picture. With most devices, zooming in quickly distorts and reduces the quality of the desired image, making you wonder why the feature exists at all. Enter Super Res Zoom on the Google Pixel 3, which provides zoomed shots without the crap quality image.
Ironically, Google is using the slight movement in your hands when snapping photos to take a series of slightly different photos, after which the machine melts them all down into one image with superior quality, all of which is done without a proper zoom lens.
The Google Pixel 2 made huge strides when it came to the effectiveness of Google’s camera, and with the release of the Pixel 3, things have been greatly enhanced once again. What the Pixel 3 is really leveraging this time around is machine learning and optimization, which will take multiple photos when you shoot your shots, and recommend the best of the bunch to you for your selection. It’s something I wasn’t sure would work well, but has been amazing in the little time I’ve been using it.
Top Shot is what Google is calling this little feature, and although they aren’t the first to leverage this type of technology in their smart phones, they are doing it better than the rest, in my opinion. Top Shot will shoot many frames in succession, and then grab a few that the phone things are optimal, and highlight those for you. The bursts of shots will quickly add 15-20 pictures to your library, but a quick scroll after the shot allows you to chose your favorite (or favorites) of the bunch, discarding the rest.
Why is this so handy? I’ve learned that when taking pictures of my kids, getting a good shot is almost impossible. One kids is picking his nose, the other has turned his head. It’s generally a disaster. With Top Shot, I can now look through a burst of photos and hopefully find one where both kids are presentable. It might not always work – as you are still relying on your subjects to smile and look at the same time – but it does give you a better chance of capturing the right moment. And who knows, you might catch something else that is creates a lasting, positive memory, without intending too!
The way Top Shot works is that the phone will be looking for a number of key components to recommend the right picture. Is the subject even looking at the camera when the picture is shot? Can we see the subjects eyes, or are they blinking in certain frames? Using these, along with other general criteria, allows the operating system to highlight the most optimal photos. This is a time saver for sure, and a feature I won’t want to live without regardless of what phone I am using.
Group Selfie Cam
My family takes yearly trips to Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line, and one thing we love to do is take family selfies in front of iconic Disney landmarks. On most cell phones, trying to get everyone to fit into a selfie can be a bit of work, and getting a good, quality picture is something of a rarity. With the Google Pixel 3 XL, we will be able to leverage a new feature called Group Selfie Cam, which allows users to leverage a wide angle camera for those hard to take, large group selfies.
This is so effective because of Google’s dual 8 megapixel cameras on the front of the device, which is an uncommon sight in the mobile marketplace. So often, front facing cameras take a back seat to rear facing cameras, but with the popularity of the selfie, Google is doing what consumers really want: The ability to take great photos using BOTH sides of their phones.
Ultimately, all the gimmicks don’t matter if the quality of the images isn’t up to par. While you definitely are not getting actual camera quality pictures, you are getting something that is pretty close, and definitely tops other recently released smart phones. While some images get a bit distorted when using some the Super Res Zoom and the wide angle lens for selfies, they are still better than your average smartphone pictures, so Google deserves a lot of credit for what they have done.
These are only a few of our favorite camera options on the Google Pixel 3 XL, but there are many more. What we can say with confidence is regardless of which side of the phone you are using, and whether you are zooming in on an object, the quality of the photos you get are second to know one in the mobile industry. Google is leveraging the “smart” in “smartphone” to provide better pictures than ever, and our early time with the device tells us it is paying off!