Google announces the Pixel 2: DxO testing shows it outperforming the iPhone 8 Plus


posted Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 2:05 PM EDT


This morning Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL, the latter bringing most of the visual changes to the popular Android-based smartphone. In fact, the Verge is reporting that unless you look really carefully, it's hard to tell the difference between the original Pixel and the Pixel 2. Though there are a bunch of things to look at with the new phone, like "Active Edge" and an always-on display, the camera, like with the original Pixel, seems to be Google's main objective for performance. They provided the camera to DxO prior to the announcement, and that team has rated it a 98, which bypasses the camera on the iPhone 8 Plus, which got a 94.

The Pixel 2 has what Google is calling a "dual pixel sensor," which you should not confuse with what Canon is doing with the autofocus on their cameras (who am I kidding, of course, it's confusing). The Google dual pixel sensor apparently divides every pixel in two and allows them to get several benefits out of the arrangement. For example, they can do a "portrait mode" effect with fake bokeh without using two different cameras to achieve the effect. Instead, the split pixels act like a second camera to create the blurred background effect. Google can also use that same data to create a depth map of an image and use that to help identify foreground and background effects, and allow the camera to blur out everything except the subject (this works on both people and objects). One might also extrapolate that the tech may have "Lytro-like" possibilities, for focusing on different areas of an image after the photo is taken. 

Google is also rolling out their version of "Live Photos," one of my personal favorite features of the iPhone. They are called "Motion Photos," and they work basically exactly like Live Photos do. The Pixel will record a three-second clip around each photo and include it with the picture on your Pixel. What the Pixel is also supposed to do is intelligently know when parts of the clip aren't wanted and automatically cut them out (like when you quickly move the camera away from the subject or jam it back into your pocket). 

In DxO's evaluation of the camera, which we encourage you to read in its entirety here, they found that it has excellent dynamic range in all lighting conditions, excellent autofocus, and very good white balance in both indoor and outdoor settings. It also had great detail preservation, the flash was really good, and they liked the way the phone rendered bokeh. On that last note, one of the example images clearly had a problem with hair (which is a current issue on my iPhone 7 Plus) while in the iPhone 8 Plus image used to compare against it, there was no problem. I figure this is probably a mixed bag in real-world uses, and likely both Google and Apple have more work to do with their tech's ability to understand when to start blurring when it comes to hair and glass objects. 

DxO did find that the phone wasn't perfect, having some issues with flare and flickering, detail loss in medium to long range zooms, artifacting in portrait mode, and loss of detail in low light. Overall though, they found it to be the best smartphone camera they have ever tested, which is good news for fans of the original Pixel. 

What do you think? Going to pick one up? Let us know in the comments below.