When it comes to smartphone photography, Google’s Pixel phones have generally been regarded as up with there with the very best. Relying largely on exceptional software capabilities, the Pixel 4 has added a heap of new strings to its bow; so, we took it out to see just what it can do.
Before we take a look at the results, let’s first see what specs the Pixel 4 is packing. This is the first Pixel device with a dual-lens rear setup, consisting of the following:
- 12MP primary sensor, with an f/1.7 aperture, 77-degree FOV, OIS and a 27mm-equivalent focal lens
- 16MP secondary lens, with an f/2.4 aperture, 2x optical zoom, OIS and a 50-mm equivalent tele-lens.
The Pixel 4 recently received a DXO Mark camera score of 112, making it one of the top ten devices in terms of smartphone photography; but do you agree?
Google utilises both lenses for a whole plethora of tasks, making use of the data by both for some great pictures in different conditions.
AI-capabilities have long been at the heart of Pixel devices and this continues with the Pixel 4. Fast and accurate auto-focus ensures in-focus shots in all lighting, whilst colours in general are very lifelike and bold.
We’ve been hugely impressed by the images that we’ve taken as even the most intricate of areas are sharp and importantly, you can shoot in photographer-friendly formats such as RAW.
The HDR capabilities of Pixel devices have always been impressive and the Pixel 4’s HDR+ capabilities are so quick that it can adjust in real time, rather than waiting for you to physically take the image and weaving exposures together. The HDR preview is pretty accurate and effectively keeps details from darker areas without losing the associated shadow.
A new dual-exposure control is brilliant and allows you to manually adjust brightness and shadow brightness at the same time. The result is really effective and still retains all those important details.
Google’s new telephoto lens gives you the option of 2x optical zoom which produces the quality imagery that you might expect. However Super Res Zoom, as seen on previous Pixel models, has also been included for magnification at up to 8 times.
This is entirely software powered and whilst other digital zoom techniques work by up scaling a crop of a single image, Super Res Zoom merges several frames into one high-resolution picture. The result is fantastic and significantly sharper than many other similar devices. Colours are still impressively lifelike and there’s still such a fantastic amount of detail.
When taking portrait images with bokeh, the overall image quality is generally very good. With such smart software, these shots can be processed extremely quickly, which is vital when considering the fine margin between a blurred image and a fantastic shot. As expected, these smarts work most effectively when these is a clear edge to a subject, whilst the Pixel 4 is also able to add more natural blur to distant subjects.
The lack of a dedicated depth-sensor does put it at a slight disadvantage, but on the whole, portrait photography on the Pixel 4 is very good with pleasant exposure and skin tone rendering.
Night Sight Mode & Astrophotography
Google’s dedicated Night Sight Mode has won praise in previous Pixel devices and the results of the Pixel 4 are similarly outstanding.
Night Sight has its own option within the camera app and works by taking several snaps of the same image. Indeed, if your device is still, more time will be spent capturing available light. If your Pixel 4 is moving or if there is movement within your scene, then AI smarts will use shorter exposures, capturing less light to minimise blur. The results are extraordinary, picking out fine details that can barely be spotted with the naked eye.
Astrophotography Mode is however new to Pixel devices and captures the stars in a similar way, however, requires your Pixel 4 to be completely still. This is because it spends up to 4 minutes capturing sixteen 15-second exposures to capture maximum light, producing astrophotography that is usually only seen from DSLR. Here at Clove, we’re based in a town with significant light pollution, so the results were outstanding, all things considered.
If selfies are more up your street, then interestingly, the Google Pixel 4 has ditched the second front lens in favour of a single shooter. This is an 8MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture and a 22mm-equivalent focal lens. Whilst you may have lost the wider secondary lens of the Pixel 3, this lens is set to a 90-degree field of view, which is noticeably wider than the standard 70-degree so you should still be able to fit more people into shots.
There are slight depth estimation errors when shooting within portrait mode that can tend to blur out the odd strand of hair or earlobe, but in general selfies are good with a wide dynamic range and true to life colouring.
Moving onto video and the Google Pixel 4 is capable of shooting 4K video at only 30fps. Stabilisation is excellent thanks to a gyro-based stabilisation system, but colours aren’t as lifelike as you might see from other similar devices.
If you’d rather shoot at 60 frames per second, then you’re looking at 1080p – which many might not necessarily notice the difference! If you want to shoot from the front camera, then this goes down further, shooting 1080p @ 30fps.