The Google Pixel 3’s camera, like its predecessors, has been at the center of accolades ever since it was announced a month ago. The company for the third year in a row replicated hardware-based features with its software prowess and even went on to say the Super Zoom mode can produce better shots than a real telephoto lens. It’s safe to say, therefore, I was not the only one who scoffed.
But of course, I held my verdict until I had the chance to fairly test it. And I thought what better opportunity to do so than taking it to Kygo’s concert. The lighting will be challenging, I won’t be as close to the subject as I would hope, the perfect shot window will be infinitesimal, and my hands will be shakier than they would normally. Clearly, it seems like a scenario for a phone camera’s worst nightmare. Except, in this case, it wasn’t.
I shot nearly three hundred pictures with the Pixel 3 at the event but the one that really blew me away and made me truly perceive what Google has achieved is this one,
Why? For starters, it was taken at the end of the concert when the crowd’s energy was at its peak which essentially means I was having serious troubles keeping my hands stable enough for a picture. Second, it’s clicked at 2x zoom. And mind you, this is digital zoom, not optical. Third was just how complicated this scene is to capture with all the colors, moving lights, the confetti, bouncing crowd…. you get the idea.
Against all odds, though, the Pixel 3 managed to fabricate an outcome which not only seems like someone froze the exact moment and turned it into a digital file but also, is an apt picturization of how far Google has come by concentrating most of its resources on software. The dynamic range is nearly perfect, you can easily make out details of both the vivid lights, the flames in the air, and the people going wild at the stands. All of that at 2x digital zoom and a single camera sensor.
Even if you get up and close with the image, you wouldn’t be able to find any signs of grains or over processing which is simply a spectacular feat of engineering. To understand the level of zoom here’s roughly the same picture taken from where I was standing,
The way Google has made Super Zoom possible is rather intriguing as well. Similar to the HDR+ mode, whenever you try to click a zoomed image on the Pixel 3, the camera app will capture multiple shots. The difference in these images is that they’re taken from varying positions. How? In the case of zoomed in pictures, even the slightest hand movement is enough for a different angle. Therefore, Google is basically using your hand shakes to collect more information and compose a photo with much more details.
So what happens when your hands are too stable or perhaps you’re employing a tripod? Well, this is where it gets significantly more interesting. In such scenarios, the lens would physically wiggle a bit to mimic hand tremors. Here’s a GIF to watch it in action,
What’s more, Super Zoom was not the only new camera mode which surprised me on the Pixel 3. I’m also sold on the secondary wide-angle selfie camera which, unlike other similar implementations, doesn’t compromise on quality and is seamlessly integrated into the app. The audio in videos has also been improved dramatically from the Pixel 2 thanks to the stereo mics. In addition, Motion Autofocus allowed me to dynamically lock focus on subjects which otherwise would have gone out of it in clips.
The Pixel 3, in spite of featuring the same camera hardware on its predecessor, is a substantial step up. Google’s aggressive efforts in software has allowed it to deliver much more impressive results and the Pixel 3 proves that. In spades. To learn about the rest of the Pixel 3’s aspects, here’s our review.