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iPhone 8 Plus vs. Pixel 2: Portrait modes compared

by Brandon Russell | October 22, 2017October 22, 2017 1:00 pm PST

When Apple introduced the iPhone 7 Plus, it came with a dual-camera setup, helping to usher in a new way for users to take pictures. One of the standout features was its portrait mode, which artificially mimicked the bokeh effect you’d get from an SLR camera.

With the Pixel 2, Google introduced its own portrait mode, but rather than relying on a dual-camera arrangement, the search giant’s method used computational photography and machine learning to produce the bokeh effect. It’s an impressive feat of engineering that creates some wonderful shots—and without the dual-camera setup.

So, which device produces better portrait images?

We took some pictures around our office to see how the modes hold up. We learned that they’re both pretty good—and imperfect. But the margin of quality is pretty minuscule. When I reviewed the Pixel 2, I loved the portrait images I got of my dog (I’m a little biased there). Unfortunately, in a few of the images we took around the office, Google’s software was able to properly process some of the photos.

I won’t point the images out, because they should be pretty obvious.

What I will note about the Pixel 2’s portrait mode is that it’s far quicker to operate, and I like that the Pixel 2 captures a wider area. The iPhone 8 Plus’ telephoto lens requires you to stand a little further than you might normally when taking a photo of someone (or something), so bear that in mind.

The iPhone 8 Plus does have a more powerful feature-set, too, with the ability to mimic portrait lighting. I didn’t include any of these in the comparison since the Pixel 2 doesn’t have a similar feature.

While the iPhone 8 Plus images look more natural, the Pixel 2 photos are much sharper and did a better job of hitting the right exposure. But, again, the two are super close in quality.

We’ve labelled the images with watermarks to indicate which photo was taken by which phone. You can see the images in the gallery above.

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.