When talking about smartphone cameras, the conversation inevitably turns to the Pixel 2. Google’s flagship device has been lauded for producing terrific pictures thanks to market-leading machine learning and processing algorithms. When you see what it can do, it’s easy to understand why people consider it the best.
But since its arrival last October, a number of challengers have stepped forward. The iPhone X is a worthy challenger, but it doesn’t quite match the Pixel 2’s superlative image quality. Samsung’s Galaxy S9, meanwhile, nearly dethrones Google’s flagship, but it ultimately falls short.
Then you have the Huawei P20 Pro, a device that demonstrates a new level of smartphone engineering. It features an elegant design, smart software, astonishingly good battery life, and a camera that seriously challenges Google’s dominance. But is it better? We want you to decide.
Whereas most modern flagships use a dual-camera arrangement, the key differentiator of the P20 Pro is its triple-camera system, which features a 40-megapixel f/1.8 main sensor, 20-megapixel f/1.6 monochrome sensor, and an 8-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto camera.
In our review, we praised the P20 Pro’s excellent low light performance and smart technology, which work in tandem to produce some of the most impressive images we’ve ever seen from a smartphone. The P20 Pro’s camera works to combine four pixels into one, resulting in photos that are incredibly clean. And it retains that sharpness throughout the photos all the way to the edges.
In comparison, the Pixel 2 sticks with a single 12-megapixel dual-pixel autofocus sensor. It makes some of the best portrait photos around, and its HDR performance is unrivaled. Because of Google’s advanced machine learning, Google is able to achieve a lot with just a single lens.
Both cameras perform about the same. Which is to say, photos are processed quickly, while the camera apps operate smoothly. I’m more inclined toward the Pixel 2’s more spartan camera app, which only offers the basics. But there’s something to admire about the P20 Pro’s camera software, which has just about every feature imaginable.
The gallery below illustrates what both of these cameras are capable of. Of course, the photos were snapped expressly for this comparison, so testing was a little more controlled. I was more deliberate with my shots, rather than spontaneously taking each phone out and snapping photos, which is how most people take pictures.
When viewing the photos, pay attention to things like color balance, shadow and highlight detail, sharpness, and noise. One thing to note with the P20 Pro is that the camera software’s AI assistive feature is turned on by default. The feature will analyze a scene and then automatically select the best shooting mode. That means boosting things like color, contrast, etc.
The Pixel 2’s photos are much more neutral, giving users greater control over editing after an image is taken. Personally, I’d turn the P20 Pro’s AI features off if I were to use that phone as my daily drive. But because the feature is on by default, I left it on for comparison purposes.
In a time when most modern smartphones look and perform alike, the camera is more important than ever. Check out the comparison and let us know which camera you think is better.