While most of the industry has moved to dual- or even triple-camera systems, Google is holding strong with a single lens. What the company is doing is putting resources behind its legendary machine learning technology, which allows devices like the Pixel 3 to use features like Night Sight and Top Shot.
Apple’s newest iPhone XR takes a similar approach. Instead of relying on a dual-camera setup, the device features a single 12MP lens. With a system that integrates the image signal processor (ISP), Neural Engine, and Apple’s advanced algorithms, the affordable device takes some incredible shots—but which single lens device reigns supreme?
We took some comparison photos between the iPhone XR and Pixel 3 to find out. When we compared the Pixel 3 to the iPhone XS, Apple’s device had a slight advantage in that it features a more flexible camera system. People really under-value its secondary telephoto lens, which is what also helps the iPhone XS take such convincing portrait photos.
With the iPhone XR, it’s a more straightforward battle. Apple’s device features a 12MP wide-angle camera with an f/1.8 aperture; Google’s Pixel 3 comes equipped with a 12MP wide-angle camera and f/1.8 aperture. The cameras are pretty similar in execution, so it really just comes down to software and processing.
This year, Apple touted its Smart HDR technology, which promises to bring more detail to highlights and shadows. Additionally, Apple’s camera sensor features larger pixels, allowing the device to take improved images in low light situations. It’s an improvement all around compared to last year’s iPhone X.
Google’s Pixel 3 takes a similar approach, using HDR+ and machine learning to provide users with the best images possible. Not only that, but Google’s device comes with a multitude of excellent camera features, including Night Sight. You can see examples of what Night Sight can do right here.
We took both the iPhone XR and Pixel 3 around our office, and you can see how the camera stack up in the gallery above.
During its iPhone XS keynote, Apple celebrated a number of the device’s new features, including its A12 Bionic chip and the faster Face ID. But the company spent most of its time extolling the advancements of the device’s revamped camera.
The big change this year is Apple’s development of Smart HDR, something Google has mastered with its Pixel series. Through the combination of faster sensors, an enhanced ISP, and advanced algorithms, Apple claims that the iPhone XS can take better images than anything on the market.
To put that claim to the test, we compared it to Apple’s iPhone X, a device that’s a little older, more weathered, but no less capable of producing pleasing pictures.
By all accounts, the iPhone XS’ camera is a significant step up from the iPhone X. In addition to Smart HDR, the device’s sensor is also more than 30-percent larger, and there are depth control features that allow users to control the depth of field after the fact.
Thanks to the larger sensor and 1.4μm pixels, users should notice improved low-light detail, a big step up from last year’s iPhone X. In fact, the camera specs are more in line with Google’s Pixel 2, a phone that came out a year ago.
In our early tests, it’s clear to see that Apple has stepped up its algorithms and processing. As we’ve seen from past Apple device, the iPhone XS takes images that are pretty easy to recognize, with warm tones and softer details. When seen on a tiny phone screen, they look great, but the images will need some post-editing love to really soar on a larger computer monitor.
Another new feature with the iPhone XS is “zero shutter lag” and the doubling of “focus pixels,” what Apple is calling its phase-detect autofocus system. The zero shutter lag feature essentially snaps four images right when the camera is opened, making the device capture photos quicker than ever once you actually take a photo.
We walked around the office and took general shots we normally would take on any given day. We’ll have more thoughts on the iPhone XS’s camera once we spend more time with the device, but for you know can check out the images down below. Are the iPhone XS’s images are really that much better than the iPhone X?