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Review: Google Pixel 2 is the best smartphone for stills photographers

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DPReview smartphone reviews are written with the needs of photographers in mind. We focus on camera features, performance, and image quality.

The Pixel 2 and its larger sibling, the Pixel 2 XL represent Google’s latest flagship phones. Both offer a single 12.2MP F1.8 main camera and an 8MP F2.4 ‘selfie’ camera. From a photographer’s perspective that might not sound like anything special – after all, the iPhone X offers dual rear cameras – yet thanks to behind-the-scenes processing, the Pixel 2 is capable of some of the most detailed photos we’ve ever seen from a smartphone.

It also features a background blurring effect (portrait mode), DNG Raw capture (with use of a third party app), 4K/30p video and optical image stabilization. Plus, all Pixel 2 owners get free Google Photo storage for photos and videos shot on the device through the end of 2020. After that point users will still get free storage but files saved will be high-quality compressed versions (full-res storage will still be available for a price).

Priced at $650, the Pixel 2 is not cheap, but it is 2/3rds the price of the iPhone X.

The Pixel 2 offers excellent image quality thanks to a combination of hardware and software processing .
ISO 82 | 1/23000 sec| F1.8

As smartphone cameras progress, we’re seeing a cultural split from traditional camera companies, who rely mostly on hardware and optics to achieve good image quality, just as they did with their film cameras. Instead, smartphone manufacturers are relying more on computational photography and artificial intelligence to produce a photo that is detailed and well-toned, right ‘out of camera’. With just one button press – no need to set the exposure or dynamic range compensation or AF mode yourself.

Google’s secret sauce is in what the company calls ‘HDR+’, which judges exposure intelligently and uses multi-imaging techniques for every shot. So has computational photography, à la Pixel 2 come far enough to replace the pocket cam? How about the mirrorless camera or DSLR?

Aside from the excellent camera, the Pixel 2 is a fairly ordinary smartphone.

Key photographic / Video specs

  • 12.2MP rear camera (1/2.55″ | 1.40 μm pixels)
  • F1.8 max aperture
  • 4K/30p video
  • 1080/120p, 720/240p slow motion video
  • Optical image stablization
  • Dual Pixel AF with phase detect
  • DNG Raw capture and manual control with 3rd party apps
  • 8MP front camera (F2.4 max ap.)

Other specs

  • Android 8.0 operating system (Oreo)
  • 5 in 1920×1080 AMOLED (441ppi) display (95% DCI-P3)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 4GB Ram
  • 64 or 128GB internal storage
  • Unlimited cloud photo/video storage with Google Photos
  • 2750 mAh battery
  • $650

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