Camera - Daylight Evaluation - Dynamic Range

The next set of shots I tried to capture more shots where dynamic range comes into play, hopefully able to showcase the strengths and weaknesses of the phones.

Click for full image
[ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
[ Mate 20Pro ] - [ Mate 20 ] - [ P20Pro ]
[ P20 ] - [ Mate 10Pro ] - [ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ]
[ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ] - [ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ]
[ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

The Pixel 3 here again doesn’t have the best shadows in the dark portion of the scene, however it does extremely well in bringing down the highlights in the front part of the scene, also resulting in stronger contrast than other phones that works very well for this picture.

It’s hard to say here which phone performs the best – but overall the Pixel 3 is among the top phones.

Click for full image
[ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
[ Mate 20Pro ] - [ Mate 20 ] - [ P20Pro ]
[ P20 ] - [ Mate 10Pro ] - [ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ]
[ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ] - [ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ]
[ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

A big commonality between the Pixel 3 and Pixel phones in general is that they produce slightly darker images than other recent flagship phones. The resulting image is still very realistic and has excellent relative balance between light and dark parts – but results such as that of the iPhone XS were closer to the brightness of the scene.

The Galaxy S9+ and Note9 follow up on this brighter result, however they lose too much contrast in my view, whereas other phones are able to maintain better contrast. Even though we’re almost half a year after its release, LG still didn’t fix the G7’s camera software, and we’re still seeing extremely flat images with very little dynamic range, as well as noise reduction that eats up detail throughout the scene;

In terms of detail, again the Pixel 3 is a top performer, but is outclassed by Samsung’s and Apple’s new sensors which are able to just maintain better sharpness.

Click for full image
[ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
[ Mate 20Pro ] - [ Mate 20 ] - [ P20Pro ]
[ P20 ] - [ Mate 10Pro ] - [ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ]
[ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ] - [ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ]
[ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

The next scene again is extremely favourable to the Pixel 3 – again compared to its predecessor the only real difference in picture quality is that the new phone produces a slightly colder image, as all other aspect in terms of exposure and detail are very hard to distinguish.

Google again favours in bringing down the sky’s brightness down, resulting in more defined clouds. Also throughout the rest of the scene the shadows are darker, but it works well here as it just increases the contrast of the resulting image and there’s not much that clip to dark too much. The balance is again very similar to the iPhone XS – however I prefer the latter’s result as it’s just a bit brighter and more representative of the scene.

Click for full image
[ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
[ Mate 20Pro ] - [ Mate 20 ] - [ P20Pro ]
[ P20 ] - [ Mate 10Pro ] - [ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ]
[ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ] - [ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ]
[ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

This was among the Pixel’s most problematic shots as again I think it is too under-exposed, and suffers a lot in the shadows. The iPhone XS does the best in capturing the whole dynamic range.

Maybe I remember it wrongly, but a lot of the phones seemed to have trouble with colour temperature in this shot, all being much too warm. On the Pixel 3, I feel the night mode’s colder result was definitely a closer match to reality.

Detail wise, the Pixel 3 is again top-grade, only losing out to the latest Apple and Samsung phones.

Click for full image
[ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
[ Mate 20Pro ] - [ Mate 20 ] - [ P20Pro ]
[ P20 ] - [ Mate 10Pro ] - [ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ]
[ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ] - [ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ]
[ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

The next shot is very complex in terms of shadows and highlights. Google does an overall excellent job in doing an exposure that is a close representation of the actual scene. The iPhone XS follows suite with just a tad brighter shadows, with Samsung opting to go even brighter.

The OnePlus 6 looks to have the best dynamic range shot of all phones here maintaining the best contrast in the fallen leaves while not overexposing shadows of bringing down highlights too much. While the Pixel 3 does well in representing the brightness of the scene, it also loses out in detail because of it being darker.

Click for full image
[ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
[ Mate 20Pro ] - [ Mate 20 ] - [ P20Pro ]
[ P20 ] - [ Mate 10Pro ] - [ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ]
[ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ] - [ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ]
[ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

In the last daylight scene, the Pixel 3 again continues with predictable characteristics: It brings down the exposure until there’s no more a blown out sky – even though here it’s mostly covered by trees. It does very even HDR throughout the scene and results in strong contrast, with again the weakness being is that it loses out detail in the darker shadows.

Similar to the last scenario, I would suggest that the OnePlus 6 had the best overall shot here in terms of exposure and HDR balance, with the Pixel 3 following closely. The iPhone XS also has an excellent shot. The Note9 loses out too much contrast by raising the shadows, and the S9+ has a blown out sky.

Detail is again a repeat – the Pixel 3 does well, but can’t keep up in terms of detail with Samsung and Apple.

Daylight Conclusion

Overall in the daylight pictures, there’s one thing that seems to very evident throughout all the samples: the Pixel 3 struggles to really differentiate itself from the Pixel 2. Google chose to keep a similar sensor on the new phone, and everything else from optics down to software processing seems to also be nigh identical. The biggest difference I’ve managed to take away from the Pixel 3 camera comparison is that it’s producing slightly colder images than the Pixel 2 – that’s about all that can be said about this year’s new camera in terms of picture quality.

Google produces images that are consistently exposed for the brightest object in the scene, always avoiding blown out highlights or overexposed shots. The weakness in this approach it seems to be that the phones are dedicating a lot of the sensor’s dynamic range in capturing these highlights correctly, and in turn this makes the pictures suffer in the darker areas of scenes, visibly struggling with shadows and shadow detail, sometimes just clipping objects into near black. The processing also seems to be purposefully darkening shadows in order to achieve more contrast. In many shots this does result in a quite pleasing image with strong contrast, but I would have wished the phone would by default aim for a slightly higher exposure.

Detail-wise, the Pixel 3 performs very well and is among the top phones, but the new hardware sensors from Samsung and Apple this year just seem clearly superior in terms of retaining better textures – here it seems the Pixel 3 has a disadvantage of the weaker DTI of the sensor, and this can’t be overcome by software. The optics of the Pixel 3 are excellent, showcasing no sign of distortions of chromatic aberrations even on the corners and edges of the frame.

Lastly, Super Res Zoom is an innovative new imaging technique that promises to achieve better digital zoom without the need for a secondary camera module. It works, but seemingly the maximum spatial resolution increase we can expect here is around 50%, or a zoom factor of 1.5x. Beyond this, the competition’s optical modules are still clearly superior. Overall, this is a nice feature to have, but definitely doesn’t compensate or is a viable alternative to a dedicated telephoto module.

Camera - Daylight Evaluation - Superzoom and Scenic Camera - Low Light Evaluation - Night Sight
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  • Impulses - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    Meh, their memory management is still over-aggressive here... Some of the instances I've seen of apps getting killed after opening the camera don't even happen on my OG Pixel with the same amount of RAM. Reply
  • Arbie - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    Is anyone actually in favor of not having a headphone jack?

    I get it that you *can* make the phone very slightly thinner without one; OTOH keeping the same thickness *can* permit longer battery life, which everyone wants. I also understand that you *can* put a superlative DAC in a dongle, for audiophiles. But that can be done anyway.

    Killing the jack seems to bring no benefit to the majority of folks, and is going to alienate a lot of them. So - why? Such a change can't just be due to fashion.
    Reply
  • zanon - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    Yes, and it blows my mind that so many so-called tech enthusiasts are actually actively against improvements to archaic technology. Wires suck, they get snagged on things, they limit movement, they act as antennas that pick up things like GSM sync signals, etc. We used them because that was the best that could be done in the 70s and 80s. But that's not the case now. They offer literally zero inherent advantages except one: the antenna part, they can in principle (and in a few phones over the years) act as physical antennas for classic radio broadcasts. But that simply hasn't been that motivating to the developed world market in a long time, as evidenced by the fact that it's not a major advertised universal Android feature and Apple never bothered with it at all.

    Beyond that wireless should be fine, and I think people confuse implementation trouble due to companies doing a bad job or market immaturity with real problems. Audio quality is not an issue, Bluetooth 5 has plenty of bandwidth for even lossless audio (and 256 AAC let alone Sony's fat codec is transparent anyway). Run time is fine, once something gets to 10-18 hours+ on a charge that meets what I'd ever listen to in a single session with no breaks (when it could be charged). Symmetric encryption is cheap and easy now and means it's as secure (or more given TEMPEST) as wired. Some stuff is still lacking, like easy switching between multiple wireless sources, but that's not a fault of the inherent tech so much as there hasn't been any real demand for it yet because wires have hung on so damn long. We're already seeing way more cool adapters for existing products get released due to increased demand and so I expect the market to work it's typical magic.

    I'm delighted to see that relic go. I have no nostalgia towards it anymore then I do towards 8-track or MMX or 10base ethernet or whatever.
    Reply
  • cfenton - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    "Beyond that wireless should be fine, and I think people confuse implementation trouble due to companies doing a bad job or market immaturity with real problems."

    But those are real problems for everyday use. Just because the technology is theoretically there doesn't mean it works well in practice. I use wireless headphones with my Galaxy S7 in the winter because I hate threading a cord through my coat. About 20% of the time my headphones only connect for voice calls, but not media. I have to either fiddle with menus, or turn them off and on again. I'm using a $100+ over-ear set, not some cheap $20 ear-buds from a no-name brand. It's annoying enough that I still use my wired headphones at home, and outside in the summer.

    I've heard Apple's solution is a lot better, but I don't have an iPhone, and don't particularly like Beats.

    If getting rid of the headphone jack added anything to the phone, or somehow made bluetooth better, I'd be all for it. But it seems to add nothing. Samsung has shown with the Galaxy S9 that you can make a very nice modern phone and still have room for a headphone jack. So why not have both until the real world problems with wireless get worked out?
    Reply
  • zanon - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    But how do you think we have *ever* gotten from A to B there? I'm only in my late-30s so not really old, but even so I can still remember most of the PC era and I can't remember any significant technology that didn't take many years to get refined, to fill out niches, to unambiguously beat what it replaced. Not just in hardware but often even in software, take audio and video codecs for example, there have been a number of replacement cycles where the technically superior standard spec for a while was inferior in practice to highly refined encoders for the previous generation.

    At some point somebody has to get the ball rolling and there will be a few generations where people just have to deal with compromises. The only way we've ever gotten great tech is for a real market to get established and then iterated upon. In the case of BT audio, in just the last year I've seen more improvements in things like BT adapters then like the previous 5 years at least. Just a few days ago a bunch of BT5 gen 2 refined ones came out at lower prices and better performance.

    >"So why not have both until the real world problems with wireless get worked out?"

    Because that has never, ever worked. If the old thing is still available major players just use the old thing. Inertia is very powerful. Somebody sometime has to bite the bullet, and given the realities of mass manufacturing you can't "have all the problems worked out" in version 1.0. Version 1.0 is always going to have issues. But you can't get ver2 or ver3 without going through 1.0 first. In this case Apple has shown it can be done very well and with more vendors going that way there is now a clear market of people ready to spend money on it and 3rd parties are starting to react and iterate. Now we can look forward to having way better stuff in another year or 2, whereas if they had all put it off then there is no reason to expect that'd be the case anymore then it was the last decade.

    If you really don't want to be on the bleeding edge there then no problem, just get an older device! Mobile lasts a lot longer now, Apple already supports their stuff 5+ years and Google is getting better too. But those of us who like to live nearer the edge have always had to deal with that edge being rougher then those who follow. Somebody has to go first though.
    Reply
  • porcupineLTD - Saturday, November 3, 2018 - link

    Nice mental gymnastics to justify an idiotic trend. Reply
  • zanon - Saturday, November 3, 2018 - link

    Nice brainless technophobia from a luddite lol. Why don't you go back to your retro forum hole and cling to your VGA and CRT claiming they're the best ever and all this flatscreen stuff is a sheeple fad? Reply
  • Impulses - Saturday, November 3, 2018 - link

    CRT still haven't been surpassed for some fast refresh applications... And likely never will by LCD, OLED might get there. Reply
  • rabidpeach - Friday, July 31, 2020 - link

    it's not technophobia! you can get wired speakers that are sufficiently sensitive that are much bigger than the bs wireless earbuds you insert. likewise the full size wireless bose whatevers. it's not a big range of headphones but there is a sweet spot of larger phones that can be driven by mobile device. it exzists. Reply
  • cfenton - Saturday, November 3, 2018 - link

    But we're not on version 1.0 of Bluetooth, we're on version 5.0 and it's still not great. Well, I don't have any 5.0 stuff, so maybe they finally got it right, but version 4.0 is still pretty inconsistent. If wireless worked as well as wired, I'd be all for it, but in my experience, it doesn't yet.

    As for transitions not happening unless forced, I'm not sure that's true. Lots of people use Wi-Fi even though wired ethernet still exists. It's only in the last five years or so that laptops have been shipping without ethernet ports, and desktops still have them. Again, I'm not against having good wireless tech, I just don't think it's 100% there yet and removing wired connections doesn't seem to add anything to the phone.
    Reply

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