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
POST A COMMENT

135 Comments

View All Comments

  • zanon - 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."

    It is great (or at least getting close) from some vendors, which shows that the technical foundation is there. Once that exists the only real way to have progress happen sustainable is to have a market for it so hundreds to thousands of attempts will be made, most of which will be mediocre, but some of which will be good and then get copied/followed in turn. To your own point:

    >"Lots of people use Wi-Fi even though wired ethernet still exists."

    WiFi was introduced *20 years ago*. Yes, 1998. And it stunk. It was a long time before it even achieved the kind of technical spec it needed, 802.11n took 11 years, 802.11ac took 15 years. Both came after smartphones and notebooks overtaking desktops, demand drove innovation and pricing. Of course, even now in 2018 a lot of WiFi stuff on the market is still junk and will still give a bad experience, but at least there are good options.

    I think a better example would be USB replacing PS2 & ADB ports. Wow were there a lot of howls over that. We're seeing some of the exact same thing now in fact with USB-C and TB3, and people raging about adapters and "everything was fine before" and the early pains of these standards (plenty of junk USB-C implementations). But the fact is USB-C is a nice connector that solves physical and speed problems.

    >"I just don't think it's 100% there yet and removing wired connections doesn't seem to add anything to the phone."

    I absolutely agree it's not 100% there yet! There is clearly a ways to go. But I also don't think it'll ever go from 20% or even 50% to 100% in one leap either, no matter when they started the first few versions would have compromises. But I've seen more progress in the last year then the last decade, and once people know that something can be done well it tends to drag up the industry because customers are less willing to accept excuses of "oh nobody can do this."
    Reply
  • mrvco - Sunday, November 4, 2018 - link

    Agreed. I have a couple pairs of BT headpones and the convenience is nice... until the battery runs out when I'm boarding an international flight. I'm still using a Pixel XL as my daily driver and just ordered an LG v40. I also have an iPhone 8plus for app testing / demos and keeping track of the dongle is annoying.

    I still haven't heard a compelling reason for removing the headphone jack beyond pedantic and otherwise pointless spec sheet glossing. I'll take a slightly thicker phone all day and everyday if it means a larger battery and the same goes for a phone with a headphone jack.
    Reply
  • Arbie - Monday, November 5, 2018 - link

    What a rant! But what could you do except blather about "forcing the future" and "a few generations will have to deal with compromises"? That malarkey lost all meaning long ago; maybe you missed the memo.

    I have a BT headset for when I want to listen and be mobile - only. Compared to my wired earbuds it's bulky, heavy, expensive, complex, requires setup, creates rub noise, *and* needs daily charging. Now - add a dongle with similar issues! In all those aspects, wireless is a regression even it if works flawessly. If we had only that, and someone invented wired phones, it would be hailed as a miracle because, where they are convenient, those have no equal.

    So removing even the option of wired is stupid *unless* there is some major compensation for doing so. I don't see any, and you don't either.
    Reply
  • nonig - Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - link

    Rarely has a post resonated with me like this one has. I wholeheartedly agree.

    Back when Apple announced, that they'd be dropping the minijack I thought "damit!" as I almost just had gotten a decent headset for my phone. I like to listen to music and the thought of having to accept wireless only irked me.

    On the other hand, I am a tech enthusiast and had two years prior gotten my first tenure and therefore a decent salary - so I thought to myself; why not splurge and get a 'real' high end headset? I got myself the Beoplay H8 (around $350 I think) and haven't looked back.

    My only alternatives was the Airpods or a headset similar to the B&O (Denon, Bose, Sennheiser, B&W and so on).

    To me, it marked my final maturity into the form of 'good enough'-adulthood. I don't need 'wannabe pro'-performance or other pseudo/placebo. It just has to work, be good enough and reliable. Never really being able to put it into words until I read your post - and I totally agree.

    I too used to claim, that only wired was good enough, until I got used to the comforts of WiFi.
    I too used to claim, that FireWire400/800 was infinitely superior to USB2.0/3.0, until I tried a newer USB3.0 external hard drive.
    I too used to claim, that only the golden terminals on my SoundBlaster Audigy was good enough for my MP3's until I realized it just doesn't matter.
    I too used to claim, that CDs was superior to AAC or whatever, until discovered the joy streaming music.
    I too used to claim, that the only way to enjoy movies was on bluray, until I realized I just wanna watch movies and not bother with stupid intros, trailers, copyright/piracy splashes - Netflix, HBO, Youtube (still ads, but 5 seconds is manageable).
    I too used to claim, that the only way to enjoy audio was on the B&W speakers via our NAD amp, until I realized bitrate doesn't determine how much I (or my kids) like a song or not.
    So on and so forth.

    Today, I just don't bother anymore.

    Music is best enjoyed when I don't have to untangle stupid wires first. I just put on my headset, turn them on, and instant music or Airplay to our wireless speakers around the house - provided the kids hasn't hidden them somewhere.

    I guess people don't like change (I'm not claiming that they're stuck up or something, just that sometimes change doesn't seem rational when 'the old stuff seems to work just fine') and I like your point.

    Let's get back to serial and parallel ports, so much easier, when different things use different ports. Today, everything is USB and it can be soooo confusing.
    Let's get back to when phones only used to be phones.
    Let's get back to when cameras was cameras.
    Let's get back to when portable music devices used cassette tapes.
    Let's get back to when cars was jump started by hand.
    Let's get back to using horses. Less pollution! (I honestly don't know, if replacing combustion based motor transportation with live stock would decrease pollution - XKCD/Randall are you reading this?)

    Anywho.

    All I wanted to say was; I agree.
    Reply
  • erple2 - Thursday, November 22, 2018 - link

    I'm not that averse to new tech, provided it eventually (fairly quickly) surpasses what it is replacing. In the case of bluetooth (version 5 no less), we're still not there yet. My cheap (~$20) bluetooth headphones don't always work, have issues with: mediocre sound, noticeable audio lag, and have to be charged, and don't really last that long on a charge. By contrast, my cheap (~$8) wired headphones always work, have mediocre sound, no audio lag, don't need to be charged, and don't cause a small (but noticeable) drain on my phone's battery life.

    Each of the other things you mentioned saddened me with the race to acceptance of mediocrity, though :( While I appreciate the conveniences of WiFi, I still plug my laptop in to wired connections when reasonably possible - it's just faster in all cases, and more reliable. That's kind of a problem with most new technology - I'm just not sure if the improved convenience of new technology always makes up for its shortcomings (hint: it only sometimes does).
    Reply
  • amosbatto - Friday, November 30, 2018 - link

    These kind of comments really annoy me. First of all, you are needlessly promoting planned obsolescence for no tangible benefit. Millions of headphones and speakers all over the planet will be thrown away for no good reason, except that Apple figured out a way to make more profits selling us dongles and Beats wireless headset. I have a hi-fi system that I bought in high school which will never work with Bluetooth. You are telling me to throw out a $1000 system, just because it doesn´t work with Bluetooth and replace it with Bluetooth speakers of lesser quality.

    Bluetooth´s quality still isn´t as good as a wired audio. I have had very bad experience with Bluetooth ear buds. First, I bought some Apple-style ear buds, that don´t have a wire. Two days later, I was washing dishes and it slipped out of my ear and fell in the sink and the water destroyed it. Next, I bought a Bluetooth set with wires connected to a magnetic clip. I´m guessing that the clip wasn´t strong enough, because I lost it when walking. These experiences have convinced me to return to wired ear buds.
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Saturday, November 3, 2018 - link

    What are you having problems with wireless? Every smartphone i've had i've used the bluetooth all the time and never had a issue with it.

    Wireless is just plain silly to have now-a-days, wireless is better for working, running, pretty much all aspects.
    Reply
  • ummduh - Saturday, November 3, 2018 - link

    Literally every bluetooth connection I have is problematic. I only have 2 left due to having so many issues with it. I HATE BT. I don't know who's fault it is, the accessory devices' implementation, or differences in phone manufacturers' implementation, but it doesn't really matter. I consistently have problems with it. It never just works for me. Reply
  • cfenton - Saturday, November 3, 2018 - link

    I have connection issues. When I turn my headphones on, sometimes they only grab the call audio output, but not the media audio output. I have to go into my bluetooth settings to fix it and that's a hassle, especially when I'm out in the winter with gloves on. Reply
  • Impulses - Saturday, November 3, 2018 - link

    I'm not gonna defend dropping the jack, but these instances where people swear they have to fiddle with settings each and every time they pair BT stuff can only be due to two things... Bad software (some phones/devices do have a shitty BT stack, and Google is often on the latest which doesn't always play nice with older stuff) AND/OR an incredibly noisy RF environment. I don't often encounter the latter, but I don't live in an apartment or the middle of NYC. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now