A lot of the discourse around smartphones this year has been around the camera. Most smartphone makers want to tell you that their cameras will make DSLRs obsolete. Well, that’s certainly untrue. However, they sure can make for great point and shoot cameras nowadays. And the top three camera phones this year prove how.
Interestingly, cameras improved across price points this year. You can now get dual cameras for as low as `11,000, while dual-pixel sensors have become quite common as well. Asus even used a dual-pixel sensor on the front camera on its phone. Granted, Asus didn’t quite get the implementation right, but it’s certainly a sign of things to come.
But without further ado, let’s just get to this year winners.
2017 zero1 award Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL
The Pixel 2 XL is not only the best Android phone you can buy today, it’s also the best camera phone on offer. It has a 12.2 MP rear camera with f/1.8 aperture and 1.4 micron pixel size. But hardware is not what makes this camera great. That credit goes to Google’s impressive software, driven by machine learning. The company must have put all the learnings from years of image uploads and its learnings from last year’s Pixel smartphone to good effect.
In practice, the Pixel 2 XL/Pixel 2 are the perfect point and shoot cameras out there. They do falter with white balance at times, but most will probably not mind it. Google’s focus though seems to have been on producing the highest details a smartphone camera can produce. In our comparison tests, the phone consistently performed better than the iPhone X and Galaxy Note 8 in all kinds of conditions.
But all that processing should take a lot of time, right? Google has smartly moved that processing part to the photo gallery, so you can click back to back shots. So, with the impressive focusing speeds, you can click back to back images without fail. Admittedly, we would have preferred a more consistent imaging experience, but we have no qualms in awarding the Pixel 2 XL this year’s Zero1 for best camera phone.
Runner Up: Apple iPhone X
Scoring out of 55, the Pixel 2 XL got 46.5 point while the iPhone X came in at 44.5. That’s a very accurate representation of how close these two cameras are. The iPhone X has two 12 megapixel camera on the back, with Apple’s telephoto implementation. The iPhone X’s camera also has f/1.8 aperture, though it still doesn’t do as well in low light as the Pixel 2 XL or Samsung Galaxy Note 8, albeit for different reasons. The Pixel 2 XL produces more detailed photos, while the Note 8 produces noticeably brighter shots. Of course, the Note 8 smudges the details in the process.
Yet, the iPhone X has an excellent smartphone camera overall. Apple usually focuses on true to source imaging, but the company seems to have put some emphasis on producing more vibrant colours this time. As a result, it loses some details, which you will only see if you compare it side by side with the Pixel 2 XL.
Best Buy: Samsung Galaxy Note 8
When it was launched, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 had the best camera on the market. Now it falls behind both the Pixel 2 XL and iPhone X. Many would argue that the Note 8 shoots the best low light photos smartphone can, but in producing brighter photos, the phone compromises on details quite significantly.
Surprisingly though, the Galaxy Note 8 is the cheapest which makes it the best buy.