Camera Shootout: Google Pixel vs OnePlus 3 vs Apple iPhone 7

google_pixel_quite_black_back_top_camera_fingerprint_ta

It’s been a good year for phone photographers, with each new device trying its hardest to outdo whatever is being replaced. We’ve reached a point where most people are replacing separate cameras with their phones, and they’re not losing any quality over it.

When Google announced the Pixel, they made it clear that the camera was a huge focus, and for the most part, they delivered on that. But Google isn’t the only one making top notch cameras, so let’s find out how it stacks up against some of the competition.

We put the Pixel up against Apple’s flagship, the iPhone 7, as well as the OnePlus 3. The OnePlus is in a decidedly lower tier than either the Pixel or iPhone, but it’ll be interesting to see how well it holds up considering how much cheaper it is than either Google or Apple’s offering.

pixel-outdoor-2

Pixel

oneplus-3-outdoor

OnePlus 3

iphone-7-outdoor-2

iPhone 7

From top to bottom we have the Pixel, OnePlus 3, and iPhone 7. Outdoor shots generally aren’t a challenge for any phones, but you can catch some subtle differences among the three devices here. The Pixel definitely seems to grab the most color while the iPhone shoots for a more neutral tone, and the OnePlus sits somewhere in the middle. The OnePlus 3 also defaults to a 16:9 aspect ratio instead of the 4:3 that you see with the Pixel and iPhone.

pixel-outdoor-leaf

Pixel

oneplus-3-outdoor-leaf

OnePlus 3

iphone-7-outdoor-leafe

iPhone 7

The OnePlus 3 definitely struggled more compared to the other two in a closer up shot, but the Pixel really distanced itself by capturing more detail and color, especially if you look at black levels. Google’s HDR+ continues to impress.

pixel-outdoor-sunset

Pixel

oneplus-3-outdoor-sunset

OnePlus 3

iphone-7-outdoor-sunset

iPhone 7

Here’s a much tougher challenge: sun going down, there’s a bright subject and the surrounding lighting isn’t great. This is probably the biggest Achilles heel for the OnePlus, since low light images are tough for phones in general.

This shot also shows off well the Pixel can capture light in poor conditions, creating a brighter picture than what we have from the iPhone 7. The drawback here is that the Pixel looks a little blown out in portions of the sky where the iPhone didn’t, but the Pixel also manages to capture more detail that the other phones simply don’t have.

pixel-indoor-controller

Pixel

oneplus-3-indoor-controller

OnePlus 3

iphone-7-indoor-controller

iPhone 7

In an indoor shot, the Pixel manages to capture more light than the other two phones once again. However, it blows out the color a bit, which is something that didn’t happen on either the OnePlus 3 or iPhone 7. For reference that red should be a much darker shade, like what you see in the last two images. The red in the Pixel’s image isn’t natural looking at all.

The good news is that if you’re in a really poor lighting situation, the Pixel will make absolutely sure you can clearly see the picture. The bad news is that it might aggressively overdo some of the colors.

pixel-indoor-low-light

Pixel

oneplus-3-indoor-low-light

OnePlus 3

iphone-7-indoor-low-light

iPhone 7

In another indoor shot, the OnePlus 3 actually managed to avoid overexposing colors and reflections better than the other two. However, the Pixel once again captured the brightest, most detailed image of the three.

pixel-indoor-light

Pixel

oneplus-3-indoor-light

OnePlus 3

iphone-7-indoor-light

iPhone 7

Turning the lights up to make things easier on the phone just repeats what we’ve seen from other samples. The Pixel captures the most brightness, the iPhone 7 shoots for a more realistic image, and the OnePlus 3 sits somewhere in the middle.

Read more:

It’s hard to declare a clear winner with any phone, regardless of what scores say about camera ability. The Pixel is an incredibly impressive piece of hardware that does a phenomenal job at capturing light and detail no matter the situation, but sometimes it seems to capture too much light in certain scenarios. Conversely, the iPhone aims for a more natural, realistic image, but that can come at the cost of a darker, less visible image and less detail captured.

What might be the most surprising thing is that theĀ OnePlus 3 is more than capable of holding its own against some seriously heavy hitters that cost almost twice as much. Can’t argue with the value proposition there.


About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid, but the tech enthusiasm currently covers just about everything. He likes PC gaming, Lenovo's Moto Z line, and a good productivity app.


  • AMD718

    I have the Pixel XL and the camera is pretty good. Probably the best out there on a smart phone today for pictures. However, the video quality on the iPhone (I must admit) is better than the Pixel.

    • James Miller

      You’re joking, right?

      • AMD718

        I wish I was. Like I said – I have the Pixel XL and would never want an iPhone. However, while the Pixel definitely takes better pictures than the iPhone 7, it unfortunately is behind on video quality. From what I can tell, the iPhone has the best video quality available on a smart phone. Second would be the Pixel. Third would be the S7.

        • James Miller

          I don’t understand how that works seeing as the Pixel has a 1440p AMOLED display and the iPhone only having FHD LCD. Maybe you need to crank up the quality on YouTube for the pixel

          • AMD718

            I see now. You thought I was talking about screen / display quality. No, there the Pixel XL wins hands down. I’m not talking about the screen. I’m talking about the quality of recording video with the camera.

            • James Miller

              Oh haha that’s understandable

  • James Miller

    Easy win for the Pixel tbh

  • choyboy

    Seems pointless writing an article just to support a foregone conclusion.

  • Jesse

    The one plus 3 default is 4:3 just like the other two phones. If the reviewer has it set to 16:9 then it was taking pictures at the lower 12mp setting instead of the default 16mp 4:3

  • r121

    Pixel won every round.