Winner: Google Pixel 2 computational camera
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Winner: Google Pixel 2 computational camera

After much discussion, the Google Pixel 2 'computational camera' wins our 'Innovation of the Year' award. With the Pixel 2, Google shows us that computational photography not only renders most compacts obsolete, it's coming for your camera as well. That's not meant to be as ominous as it sounds. In fact, it's great news.

The Pixel 2 camera wins because of the sheer image quality it can produce from minimal hardware thanks to computational approaches. The camera is always maintaining a 9-frame full-resolution buffer at at least 60 frames per second. Dual Pixel AF uses the entire sensor and the 9-frame buffer of HDR+ to nail focus even in low light, meaning your subject is most likely pre-focused before you even press the shutter button. When you do, the camera goes back in time to those last 9 frames, combines them, and thereby reduces noise by over 3 stops compared to a conventional sensor of that size. In high contrast scenes, the Pixel 2 exposes to not clip highlights, then averages those frames to reduce noise in shadows. And all of this happens at the press of a button.

Probably most impressive is its Portrait mode, which generates a depth map from both segmentation and the tiny stereo disparity between the split pixels behind the lens. The results are nothing short of impressive: look at the progressive blur, both in front of and behind, our main subject here.