Three things I love about the Pixel 3 and one that I don't
The Google Pixel 3 has been my primary camera – and media consumption device, alarm clock, etc. – for over a month now. It will be no surprise to anyone that I'm finding the camera to be really, really good, but there are a few features in particular that stand out to me as excellent. In no particular order, here's what I'm liking so far about the Pixel 3's camera, and one area I'm not as crazy about.
You've heard all the hype about how good Night Sight is, and it's true. Night Sight will allow you to take usable photos in incredibly dim conditions. I think the best compliment I can give Night Sight is that the example image above doesn't convey just how dark the scene in my shot was. The Mexican restaurant looks pleasantly bright and festive – in reality, it was extremely dim (but still festive).
Night Sight is also a great alternative for low-light selfies when flash is a no-no, if everyone in the shot can stay reasonably still. Pro tip: don't blink or move your eyes or it'll make you look a little bit like a zombie. In any case, it's really nice to have a usable alternative to completely destroying the vibe of a mood-lit bar with a smartphone flash.
Finally, Night Sight is also useful for static subjects in any kind of lighting if you want to capture more detail, thanks to its use of Super Resolution (more on that here). The rendering of *individual fibers* in the blanket in the shot above blows my mind. Getting that level of detail out of such a small sensor is a real technological innovation.
Wide angle selfie
|We're weird, okay?|
This was a feature I didn't expect to use much, but it's really helpful when you need it. I've used it on a couple of occasions when there was something in the background I wanted to get into the photo I was taking.
In both cases I considered the shot that I wanted, thought to myself there was no way that I could get the shot, then remembered the wide-angle front facing camera. Boom. Problem solved.
Portrait Mode is of course, not new, but it's been further improved in the Pixel 3. Google used machine learning to train the camera to better 'cut out' things like human subjects. We find that it does a better job with human hair than the iPhone (you can see how the iPhone does here), creating a more realistic effect rather than something that looks obviously digitally manipulated.
|The ability to throw a busy background out of focus – even if the overall effect isn't 100% convincing – is still better to me than the alternative.|
As a side note, my personal smartphone is an "ancient" iPhone SE, which doesn't offer Portrait Mode. I've gotten pretty attached to it shooting with the Pixel 3, and many of my favorite images taken with the camera are Portrait Mode shots. To me, it feels a little bit like Wi-Fi on traditional cameras. When the feature was introduced it was a little gimmicky and not all that useful, but now that it's reliable and much improved, it's becoming something I don't want to live without.
Muted color rendition
|Out of camera JPEG||"Auto" edits applied in Google Photos|
The thing I'm not as crazy about is more a matter of personal taste – the Pixel 3 tends toward more muted, natural colors. Plenty of people will prefer that, but I'm partial to a little more warmth and punch in my images. Colors are a little flat for my taste, and in some instances (backlit subjects are a big one) auto exposure doesn't quite get things right.
In spite of this, I think the greatest testament to the Pixel 3 is that I've been taking more pictures lately. When I'm out and about and see a photo, I don't have to talk myself out of taking a picture because I only have my phone with me. More often than not, I'm finding that I *can* get that photo, or something close to what I envisioned.
You can now see the artwork on your wall without the need to order it first.
A Kickstarter campaign is aiming to raise funds for the production of an external smartphone flash.