OnePlus 6 vs. Google Pixel 2 Camera Comparison: Flagship Killer vs. Flagship Camera

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Last year when Google launched the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL smartphones, it managed to leave everyone astounded with the impressive camera performance even though none of those phones had a dual-camera setup. The Pixel and the Pixel XL had one of the best camera image quality. Late last year, Google managed to improve upon first-generation Pixel phones with the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL (review), thanks to larger sensors, wider aperture, OIS, and its HDR+. magic. Since then, the camera performance of almost all smartphones is compared to that of the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL.

Then, there are the OnePlus 6 and the OnePlus 6 Marvels Avengers Edition, which were recently launched (hands-on and first impressions). The OnePlus 6 features an improved camera compared to the OnePlus 5T. OnePlus highlights the camera performance of the 6 in its marketing materials, though it does not state that it is a Pixel killer in the imaging department even though the company proudly carries tag lines like “Flagship Killer” and “Never Settle”. Let’s find out if the OnePlus 6 can compete with the Pixel 2, which was launched more than six months ago, in camera quality.

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OnePlus 6 vs. Google Pixel 2: Camera Specs

On paper, the Pixel 2 has a far superior camera than that of the OnePlus 6. Apart from the superior camera hardware, the Pixel 2 also has Google’s magical HDR+ algorithm going for it. Thanks to Google’s software prowess, the Pixel 2’s camera is able to even beat other smartphones out there featuring a superior camera hardware than it. The OnePlus 6 despite coming with a dual-camera setup looks awfully mediocre when compared to the Pixel 2, especially since the second camera sensor on the rear works only when the Portrait Mode is activated. Below is a quick rundown of the camera specs of both handsets:

Rear Camera Specs Google Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL OnePlus 6
Resolution 12.2MP 16MP
Pixel size 1.4µm 1.22µm
Aperture ƒ/1.8 ƒ/1.7
OIS Yes Yes
EIS Yes Yes
Portrait Mode Yes Yes
Secondary sensor No 20MP, ƒ/1.7
Video recording 4K@30fps, 1080p@120fps 4K@60fps, 1080p@240fps, 720p@480fps
Front Camera Specs
Resolution 8MP 16MP
Aperture ƒ/2/.4 ƒ/2.0
Pixel size 1.4µm 1.0µm

But that’s on paper, let’s see what the images actually say.

OnePlus 6 vs Google Pixel 2 Camera: Image Quality Comparison

For all the comparison images you see below, the photos from the Google Pixel 2 are on the left while that from the OnePlus 6 are on the right.

After looking at the comparison photos above, I was actually surprised to see just how limited the differences between the phones were at least in photos taken in daylight.

In the first photo, the OnePlus 6 does a remarkable job of capturing details in the dark and contrast-y areas of the scene. In the second scene, the OnePlus 6 has captured a more vivid photo which looks more pleasing to the eye compared to the Pixel 2 whose photo is a bit too dark. In the third photo, both phones have done a great job at capturing the setting sun, though the other parts of the photo have turned out to be a bit too dark.

If you go through the EXIF details of all the photos above though, you’d see that the OnePlus 6 consistently uses a higher ISO than the Pixel 2. Yes, its camera does have smaller 1.22um pixels but it also has OIS and a slightly wider aperture this time around to make up for it. The slightly higher ISO levels do not pose any problem in photos captured during daylight, but it rears its head when capturing photos in low-light scenarios.

If you pixel peep in the photos above, especially in the second and third set of photos, the noise in photos taken from the OnePlus 6 would be easily visible. The difference in ISO levels between the photos taken from the Pixel 2 and OnePlus 6 is astounding. In the second scene, the Pixel 2 has used an ISO level of 400, while the OnePlus 6 has captured the scene with an ISO level of 2,000. And remember, this is despite it having a slightly wider aperture than the Pixel 2’s camera along with OIS. In the third shot, the Pixel 2 used an ISO of 200, while the OnePlus 6 captured the same scene at an ISO of 1,250. And both phones had the same 1/35 shutter speed!

The Pixel 2 also uses its large individual pixels to its advantage to capture more details, and in some cases, a slightly brighter and even exposed picture.

Barring the noise that creeps in due to the high ISO levels, the OnePlus 6 does fairly well. Plus, this is an issue which OnePlus can easily solve with a future software update as its clear that its current processing algorithm is not relying much on OIS as it likely should. In the end, the lower noise in Pixel 2 photos in low-light provides one with an extra headroom which can come in handy while editing or cropping the picture.

OnePlus 6 vs. Google Pixel 2 Camera: Conclusion

Overall though, I am pretty surprised with how well the OnePlus 6 has done against the Pixel 2. Unlike other companies, OnePlus never claimed that the 16MP shooter on the OnePlus 6 is better than that of the Pixel 2. And while it is certainly not, the difference between them is very small. Plus, when one accounts for the additional camera features present on the OnePlus 6 like slow motion videos at 720p@480fps, 4K videos at 60fps, and 2x hybrid zoom, the difference between the two looks even smaller.

Finally, when you factor in the price, it becomes extremely hard to justify buying the Pixel 2 by spending almost twice as more as you’d spend on the OnePlus 6 solely for its camera performance. What do you think about the OnePlus 6 camera performance? Impressed? Drop a comment and let us know!


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