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Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL: Here are all the new camera features

The Google Pixel 3 doubles down on camera features compared to previous entries -- here are all the new additions.

Published onOctober 9, 2018

The Google Pixel phones arguably set a new benchmark for smartphone cameras back in 2016 and in 2017, and expectations are high for the Google Pixel 3 duo.

Image quality is only part of the battle, however, with camera options and features a key differentiator as well. Here’s what the latest Google phones bring to the table.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL hands-on

Google Pixel 3 cameras: Here’s what they can do

Top Shot

Google reveals the Top Shot feature at its Pixel 3 event.

We’ve seen phones with “best photo” modes before (such as Samsung devices), essentially taking a burst of images and automatically suggesting the best one. Top Shot is Google’s take on the feature, ostensibly inspired by previous efforts and Google Clips.

The mode uses machine learning to pick out the best images when you hit the shutter key. More specifically, it watches out for smiles (with eyes open) and gaze/focus/blur when picking out the top snaps.

You’ll need to set Motion to on or auto in order to take advantage of this feature, Google notes. If you’re not happy with Google’s definition of a “top shot,” you can manually choose another. And in a neat touch, every alternate image is captured in HDR+, giving you better dynamic range and detail.

Photobooth Mode

A photo taken in Photobooth mode.

Face and smile detection is nothing new for Android phones, but Google is upping the ante with its new Photobooth Mode on the Pixel 3.

Select the Photobooth Mode and hit the blue button, and the camera app will automatically take shots when it spots smiles and funny expressions. Google adds that the mode also takes lighting and motion into account. You can also tell Google Assistant to open Photobooth Mode if you’d like a hands-free experience.

Group Selfies

The Pixel 3 duo features a secondary, wide-angle selfie camera, delivering a 97-degree field of view (FOV) compared to the standard camera’s 75-degree FOV. Google is promoting this as a group selfie camera (naturally), allowing you to pack all your friends into the picture. But you don’t have to worry about fish-eye distortion in your pub shots because the app will correct this effect as well.

Super Res Zoom

The Super Res Zoom feature on the Google Pixel 3.

Google is also bringing improved digital zoom to the table, in the form of Super Res Zoom. Simply zoom in on the desired subject/object and the app will take a burst of images, combining them to deliver a better level of detail. Will this beat telephoto cameras and HUAWEI’s triple-camera zoom? We’ll need to do a direct comparison to figure this out.


The Google Playground feature.

Augmented reality is apparently all the rage these days, and Google is also getting in on the action. Enter the Playground mode, found in the camera app.

This mode essentially lets you add AR-powered characters, stickers and more to scenes — and these “Playmoji” characters will react to your expressions too. Google confirmed that the Playground mode will come to older Pixels as well.

Night Sight

A comparison between the iPhone XS and Google's Night Sight.

The Pixel series has a reputation for great low-light shots, but the company isn’t stopping there, bringing a Night Sight mode to the Pixel 3 too. The mode uses “state of the art techniques in computational photography and AI” to generate better low-light shots. In fact, Google’s Liza Ma says the mode relies on machine learning to choose the correct colors for the scene.

The Night Sight mode is scheduled to launch next month, Ma said, and owners of previous Pixels will get the feature too. If it delivers results anywhere near as good as the HUAWEI P20 Pro‘s night mode, I think Google will have a great feature on its hands.

Motion Auto Focus

The Motion Auto Focus feature in the Pixel 3.

Google is late to the party with object tracking auto-focus, as the likes of Sony have had this feature for a few years now. In any event, Motion Auto Focus is Google’s take on the tech. As you’d expect, it simply keeps a moving object/subject in focus, whether you’re using the front or rear camera, or using photo or video modes.

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