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Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE camera shootout: Battle for your $700

Got $700 to spend on a great camera phone? Two of the best options are the Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.

Published onApril 2, 2021

Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE back
David Imel / Android Authority

Google‘s Pixel lineup has long been known for offering among the best smartphone cameras in the market, and the Pixel 5 is one hell of a shooter. But competition is fierce and Samsung is one of the top competitors. The company’s new affordable flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, stands at the same $699 MSRP and promises to be a worthy contender. Which device will come out winner in this Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE camera shootout?

Let’s take a look at some image comparisons and see how the two compare. Be sure to vote for your winner in the survey at the end of this article. For a more detailed breakdown of the two phones, check out our features and specs comparison below. Let’s get started!

Also: Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Which is better?

Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Camera specs

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has a more impressive spec sheet when compared to the Pixel 5’s. Samsung’s device comes with a main, wide-angle, and telephoto lens. Meanwhile, the Google Pixel 5 lacks any optical zoom option. Furthermore, Sammy’s pixels are slightly larger, allowing them to capture more light. The Galaxy S20 FE’s selfie camera utilizes pixel binning and supports 4K recording too, both of which the Pixel lacks.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though! Google has proven time and again that camera specs and more lenses don’t necessarily make better cameras. The search giant is a master of software and their camera phones beat better-specced devices every year. This is thanks to their superior implementation of computational photography.

Regardless, having the extra optical zoom lens should grant a significant advantage to those who value such a feature. Optical zoom will always be better than digital zoom, regardless of how good software optimizations are. Learn more by taking a look at our post explaining different types of zoom technologies.

Google Pixel 5Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Rear cameras
Google Pixel 5
Main: 12.2MP, f/1.7, 1.4µm pixels, OIS, EIS.

Ultra wide: 16MP, f/2.2, 1 micron pixel, 107-degree FoV.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Main: 12MP f/1.8, 1.8μm, Dual-Pixel, OIS, 1/1.76in

Ultra wide: 12MP, f/2.2, 1/3.06in, 1.12μm

Telephoto: 8MP, f/2.4, 1/4.4in, 1.0μm 3x optical zoom, OIS 30x digital "Space Zoom".
Rear video
Google Pixel 5
Up to 4K@60fps
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Up to 4K@60fps
Front cameras
Google Pixel 5
8MP sensor, f/2.0, 1.12µm pixels, fixed focus, 83-degree FoV
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
32MP (binned to 8MP) f/2.2, 1/2.8in, 0.8μm
Front video
Google Pixel 5
Up to 1080p@30fps
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Up to 4K@60fps

The samples

With all that said, it’s time to get down to business; which phone takes the best photos? The Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE battle should be a fierce one. Let’s start with some daytime samples.

Read more: Photography terms explained

Outdoors daytime photos are where smartphone cameras shine the most. There is ample lighting to keep ISO and shutter speed down. This means blur and noise are kept to a minimum. There are some factors to keep an eye on, though. Daytime photos also tend to produce harsher shadows. This is a good time to look at how a camera handles dynamic range. How blown out are the highlights? Is there enough detail in the shadows?

Google’s artificial intelligence enhancements seem to do better handling highlights and pulling detail from the shadows. Then there is the white balance factor, which Google and Samsung have different tendencies on. Google tends to make tones warmer while Samsung leans more on the bluer side of the spectrum. We can see this trend is still alive and kicking. Which is better will mostly depend on personal preference.

This time around Google’s image is a bit under-exposed and seems to show a purple tint throughout the image. Samsung’s sample photo has abetter exposure, more true-to-life colors, superior detail, and more data in the shadows.

While the Pixel 5 manages to capture better detail in the highlights here, the Galaxy S20 FE is a more exciting image. This is due to Samswung’s improved detail in the leaves, dramatic bokeh, and brighter exposure. All these “fun” effects make up for the slightly blown out highlights.

Moving indoors we can see that the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE accomplishes a more uniform exposure, but in this case that isn’t necessarily a good thing. It looks over-processed. There is a general haze and white balance leans more towards the blue side of the spectrum. Contrast looks more realistic in Google’s image, and there is still a good amount of detail in the brick wall. The Pixel’s photo also shows more noise, though.

As expected, Google’s image is warmer and shows better dynamic range. Samsung’s is more dramatic, with more vibrant colors and slightly exploded highlights.

Late afternoon is upon us and things are starting to get darker as we get to this coffee shop. It’s time to look at exposure, color reproduction, and detail. You can definitely see more detail in the brick wall when looking at the Google Pixel 5 photos. White balance varies, but I am leaning more towards Google’s outcomes in this department.

It’s dinner time and nothing beats a charming place like this one. Which is the best companion in the Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE shootout? We believe the Google Pixel 5 managed to get a better white balance and more uniform exposure. Colors are warmer (as they were in real life), and light bulbs have more flare, which adds a dramatic effect to the image. I am still disliking the purple tint in Samsung’s shot.

Google couldn’t handle the light very well here, and light flare is almost never flattering. Especially when it adds that light haze that takes away from detail. Samsung’s photo has a better contrast, and bokeh shows nicer bubbles in the background lights, too.

This one is a bit of a mixed bag, because both selfie photos excel in different areas. The Google Pixel 5 displays more realistic facial features and skin detail, but the image is much softer overall. Samsung’s image shows more detail and contrast in the hair, jacket, and eyes. It’s also better exposed. Our only gripe is that the skin has been softened a bit much. Not to say that’s bad! In fact, we know many of you will love that effect, but it’s not very realistic.

Oh, Samsung. Apparently all that pixel binning does no good when it gets dark enough! Let’s move on.

One of the biggest differences between the Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is lens selection. As seen in the specs, Google only has wide angle and standard lenses. Samsung one-ups its competition with an added telephoto lens. We tried to emulate a zoomed image with the Pixel 5 to see if software improvements could emulate optical zoom. Let’s find out!

Google’s images look better overall, but that’s because it seems to be a better phone exposing in the dark. Take a closer look at the third image to start seeing the differences. Honestly, Google did an amazing job considering it has no zoom lens, but the differences are there. They are just hard to find.

Take a look at the trees to the bottom left. There is much more detail there when looking at Samsung’s photo. Buildings in the back are ever so slightly crisper, and there also seems to be more detail in the clouds.

Next: 5 photography tips guaranteed to produce instant results

Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE camera shootout: The verdict

Both the Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE have a $699 MSRP. Whether one is a more powerful phone than the other is one argument, but today we are focusing on camera prowess.

Which do you think is the better camera phone? All things considered, I am surprised at how well Samsung competed against the unofficial smartphone camera king in daylight and mid-light photography. There is no doubt the Google Pixel 5 is a better phone at night, though.

Now it’s time to vote! After taking a look at these images, which would you say is the best camera phone?

Which phone takes better photos: the Google Pixel 5 or the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE?

10658 votes

If you’ve made up your mind, check the buttons below to learn more about buying these phones.

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