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Google Pixel 4a vs iPhone SE camera shootout: You pick the winner!

It's the battle of the budget camera phones, and today we're putting two of the best against each other!

Published onJuly 15, 2021

Google Pixel 4a vs iPhone SE 2020 backs 2
David Imel / Android Authority

Budget phones are all the hype, and these two are industry favorites. The Google Pixel 4a is known for its simplicity, a drop-dead $349 MSRP, and the same amazing camera performance Pixel phones are known for. It could very well be the best camera phone at its price range, but there is another main competitor with an incredible camera already in the mid-range market: Apple’s iPhone SE.

We decided to pit the two phones against each other in a Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE camera shootout to find out which comes out on top. Be sure to cast your vote for the winner in the poll at the end of the article. Let’s take a look at some images.

Learn more: Google Pixel 4a review | Apple iPhone SE review

Google Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE: Camera specs

Things look very similar in the Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE camera spec sheet. Both have single cameras on the rear and front, and megapixel counts are also very much alike. The main differences between the Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE camera specs become more apparent when you start looking at video shooting options. The iPhone SE has much more video quality options, giving Apple’s smartphone a slight upper hand in the video department.

Pixel 4aiPhone SE
Rear cameras
Pixel 4a
12.2MP sensor with f1.7 aperture
iPhone SE
12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture
Rear video
Pixel 4a
iPhone SE
Front cameras
Pixel 4a
8MP sensor with f2.0 aperture
iPhone SE
7MP sensor with f2.2 aperture
Front video
Pixel 4a
iPhone SE

The samples

We shot a mix of photos with both smartphones at the same time. The variety of scenarios should help us find quality discrepancies and ultimately come up with a winner. Both devices were on their latest software versions as of writing, and both were set to “photo” and “portrait” modes for the given tests.

We took the Pixel 4a and iPhone SE on our Snow Lake, Washington adventures, where these camera phones were able to give us a good look at their daylight camera performance. Both phones seem to do very well taking crisp, in-focus images. There is a clear difference in white balance. The Pixel 4a samples are slightly cooler, while the iPhone SE shots display a warmer tone. The iPhone SE also seems to raise the shadows more, which is great if you want to see more detail, but the Pixel 4a also has more contrast, which is an effect many of you might prefer.

See also: The best budget camera phones you can buy

Let’s go to a darker area, where we can truly test a camera’s dynamic range. Many cameras will struggle to take a photo like this one because there is strong light in the sky and darker areas in the brick walls. The camera needs to shoot a well-balanced photo, reduce highlights, and increase shadows to achieve more uniform exposure.

Neither did great, but the iPhone SE seems to have captured a better exposure with a brighter wall and a more vibrant sky. Meanwhile, the brick wall’s level of detail and crispness is better captured by the Pixel 4a.

How about portrait mode? They both do relatively well, or as well as most other good camera phones perform. Bokeh is great in both instances, but I can definitely see a difference in the subject’s outline. The iPhone SE seems to do a little better in this department, as it outlines the hair a little more efficiently, making the fall-off seem more natural.

On the other hand, The Google Pixel 4a did a much better job pulling out detail in the shadows, such as in the hair and mask. Not to mention the eyes, eyebrows, and even the shirt looks much more crisp and clear.

This selfie was shot in bright sunlight. Again, they both did alright, but the iPhone camera seems to shoot much softer and warmer selfies.

Next: The best camera phones you can buy

Google Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE camera shootout: Vote for the winner!

So, which phone wins the Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE camera shootout? Will Google come out on top, or will it fall against its biggest rival. You decide! Cast your vote in the poll below and we’ll let you know the results very soon.

If you want to know how the Pixel 4a and iPhone SE stack up outside the camera realm, be sure to check out our longer comparison, where we look at the specs, features, design, software, price, and more.

Which phone takes better photos: the Pixel 4a or the iPhone SE

9464 votes

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