Google Pixel 3 Camera Review

The Google Pixel 2 smartphone camera was one that received a lot of high praise when it came out. Users loved the capabilities of the lens combined with the smart features of the Google software. At the end of 2018, Google released the next-generation model.

The Google Pixel 3 camera was heralded as the next big thing and a worthy follow-up. Now that the hype has died down, a few years down the line, are we still so in love with this device? Some critics have moved on to brighter, newer models with better specifications. However, that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a good camera for the right person.

The Google Pixel 3 is still a great option and more than a single lens device. 

There may be some misconceptions about this smartphone camera because so many reviewers talk about the single lens. This doesn’t mean that there is just the one camera in this device. What it actually means that that the rear camera has just the one lens while other competitors have created dual-lens or even quad systems. Some see this as a detriment to the phone because of a lack of capabilities. However, others are still quick to praise this camera because of the software and intelligence within.

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Rear Facing Camera Specifications

  • 12MP, f/1.8, Dual Pixel Phase Detection Auto-focus, Optical and Electronic Image Stabilization, 76° Field of View

Video Specifications

  • 4K @ 30fps
  • 1080p @ 30fps, 60fps, 120fps
  • 720p @ 30fps, 60fps, 240fps

Front Facing Camera Specifications

  • Wide Angle, 8MP, f/2.2, 107° Field of View
  • Telephoto, 8MP, f/1.8, 75° Field of View

Video Specifications

  • 1080p @ 30fps
  • 720p @ 30fps
  • 480p @ 30fps


There are a few standout features in this camera that users will love. 

One of the reasons that so many Google phone owners love the cameras on these models is the use of user-friendly features and settings. Google knows that its consumers want instant gratification and minimal hassle when it comes to taking photos – or pretty much anything else. That is why their best software features are such a big hit. Three of the most interesting and helpful for users are Night Sight, Top Shot and Super Res Zoom.

Night Sight

Night-time capabilities are something that many smartphones have struggled with in the past. We can create some impressive shots during the day but the camera seems to have a crisis about the light-levels at night. Some phones try to compensate for this with a flash and make matters worse. The Google Pixel 3 camera doesn’t do this. Instead, it uses this specialized Night Sight mode to focus in on the light, color, and contrast of the image. The system is smart enough to create an image that is pretty true-to-life. An added bonus here is that you can use this on both the rear and front cameras. This means that your selfies and group shots will have the same quality. This is ideal for nights out on the town.

Night Sight Google Pixel 3 Image
Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

Top Shot

This is another feature where the name is pretty self-explanatory. This is the application that you want to use when you are looking for perfection with the very first shot. It can take photographers years to master the composition and light of a scene – and even then you can’t guarantee that everyone in the photo is happy, smiling and has their eyes open. Top Shot does away with all that and promises the best possible image for that moment. We will explain how below. 

Super Res Zoom

This is a feature with some mixed responses from critics. Go back far enough to the launch of the Google Pixel 3 and everyone was raving about the zoom. But, there is a clear drawback here that the single rear lens doesn’t allow for optical zoom. More recent devices, such as the Huawei P30 Pro have leaped ahead with the impressive zoom capabilities and the clarity of the images. This Google model does have the Super-Res Zoom feature to compensate for this lack of optical zoom. You can zoom in pretty well and the clarity is comparable with other devices.

Multiple Image Overlay

The Google Pixel 3 camera is smart enough to find the best shot for us.

The first two applications share a common feature that makes a big difference for point-and-shoot mobile photography. We don’t want to have to stand around taking lots of different shots to make sure everything is perfect. We don’t have time for reshoots if someone blinked at the wrong time or we didn’t pay attention to the light. Smartphone photography should be spontaneous, instant and fun. That is why the Top Shot and Night Sight modes stitch together multiple shots for the best image.

Essentially, what you are getting is an amalgamate of a series of image over a short timeframe. The camera starts shooting just before you press the button completely and continues just after. This isn’t noticeable to us as users. As far as we are concerned, we took one photo. However, the speed of the processor in the camera means there are lots of images to stitch together. That is how Top Shot is able to provide such brilliant results each time. 

It also helps that this smartphone has such a responsive auto-focus feature. The camera can focus in on the right subject with greater speed than rival models. This then increases the likelihood of a sharp image that you will want to share. 

Front-facing Cameras

There are two front-facing cameras on this phone – the basic option and the Group Selfie camera. The first, “normal” lens is great for creating you more traditional composition and is pretty easy to use. However, it is the Group Selfie element that has people talking.

The Group Selfie Camera

The Group Selfie camera is a great idea for those that love to post every detail of their lives on Instagram. These shots allow you to show off the scene you are in and not just your face. The photos become stories of the moment and add to the narrative on your social media page or blog. Viewers get to see groups of people involved, what everyone is wearing and the location. Wide-angle individual selfies also let you show off where you are in the world. You can’t boast that you are in Times Square or the center of Tokyo if we can only see a section of one building.

Google Pixel 3 Group Shot
Copyright 123RF Stock Photo

However, be aware that some users have struggled with this wide-angle approach. Perspective and the angle of the phone are essential here. One false move and you might distort the image or capture a friend at an unflattering angle. Do that too many times and they won’t want to be in your selfies any more. This is another reason why this smartphone camera is so well suited to the social media-minded millennial generation. This is the demographic that will figure out how to get things right and get the very best out of this camera. 

Portrait Photography

It also helps that this model has some great tech to help users with their portrait photography. This means that not only can you capture your image with ease, but you can also be sure that it will look good. The clarity of the image, the exposure and the colour all lead to realistic images. Of course, that Night Sight mode will come in handy here too for a great-looking selfie after-hours. If you take a moonlit stroll or head into an urban, neon jungle, we will be able to see your face. 

Another helpful feature here is the Bokeh effect. Many smartphones now have the ability to blur the image around the subject. This has been well-received by those that want to focus on the person rather than the entire scene. You can soften the noise of a busy street and blur out a crowd – perfect for when you get photobombed by a stranger. This effect is clear and impressive on the images captured by the Google Pixel 3 camera. Furthermore, all portrait shots will be presented with the blur and without, which gives you greater choice over which to keep. 

There are some aspects to this phone that could let it down slightly 

So far, this all sounds pretty impressive. But, there are some drawbacks to this camera – or more importantly the phone – that you need to be aware of. 

The Display

The 5.5 inch screen is small compared to the iPhone or some of the widescreen options. Many users can shrug this off because the phone is so compact it fits so neatly in a pocket. But, this does mean less space for displaying your photos. Of course, if size really is important, you could go for the Pixel 3 XL instead. A plus side here is that the screen does offer the optimal aspect ratio of 18:9. Users are also impressed with the colour and clarity of the OLED screen. Also – and this can’t be stressed enough these days – there is no notch cut. 

The Battery

The battery life isn’t the best in this phone at a 2,915Ah capacity. Taking photos for a long period can really drain it so you can’t plan for a long day of photography without a break to charge the phone. If you are on holiday and spent hours taking snaps of local sights and family group photos, don’t expect the phone to have enough charge for your night out. If you are one of those people that is always borrowing chargers from other people, this might not work for you. 

The plus side here is the speed of the charger. This model comes with an 18W wall charger and a USB-C to USB-C charging cable, which is something we don’t often see. The benefit of this is that you can recharge in a matter of minutes. So, if you are down to your last drops of juice in the evening, you may be able to recharge for an hour before heading back out.

The Storage

Finally, there is the issue of a lack of storage. If you are going to use this photo to take hundreds of photographs then they need to go somewhere. The last thing you want is to see that your memory is full in the middle of a day out or celebration. Many smartphones get around this by providing a slot for a microSD card. For some reason, that isn’t the case here. So, be prepared to sort through your galleries and upload your photos regularly. 

Can the critic’s favourite of the start of 2019 remain on top?

There is the notion that this phone is a little behind the times in some regards. There was a point at the beginning of the year where this seemed like the perfect choice for clear, quality photos. Critics were impressed by the clarity of the photos, the colours created and the user-friendly features in the software. This felt like a great step forward from the previous Google model and could compete with the best phones on the market. We can’t feel too bad about sacrificing a few inches on the screen when the images are that much better.

However, since the launch of this Google Pixel 3 camera, other brands have stepped up their game. The Huawei P40 Pro, for example, has swerved sharply to take the market into new territory. Users that were happy with the clarity of the zoom with the Google Pixel 3 now feel that their images look blurry and weak by comparison. 

In the end, it all depends on what you actually want from this Google Pixel 3 camera. 

Some smartphone cameras are built to replicate the experience of digital photography in a mobile device. Others will focus on apps and software to help with selfies and make things a little more fun. The Google Pixel 3 finds a middle ground – and not necessarily in a negative way. The specification of the camera is no longer the best around in terms of the sensors and zoom. But, some of these features would be lost on the average user anyway. 

If your main aim is to have a reliable camera for spontaneous shots, high-quality selfies and nights out, you can’t go too wrong here. This is the smartphone camera for those that don’t want to think about settings, options and technical specs. This is the user-friendly smartphone camera for the Instagram generation. Let the Google Pixel 3 camera do everything for you and enjoy the results.