The Pixel doesn’t have a tele­photo lens, and Google at­tempts to get around this with soft­ware

Android Advisor - - Round-up -

you’re shoot­ing with that Ul­tra Pixel cam­era. The 2X zoom cam­era lets you get closer to your sub­ject with more de­tail, but you lose out on that great dy­namic range and colour ac­cu­racy. An­noy­ingly, the only way to ad­just white bal­ance is to se­lect the Pro mode, some­thing that you’re just not go­ing to want to do when­ever you use the zoom.

In dim light, the U12+ man­ages to con­tinue the theme of ac­cu­rate colours but it cer­tainly strug­gles more than many ri­vals. Pho­tos are darker and are very noisy: there’s no night mode and no clever tricks that you’ll find on phones such as the P20 Pro.

Thanks to dual 8Mp cam­eras on the front, there’s a ‘proper’ por­trait mode avail­able whether you’re tak­ing self­ies of pho­tos of oth­ers. The bad news is that it doesn’t al­ways get it right, so there’s a good chance your sub­ject won’t be re­al­is­ti­cally iso­lated from the back­ground. When the sys­tem works, it works well, though, and there’s an op­tion to au­to­mat­i­cally en­able por­trait mode when a per­son is de­tected.

Video is more im­pres­sive (see fave.co/2OEcAna). In fact, the U12+ is one of the best choices for video. It won’t shoot ul­tra slo-mo, but its 240fps at 1080p

is very good and lets you choose which part to play in slo-mo af­ter the fact.

The best part is the 4K60 mode. A few phones can now record in UHD at 60 frames per sec­ond, but few of­fer any sta­bi­liza­tion. The U12+’s sta­bi­liza­tion isn’t rock steady, but it’s ef­fec­tive and makes the mode ac­tu­ally us­able. Dy­namic range in video isn’t as good as in pho­tos, but colour ac­cu­racy and de­tail is ex­cel­lent.

Au­dio is an­other key fac­tor, and sound record­ing is good thanks to four mics placed around the phone. Bet­ter still, you can tap on the viewfinder to choose what you want the mics to fo­cus on, and this no­tice­ably im­proves clar­ity when peo­ple are speak­ing – es­pe­cially if you zoom in.

Sadly, the tele­photo lens can’t be used when shoot­ing video, so the 2x zoom is merely dig­i­tal zoom.

We’re fans of HTC’s cam­era in­ter­face which makes all modes avail­able re­gard­less of whether you’re us­ing the front or rear cam­eras. You can ac­cess these by swip­ing down al­most any­where on the screen. There are no other ges­tures, so you won’t ac­ci­den­tally switch be­tween cam­eras or modes as is pos­si­ble on ri­vals. One thing we’re not a fan of is the sep­a­rate photo and video but­tons at the bot­tom, mainly be­cause it takes a cou­ple of sec­onds to switch be­tween these modes, and the app re­mem­bers the last set­ting you used rather than re­vert­ing back to photo mode each time.

4. Google Pixel 2 XL Price: £799/£899 (64/128GB) from fave.co/2AzDjOI

The orig­i­nal Pixel had amaz­ing cam­eras, and the Pixel 2 XL’s are even bet­ter. Don’t dis­miss it just be­cause it

lacks dual cam­eras, as this phone is ca­pa­ble of very im­pres­sive pho­tos and videos.

It’s even ca­pa­ble of blur­ring the back­ground of por­trait pho­tos without the as­sis­tance of a sec­ond cam­era for depth sens­ing, and this works on the front cam­era too. Since the cam­eras are the same on the smaller Pixel 2, this re­view ap­plies to both phones.

Soft­ware has al­ways been Google’s strength and so al­though the hard­ware – the cam­era sen­sors and lenses – is noth­ing out of the or­di­nary, the Pixel 2’s pho­tos are ex­tra­or­di­nary. The main rea­son for this is the HDR+ mode which is en­abled by de­fault on the Pixel 2.

Most phones take three pho­tos and blend them to­gether. Not the Pixel 2. It takes 10 im­ages, chops them up and lay­ers pieces on top of each other to cre­ate pho­tos with great dy­namic range: lots of de­tail in both shad­ows and high­lights.

What this means is that just about every photo you take on the Pixel 2 – or XL – looks stun­ning with lots of sharp de­tail, great colours and hardly any noise. Amaz­ingly, this phone offers close to the dy­namic range of a DSLR.

Google didn’t shout about its cus­tom de­signed Vis­ual Core pro­ces­sor at the phone’s launch, and only turned it on ear­lier this year (in Fe­bru­ary 2018). It means you now get HDR+ when you take pho­tos in other apps such as Face­book, Snapchat, In­sta­gram and What­sApp, not just in the de­fault cam­era app.

Strangely enough, the stock cam­era app doesn’t ac­tu­ally use the pro­ces­sor as Google says it isn’t needed. And the re­sults back this up: there’s no de­lay when you take back to back pho­tos on the phone, un­like the orig­i­nal Pixel.

The prob­lem with the Pixel is that it doesn’t have a tele­photo lens. Again, Google at­tempts to get around this with soft­ware. Its RAISR sys­tem de­tects pat­terns and uses this to in­tel­li­gently cre­ate new pix­els to make the im­age larger (and there­fore sim­u­late a zoom lens).

It works well in some pho­tos – of peo­ple, mainly – but it gets con­fused with some tex­tures such as leaves on trees or bushes in the back­ground. And, as you’d ex­pect, re­sults aren’t as good as you’ll get from the P20 Pro with its 3x zoom cam­era.

Pho­tos taken in low light are very good, but again, the P20 Pro out­classes it with its hand­held night mode and abil­ity to get great re­sults when there’s al­most no light at all. Video is just as im­pres­sive as still im­ages (see fave.co/2AB0W9E). Op­ti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion is used with

soft­ware to de­liver re­ally smooth footage, and it looks great. You’re lim­ited to 30 frames per sec­ond at 4K, but this won’t be prob­lem for many peo­ple. The main let-down here is au­dio: it’s mono and sim­ply not as good qual­ity as you get from the Galaxy S9+ or iPhone X.

Slo-mo is a bit be­hind the times, with op­tions of 120fps at 1080p or 240fps in 720p.

The Pixel 2 XL takes great por­traits, and can blur the back­ground de­spite hav­ing just one rear cam­era. And self­ies are also im­pres­sive.

An­other fea­ture added af­ter the Pixel 2’s launch was AR stick­ers. You might con­sider them a gim­mick, but be­ing able to add 3D char­ac­ters or text into a photo or video is a unique abil­ity that re­ally works well.

Bet­ter still, Google gives Pixel 2 own­ers un­lim­ited cloud stor­age for as many orig­i­nal-qual­ity pho­tos and videos as they like until Jan­uary 2021.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of tak­ing pho­tos and videos on the Pixel 2 is good. We’ve al­ready men­tioned how fast it is, but the cam­era app’s lay­out is clean and un­clut­tered.

A few key con­trols are placed along the top, though it’s a shame that Por­trait mode is hid­den in the main menu. There’s no ‘pro’ mode with op­tions such as shut­ter speed and white bal­ance, but on the whole you don’t need them as the Pixel 2’s au­to­matic modes do a fan­tas­tic job.

We’re still fans of the Pixel 2’s cam­eras and if you’re not too both­ered about hav­ing a tele­photo lens, su­per slo-mo or tak­ing pho­tos in near-dark­ness, then you’ll be very happy with them, too.

In dim light, the U12+ strug­gles more than its ri­vals

The 2X zoom cam­era lets you get closer to your sub­ject with more de­tail

Por­trait mode

Selfie mode

Google Pixel 2 XL

Just about every photo you take looks stun­ning with lots of sharp de­tail, great colours and hardly any noise

Pho­tos taken in low light are very good

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