Google Pixel 3 vs Canon DSLR camera comparison – Can the best smartphone camera compete?

Google Pixel 3 vs Canon DSLR camera comparison – Can the best smartphone camera compete?

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Google Pixel 3 vs Canon DSLR camera comparison (Image: PH)

Google Pixel smartphones have always been renowned for their amazing camera capabilities. 

While the phones may lack in certain areas, such as the design – see the garish Pixel 3 XL notch – it is hard to dispute their shooting prowess. 

Google Pixel differs to a lot of other smartphone makers and opts for just a single lens system, while other flagships such as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro has a triple-lens system and the latest Huawei P30 Pro, with its 50x zoom and rivalling low light performance.

The phones comes with just a single 12.2-megapixel sensor on its rear with the American tech giant focusing on how it can utilise software to enhance the phone’s photography in multiple different scenarios. 

At the Pixel 3 launch, Google focused on how impressive the camera was in low-light, with the debut of an arguably flagship feature called Night Sight. 

This mode dramatically improves the lighting of an image to offer incredible imagery in scenarios that weren’t previously possible. 

Google product manager Liza Ma insisted said the feature could even see the flash become redundant over time. 

She said: “Life’s best moments aren’t always perfectly lit: a party, a campfire with your friends, one last shot before the bar closes.

“Night Sight works so well you will never use your flash again.

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

“In extreme low-light we turn to machine learning to choose the right colours, based on the content of the image.

“Night Sight makes Pixel the best low-light smartphone camera.”

These are pretty huge claims but do they ring true in real world conditions?

Express.co.uk recently put the Pixel up against the new Mate 20 Pro, which also comes with a Night Mode and an impressive 40-megapixel main, a 20-megapixel wide and an 8-megapixel telephoto sensor. 

While the Huawei held its own against the Pixel and produced some stunning pictures, it was simply outclassed by the Google flagship in other areas, as the American tech giant’s images tended to have more detail, clarity and true-to-life colours. 

The Google flagship has arguably and its ludicrously impressive zoom and low light performance and the two phones are the best you can buy on the market.

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Now the Pixel 3 faces it’s greatest test to date, going up against a Canon 80D DSLR with a Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art Series Lens to see just how good it really is. 

Portrait

Google’s flagship has a stunning portrait mode and can produce some incredible shots, evidenced below. However, at times the shots can look a little bit over processed.

When put side by side with the DSLR you lose some of the natural bokeh and realism of a shot and can often leave your subject looking like a sticker pasted on top of the image. 

Sometimes the camera also has the tendency to smooth out and warm up skin tones of your subject which can produce some fairy unusual looking images.

However, this low light shot in Macau where the subject is backlit by the bright neon lights of a casino shows just how powerful the camera can be if you take time to pick the right shot and it is certainly one of the better portraits being offered right now. 

Canon 80D

Canon 80D (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Canon 80D

Canon 80D (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Low light

This is where the phone’s Night Sight really shines through. This gorgeous low light shot utilises the warm yellow hue of the apartments and street lighting to reflects a vast and stark grandeur of the buildings.

Matching it on the DSLR was a finicky process that required resting the camera precariously on the balcony ledge and slowing the shutter speed right down.

Just for how easy it was to take this image and how great it turned out the Pixel wins here hands down. 

This was a bit of a theme throughout the process with the Pixel generally able to perform exceptionally in low light most of the time without employing additional stabilisation, such as using a gimbal.

The Canon could hold its own too but it often required a little more effort and careful settings choice to achieve the right image. 

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Canon 80D

Canon 80D RAW (edited in Photoshop) (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Street photography and landscapes

Macau is a neon paradise, a complete visual assault. It was a great place to pit the two cameras up against each other. Both handled the complex scenes really well.

Two shots were taken with the Pixel using the normal camera and Night Sight, both offering slightly different but equally impressive results. The DSLR does trump the Pixel here as the colours look more natural and the image is sharper but it’s not beaten it by any huge margin.

On a bright day shooting buildings it handled exposure well and offering nice, shape and high contrast images which are pretty much ready to share straight out of the device. This is also an area where the DSLR shone with the constant low aperture offering some great subject separation. 

While taking landscape pictures of the city it was hard to split the two cameras as they both captured a lot of detail, were sharp and had accurate colours. Both the Canon and the Pixel thrive in these environments but the Canon takes it here.

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Canon 80D

Canon 80D (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Canon 80D

Canon 80D (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Canon 80D

Canon 80D (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3

Canon 80D vs Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Animals

The Pixel struggled here to capture a particularly solid image of the pandas while the DSLR shone. There is a huge difference in the quality of the images and the colours. The DSLR managed to capture much more details and clarity while the Pixel came off a little soft.

Similarly, the digital zoom, as opposed to the optical zoom of the Canon hurt the overall performance. It was a struggle to frame the subject and maintain a high level of detail. 

Selfies 

Like them or loathe them, Selfies are some of the most shared images. DSLRs really aren’t designed for selfies and will repair you to whack them on a timer or use a remote trigger and need to be mounted to a tripod.

Ultimately this is too much of a faff to be worth it and with the Pixel’s 3’s Group Selfie mode, which utilises a wide angle sensor, then there really isn’t any point anyway. The Pixel will always win with its wide-angle selfie mode. 

Canon 80D

Canon 80D (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3 (Image: LUKE JOHN SMITH)

Verdict

One of the Pixel’s greatest strengths is how easy it makes it take a great shot. If you have an eye for a good composition, it will facilitate the capturing stunning photographs it in a way which will compel you to share it. However, with a DSLR in your hand you are ultimately more thoughtful about what you are capturing and the art of it and if you care to spend a little more time, will typically produce a nicer image. 

Previously, if you didn’t have your DSLR then the picture you could take on your smartphone would often look like a snapshot that you may never look at again. Now, however, with the technology progressing at the astronomical pace it is, these devices are amazingly powerful tools.

The art of photography is capturing powerful moments in time, immortalising scenes that seconds later will change or disappear. Having these devices in your pocket can make sure you never miss the shot, but you shouldn’t say goodbye to your DSLR, just yet. 

All Canon DSLR photographs used were JPEGs to keep the test fair and featured little or no post-processing, except where stated. 

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