I took over 200 photos with the Google Pixel 8a vs Nothing Phone 2a — here’s the winner

Pixel 8a vs Nothing Phone 2a side-by-side in the hand.
(Image credit: Future)

A new year brings opportunities for phones to improve, and with the case of the Pixel 8a, Google has certainly delivered in making a top contender for one of the best cheap phones around. In order to cement its position as the undisputed champ, a Pixel 8a vs. Nothing Phone 2a is necessary to see how these budget phones compare in the camera department.

That’s why I took over 200 photos with the Pixel 8a vs. Nothing Phone 2a, in order to really uncover how their respective cameras handle different scenes. Similar to my other photo shootouts, like the Pixel 8a vs. iPhone SE, I’m grading this photo shootout based on the ten categories I’ll judge below. I’ll mainly focus on the first set of images to explain how they differ, but the rest of the shots will give you more detail on how they’re handled differently.

Just earlier this year, my Nothing Phone 2a vs. Pixel 7a photo shootout proved that Google’s budget phone was still the better one for photography — and that’s despite it technically being the older phone. Knowing that, one would presume that the Pixel 8a would cruise to victory against the Nothing Phone 2a. Although, our Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 7a photo shootout came out a lot closer than what my colleagues and I initially expected.

Both phones definitely have the hardware to capture photos under different conditions. The Pixel 8a features a 64MP main camera paired with a 13MP ultrawide, along with 13MP camera around the front. Meanwhile, the Nothing Phone 2a is accompanied by dual 50MP main and ultrawide cameras with a 32MP selfie camera.

Pixel 8a vs. Nothing Phone 2a: main camera

Kicking things off with these shots of a giant billboard sign in Times Square promoting the action-packed film "Furiosa," my eyes instantly gravitate towards the brighter image of the Nothing Phone 2a. However, there’s a little more detail out of the Pixel 8a’s shot, as evidenced by the parking sign near the left side.

In all the other comparison photos I shot with their cameras, it’s clear that the Nothing Phone 2a has a habit of increasing the exposure throughout the scene, but I can tell in other high-contrast scenes that the highlights tend to suffer the most because of the over-exposure. For this reason, as well as the sharper details it captures, I’m giving it to the Pixel 8a.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Pixel 8a vs. Nothing Phone 2a: ultrawide

On paper, the Pixel 8a has an advantage in the ultrawide department thanks to its wider 120-degree field of view — versus the Nothing Phone 2a’s narrower 114 degrees. This difference lets me capture more of the scene with the Pixel 8a, which is more ideal when I’m taking group photos or a landscape scene.

This is evident in the first set of photos above that I captured of a corner skyscraper near Times Square. Again, the Nothing Phone 2a has a penchant for brightening up the image more than the Pixel 8a, which instantly draws my attention right away. But similar to its main camera’s performance, this hurts the highlights in high-contrast scenes because they often become over-exposed — whereas the Pixel 8a paints a more realistic picture of what I see with my eyes.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Pixel 8a vs. Nothing Phone 2a: dynamic range

In the shots of Bryant Park’s sprawling summertime lawn, the Nothing Phone 2a’s aggressive brightening again impacts brighter areas of the scene — like the brighter clouds in the sky. While this inherently makes the shadows appear brighter, the Pixel 8a’s dynamic range performance is still able to draw out details in the shadowed areas in the trees.

The Nothing Phone 2a’s shots definitely look appealing at first glance, but the Pixel 8a casts the truer to life look. Frankly, the Nothing Phone 2a’s shots look way too over-processed.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Pixel 8a vs. Nothing Phone 2a: color reproduction

I will say that both phones produce vibrant color tones, with both leaning on the saturated side. That’s not a bad quality to have because it helps to draw attention, but it doesn’t replicate what it actually looks like in real life.

There’s clearly more saturation going on with the Nothing Phone 2a, particularly with the red peppers I shot inside of Whole Foods. It’s also worth pointing out how the Nothing Phone 2a repeatedly increases the exposure of its shots, which again impacts the highlights to the point that they look over-exposed.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Pixel 8a vs. Nothing Phone 2a: closeup