iPhone 8 Plus vs. Google Pixel 2 Camera Shootout: Apple Wins

The iPhone 8 Plus and Google Pixel 2 represent the pinnacle of camera phones right now. But which one is best? We put both of these sharpshooters to the test, comparing them head to head in all sorts of conditions. Apple's camera came out on top, but Google's won some key rounds.

Update 10/23: Based on your feedback, we've added an additional round to compare Portrait Mode performance when shooting a person.

Apple's flagship packs dual 12-megapixel lenses on the back with an all-new sensor that's bigger and faster than the one in last year's iPhone 7. There's also a new color filter and deeper pixels. The wide-angle lens has an f/1.8 aperture, while the telephoto lens is f/2.8. (Only the wide-angle lens has optical image stabilization.) Together, these two cameras supply a 2x optical zoom, as well as a Portrait Mode that now includes various lighting effects. The front camera shoots 7-MP photos with a f/2.2 aperture.

Google's Pixel 2 can also snap portraits that blur out the background, but it pulls that off with a single 12-MP camera on the back. The phone processes the image after you shoot it to add the bokeh effect. This camera has an f/1.8 aperture as well and optical image stabilization, so on paper, the two phones should be equally adept in low light. The front camera is 8 MP with an f/2.4 aperture. We used the Pixel 2 XL for this comparison, but the Pixel 2 has identical cameras.

MORE: The Best Camera Phones: Our Top-Rated Smartphone Cameras

Here's how these two flagships stack up.

Art Wall

The iPhone 8 Plus comes out swinging in this round with a photo of this temporary art installation near Madison Square Park. The phone delivered richer colors than the Pixel 2 XL throughout the image, including blues, reds, oranges and pinks. The image is also simply brighter, even though the sunlight remained constant from the iPhone 8 Plus to the Pixel 2 XL.

Zoomed in, though, I did notice more detail in the Pixel 2 XL's shot; I could make out dabs of paint and paint strokes better.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Portrait Mode (Flowers)

Proving that you don't need two lenses to deliver a convincing bokeh effect, the Pixel 2 XL's Portrait Mode photo blurs out more of the background, while the iPhone 8 Plus' image has a narrower range, as you can see in the flowers in the foreground that are blurred, too. So it's really a matter of preference.

But in this case, I prefer the iPhone 8’s shot, because purple and yellow are more vibrant. The Pixel 2 XL’s image is sharper but slightly underexposed and a bit duller.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Portrait Mode (Person)

After engaging the Portrait mode on both the Pixel 2 XL and iPhone 8 Plus we snapped this photo of my colleague, Caitlin. The iPhone does a better job with the blur effect, as it’s more consistent through the background; with the Pixel 2, some of the hedges are in focus and some are not. 

The iPhone 8 Plus’ image also makes Caitlin’s red hair and skin brighter, and it’s easier to make out the freckles on her face. However, there are some overexposed hot spots in this image compared to the Pixel 2 (just look at her right hand on the iPhone's shot.) The Pixel 2 also delivers sharper details in the subject’s striped shirt. But if I had to pick one image to share, it would be the iPhone 8 Plus’ shot.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Flatiron Building

Maybe it's because Google's Pixel 2 XL has a superior HDR mode (which was turned on for both phones), but the Pixel 2 XL did a much better job showcasing this landmark and details in the shadows.

The iPhone's image came out darker. In addition, the blue umbrellas pop more in the Pixel 2 XL's shot.

Winner: Pixel 2 XL

Lego Man

I honestly don't love either of these photos. If you look at the iPhone 8 Plus' image, it's a bit overexposed, especially to the right, outside the window. And the Pixel 2 XL's photo is on the dark side. I wish I could have something in the middle of these two.

The iPhone 8 Plus' image is brighter, and as I zoomed in, I could easily see the the light reflecting off the glossy facade of the Legos, especially in the yellow face.

Winner: Draw

Zoom

The iPhone 8 has a built-in advantage in that it offers a true 2x optical zoom, while the Pixel 2 XL does only digital zoom. And yet, the difference between these two photos of the Empire State Building isn't that dramatic — until you look closer.

The Pixel 2 XL's image is pleasing to the eye, because of its deeper-blue sky and because you can make out more of the trees in the foreground. The Pixel's HDR seems to perform better in this shot versus the iPhone 8 Plus. But the iPhone 8 Plus' photo is simply more detailed, from the facade of the Empire State Building to the sign on the light pole. You can easily make out the text, while it was more blurred and grainy on Google's phone.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Flash Outdoors

You might wonder whether the flash was even on in this photo from the iPhone 8 Plus of some harvest decorations. The Pixel 2 XL's flash is much more powerful, making the scarecrow, gourds and pumpkin pop.

The flash on the iPhone 8 Plus is too subtle, at least from about 5 feet away. On the plus side, the colors are a bit more accurate with the iPhone's image; the Pixel 2 gave the gray bench a bluish tint, and it looks more true to life in the iPhone's shot.

Winner: Pixel 2 XL

Group Photo

This one was so close I turned to a group of colleagues to vote. The iPhone 8 Plus' image came out on top, 6 to 2. The photo of my co-workers Cortney and Adam looked brighter from the iPhone, and their skin tones looked a bit warmer and more natural.

On the other hand, the Pixel 2 XL's shot delivered more detail, especially as I zoomed in on Cortney's shirt. The Pixel's image just looks a little underexposed.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Low Light

To judge photo quality indoors in low light, I used both phones to take this photo of a racoon decoration on a coffee table.

The Pixel 2 XL's shot is not only brighter, but you can also make out the straw in the decoration easier. The colors in the Pixel's shot are also more accurate; there's a reddish cast in the iPhone 8 Plus' image.

Winner: Pixel 2 XL

Fountain

I'm torn about this photo of a fountain in New York, and this shot is emblematic of the key differences between these two cameras. The Pixel 2 XL's shot delivers more detail in the fountain itself, as well as in the shadows.

But the Pixel's photo also looks washed out compared to the iPhone 8 Plus' image, which has much more contrast. The greens in the trees are more vibrant on the iPhone's photo, too. It's the image I'd rather share.

Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

Overall Winner: iPhone 8 Plus

The iPhone 8 Plus wins with a very close score of 5 rounds to 4, but you absolutely won't be disappointed in either one of these cameras.


iPhone 8 Plus

Google Pixel 2 XL

Art Wall


Portrait Mode (Flowers)


Portrait Mode (Person)


Flatiron Building


Lego Man

Zoom


Flash Outdoors


Group Photo


Low Light


Fountain


Overall

7

4


The iPhone 8 and Pixel 2 XL excel in different areas. Overall, the Pixel 2 produced sharper images and better results in low light, whether the flash was on or off. However, the iPhone 8 delivered more-vibrant colors and warmer skin tones, and its zoom is superior. Apple wins overall, but by a narrow margin.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom's Guide

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  • coebruce
    Cameras, lenses and apertures and shutter speeds (the feature with the least amount of control in phone cams) are fixed and really represent no particular advantage to either camera. Evaluate the post processing, there's the difference. Everyone fiddles with their post, which in-phone editing package is best?
    1
  • trinityeffect
    I dunno, the Pixel 2 XL might not be as punchy with contrast and color as the iPhone 8 Plus, but that is stuff you can add in post very easily on the phone if you want. I like the Pixel 2's dynamic range A LOT more, that LEGO picture was incredible on the Pixel 2 XL, you got all that detail in the shadow on the LEGO structure PLUS all that highlight detail from through the window. The iPhone seems to sacrifice retaining information for saturation and brightness. No thanks. Andthis is coming from an iPhone guy.
    4
  • andrew.schloemer
    So the pixel display is calibrated for better color accuracy by default which results in a duller image, while iPhone is calibrated for more popping color. I would be curious to see results with the pixel in the vibrant display mode got a more apples to apples comparison. Pun fully intended.
    3
  • bogdanpiron
    "Lego Man" photo tells you everything you need to know...
    8 Plus is good... very good, but Pixel 2 owns it.
    5
  • 240.9638.mark
    My take is that for most of these photos, especially the ones where the Apple wins, the difference apears to be exposure: Retake the shot with the Pixel with a +1/2 stop EV and you eliminate the iPhone's advantage. By only using the phones' fully automatic setting you are really just testing the software engineer's biases. This is why DSLR's include auto-bracketing for both exposure and white balance.

    Having said all that I would much prefer a slightly underexposed shot to one that is slightly overexposed. Minor underexposure is easily corrected in post processing. Washed out detail is just plain gone.

    It is interesting that the roles seem reversed in the photo of the fountain. Like the pixel fired the flash and the iPhone did not

    Given all that, the superior performance of the Pixel's flash is a pretty big deal
    6
  • james.lei65
    Remember, shot in log/flat video or raw photo deliver better and more accurate colours than on default camera. iPhone 8 is pleasantly beautiful when I found some of the 4K video in Japan and colour graded.
    0
  • timandersdroid
    To me the Pixel wins every one except for the art wall and the lego man.
    1
  • antextse
    I feel like it was not too long ago that we frowned on punchy high contrast photos and praised photos that we neutral and we'll balanced. Now all of sudden we hate the photos that are the easiest to work with. I say shoot as much detail as you can even if it's flat. It's just gonna end up with an instagram filter anyway
    2
  • flex360
    Lol
    Apple wins my arse
    5
  • kidkidpush
    Coming from an iPhone user. Tom. Lol ?? your full of shit. You know damn well the pixel destroyed the iPhone in those pictures. If you look at the Legos and see to your right you can see the overexposed shot that the iPhone had of the street it was horrible. And as for the empire State building ???? you got to be kidding me right ??? iPhone won that with more detail ????? Really you can't even see the letters on the poster on the pole on the iPhone shot. Tom I own a iPhone 7 plus. And I must tell you iPhone is a great phone but all those shot pixel won just be honest with yourself. And people before you post shit like this lol??
    5
  • sebadigri
    I stopped reading when I saw the lego photo as a draw. it could be a draw ,but google phones (since the Nexus 5 2013) try to maximize the detail in the entire photo.

    This is why the iPhone 8 outdoor part of the photo is terrible compared to the Pixel 2 where you can see the building with much more details.
    4
  • skepticspartan
    Will Apple send you an iPhone x for the article. Lol.
    5
  • alfredpost
    reviewer has lost all credibility with the Lego shot.
    6
  • kidkidpush
    Skepticspartan. I believe. Apple will send the editor of this fake shit an apple iPhone x. I wouldn't be surprised I'm amazed at this really. Shit I want an iPhone x myself ?? I guess this would make sales of the iPhone 8 go up now finally ??????
    2
  • kidkidpush
    Mmmmm yeah. For now on I don't believe any reviewer at all. It's either I test things out and see it myself or I won't pay attention to it. Simple as that. I think we ourselves are the best reviewers for what we want
    1
  • jacksmith21006
    Carry an iPhone but let's be real here. The Pixel has the better camera. It is not the end of the world. Think this author probably purchased a iPhone 8 and is someone that needs to justify the purchase. Dude get some confidence
    9
  • yonibauzil85
    You called it man I don't know how they thought that was a draw when the iPhone 8 photo had horrible exposure in the background and the pixel 2 xl kept everything in the image well exposed. Beats me how that was a draw..over exposure to me is an instant loss
    7
  • alfredpost
    The low light shot..... man I will go elswhere for camera reviews.
    3
  • sky92x
    I found the reviews more based opinion than in any kind of fact or eye for detail. In fact one of the final examples he like the iPhone for having more contrast but if you look in a few areas the iPhone has completely blown the details out! The pixel captures all of the details including the Shadows of the tree and the whites of the building.

    Other various differences are just from the automatic exposure level and general good practice is to slightly underexpose when Outdoors to prevent blowing out light colored objects are objects with sunlight on them.
    4
  • angelguidesabbath
    Pixel 2 xl won them all, might want to get your eyes checked. Bright color is always good color. Also detail and blacks and boka
    4