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


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


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.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone 8 PlusGoogle Pixel 2 XL
Art WallRow 1 - Cell 2
Portrait Mode (Flowers)Row 2 - Cell 2
Portrait Mode (Person)Row 3 - Cell 2
Flatiron BuildingRow 4 - Cell 1
Lego Man
ZoomRow 6 - Cell 2
Flash OutdoorsRow 7 - Cell 1
Group PhotoRow 8 - Cell 2
Low LightRow 9 - Cell 1
FountainRow 10 - Cell 2
iPhone 8 Plus

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

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.