I tested Google's new Pixel 4 against the iPhone 11 Pro to see which one is better at taking photos in the dark. Here's how they compare.

Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

Google earned praise for how well its Pixel phones can shoot photos in the dark thanks to Night Sight, a smartphone camera feature it launched in 2018. But with the iPhone 11, Apple was quick to follow suit with its own night mode, which kicks in automatically when snapping photos in low-light situations.

Both Google’s Pixel phones and the new iPhone are capable of taking clear, crisp photos in the dark. But there are some key differences to take into account.

During my testing, I found that the Pixel 4 generally outperformed the iPhone 11 Pro, especially when shooting outdoors at night. That’s not to say the iPhone’s night mode isn’t impressive – in some cases, it did manage to excel over Google’s Pixel 4.

Google announced the Pixel 4 on October 15, which starts at $US800 and starts shipping on October 24. Some of the key differences that distinguish it from the Pixel 3 include motion detection powered by Google’s radar technology, an improved camera that now features a dual-lens setup.

Read more: Google just laid out its vision for the future of the smartphone with the Pixel 4 – here’s how it compares to the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro

Apple’s new iPhones also received a major camera upgrade: the Pro models both come with three rear-facing cameras, while the 11 has two. That includes a new ultra-wide-angle lens for capturing broader scenes, which the Pixel 4 lacks.

Here’s a look at how Google’s new Pixel 4 stacks up against the iPhone 11 Pro when it comes to taking photos in the dark.


Pixel 4: Outdoor street from rooftop

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In most cases, the Pixel 4 outshone the iPhone when it came to camera performance in low-light circumstances – especially outside. In this photo, which was taken from my rooftop at night, the lighting in the Pixel 4’s photo was slightly better than that of the iPhone.


iPhone 11 Pro: Outdoor street from rooftop

Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

And here’s the iPhone 11 Pro’s image. It’s still crisp and bright enough, but not quite as bright as the Pixel’s.


Pixel 4: Night sky

Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

Google touted the Pixel 4’s ability to take photos of the night sky, and based on my limited testing it appears to be working. I snapped this photo of the sky outside of my apartment in Queens. It’s not easy to see the stars in New York City, but you’ll notice that some are still visible.


iPhone 11 Pro: Night sky

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And here’s the same photo taken with the iPhone 11 Pro, where the stars are barely discernible at all.


Pixel 4: Outdoor night portrait

Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

Both the Pixel 4 and the iPhone 11 Pro were generally able to take clear, defined portraits outside in dim conditions. But the Pixel 4’s photo was just a bit more luminous and contained sharper details.


iPhone 11 Pro: Outdoor night portrait

Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

And now look at the same portrait taken with the iPhone. It’s still very easy to see the subject, and the lighting is impressive. But you lose a lot of the detail compared to the Pixel 4. The night sky behind the subject is also slightly darker in the iPhone’s image compared to the Pixel’s.


Pixel 4: Dark indoor cat portrait

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There were a couple of instances in which the iPhone 11 Pro’s night mode surpassed the Pixel 4’s Night Sight. The photo of my cat below, which was taken with the Pixel 4, is acceptable considering how dark it was in my living room.


iPhone 11 Pro: Dark indoor cat portrait

Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

But the iPhone 11 Pro’s image is noticeably brighter. It’s a little fuzzier than the Pixel’s photo, but not enough to detract from the photo. Overall, this image does a better job at portraying the subject.


Pixel 4: Dark indoor still life

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And while this image of desk plants taken in a dark conference room with the Pixel 4 looks light and crisp…


iPhone 11 Pro: Dark indoor still life

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…the iPhone 11 Pro’s version is just as bright, and the colours look bolder.


Overall, both the iPhone’s night mode and the Pixel’s Night Sight represent a big step forward for smartphone photography.

Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

Features like these add a lot of convenience, making it possible to capture quality photos with your phone in circumstances in which it would have been very challenging to do so previously.

It’s difficult to determine a clear winner based on this brief test, especially considering they performed differently as the circumstances varied. But if one takeaway is clear, it’s that the Pixel 4’s camera drastically outperforms the iPhone when it comes to taking photos of the night sky.

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