I'm seriously doubting the Google Pixel 3's dominance as the best smartphone camera after taking it on vacation

Antonio Villa-Boas/Business Insider
  • I took two smartphones with me on a trip to Hawaii, and I ended up happier with the cheaper phone’s photos.
  • The $US800 GooglePixel 3 is often crowned as the smartphone with the best camera, but I found the OnePlus 6T, which starts at $US550, took better photos.
  • The following is mostly my own personal opinion, so it’s fine if you prefer the Pixel 3’s photos.

I recently went on a trip to Hawaii and thought it’d be the perfect place to take some photos with two different smartphones I brought with me.

The phones of choice were the Google Pixel 3 and the OnePlus 6T.

Google’s Pixel phones are often touted as having the best cameras on smartphones, and OnePlus phones have always had “OK” cameras. But after taking a few side-by-side shots with both devices, I’m starting to doubt Google’s dominance in the smartphone-camera game.

For reference, I opted to do a pure point-and-shoot test with no taps-to-focus. That way, it shows what each phone decided to, whether it wanted to lighten up darker areas or leave them be.

Check out some photos I took with both smartphones and decide for yourself which ones look better:


Both phones took great shots here, but I’m giving the win to the OnePlus 6T for brightening up darker areas and revealing more detail, as well as giving off brighter colours than the Pixel 3.


In this sunset setting, the HDR mode on the OnePlus 6T produced a much better shot than the Pixel 3.


The OnePlus 6T also handled the setting sun better than the Pixel, and it’s a more striking shot overall.


The difference is less pronounced on a bright day. The OnePlus 6T brightens up certain darker areas, which some might prefer. The Pixel 3 keeps certain areas darker, making for deep contrasts between bright and dark areas, which others might like.


This shows how the OnePlus 6T’s camera can sometimes brighten up darker areas too much, creating a flatter and less dynamic photo than the Pixel 3’s, which is obsessed with creating contrast.


I’m on the fence about this one. On one hand, I like the deeper colours and contrast of the Pixel 3’s photo. On the other hand, the brighter colours from the OnePlus 6T make for a more striking photo at first glance.


Overall, the Pixel 3’s camera captures more accurate colours than the OnePlus 6T. The red on this flower was much closer to the colour in the Pixel’s photo than it was in the OnePlus 6T’s picture.


But the OnePlus 6T sometimes did better than the Pixel 3 with colours, too.


As for low-light shots, the Pixel 3’s Night Sight mode does a better job than the OnePlus 6T’s Night camera mode.


It’s up to you, but from where I’m standing, it looks like the $US800 to $US900 Pixel 3’s reign as the top smartphone camera is put under heavy strain by a phone that starts at $US550.

The Pixel 3 and the OnePlus 6T take very different types of photos.

The Pixel 3 creates photos that keep dark areas dark, which can sometimes make for deeper, more dynamic photos when contrasting with the brighter areas of the shot. The result usually looks better than the majority of the competition, which is why the Pixel 3 is often crowned as the smartphone with the best camera.

The OnePlus 6T wants to brighten up darker areas to reveal more detail, which can be hit-or-miss with certain smartphones. Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 try too hard to brighten up darker areas, for example, and it often results in a flat, less dynamic photo. However, OnePlus seems to have figured out a great balance, and the photos look stunning for it.

The OnePlus 6T didn’t always work out better than the Pixel 3, and the Pixel 3 is better for certain scenarios like night time. But for this trip, I was happier with the OnePlus 6T than I was with the Pixel 3.

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