The best camera is the one you always have with you. Well, that’ll be your smartphone, then. After all, unlike a dedicated camera, your phone slips easily into your pocket or bag and is both light and slim.
It’s connected to the internet so it’s easy to share photos or upload them to Facebook, Instagram and so on. Oh, and it makes phone calls, too.
There’s a lot to be said for a smartphone, then, but if it really is going to supplant a separate camera, then it needs to be really good at taking pictures.
The Pixel 3a uses the same highly-regarded camera as the Pixel 3, which costs significantly more. That means it has the identical 12.2-megapixel rear camera sensor.
The only difference between the two phone cameras is that the Pixel 3 has an additional chip, called the Pixel Visual Core processor. Does that mean the Pixel 3a’s pictures are worse? Not at all, it’s just that the processing that the phone carries out as it takes photos is all done on the phone’s main chips instead. The results look just as good, though the images take a little longer to save, which probably won’t be an issue for most people.
The extra features that help the Pixel 3 camera stand out are all here on the 3a. These include Night Sight which improves your night-time photography. It uses clever software to take multiple shots in quick succession and combines them so that it can compensate for low light and for the camera shake which happens with handheld shots. The results are jaw-dropping: suddenly there are colours and details your eyes can’t see, in images that still look convincing.
There’s plenty more, such as a neat Time Lapse feature and Top Shot. This takes lots of photos, some of them even before you’ve pressed the shutter, and analyses them to check for features like whether your subject blinked or is smiling, for instance, and then recommends which are the best images. You can then choose which one you like best from the ones it recommends.
Like many more expensive phones, the Pixel 3a has a portrait mode where you can take photos with the subject in pristine focus and the background gently blurred so that your subject is all you look at.
And in general use, the Pixel 3a camera is tremendous, creating images which are spot-on in terms of colour accuracy – that is, they look exactly like what your eyes see.
There’s video, too. It can shoot at resolutions up to the super-high 4K, at 30 frames per second, again like the more expensive Pixel 3. Video stabilisation means your footage will be steady even if you’re not.
The eight-megapixel front-facing camera is great and includes portrait mode effects for selfies as well. It automatically saves two versions of the photo, one with a blurred background, one without.
Overall, the rich variety of extra features, the great ease of use and the sheer excellence of the images it produces in day-to-day use make the Google Pixel 3a camera a real standout. It matches the camera power of flagship phones, but not the price tag.
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