iPhone 11 Pro versus Pixel 4 - comparing the best smartphone cameras

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2019
Both the iPhone 11 Pro and Pixel 4 have some great cameras packed in -- but which has the best smartphone camera of 2019? We pit them against one another to find out.

iPhone 11 Pro VS Pixel 4
iPhone 11 Pro VS Pixel 4

Hardware

Google's newest Pixel 4 has two cameras on the rear -- a 12MP wide-angle lens and a 16MP tele lens.






With the iPhone 11 Pro, Apple has chosen to include a similar 12MP wide lens but drops the resolution on the tele lens to 12MP. A 12MP ultra-wide lens is present as well -- a lens system absent on the Pixel.

iPhone 11 Pro camera VS that of Pixel 4
iPhone 11 Pro camera VS that of Pixel 4


If you shoot video, you'll want to pick up iPhone 11 Pro over Pixel 4. Pixel 4 can only shoot 4K at 30FPS and the front camera is limited to only 1080P. iPhone can do 4K on both, with up to 60FPS on the rear set.

Here, we are specifically using an iPhone 11 Pro Max -- though it has the same camera system as an iPhone 11 Pro. iPhone 11 has the same wide and ultra-wide lenses but doesn't have a tele lens -- which means compared to the Pixel 4, there is even more of a difference in telephoto shots.

Detailed comparison shots

We'll start with a simple wide shot.

Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using wide lens
Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using wide lens


Here we can start to see qualities that will play out throughout most of the series of photos. Pixel 4 has a specific look to it that it nails nearly every time. The look isn't as saturated as the iPhone and leans towards the cooler side of the white balance.

On the other side, the iPhone colors are very vibrant, if not a bit too saturated leaning towards the warm side of the spectrum.

Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using wide lens
Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using wide lens


Much of that applies to the above second shot as well. We can say that the Pixel 4 shot looks a bit flat while the iPhone 11 Pro has increased contrast in the rocks.

Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using tele lens at 8X plus 200% crop
Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using tele lens at 8X plus 200% crop


One of the best abilities of Pixel 4 is the higher-resolution telephoto lens. In practical use, you can see above. This photo is zoomed in 200% from 8X digital zoom so we can see more of the details. The Pixel 4 shot on the left is smoother with less noise versus the iPhone 11 Pro shot on the right which has more grain and artifacts.

Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using tele lens at 8X
Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using tele lens at 8X


The difference is even more prominent here. This is not zoomed in further but 8X on both the Pixel and iPhone. Pixel had a better take on the exposure and is overall significantly sharper. The iPhone shot is grainer and darker by comparison.

Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using Portrait mode
Pixel 4 (left) vs iPhone 11 Pro (right) using Portrait mode


Moving to portrait mode, both did a good job dealing with abstract objects such as these flowers. The iPhone 11 Pro shot, in our opinion, looks far better here even if the saturation is high. Pixel 4 sticks with its stylized look though here comes across as flat and less interesting.

iPhone 11 Pro wide (left) versus ultra-wide (right)
iPhone 11 Pro wide (left) versus ultra-wide (right)


Now we will take a look at ultra-wide shots, such as the one above. Scope is far more significant and has been extremely useful in our time shooting. At the stadium, we captured so much more than we'd otherwise have been able to.

Ultra-wide image from the iPhone 11 Pro
Ultra-wide image from the iPhone 11 Pro


After our photoshoot, the above ultra-wide shot was possibly the best image we captured. It was at dusk and was nowhere near as impressive as what we captured with the standard wide lens. It came out sharp, with slight natural vignetting due to the setting sun and strung lights.

Night mode on Pixel 4 (left) and iPhone 11 Pro (right)
Night mode on Pixel 4 (left) and iPhone 11 Pro (right)


This photo is a night mode shot where Pixel 4 faired better. It has a more natural white balance though the iPhone 11 Pro shot conveys a better sense of night.

Night mode on Pixel 4 (left) and iPhone 11 Pro (right)
Night mode on Pixel 4 (left) and iPhone 11 Pro (right)


This second night shot looks better on the iPhone with Pixel 4 having a slightly blurry image and we'd prefer the higher saturation of the iPhone.

Video frame shot on Pixel 4 (left) and iPhone 11 Pro (right)
Video frame shot on Pixel 4 (left) and iPhone 11 Pro (right)


Finally, video quality. To get the best impression of video quality, check out the sample video embedded above. But even in the above sample shot, you can see the iPhone 11 Pro has a far better image.

The bottom line

Both phone's cameras are outstanding, though each has frustrating drawbacks. The iPhone could certainly have better telephoto shots and leans towards the warm side. Pixel 4 looks great but lacks the ultra-wide lens, wider Portrait shots, and is severely lacking in video capabilities.

It's such a disappointment not to see an ultra-wide on the Pixel. Google says the reason for that is that users care more about telephoto shots rather than ultra-wide shots. We aren't completely sold on that argument. We agree telephoto shots are important but... why not both? Why do we have to choose? if Pixel 4 had an ultra-wide then it would be the clear winner of the two -- but that's not the case.

It is so difficult anymore to choose one phone's camera as definitively better than another, but Pixel 4 has too many drawbacks to make it the better choice.

Deals on both phones

Free gift offers and instant cash savings are going on now on both phones, with Google's Pixel 4 eligible for a free $100 Fi credit now through Nov. 7 at B&H Photo. The Pixel 4 is also $50 off Best Buy.

Meanwhile, wireless carriers are also offering a variety of incentives on the iPhone 11 Pro, including trade-in deals on devices in any condition. Highlights are below.

iPhone 11 Pro Max deals

  • Verizon Wireless: Get up to $700 off the iPhone 11 Pro via bill credits with select trade-in and Unlimited plan.
  • AT&T Wireless: Get up to $700 in bill credits with trade-in on a qualifying smartphone. Port-in and new line required ($500 in bill credits without port-in). Unlimited plan required.
  • Sprint: Starting at $12.50 per month with Sprint Flex lease and select trade-ins in any condition.
  • T-Mobile: Save up to $580 on the iPhone 11 Pro Max when you switch and trade in an eligible iPhone.
  • Sam's Club: Get a $150 Sam's Club gift card when you buy and activate by Nov. 8.

More sample shots

Here are high-resolution versions of the above sample shots as well as several more. In all comparison shots, the iPhone 11 Pro image will be on the right with the Pixel 4 shot on the left.


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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,184member
    FWIW the Pixel 4 camera got an upgrade today. 
  • Reply 2 of 23
    MikeydangerousMikeydangerous Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    It feels crazy that nowhere in this comparison did you mention which camera got closer to what the scene looked like in real life. That's a far more important metric than just comparing one against the other. Personal preference is going to factor a ton when just comparing one to the other, but I don't care about the style of each camera. I want to know which one was closer to capturing reality. I have a sneaking suspicion that because of the way the iPhone saturates colors and makes things generally look brighter (which people subjectively tend to like better) that the Pixel was closer to reality for the most part.
    BombdoeMorkmuthuk_vanalingamphilboogietobianblah64
  • Reply 3 of 23
    FatmanFatman Posts: 513member
    Was the iPhone tested updated with latest deep fusion iOS software?
    AppleExposedlolliverphilboogiewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    I‘m a bit disappointed that Apple isn‘t clearly winning all of these shoot-outs.

    They are making such a fuss about their camera systems, the custom silicone without which this image quality wouldn‘t be possible...

    Turns out the competition can achieve (more or less) the same without access to such chips.

    It‘s all just marketing, make belief (and software) then?
    AppleExposedmuthuk_vanalingamphilboogie
  • Reply 5 of 23
    It feels crazy that nowhere in this comparison did you mention which camera got closer to what the scene looked like in real life. That's a far more important metric than just comparing one against the other. Personal preference is going to factor a ton when just comparing one to the other, but I don't care about the style of each camera. I want to know which one was closer to capturing reality. I have a sneaking suspicion that because of the way the iPhone saturates colors and makes things generally look brighter (which people subjectively tend to like better) that the Pixel was closer to reality for the most part.
    "It feels crazy that nowhere in this comparison did you mention which camera got closer to what the scene looked like in real life."

    Spot on. To critique and say the colors are more vibrant or the shot is darker is not a failing if that is what the situation was. 
    n2itivguylolliverbigtdsmuthuk_vanalingamphilboogieblah64watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 23
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,805unconfirmed, member
    So Apple killed the only think Pixel had going for it?
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,291member
    hucom2000 said:
    I‘m a bit disappointed that Apple isn‘t clearly winning all of these shoot-outs.

    They are making such a fuss about their camera systems, the custom silicone without which this image quality wouldn‘t be possible...

    Turns out the competition can achieve (more or less) the same without access to such chips.

    It‘s all just marketing, make belief (and software) then?
    Pixel was designed to focus on having the best camera for Android smartphone - nothing else, so it's fair to compare the best with iPhone camera. While iPhone do not appear to win all, they seem to win what matters: photographer and professional filmmaker.
    lolliver
  • Reply 8 of 23
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,735member
    While interesting For me the question is Moot. I dislike Android so even if the Pixel were an order of magnitude better in every way I would not get one. 
    lolliverphilboogiewatto_cobrapscooter63
  • Reply 9 of 23
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,397moderator
    It feels crazy that nowhere in this comparison did you mention which camera got closer to what the scene looked like in real life. That's a far more important metric than just comparing one against the other. Personal preference is going to factor a ton when just comparing one to the other, but I don't care about the style of each camera. I want to know which one was closer to capturing reality. I have a sneaking suspicion that because of the way the iPhone saturates colors and makes things generally look brighter (which people subjectively tend to like better) that the Pixel was closer to reality for the most part.
    I agree.  I’d like to see these shootouts include the same pics from some high end DSLR that’s deemed to capture as close as practical to what the eye sees.
    Bombdoewatto_cobrapscooter63
  • Reply 10 of 23
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,397moderator
    hucom2000 said:
    I‘m a bit disappointed that Apple isn‘t clearly winning all of these shoot-outs.

    They are making such a fuss about their camera systems, the custom silicone without which this image quality wouldn‘t be possible...

    Turns out the competition can achieve (more or less) the same without access to such chips.

    It‘s all just marketing, make belief (and software) then?
    You’ll note that the Pixel falls far short in capturing video.   Far enough that I can’t agree with the article where it states that if the pixel had an ultra wide lens it’d be the clear winner.  That alone wouldn’t do anything to make up for its shortcomings in shooting video.  
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,184member
    DAalseth said:
    While interesting For me the question is Moot. I dislike Android so even if the Pixel were an order of magnitude better in every way I would not get one. 
    The most honest response in the entire thread. 
    DAalsethmuthuk_vanalingamphilboogieigrouchoCarnage
  • Reply 12 of 23
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 862member
    O H
  • Reply 13 of 23
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,277member
    I have to say that I’m partial to the iphone pictures in the majority of the shots, but if I didn’t have a comparison I likely wouldn’t be disappointed in the pixel photos. I also completely agree with Google - more people care about a telephoto lens than a ultra wide. I suspect that’s why Apple didn’t include a telephoto lens with the iphone 11 - they were using it as a reason to upgrade to the 11 pro.
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    I feel that all criticism in both sides is a bit artificial and for the sake of finding some minuses. I was totally impressed with the iPhone X pictures and movies and the 11 pro is orders of magnitude better in my layman’s eyes. Especially on the video side.

    if I would have to find a needle in the haystack then it’s the lack of depth of field control in video. This is what to me is the one significant difference to my DLR. 

    On a daily level when I compare the shots made with a phone from a couple of years ago to now I’m just grateful I can always carry on a great camera and take so cool snapshots of my loved ones. Kudos to all the engineers that continue to push this tech!
    watto_cobrapscooter63
  • Reply 15 of 23
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,446member
    Have to disagree with the line, "we'd prefer the higher saturation of the iPhone" on that shot of the red flower... if you look, you can see the color of the grass on the Pixel shot is waaaay over saturated compared to the iPhone where it looks much more natural.

    Also the "Dublin" shot in night mode... the iPhone image conveys "night" while the Pixel over compensates the white balance and throws the "night" mood off.

    All in all, the Pixel steps on the color and the iPhone seems to balance everything appropriately, but as another poster mentioned, how can we be sure without a "raw" image to compare these against?


    Bottom line...

    Apple has done the "impossible" beating Google at their own A.I. camera game. Apple's audio and visual teams are killing it... getting up their with their silicon design teams.
    edited November 2019 watto_cobrapscooter63
  • Reply 16 of 23
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,184member
    mjtomlin said:
    Have to disagree with the line, "we'd prefer the higher saturation of the iPhone" on that shot of the red flower... if you look, you can see the color of the grass on the Pixel shot is waaaay over saturated compared to the iPhone where it looks much more natural.

    Also the "Dublin" shot in night mode... the iPhone image conveys "night" while the Pixel over compensates the white balance and throws the "night" mood off.

    All in all, the Pixel steps on the color and the iPhone seems to balance everything appropriately, but as another poster mentioned, how can we be sure without a "raw" image to compare these against?


    Bottom line...

    Apple has done the "impossible" beating Google at their own A.I. camera game. Apple's audio and visual teams are killing it... getting up their with their silicon design teams.
    Presumably the iPhone shots were taken with the latest camera upgrade (Deep Fusion) applied. The Pixel shots definitely were not taken post camera update as that just began rolling out yesterday.

    In any event the differences between the two are small enough now not to bother arguing about. The decision which is best boils down to the OS you're a fan of.

    Both the Pixel and iPhone take very good photos and no one (yes there will be that outlier) will be changing platforms because of the camera, not that they changed platform because of it last year either IMO. Android users will continue to be Android users just as iOS users will stay home too. I have noted there seems to be more people using both than there was a 2 or 3 years ago. More iPhone users seem to be willing to give Android a shot now too and vice-versa.
    edited November 2019 bigtdsboltsfan17
  • Reply 17 of 23
    blah64blah64 Posts: 990member
    gatorguy said:
     More iPhone users seem to be willing to give Android a shot now too and vice-versa.
    If you believe CIRP research, right here on AI today (https://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/213612/), the exact opposite is true.

    CIRP adds, with older iPhones kept active and preventing switching from iOS to Android, though "platform switching in both directions is down."

    Then again, so much "research" is BS these days.  I'm not going to dig deep on this one.  I just thought it was funny that the very next AI article I brought up directly countered your seemingly anecdotal claim.
    edited November 2019 watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 23
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,184member
    blah64 said:
    gatorguy said:
     More iPhone users seem to be willing to give Android a shot now too and vice-versa.
    If you believe CIRP research, right here on AI today (https://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/213612/), the exact opposite is true.

    CIRP adds, with older iPhones kept active and preventing switching from iOS to Android, though "platform switching in both directions is down."

    Then again, so much "research" is BS these days.  I'm not going to dig deep on this one.  I just thought it was funny that the very next AI article I brought up directly countered your seemingly anecdotal claim.
    Switching platforms is very different from using both. The article you mention doesn't address what I had to say at all, so what was "countered"? :)

    Follow comments at more open blogs, see how many mention owning both Android and Apple phones. 
    edited November 2019
  • Reply 19 of 23
    Any reason you excluded photos of people and parties? I see a lot of not-portraits and a selfie. 

    Not sure you’re the right photographer for this particular article. Or at least you don’t shoot the same content that I do with my phone, as opposed what is shoot with an SLR. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 23
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,055member
    And to pile on a bit, learn what the words you're using actually mean... "faired better"?  Really?

    This sort of lack of attention to detail makes me wonder how seriously I should take the actual content.
    edited November 2019
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