Sorry Google, the Pixel's camera isn't better than the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7


Google Pixel Galaxy S7 cameras

Rafi Letzter/Business Insider

When Google announced the Pixel smartphone, its high-end iPhone competitor, they pointed to an unexpected achievement: The highest-rated smartphone camera ever.

The rating, an 89/100, comes from the website DxOMark - edging out the Galaxy S7 (88) and iPhone 7 (86).

That's an impressive score, and offers a reason to sit up and take notice of this smartphone's camera.

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But there are reasons to be doubtful. It simply isn't the case, as many people seem to think, that DxOMark's scores represent the objective truth about a camera's quality.

A closer analogy would be college rankings. When US News and World Report declares that Rice University has edged out Wash-U, their conclusion is based on an internal system for weighing different statistics about the school. And that system reflects the value judgments of its creators - whether they care more about research or student experience, alumni donations or selectivity. It's an art, but it offers the illusion of science.


DxOMark similarly has a system for assigning devices numeric scores, which gives the illusion of objectivity. But the group makes value judgments, some of which I strongly disagree with. They assign phones like the LG G5, HTC 10, and Xperia Z5 similar scores to the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 - scores that I'm sure make perfect sense within their system, but in my view don't reflect how those phones perform in the real world.

So I compared the Pixel to the iPhone and Galaxy. I didn't stick them in manual mode, or perform scientific tests of dynamic range. Instead I was interested in one question: How the phones performed when asked to capture a photo the way most people use them.

Reasonable people can disagree about which of the closely-matched iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 offers better quality and features. (I've argued that the S7 is the winner by a hair.) But, in all but a few measures, I found the Pixel simply can't stand up to them in real-world performance.

Take a look for yourself.

Click and drag the line in the middle of the images to see how the images from each phone compare. The first image compares the Pixel against the Galaxy S7, the second compares the Pixel against the iPhone 7.