As you can see above, the Pixel 3a takes gorgeously detailed photos up close. This falafel sandwich from Nish Nush that I've covered in garish orange amba looks absolutely ridiculous. Light glistens off the sauces and the moisture of the cucumber and tomato salad. Individual specks of parsley are visible.
This wasn't a carefully rehearsed photo — I snapped it quickly before diving in to lunch. (And yes, it was delicious.)
That's the case for all the photos below as well — I intentionally took them in the same way I would snap any photo: Quickly in the moment. The results have invariably been impressive.
While driving back to Brooklyn last weekend, my partner and I were at a stop light in lower Manhattan along the West Side Highway. I looked up out of the sun roof, and staring back at me was a resplendent view of the new One World Trade Center.
I quickly double-tapped the power button on the right side of the Pixel 3a and snapped a few photos as we started moving.
Even with the super-bright street light in view, the World Trade Center is detailed and stands in relief to the darkening sky above it. If you look closely at the building along the left side of the photo, you can see people at windows looking out to the world below them.
This photo was taken at the worst time of day for taking photos; it managed to not only come out beautifully, but to also capture the gradient of the sky above.
I took this photo at late dusk, as the sunset transitioned to night, and was absolutely shocked by how easy it was to capture such an impressive shot on a smartphone. A photo like this usually takes a good deal of manipulating your phone's camera into taking something worth looking at. In this instance, I simply tapped on the glowing neon sign and snapped away.
Not only does the photo capture the sign, but it also captures the glow of the sign on the ground below, the interior halogen lights in the deli across the street, and the fading sunset in the sky above.
Most of all, the photo looks natural. It was a near-perfect reflection of what I saw with my eyes in the moment — perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay a photo.
First and foremost, I can't suggest this fennel and celery salad enough. It's incredibly delicious and looks restaurant-level fancy.
But also, hey, it makes a killer photo subject!
The color spectrum on just the fennel fronds is incredibly impressive, to say nothing of the popping green of the parsley. Admittedly, this salad looks crazy beautiful regardless of the camera, but the Pixel 3a's camera made it pop in the way it deserves.
From the fading blue hue of the evening sky to the warm yellow glow of the streetlights, I was blown away by this image. The blur of cars careening past where I stood was captured perfectly by the Pixel 3a camera.
That a $400 smartphone captured this image is absolutely ridiculous — this is a level of quality unmatched by most flagship smartphones, let alone mid-range "budget" phones.
As I ran from Business Insider's main office to grab steamed dumplings for lunch on Monday, it started raining — of course it did.
Though the sun was creating a surprisingly bright sky, which should've blown out the photo, the Pixel 3a was able to capture individual rain drops as they fell to the earth. The lighting captured looks natural, and the level of detail is absurd.
While walking our dog in Prospect Park last week, sunset gave way to dusk. The lighting was poor, and it was a perfect time to put the Pixel 3a camera to its hardest test yet.
I positioned myself underneath a dark tree looking out at one of the massive fields in Prospect Park and snapped a few shots. To my surprise, not only did the Pixel 3a camera capture the field, but it also captured a remarkable level of detail of the tree I stood under. I expected the phone to overcompensate for the contrast, darkening the overall shot. Instead, it captured both far better than I expected.
You can tell the camera was struggling with this one, as the shot is far more grainy than the rest — but it still captured a beautiful photo even in terrible lighting conditions.
As I was walking to the subway the other morning, Brooklyn was in full bloom. I paused on a corner and snapped this shot of 8th Avenue, looking downtown. The sun was just coming up, and the streets were drying from the previous night's storm, and things were just looking very attractive.
All it took was a single shot to capture the beautiful Brooklyn morning as it emerged from darkness.
Due to the layout of the Oculus, the interior is filled with glorious natural light. While visiting our local Apple store for a repair, I stopped and snapped this photo of a temporary farmer's market bathed in diffused natural rays.
These are peak photo conditions, and the Pixel 3a really shined here.
Let's not kid ourselves: Even a bad photo of pancakes looks wonderful.
But this photo — captured at the Lakeside Diner in Stamford, Connecticut — was supplied with a heavy helping of natural light from the diner's massive bay windows. That I took the photo just ahead of noon on a beautiful, bright spring day assuredly didn't hurt.
All of which is to say one thing: When you've got ideal conditions, the Pixel 3a camera is beyond ready to take advantage of them.
You might think that a $400 "budget" smartphone would be less snappy than the far more expensive competition. I thought so too! I was wrong.
If you're, say, at a two-year-old's birthday party trying to capture a photo of him being adorable, but he's a two-year-old so you've gotta make it quick? That's totally doable! I haven't encountered a situation yet where the Pixel 3a's processor couldn't keep up with the speed of life.