Google Pixel 6 vs. Pixel 6 Pro Camera: Which One to Buy?

With the launch of the Google Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro smartphones this year, Google is finally adopting new camera hardware similar to other flagships. To tech enthusiasts, this can be a bigger surprise than Apple finally admitting it was wrong about the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar. These camera setups are in line with the modern competitor and can put up a tough fight to the likes of the iPhone 13 and the Galaxy S21 series.

In this article, we look at which model you should buy between the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro.

The new camera hardware

Ever since its first generation, unrivaled camera capabilities have been the hallmark of Google’s Pixel lineup. But despite their focus, the Pixel smartphones received only minor upgrades in terms of their camera hardware until the last generation. This is primarily because Google was content its software experience was more than enough to fill any gaps created by the old  — cough obsolete — 12MP primary camera sensor. However, with the improvements to the Pixel 6 series’ cameras this year, Google has clearly had a massive change of heart.

Both get a 50MP camera sensor

The new Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro feature an all-new 50MP camera sensor on the primary camera. This is a sizeable upgrade from the 12MP primary camera seen on all of the preceding Pixel smartphones. The Pixel 6 series uses the same 50MP Samsung ISOCELL GN1 that was seen previously on Vivo’s flagship device — the Vivo X70 Pro Plus. This 50MP camera sensor is almost as big as Samsung’s ISOCELL HM3 sensor found on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It measures 1/1.31 inches in size and employs pixels measuring 1.2μm in width. Paired with an f/1.85 aperture lens, the camera offers an 82-degree wide field of view.

With Quad Bayer pixel-binning, four adjacent pixels combine to form a single pixel measuring 2.4μm. Google claims this allows the 50MP to capture 2.5 times more light than the Pixel 5’s primary camera.

In addition to the 50MP primary camera, both — the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro — feature a 12MP ultrawide camera. This camera sensor captures 115-degree wide images using an f/2.2 aperture camera lens. Besides capturing wider spans than the primary wide-angle camera, this ultrawide-angle camera is also used for correcting blurred faces using a feature called Face Unblur, which we’ll talk about later in this article.

Pixel 6 Pro gets a 4x periscope camera

A telephoto camera is returning to the Google Pixel series after being removed from the Pixel 5. The 48MP telephoto camera on the Pixel 6 Pro uses a periscope setup — first introduced commercially over two years ago on the Huawei P30 Pro and the Oppo Reno 10X. The periscope allows 4x optical zoom and up to 20x digital zoom.

Google

The 48MP camera sensor measures a half-inch in size, which is even bigger than the primary camera on the previous Pixel phones. The camera sensor is paired with an f/3.5 aperture lens module.

If we compare this to existing flagships from other brands, the 4x telephoto lags behind the 5x telephoto on the Samsung Note 20 Ultra or the 10x telephoto on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But, combined with Google’s impeccable computational photography, we can expect some stunning results using this camera. Google says users will be able to zoom up to 20x and still capture blur-free images with its Super Res Zoom feature.

Pixel 6 skips out on telephoto

Unlike the Pro, the Pixel 6 missed out on the telephoto camera from the Pro model. The non-Pro will therefore have to rely on the primary camera for digitally zoomed-in shots. Unlike the Pixel 6 Pro, which goes up to 20x zoom, the Pixel 6 will max out at 7x digital zoom with Google’s proprietary Super Res Zoom feature.

Pixel 6 Pro also gets a better selfie camera

The Pixel 6 Pro, although identical to the Pixel 6 in most regards, exceeds in one area. The Pixel 6 Pro features an 11MP selfie camera, nested inside the hole punch. In contrast, the Pixel 6 features an 8MP selfie camera. Besides the higher resolution, the Pro’s front camera uses a bigger sensor with larger pixels and a slightly wider field of view (94 degrees on the Pro versus 84 degrees on the non-Pro).

Besides better pictures, the Pixel 6 Pro can also capture better videos using its front camera. While the regular model maxes out at 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps), the Pro can record 4K videos at 30 fps using its selfie camera.

New video capabilities

Video has never been Pixel’s strongest suit, but that perception might be up for a change with the new Pixel 6 series. For starters, both the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro feature 4K recording at 60 fps. That is not exactly a new feature –it has been present since last year’s Pixel 5. But thanks to Google’s own silicon, the Pixel 6’s video capabilities get a great boost in terms of features.

With the Google Tensor SoC, the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro get the ability to capture much better videos. The onboard A.I. processing allows the Pixel 6 smartphones to capture detailed information about the exposure and colors in each frame. This ensures the phones have more efficient tone mapping and results in more natural colors.

Google is also using a machine learning algorithm called HDRNet for videos on the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro. HDRNet has been trained extensively with thousands of photos to predict the most optimal colors per pixel on the video. With Tensor’s processing capabilities, these computations can happen in real-time on the Pixel 6, and leading to more vivid and closer to natural colors in videos. While the exact video output is yet to be tested, the HDRNet might offer some tough competition to the cinematic videos on the iPhone 13.

Unlike most other flagship An