The Essential Phone’s camera grabbed another update this week, one that introduces some fun new modes for Essential owners with a 360 Camera mod (Tiny Planet). It also added a selfie flash and some stability fixes. You can view the full list below if any of that sounds interesting.
WHAT’S NEW (Google Play Link)
- Introducing a new mode: Tiny Planet (Beta)
- View all your 360 photos and videos as Tiny Planets with just a tap
- Edit, save and share your 360 photos and videos as Tiny Planet right from in the Essential Camera app
- Capture still images from your Tiny Planet videos
- Selfie flash: Screen illuminates when taking a picture with the front camera in low light
- Stability fixes
But since we’ve had numerous Essential camera updates over the months (like this huge one), and because I happened to be curious today, I ran a little photo shootout around my house with the Essential Phone and the Pixel 2 XL. There isn’t anything scientific to what I did here, because I thought it would be more authentic to just point and shoot at objects in the same manner and see how they turn out. After all, isn’t that how we shoot photos each day? What I’m saying is that this is not the definitive camera shootout between the Pixel 2 XL and Essential Phone like we would normally do. This is just a quick update on how the camera is currently performing.
Pixel 2 XL (left), Essential Phone (right)
Alright, so you’ve seen these results. Let’s talk about what I’m seeing and then you can all weigh-in down there in the comments.
For one, the Essential Phone’s camera is no longer 20 steps lower than the Pixel 2 XL. It’s certainly not as versatile as Google’s camera, but it’s no longer embarrassing itself when taking pictures next the king in smartphone cameras.
For most of the these shots, I’d take what Google’s Pixel 2 XL has given me. However, I actually think I prefer the toy train picture and possibly even the pine needle picture from Essential. The colors are more accurate in both, even if the focus in pine needle picture isn’t quite right from the Essential Phone.
And that’s kind of what I saw in most, actually, was that the Essential Phone’s autofocus was pretty hit or miss. I think that led to some of these pictures not turning out all that great because of incorrectly judged lighting (berry picture) from a poor focus pull. That’s not all of the story, though. You can tell immediately in the rose picture that the Essential Phone’s dynamic range is no match for the Pixel 2 XL’s. All of that background light gave the Essential Phone nightmares in the detail department. In low light in general, we are seeing improvement from Essential, but Google is just doing some magic here.
That last shot is each phone’s portrait mode. Both look pretty rough around the edges and I don’t know that either is something I’d take home to my mother.
Overall, I think Essential should be pretty proud of how far they’ve brought this camera. It used to be awful. Now, it’s pretty solid. The Essential Camera app is quick enough, now has features we want (like Auto HDR, grid, portrait mode, etc.), and hasn’t crashed on me in a while. We’re getting somewhere!