Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4


Google’s latest, greatest Pixel phone is really only one of those things—after catching flack for the poor value of the Pixel 4, Google scaled back on the Pixel 5. Gone are features like Face Match, Ambient EQ, and perhaps most importantly, the telephoto camera. Instead, the Pixel 5 has a wide/ultrawide combo, and some people might prefer that. However, it’s a disadvantage if you want to take photos of things from a distance.

We’ve got six sets of photos, three indoors and three outdoor, taken on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 5. Each set includes a 2x, 4x, and 6x zoom shot. On the Pixel 5, these are all taken with the main camera and cropped with magical AI technology. The Pixel 4 uses its 2x optical zoom module to boost the clarity, and you can tell the difference in a lot of images. However, the Pixel 5 holds its own surprisingly well, particularly inside where the Pixel 4’s narrower aperture hurts it.

Note, all sliders have Pixel 4 on the left and Pixel 5 on the right.

Indoors

2x zoom

4x zoom

6x zoom

2x zoom

4x zoom

6x zoom

2x zoom

4x zoom

6x zoom

One thing of note about the indoor shots; the Pixel 5 pics are a bit brighter. That’s because the Pixel 4’s telephoto camera has a narrower f/2.4 aperture vs. the primary camera’s f/1.7. The Pixel 5 uses that module for all zoom shots, unlike the Pixel 4. Last year’s phone sticks with the main sensor for indoor shots without sufficient light, but we’ve made sure our samples were all taken with the telephoto. Predictably, the Pixel 4 can extract more detail, which is particularly noticeable at 6x. The Pixel does an admirable job at 2x and 4x, helped by the larger aperture, but the images look a bit unnatural to me.

Outdoors

The differences are more noticeable in the outdoor shots as there’s more light to compensate for the Pixel 4’s narrower telephoto aperture. The 2x zoom shots are still a bit of a toss-up (which is impressive photo processing for the Pixel 5), but there’s a definite drop in clarity at 4x and especially 6x. Again, the Pixel 4 is on the left of the slider and the Pixel 5 is on the right.

2x zoom

4x zoom

6x zoom

2x zoom

4x zoom

6x zoom

2x zoom

4x zoom

6x zoom

If I had my choice of sensors on the Pixel 5, I’d pick telephoto over ultrawide. While Google’s super-res zoom can do some amazing things, it’s even better with real optical zoom in the mix. In a perfect world, the Pixel would have wide, ultrawide, and telephoto sensors. Alas, Google isn’t great at making high-end phones, and ulrawide sensors are cheaper.

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