Google Pixel 4a Review: Great Camera, Killer Android Value

Google Pixel 4a: Camera Performance and Image Samples

Pixel handsets have always delivered phenomenal imaging performance, and the Pixel 4a is no exception. The rear camera specs are identical to the Pixel 4’s, minus the telephoto lens. It uses a 12MP f/1.7 1.4-micron rear shooter with dual-pixel PDAF and OIS, and an 8MP f/2.0 1.12-micron selfie camera. Eagle-eye readers will have noticed the Pixel 4a’s larger f/1.7 aperture vs. last year’s Pixel 3a (f/1.8) -- and matching front sensors.

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The camera app is the same as the Pixel 4’s as well, and features all of Google’s computational photography magic -- HDR+, Night Sight (night mode), AI portrait mode, and astrophotography. Shooting modes include panorama, Photo Sphere, slow motion, and time lapse. Unfortunately, there’s still no pro / manual mode here. We shoot a lot of HotHardware’s product images using the Pixel 4 XL, and we’re jonesing for EV and white balance controls.

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Pixel 4a main camera (auto, not portrait mode)

As you’d expect, pictures taken with the Pixel 4a are fantastic, no matter the lighting conditions. You can confidently mash that shutter button all day long and get superb photos. Only recent iPhones offer this level of consistency. The Pixel 4a nails exposure and white balance every time. Dynamic range is top notch, thanks to HDR+. Low-light performance is excellent, and even more impressive with Night Sight. You can even zoom up to 4x with decent results.

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Pixel 4a main camera

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Pixel 4a main camera (2x zoom)

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Pixel 4a main camera (5x zoom)

When it comes to stills, we’re pretty sure no other handset can beat the Pixel 4a camera at this price point. It even outperforms the main shooters on $1000+ flagships like Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra, Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro, Oppo’s Find X2 Pro, and Sony’s Xperia 1 II. Besides its Google stablemates, the only phones that rival the Pixel 4a are Huawei’s P40-series flagships, with their 50MP RYYB sensor and Leica color science.

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Pixel 4a main camera (auto)

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Pixel 4a main camera (night mode)

On the video recording front, the Pixel 4a supports up to 4k 30fps or 1080p 60fps (stabilized) with the rear shooter and up to 1080p 30fps (stabilized) with the front camera. Slow motion tops out at 1080p 120fps and 720p 240fps, and audio is captured in stereo. If this mirrors what the Pixel 4 -- or even the Pixel 3a -- brings to the table, you’d be right. And while the results are perfectly serviceable, video recording still isn’t the Pixel’s forte.

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Pixel 4a selfie camera (portrait mode)

Next up let's talk Pixel 4a audio fidelity, application performance, and all-important battery life...

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