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Best Budget Camera Phone – Google Pixel 3

Let’s face the facts; flagship smartphones with high-end camera modules are expensive! On the other side of the cell phone market, you have super-budget phones with cameras that look like they are from ten years ago. Is there a phone that lands somewhere in between the two? There is something that can do even better: Google Pixel 3.

The great thing about the Pixel 3 is you get what was once a high-end camera module and phone for a considerable discount, putting it into the budget range while still offering fantastic performance. There are no new phones you can buy on a budget that can compare with the older Pixel 3.

Google Pixel 3 Image
Copyright Bluebox Photography/ Shutterstock

Click here for the latest price on the Google Pixel 3

Why Google Pixel 3 is the Best Budget Camera Phone:

  • Single Camera
  • 12.2Mp, 1/2.55-inch Sensor, 1.4µm pixels
  • F/1.8 Aperture Lens
  • Camera App
  • Night Sight
  • Snapdragon 845

Single Camera

Let’s start with the main criticism of this phone. Having only one camera limits the versatility of the shots you can get. This is the main drawback here, but on a budget, the single-camera is extremely good.

If you don’t care about super-wide-angle shots or having a longer optical zoom, multiple camera modules are not going to matter for you. Some good news is there is a portrait mode here, which is something that usually requires two camera modules to work. Wide shots will still be a bit challenging, but you can get some good images with some creativity.

12.2Mp Sensor

The sensor of the Pixel 3 is why you are here. It is a 12.2-megapixel sensor and was regarded as one of the best when this phone came out. Surprisingly, it still holds up exceptionally well against flagship phones today. While the new phones have multiple cameras, the differences will not be drastic if you put their primary shooter against the Pixel 3.

The Sony sensor1 on the Pixel 3 is a great module capable of taking high-quality photos and 4K video. It is a massive upgrade over every other budget device on the market, giving it a headstart before considering the lens and software. The larger 1/2.55-inch sensor with 1.4µm pixels enables the Pixel 3 to easily compete with later phones.

There are newer cameras on flagship phones with a much higher megapixel count, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better. Many manufacturers with higher-end camera modules choose to shoot at a lower megapixel count to increase picture quality and reduce noise. The low noise and high quality is one reason the camera on the Pixel 3 fares so well against the newest flagship offerings.

F/1.8 Aperture Lens

The lens on this camera module is fantastic. The f/1.8 aperture gives some tremendous advantages compared to phones with higher aperture lenses. You will get some shallow depth of field when taking macro shots. It will also let more light into the sensor, giving the low light a nice boost in clarity.

The lens itself gives some sharp pictures and videos. While many cheaper budget phones have muddy and fuzzy quality as one of their downfalls, you will not see that in Pixel 3. While the sensor is the camera’s main component, a less than optimal lens will degrade the quality dramatically. Luckily, Google engineered a fantastic one for this phone.

Camera App

Compared to the base Google Camera app, the Pixel variant has some new features. Here you will get the more unique features such as Night Sight and Top Shot, giving you even better performance than what you would get with the base Android experience. The Pixel version of the app performs much the same, just with a few extra bells and whistles.

The app adopted one of Apple’s camera UI functions with the swipe left and right to change camera modes. No more old school slide-out menus that only made the camera app more slow and cumbersome. You now get a much more clean user interface, allowing you to snap great pictures and videos with minimal effort.

Night Sight

This is the thing that wowed tech reviewers and photographers when the Pixel 3 launched. Google introduced its Night Sight mode with the Pixel 3, giving the phone a dramatic increase in low light performance. While this is becoming common in flagship phones, buying it for the budget price of a Pixel 3 is mind-blowing.

The Night Sight mode is so good on the Pixel 3 that you can take awe-inspiring shots even in pitch-black darkness. Many people have used this phone for astrophotography2, which would have been impossible just a few short years ago. Now you can do so, even on a phone that will not break the bank!

Snapdragon 845

The best thing about the Pixel 3 vs. budget phones is the processor powering it. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 was a flagship-level processor not long ago. It will give you insanely good performance not only in everyday tasks and gaming but also with the camera.

The camera takes advantage of this extra processing speed to do high-level computing for intensive tasks such as low light photography and portrait mode. If there were a lesser processor in the phone, it would take much longer to handle complex scenes in low light or process portraits with that excellent blurry background. Both of those features are handled exceptionally well on the Google Pixel 3.

Want to know how good the Snapdragon 845 is? It is in the following phones: Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Razer Phone 2, and the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium. All the phones on that list are still considered high end and were at the top of the chain when they were new. You can get the same outstanding performance right here with the Pixel 3.

Conclusion

If you err on the conservative price side when buying a phone, purchasing a generation or two older flagship phone will be a better option than purchasing a lower-priced, low-tier phone. The Pixel 3 is the best option for those looking for the best camera phone on a budget device, as the fast processor and excellent camera module blow away the competition.

Would you buy an older phone such as the Pixel 3 versus getting a lesser phone on the budget market? Let us know in the comments below!

Resources

1 https://www.thetechodyssey.com/2018/10/16/google-pixel-3-and-pixel-3xl-uses-sonys-camera-sensor/ “Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL uses Sony’s camera sensor”

2 https://ai.googleblog.com/2019/11/astrophotography-with-night-sight-on.html “Astrophotography with Night Sight on Pixel Phones”

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