The Pixel 2XL. If you’ve read anything about it then it’ll be no surprise that the feature I’m focusing on is, of course, the camera. The camera on this phone is incredible, an opinion shared throughout the internet in reviews by the likes of TechRadar, Trusted Reviews and Forbes.
Hopefully you’ll be pleased to know that this review of the Pixel 2XL aims to do something different to the others. That’s because all the reviews I’ve read or watched tend to follow a format pretty similar when they discuss cameras on any phone.
It goes something like this;
- They start by just talking about how good the camera is;
- As a follow up, they’ll generally throw a bunch of specs at you (which, if you’re anything like me, tend to fly straight over your head);
- And finally my favourite, they’ll take random images of city streets and friends to give as examples (often shown with duplicate images taken with other phone cameras because…y’know who doesn’t want to see the same image three times over with small changes to sharpness or saturation?).
This doesn’t make any sense to me; if you’re ready to spend that much time reading about a smartphone camera, I feel like it’s because there’s a reason you need it.
You probably intend to do something with it; whether it be because you want to get serious on Instagram, start creating content for YouTube or because you want something that’s good enough to avoid having to investing in a more expensive, dedicated camera.
That’s certainly why I persevered through so many long articles and eventually opted to get the Pixel 2XL. Now I have it, I wanted to write a review that practically demonstrates how the camera might be used and how this device, as a tool, might enable someone to either start a new hobby or even a professional venture…and honestly, I also just want an excuse to shoot some cool sh*t.
Practicing what I aim to preach, here’s what I went out and did with this camera;
- I shot two short films vlog-style using the Pixel 2XL, and edited them to create videos you might expect to find on YouTube;
- I did a couple of photo shoots with myself and willing friends to see how the phone performed when creating professional-looking images for marketing needs;
- I used it to produce accompanying images for almost every article in this months issue so be sure to give them a read and see what you think.
I’m hoping that by the time this review is finished, I might have provided a close enough example to a need you might have that it helps you make an informed decision as to whether this device suits your needs.
Happy? All strapped-in? Great – let’s get cracking then!
To reiterate, each of the below videos was shot entirely using the Pixel 2XL and I’d never tried doing anything like this before.
If you’re planning to get started shooting video or pictures with your phone, I wholly recommend the GorrillaPod stands. They can balance on pretty much anything as well as wrap around anything like poles, posts and lampposts which makes setting up your shots SO. MUCH. EASIER.
In the second video, I shot the majority of footage in city centres so the magnetic stand was particularly useful when I could attach my phone to railings or lampposts more securely.
They’re also just awesome gadgets in general, and are super fun to play around with…so there’s that too!
The only other thing I wish I had was a bluetooth remote control which could turn start/stop recording – something like this. Not having one wasn’t a major deal, but it just would have meant that I could have been able to leave the camera set up at a good angle and capture certain natural moments without having to reach over and mess around with the phone.
Shooting on the Pixel 2XL was an absolute pleasure because it captures brilliant detail first time. I can’t think of a single moment when I had to go back and reshoot something or avoid using a clip because any of the footage was out of focus.
This was especially impressive in the 2nd video when I filmed my friends reaching the top of Primrose Hill, and the buildings of the London skyline are clearly visible. I wasn’t expecting that to come out AT ALL.
Having confidence in the cameras ability to work so well meant I could focus completely on the pleasure of filming without worrying that I needed to refocus or avoid certain lighting conditions.
Another feature of the camera I really liked was that you can pause while recording.
This meant that I could shoot multiple separate ‘scenes’ in succession, but have them saved as a single clip. It might not sound like much, but when it came to editing all the footage, I found this really useful for staying organised.
Another big sell of the Pixel 2XL is that it’s able to shoot in 4K.
The obvious benefit of this being that the camera packs a huge amount of detail into the footage you produce which immediately makes your finished video appear more professional (nothing screams amateur video faster than grainy, unclear footage after all).
Unfortunately this quality isn’t best represented in the linked videos because YouTube compresses videos which are uploaded at the loss of some video quality. There is a way around this based on how you render the video in the editing process, but I was at a push to get this months Inkbike issue out as soon as possible so didn’t manage to figure it out in time.
If there’s any interest, I’ll create a follow up article in the future which addresses it. In the meantime, please trust that there exists higher resolution versions of the linked videos on my computer…
A potential issue I wasn’t expecting to encounter however, was the impact that capturing UHD video has on your available storage. I don’t know if this was just me being ignorant, but I had no idea how large 4K video files were until I started working on this article.
For reference, a 1-minute clip shot in 4K takes up roughly 350MB of storage space. For the ‘Perfect Weekend’ video, I shot maybe around 20 minutes of unedited in footage to produce the final 5-minute video, which equates to 15GB of space taken up on my phone.
My point is that the Pixel 2XL comes in two storage models, 64GB and 128GB, with no option for expandable storage. If you plan on shooting plenty in 4K, it might be worth investing in the additional storage.
It’s not a dealbreaker though, I have the 64GB model and it just means that I can’t be sentimental about my footage after I’ve finished editing and just delete it.
Another feature of the Pixel 2XL which I’ve loved is the way it’s able to stabilise shaky footage using software built-in to the camera app.
This is a huge help when you’re shooting footage while on the move. For example, in some shots I would be facing the subject and stepping backwards. Unless you’re a surgeon with gimbals for knees, keeping the camera steady while you do so is really tricky.
Demonstrating what the stabilisation software does, and how effective it is might be something best seen rather than discussed. See the below;
Having the Pixel 2XL meet me halfway with stabilisation software ensured that I got usable footage for my final video from tricky conditions, and I repeatedly found myself grateful for it while editing.
Getting back to familiar review territory – photography.
As I’ve already said up top, the camera on this phone is amazing and you can read any number of reviews throughout the internet which will tell you the exact same thing.
Since we’ve had clarified for us that this phone takes great shots of random city streets, flowers at close-up (another favourite in reviews) and random people; we can focus our attention on better things.
Our question then, sweet reader, is whether the camera on this phone is good enough for professional purposes.
That can be anything from high-resolution portraits for your LinkedIn profile picture, images to accompany a web-marketing campaign or even just imagery for a kick-ass poster.
To help demonstrate whether this was the case, I decided to create some marketing imagery for dissemination across the Inkbike social media channels.
Check them out!
At the end of it all, I hope that some of the examples I put together might be close enough to how you might intend to use the camera to help you make an informed decision as to whether or not the Pixel 2XL is suited to your needs.
If not, then I hope the above demonstrates that I’ve built up enough experience using the 2XL that you consider my final opinion reliably informed.
Simply put, I believe that in this device, you get an all-in-one tool which allows you to go beyond good-quality amateur photography. I’d never made YouTube videos before I started this review, but I was really pleased with how they came out. I think that this camera put in their hands of experienced or novice creators alike could lead to some really incredible content being created.
Another question I think important to clarify is, why did I think this review was important to make?
Because most everyone reading this will have a smartphone, and the majority will have it on a monthly contract that they barely think about. It’s just one of those bills you’ve been used to paying since your late teens.
Brand new this phone will set you back a lofty £629, the price of a good standalone DSLR camera. BUT(!), on contract you can get this phone for as low as £30pm (deal exists at the time of writing but I won’t bother linking because deals change so often – check Uswitch).
That price is likely to go down very shortly too, since the Pixel 3 will be announced in the next few weeks.
If you were already looking to get a new phone, and are looking for an opportunity to start creating visual content for professional or commercial purposes, you don’t need to spend hundreds on a new camera to keep up with your ideas.
I really believe that you can use the 2XL along with the low-cost accessories I’ve mentioned throughout the review, you’ll be shocked at the amazing content that you can film or shoot.
At the very least, it’s an entry point for you to work with until you feel that your work requires investment in more advanced hardware.
For me though, I have every confidence in what it’s capable of and I can’t wait to continue using it to carry my creative ambitions.
Thoughts? Feelings? Impressions? Any other devices you feel are more worthy of your time? Or even better – anyone who has a Pixel and used it to create some awesome content, I’d love to see and talk about it with you!