Google’s Marc Levoy gave an extremely compelling explainer on all issues associated to the Pixel 4’s digital camera at the firm’s October {hardware} occasion. He clearly has a deep understanding of what is taking place underneath the hood with Google’s pictures processing. However I took one situation with what he needed to say: based on Levoy, Google thinks {that a} well-executed telephoto digital camera is extra helpful than an ultrawide digital camera on a smartphone.

An amazing telephoto digital camera is absolutely helpful; but it surely is not the similar as an ultrawide lens.

I agree, a terrific telephoto digital camera is absolutely helpful to have in a smartphone. A correct telephoto 2X or 3X lens with a narrower field-of-view is distinctly totally different than purely digital zooming. You possibly can take nice portraits, fascinating road scenes, and funky macros. Having the ability to zoom with out shedding high quality in comparison with a typical digital camera is of nice utility in a smartphone — we have been utilizing them for years, we all know their utility.

However this is the place the disconnect lies. Telephoto cameras are distinctive and enjoyable to make use of in their very own proper … however they’re complementary, not a substitute for an ultrawide digital camera. Check out these wide-angle samples from my Galaxy S10+ and Notice 10+ opinions:

Each single a kind of pictures is exclusive and particular … and fully totally different from something you may take with a typical or telephoto lens. Every focal size has its personal really feel, and ultrawide cameras specifically deliver a ton of emotion to your pictures. You possibly can seize the total scene, and when you do not seize the particulars you get a sense for the whole lot the human eye can see in that state of affairs — and typically extra. A telephoto lens supplies its personal worth, but it surely does not present something approximating what an ultrawide affords.

Once you solely have two cameras in your flagship telephone, you open your self as much as questions.

I am not a fan of asking “why did not you do …” questions, however you open your self as much as it by making a daring assertion about a telephoto digital camera being a higher selection than an ultrawide. It is senseless, frankly — I am not speaking about ultrawide being higher than telephoto, or vice-versa, however merely recognizing that they don’t seem to be interchangeable. They’re totally different, and every helpful to have in numerous situations.

So, why not select to incorporate an ultrawide digital camera reasonably than a telephoto? Extra appropriately, the query is, “why not both?” When a lot of the competitors is providing all three — customary, telephoto, ultrawide — cameras already. Nicely there are limitations in packaging, construct of supplies and on down the listing … however there isn’t any bodily cause why a telephone could not have three cameras. And in that case, Google would not must provide you with this foolish rationalization for why it did not put an ultrawide digital camera in the Pixel 4.

If you happen to have to decide on one digital camera, there’s rather a lot to be mentioned for choosing ultrawide over telephoto.

However in the event you have to decide on one or the different, there’s one thing to be mentioned for choosing ultrawide over telephoto. It will not be the very same, however you can digitally zoom in on a digital camera sensor … you may by no means digitally zoom out. You possibly can at the very least approximate the look of a telephoto digital camera with digital zoom — and Google’s digital zoom is one in every of the greatest in the enterprise. However you may by no means recreate the look of an ultrawide digital camera with its delicate edge distortion and even fisheye-like view. An ultrawide lens supplies an altogether distinctive look that may’t be replicated every other means.

The Pixel Four would have been better-served by having an ultrawide lens alongside its customary lens. Irrespective of how good and clear its telephoto digital camera is, you are being restricted by that slim field-of-view lens in a means you would not if it have been a wide-angle lens as an alternative. Google made the wrong determination on the Pixel 4, and that is irritating — and it is much more irritating when Google digs in its heels and tries to inform us {that a} telephoto digital camera is an acceptable substitute.

-Andrew

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