Comparing video on the Pixel 2 and the iPhone 8 Plus

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

I’ve had the chance to do a little outdoor video work with the new Pixel 2 and this phone has a very nice video camera built into it. The crowning achievement is the combination OIS and EIS they have going on, both of which work together to deliver the best stabilized video I think I’ve ever seen on anything handheld. But does it win the video war? Not quite.

Firs things first, the Google Pixel shoots 4k 30fps video in the H.264 format at about 41 Mbs. The iPhone 8 Plus shoots 4k 60fps video in the HEVC format at 54 Mbs. That’s a substantial difference on paper, but how do these match up in real world use? To put that to the test, I recorded a few short clips from my walk around the neighborhood. The below clips are completely unedited and were edited together with the exact files that came from the camera, not the downgraded copies from the iCloud or Google Photos websites.

These tests are all about stabilization and detail. On the stabilization front the Pixel wins by a mile. The iPhone has good stabilization, but the work the Pixel does to keep my hand almost completely steady throughout these shots is amazing. When you’re holding the camera in a fixed direction, the Pixel is outstanding and demolishes the iPhone.

But when you move the camera with any sort of velocity, the stabilization becomes its own worst enemy. Because it’s trying to hold a specific frame, quick movement leads to a few moments of the camera trying to keep you on your previous subject and not turn. You can see that in the first clip in the video above. The Pixel fights me a little as I swing the camera from one angle to another. Additionally, the Pixel’s footage is very crisp, but it loses a lot of that crispness when panning. It looks like it’s doing a lot of compression, so quick movement leads to noticeable artifacting in the video for a second while it readjusts to its new subject. And yes, this is not a YouTube compression thing, I see the same thing on the raw video file 1 on my computer.

The iPhone is much less stable by comparison, but it maintains a crisp image even when there is extreme movement. This is partially due to its ability to capture twice as many frames as the Pixel, but I think it also has to do with the electronic image stabilization the Pixel is doing. Google states that the EIS process removes 5% of the image from the edges of the frame, but I suspect the magic it does to the entire image is impacted by this process in a way that it can garble some data when things are changing too fast. The video stabilization feature can be turned off on the Pixel, and I think I’ll take another run with that off to see if the same artifact issues remain.

In addition to added fidelity, the iPhone is more aggressive with saturation, creating a more vibrant image. This is totally a preference thing, but I personally like a little extra saturation in my images, and I’m happy with the slight boost this got in both video and still images in the iPhone 8 over older iPhones.

I’ll have more to say on the camera in the Pixel 2 over the weekend, but I hope this quick comparison of the video cameras was helpful. Overall, the iPhone comes out of top for me due to its higher frame rate and higher bitrate capture, along with its better ability to capture detail on still and moving shots as well as it’s slightly punchier colors. The Pixel has stabilization to die for, and I 100% will be using that for plenty of videos that I take in the future. By early impressions though are that I’ll be taking out my iPhone when it really matters that I get the shot.

  1. 1.4GB for 70 seconds of video…wow!