I took over 200 photos with the Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a — here's the winner

The Pixel 8a and Pixel 7a side by side
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This year's Google Pixel 8a and last year's Pixel 7a offer some of the best value for money of any phone on the market, but especially when it comes to photography.

While Google isn't selling the Pixel 8a as a major upgrade camera-wise to the Pixel 7a, we were still curious to see what differed between the two. So myself and my colleague John Velasco went out to gather hundreds of comparison shots to best demonstrate what's changed between Google's 2023 and 2024 budget Pixel.

With both phones sharing near-identical camera specs, we never expected the difference to be that large. But as you'll see below, there's only a slim gap in quality. Good news for Pixel 7a owners who would hate to feel jealous of the newer model, but bad news for Pixel 8a buyers who were hoping for a more significant upgrade over the older Pixel a-series phone.

Using the cream of our photographic crop, we're going to show you a ten-round photo face-off between the Pixel 8a and Pixel 7a, so you can get a handle on what's changed — and what hasn't — between the two Google devices.

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Main camera

We begin with a bright red church door, and immediately we see the underlying problem with this comparison: both phones are very good at taking photos.

In either shot you can appreciate the door's rich, shiny paint, and the intricacy of the brickwork and leafy trees that surround it. The Pixel 8a's image is slightly warmer (with its colors tending towards the red end of the spectrum rather than the blue end), but that's only enough to make me call it my preferred shot in this case, not an overall winner.

Winner: tie

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Ultrawide

Moving down the road to a bridge passing over the end of the nearby railway station platform, the Pixel 8a offers a brighter, more colorful interpretation of the scene, with the Pixel 7a featuring greater contrast instead.

Since this photo has a lot of small details in and around the bridge's bricks, the extra contrast in the Pixel 7a's tuning wins me over. Seems like there's still some value in keeping a hold of the older phone after all.

Winner: Pixel 7a

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Dynamic range

This sunny picture of a tree is great for showing how the phones handle dynamic range, as it's got lots of bright and shadowy areas to tax the phones' capabilities. But since there are minimal differences, it means I can't even pick a favorite, let alone a "winner"

The Pixel 7a has higher contrast. so you can make out the shadiest areas of the shot more easily. But the Pixel 8a's brighter image makes everything else pop out of the screen.

Winner: tie

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Color reproduction

This row of chairs (plus a table) looks a little more lively in the Pixel 8a shot, which secures it the win, but the Pixel 7a is incredibly close behind.

The Pixel 7a's image is brighter, which you'd think would be a good thing when trying to admire colors. But it reduces the richness of the colors in return, which is especially noticeable on the orange table and chairs and the blue wall of the shop.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Macro

We don't have dedicated macro cameras or modes on these Pixels, so for this photo of a ceramic coaster, I selected 2x digital zoom to see how well these phones' "lossless' zoom works.

This is this worst shot either phone took (the coaster's actually bright pink in real life), but we can blame that on my lacking indoor lighting. The Pixel 8a does win by at least being brighter of the two, and offering a better sense of the true color of the coaster and the table beneath.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Selfie

The selfie camera is the only area where there are hardware differences between our two contenders. The Pixel 7a's front-facing camera has a 95-degree field of view (FOV), while the Pixel 8a has a 96.5-degree FOV. That means it'll fit slightly more into frame, but otherwise it's the same 8 MP sensor at its heart.

Everything's brighter in the Pixel 8a image, but like we saw with the ultrawide image above, the Pixel 7a image has higher contrast, giving more detail in my hair. It's also the warmer of the two, which looks better to my eye in this case but is not quite as true to life.

Winner: Pixel 7a

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Zoom

8x digital zoom to take us back up the road to the steeple of the church whose door we saw earlier. And there's a reasonable level of detail for entirely digital zoom from both phones' shots.

This round goes to the Pixel 8a however for its more attractive colors. The Pixel 7a looks a little washed out in comparison.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Panorama

When ultrawide isn't wide enough, you take a panorama. And that's how these phones captured the majority of Beckenham Green from just a single point. 

Neither example is particularly smooth (blame my unsteady hands), but it's especially noticeable on the Pixel 7a with big vertical lines marking the different parts of the shot. The 7a's image is the brighter of the two this time, but it's not enough to overcome the Pixel 8a's smoother image and more vivid colors.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Night mode

Returning to the Green at night, I took this shot of a lamppost on the edge of the area. With the lamp shining, the dark trees making up the background and the sky visible beyond that, it's a challenging shot.

The Pixel 8a is up to its old tricks of being warmer and more colorful than the Pixel 7a, thought the Pixel 7a's brightness means the background is a bit more visible. Neither phone does a great job of mediating the brightness of the lamppost, but the tone of the Pixel 8a's overall image helps make it look attractive.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Night mode selfie

While out for my night photo trip, I decided to see how the two phones' selfie capabilities would be affected by the darkness. It's a little hard to compare these two shots because of passing traffic changing the exact amount of light in the scene, but there are still some things to notice.

It's the Pixel 8a that's produced the cooler, brighter shot this time, with the Pixel 7a taking up the role of the warmer but dimmer image. I like the extra detail in the Pixel 8a's image, but its highlights are a little too bright, meaning I'm declaring this round a draw.

Winner: Tie

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 7a: Verdict

The Pixel 8a's won more rounds here, but all its victories were very slight, and likewise with the rounds the Pixel 7a won. The newer Pixel won on some of the more difficult shots that required additional processing (the 8x zoom round or the panorama), but its tendency towards warmer coloring proved to be both a blessing and a curse depending on the subject.

If you're considering the two phones, or weighing up , you'll have to weigh up their features beyond the cameras. The Pixel 8a has other features, like a 120Hz display, a Tensor G3 chipset and a brighter Actua display that the Pixel 7a lacks. But if you can find a good deal on the older model, perhaps the Pixel 7a is still right for you since its cameras are clearly still viable a year after launch.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.