I took over 200 photos with the Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8 — here’s the winner

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8a camera shootout.
(Image credit: Future)

Phone makers are constantly improving their phones. It’s the natural cycle in the phone world that happens time after time, as new devices are released and expected to phase out the previous model. That’s why a Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 photo shootout is necessary because of how the release of these two Android phones are separated by nearly seven months apart.

What really makes the Pixel 8a special among mid-range phones is how it balances its affordable price with new AI features. In my Pixel 8a review, I mention how its handful of features save me time from doing tedious photo editing processes on my own. However, I was in for a rude awakening when I saw the results from my colleague’s Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 7a camera shootout

Knowing how it fared in that photo comparison, I want to test to see how it performed against the Pixel 8 — a phone that’s technically higher up the totem pole in Google’s lineup. It’s also $200 more than the Pixel 8a, which makes this camera matchup more interesting to see what differences, if any, are there between them.

When it comes to the hardware, they’re almost similar on paper with the Pixel 8a equipping a 64MP main camera with a 13MP ultrawide, while the Pixel 8 features a 50MP main shooter paired with a 12MP ultrawide. They may not be the most robust set of cameras around, but they're strong best camera phone contenders.

As always, I captured all of the over 200 photos with both phones on hand and at the same time. And in order to see how the results turn out, I previewed all of the photos on my computer to see them side-by-side to make out their minor and major differences.

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: daytime

Under excellent lightning conditions outdoors, there’s barely any noticeable differences between the two phones in the above shots of my backyard. Details in the tree’s branches and bark are plentiful in both photos, while their strong dynamic range performance does a great job of contrasting the highlights and shadows. Neither one proves to me that they’re better than the other, so this one’s a deadlock.

Winner: tie

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: ultrawide

Even though it’s tough to discern it in the comparison photos above, the Pixel 8’s ultrawide camera has a wider 125.8-degree field of view, while the Pixel 8a has a narrower 120-degree field of view. But again, it’s a close call with the row of townhomes in the far background, as they pull in the same amount of detail. However, when I zoom into the asphalt closer in the foreground, I can tell there’s more definition in the Pixel 8 photo. Meanwhile, the Pixel 8a favors a slightly warmer color temperature. For this one, I’m giving it to the Pixel 8.

Winner: Pixel 8

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: dynamic range

Judging the above photos solely on dynamic range, I have to really look into the details to uncover which Android phone is delivering the better performance. When I zoom into the clouds, I notice that the Pixel 8a does a smidge better job at toning down the exposure to better draw out the details in them — which is most evident in the cloud towards the top.

In the areas with the tall grass closer to the foreground, it would look like they both handle dynamic range pretty well, but it’s in the shadows of the Pixel 8a’s shot that I can see some of the hidden blades of grass better. Even though it’s not a huge margin, I’m giving this one to the Pixel 8a.

Winner: Pixel 8a

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: color reproduction

In yet another close call, both the Pixel 8a and Pixel 8 produce very similar colors under the same shooting conditions. There’s a little bit more saturation with the Pixel 8a’s shot, which some people may prefer, but others may prefer the more toned down, truer to life colors of the Pixel 8. I can see it most in the red, but it’s tougher to see at first glance with the yellow in all of the candy. Luckily, neither one subdues or oversaturates the colors — so this one’s also a tossup for me.

Winner: tie

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: selfie

On paper, the Pixel 8a’s front-facing camera has a wider 96.5-degree field of view, but it’s almost impossible to notice after taking several selfies because the Pixel 8 comes in at 95-degrees. This one’s a close race as well with both Pixels delivering identical skin tones, colors, and dynamic range performance.

However, there’s just a little more sharpness with the selfies I captured with the Pixel 8. It’s not a tremendous amount, but I can see it in the fabric lined straps over my shoulders. Even though it’s a check mark for the Pixel 8, I don’t think it’s substantial enough to make it superior over the Pixel 8a.

Winner: tie

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: portrait

Rather than having a human step in for my usual set of portrait photos, I opted to capture one of my cats who was looking all too adorable while taking a mid afternoon nap. The Pixel 8a is a bit too aggressive with the exposure, resulting in the shadows looking much brighter and overexposing the scene — whereas the Pixel 8 draws up a better looking contrast that I prefer.

Details come up nicely in both portrait photos, especially around the eyes. And to top it off, I like how both Pixels isolate his face and soften the background to give it that portrait effect.

Winner: Pixel 8

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: zoom

Now this is a category where I can definitely see a big difference in how they use pixel binning and image processing to effectively deliver zoom photos. Right away I can tell that the Pixel 8 does a much better job at sharpening the entire photo of the wooden sign, so much so that I can make out fine details like the wood grain in the 8x zoom photo comparisons above.

Paying attention to the yellow crest in the lower right corner, the Pixel 8a’s shot looks much softer with fewer definition. For all of these reasons, the Pixel 8 clearly takes this category by a long stretch.

Winner: Pixel 8

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: panorama

Apart from the warmer color temperature of the Pixel 8a’s panoramic shot, I can hardly see any other notable differences against the Pixel 8. Luckily both Pixels apply an even exposure throughout the scene, especially as I turned the phones closer to the sun in the middle of the scene. I wouldn’t say that the warmer look of the Pixel 8a makes it better than the Pixel 8, so this one can go either way.

Winner: tie

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: high-contrast low light

By now it’s pretty obvious that the Pixel 8a has a penchant for warmer colors and these high-contrast low light shots prove it. I will admit that both Android phones brighten up the scene very nicely, while still capturing the fine details with the flags on the left side. There’s also very little noise in the shadows. However, the warmer color tone of the Pixel 8a is just too overpowering for this scene — whereas the Pixel 8 has a more true-to-life look.

Winner: Pixel 8

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: low light

Lastly, we come to the area that always brings me to my backyard tree, mainly because there’s barely any ambient light around to test out a phone’s low light performance. Yet again, the warmer color temperature of the Pixel 8a sticks out right away — making it look unrealistic compared to the Pixel 8’s more accurate color temperature. I will give the Pixel 8a credit for brightening up the pitch dark scene, but the details look a bit more smeary.

Winner: Pixel 8

Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: verdict