The Pixel 8 maintains the same overall camera as the predecessor. There's no zoom module on the back to join the main and ultrawide, and a single, relatively wide selfie camera punctures the display. That's not to say there aren't improvements, though - both in hardware and software.
The main camera uses what appears to be the same sensor as last year - a 50MP 1/1.31" unit with 1.2µm pixels and a 4-to-1 binning to get from its nominal resolution to 12.5MP resulting images. What's new this year is the lens, now specified to have an f/1.68 aperture, as opposed to the f/1.85 of last year's model - we'd go with f/1.7 vs. f/1.9. The specified field of view of 82 degrees corresponds to an equivalent focal length of around 25mm. The lens is still stabilized.
The Octa-PD AF capability of the sensor is augmented by a laser, which on the plain Pixel 8 is only single-point, while the Pixel 8 Pro gets a multi-point system. Since there's no telephoto, it's this main camera that will need to take on zoom duty as well.
The ultrawide sees one of the bigger upgrades this year - the Pixel 8 finally gets autofocus on its UW. It's apparently the same module that the Pixel 7 Pro uses - reportedly a 12MP sensor (1/2.9", 1.25µm) that outputs 12.5MP images, and mated to a lens that covers a 126-degree field of view and has an f/2.2 aperture.
Over on the front, the selfie camera features a 10.5MP sensor with a 1/3.1" optical format and 1.22µm pixels. The lens has a 20mm focal length equivalent and an f/2.2 aperture. The Pixel 8 is denied autofocusing capability on the selfie camera, however, which seems like an arbitrary limitation, given that the 8 Pro's otherwise identical front-facing camera does have AF.
From a software perspective, there are some interesting things on the new Pixel phones. The new camera app now houses the settings pane on the bottom, and it can be accessed by swiping up instead of down. The app is also split into dedicated photo and video modes, with each having its own sub-modes.
Another aspect of introducing artificial limitations on the Pixel 8 non-Pro is that it has different camera settings and functionality. Both phones get the option to shoot in RAW, but the non-Pro doesn't get an option to shoot in 50MP resolution.
Both phones get a new menu with the ability to adjust brightness, shadow detail, and white balance but it's only the Pro model that also gets manual focus with focus peaking, shutter speed control, and ISO - the vanilla Pixel 8 is more of a point-and-shoot-only device and a disappointing exercise in gatekeeping on Google's part.
The new Pixel 8 phones can also capture images in Display P3 color space. This option needs to be enabled from the advanced settings and is available on both phones. Enabling it will save the original raw data in a much wider Display P3 color space that can show a greater range of shades, especially in the green and red areas of visible light compared to sRGB but you need an appropriate display and subject to fully see the difference. All images shown below, however, are in standard sRGB for compatibility.
Another cool thing with the image capture experience is actually in the Photos app. Like the iPhones, the Pixel 8 phones now capture additional metadata regarding the luminance levels of the images they capture. This information is then used to generate an HDR PQ-like effect in the Photos app, where image highlights are automatically brightened when you view them, creating a stunning high dynamic range effect. It was always a cool trick previously found only on the OLED iPhones and we are glad it is making its way to more devices.
Daylight photos from the Pixel 8's main camera are properly great. The 12.5MP resolution is as good as that on the next phone, but the Pixel's rendition of random detail is generally nicer than a lot of the competitors, even if this generation shows a tendency towards a bit more sharpening. Noise is practically non-existent.
The relatively typical Pixel approach to tonal development means the phone exposes for the highlights and you can get somewhat dark shadows as a result of the high overall contrast, though we'd say this year's results are a bit brighter in the lower end of the spectrum.
White balance is very consistent, with a slight lean towards cooler settings and a faint magenta bias - it's what a Pixel fan would call 'spot on'. Saturation is also hard to fault.
The 2x setting in the viewfinder gives you rather well-executed zoom shots. While certain types of subject matter might be more problematic if you look at 1:1 - truly random greenery might end up a little fizzy, depending on just how fine the detail is and how much movement there was while capturing the photo - we're pretty happy with the definition in these images.
The Pixel 8 inherits the 7 Pro's ultrawide, and that does allow it to capture better images than last year's small Pixel. The photos have very much the same tonal properties as those captured on the main camera and detail is very good, certainly better than what an iPhone 15 or a Galaxy S23 can muster with their ultrawides.
Another area where the Pixel 8 beats those two key competitors is in the fact that its ultrawide camera has autofocus - a noteworthy upgrade over the Pixel 7 too. That enables both general close-up shots like the ones of the Vespa and the Lego House above, as well as 'Macro' mode.
As is usually the case, in 'Macro' mode, the phone crops the center portion of the ultrawide camera's sensor to match the main camera's FoV - the results are in the okay to very good category, depending on whether you look at them at 1:1 or at fit to screen magnification.
The Pixel 8's main camera does a great job in low-light as well. Its Night mode works in such a way that it doesn't always explicitly kick in if the scene's brightness is above a certain threshold, though we can imagine that it's doing at least some of its magic unless you specifically turn it off. In any case, you can trust it's doing the best it can, given the circumstances.
For the first batch of photos, you'll be looking at Night mode versions of the scenes. We're liking the balanced exposure that both protects the highlights and lets you see things in the shadows - it's not the most dramatic of approaches, but it's well-judged. It's among the most dependable auto white balance implementations, giving you accurate renditions of all sorts of mixed lighting.
Detail is generally very good, though there are instances where certain textures may fall victim to the noise reduction (and/or Night mode stacking). It probably wouldn't be fair to say that Pixel's noise reduction is too aggressive, however - it's more that it misreads some textures (like asphalt) as noise that others don't.
Now, if you were to go without Night mode, you'll end up with dim and gloomy renditions of dark scenes. Better-lit scenes, on the other hand, wouldn't look all that different.
At 2x zoom, scenes look better in Night mode thanks in part to expectedly superior tonal development - dynamic range is wider, shadows get a nice boost. These also tend to have an edge in detail more often than not.
The Night mode-less counterparts are, conversely, darker in the shadows and ever so slightly softer.
The photos from the ultrawide camera do look better with Night mode at play. Once again, we're like how the Pixel 8 exposes these scenes, and we're enjoying the dynamic range and colors. That mostly works until you start looking from up close, however, where softness takes center stage. Perhaps it's unreasonable to expect more from what is relatively modest hardware, yet we're still a little disappointed by the pixel-level detail.
Turning off Night mode doesn't help, of course. While in certain (well-lit) scenes, it may mean a minor (negligible) improvement in sharpness, in the vast majority of situations, you'd be sacrificing dynamic range and colors.
Once you're done with the real-world samples, head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the Google Pixel 8 stacks up against the competition.
Portrait mode on the Pixel 8 comes in two zoom levels - 1.5x and 2x, both captured on the main camera, of course. The default setting is the 2x one and the detail on the subject remains respectable - not surprising, given that 2x zoom shots weren't half bad. Admittedly, some softness does creep in dimmer conditions, but things remain in the 'acceptable' domain. The subject detection isn't infallible, though, and we saw more imperfections in these images than we'd like - more than in competitors' attempts too.
The 1.5x zoom mode doesn't necessarily offer better detail - in fact, in trickier lighting, the 2x images tend to be sharper. In that sense, having both the 2x and the 1.5x zoom levels seems a bit redundant - perhaps the solid 2x results would be better complimented by a 1x option for wider framing.
In selfies, you also get two magnification levels, with the phone defaulting to a 1x zoomed-in frame. The 0.7x toggle gives you the camera's native FoV. Both modes output at 10MP.
The 0.7x images have good detail in most scenes - the fixed focus works well at arm's length, so your face ends up sharp. Backlit scenes and dimmer indoor conditions can introduce more softness, however. White balance was somewhat hit or miss in our experience - outdoors, of all places.
The 1x zoom mode's results are softer, expectedly, but not too bad of a choice if you like the tighter framing and won't be pixel-peeping into your pores.
The Pixel 8 records video up to 4K60 with all three of its cameras (front-facing one included), and you also get 24fps modes on all, in addition to the 'mainstream' 30fps. The default codec is h.264, but h.265 is also available in settings. 10-bit HDR recording is also an option, up to 4K30. Stabilization is there for you in all modes.
Video quality out of the Pixel 8's main camera is very good. For starters, detail is great, and there's no difference between 24fps and 30fps modes, with 60fps introducing just a bit of softness. Dynamic range is nicely wide, white balance is on point, and colors hit an easily likeable sweet spot of saturation.
At 2x zoom, pixel-level sharpness isn't quite there, and you'll easily be able to tell that there's some level of upscaling going on. For less demanding applications, the footage will still do, but you might as well just record in 1080p at this point.
Detail is also a little sketchy on the ultrawide, regardless of frame rate - the 24fps and 30fps don't offer any benefits over 60fps. From further away, however, you'll appreciate the extra wide field of view and the overall solid global parameters.
In low light, the main camera maintains its composure, and while image quality does suffer from some softening, there's still a good level of detail being captured. Dynamic range and color saturation (and fidelity) are straight-up excellent. There is some noticeable ghosting from point light sources, albeit not quite as severe as we're used to seeing on iPhones.
Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of good things to be said about the ultrawide camera's output at night. We're not sure if softness is the first thing we're seeing or it's the limited dynamic range, but the drop in saturation isn't helping either.
When it comes to stabilization, however, the Pixel 8 has little to be ashamed of. Whether it's the main camera or the ultrawide, you can count on competently ironed-out walking shake and tripod-like stability when pointing the phone in one direction. Just be a little more gentle when starting a pan than this guy.
Your mileage may vary, though - if you not so much as walk, but rather march or run, it's very likely that an iPhone may be a more stable platform for recording your videos.
Here's a glimpse of how the Pixel 8 compares to rivals in our Video compare tool. Head over there for the complete picture.