The very first Pixel phone was almost revolutionary, especially in its camera. Singular. In an age of dual, even triple, cameras, Google opted to put a single sensor and let the software do the rest. It has mostly stuck to that formula until last year with the Pixel 4 and its two cameras. The Pixel 4a, not its larger 5G sibling, goes back to those roots, and DxOMark’s review reminds us of how impressive that prospect was, at least back in 2016.
The Pixel 4a sticks to a 12 megapixel (more specifically 12.2) sensor that its predecessors mostly had but does upgrade certain aspects, like having an f/1.7-aperture lens and OIS. Aside from an LED flash, that’s all that it has, no telephoto camera, no ultra-wide-angle, not even a monochrome depth sensor. It’s no surprise, then, that the Pixel 4a pretty much flops DxOMark’s tests in those areas.
The fact that the Pixel 4a still gets decent photo and video scores is perhaps a testament to Google’s computational photography prowess. Aside from a limited dynamic range that can result in highlight clipping, the phone produces decent exposure, excellent colors, and fast autofocus performance. It can even beat out more expensive flagships in low light scenarios when it comes to detail and noise trade-off.
It may not have a second sensor to help it with bokeh simulation but Google’s algorithm-based equivalent is mostly good enough. There are, however, noticeable depth estimation errors from time to time, as can be expected. As for videos, the Pixel 4a is capable of 4K recording but DxOMark found 1080p at 30 or 60 fps to be its best setting.
With an average score of 111, the Pixel 4a sits slightly behind last year’s flagships on DxOMark’s list, which isn’t bad considering the price tag and the pure Google experience. There might, however, be better options for those who aren’t really that interested in a stock Android experience but the Pixel 4a still seems to offer a decent photography experience for those that do, despite having only one low-resolution camera.