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Smartphone Zoom Test: Google Pixel 3a XL Vs Huawei P30 Pro Vs Samsung Galaxy S10 +

How does the Google Pixel 3a Super Res Zoom stack up against the optical zoom found on other smartphones such as the Huawei P30 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus?

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Google Pixel 3a XL
 

It's no secret that smartphones have morphed into excellent photography tools with triple cameras, clever bokeh tools and tricks galore that can help us capture picture-perfect portraits and lovely looking landscapes at the press of a button. 

One area, however, smartphones have needed some work in is the zoom as digital zoom may give us plenty of reach but, it's rather terrible and we end up with images we'd rather not share. Smartphone designers aren't stupid and have quickly come up with ways to improve the zoom built into devices with either clever technology improving digital zoom or optical zooms appearing in new smartphones. 

 

Optical Vs Electronic 

Optical zooms tend to be featured in more expensive smartphones such as the Huawei P30 or P30 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S10 + whereas less expensive devices, such as the Google Pixel 3a (XL), rely on technology to give them the reach users want. As we've said, the less expensive smartphones with electronic/digital zooms tend to not stand up in terms of quality when compared with optical zooms but the Google Pixel range is a bit different as the electronic 'Super Res Zoom' built-in, actually, does a really good job by combining a number of shots into one. So good, in fact, we thought we'd compare it against the likes of Samsung and Huawei to see just how well it performs.

We've chosen Samsung and Huawei as, along with Google, they have created the highest scoring smartphones we've reviewed and feature highly in our top lists.  


More Choice 

Speaking of top lists, do take a look at our 'Best Camera Phones For Photography 2019' top list or if you have a little bit less cash to spend then the 'Best Mid-Range Smartphones For Photography 2019' or ''Best Budget Phones For Photography Under Or Around £300 2019' are worth a peruse. For a more in-depth look at a specific smartphone, have a look at our smartphone reviews

Let's have a closer look at the zoom range built into some of the most popular, high-scoring smartphones we've reviewed... 

 

Smartphone Zoom Overview - Google Pixel 3a XL, Samsung Galaxy S10 + & Huawei P30 Pro 

We know the price tags on the Samsung Galaxy S10 + and Huawei P30 Pro are much higher than the Google Pixel 3a XL but after testing, we found that the Pixel could capture the same impressive results as flagships even with its 'Super Res Zoom' which is all electronic compared with the optical zooms (supported by digital) which you find on the more expensive devices. 

The Google Pixel 3a XL may only have 1 camera but its "Super Res Zoom" is designed to produce higher resolution zoom photos by taking a number of shots and combining them to capture more detail. There are 5 positions in total, with the first being the standard wide-angle view then the next is equivalent to 2x, followed by 3x, 4x and 5x.

On the Samsung S10 Plus, you get access to lots of lenses which include a standard wide-angle, ultra-wide angle and a telephoto lens with up to 2x optical zoom. The Huawei P30 Pro offers a similar set-up with a standard wide-angle, ultra-wide angle and a telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom

Both the S10 Plus and the P30 Pro also offer digital zoom which gives you more reach but, as you might expect, the quality doesn't hold up. The S10 Plus uses digital zoom to give you up to 10x zoom while the Huawei P30 Pro has a hybrid 10x zoom and 50x digital zoom. 

 

Standard/Wide/1X Zoom 

1x | 1/5882 sec | f/1.8 | 4.4 mm | ISO 65
Google Pixel 3a XL 
Wide | 1/1688 sec | f/2.4 | 4.3 mm | ISO 50
Samsung S10 + 
Standard - 1/7752 sec | f/1.6 | 5.6 mm | ISO 50
Huawei P30 Pro

 

We're going to look at the above images one at a time as they all have good/bad bits that are worth discussing but if we were to choose just one as 'the best' it would be the Google Pixel 3a XL image as the exposure levels are the best and even though detail isn't as great, there's still enough to create a good photo. 

As we said, the Google Pixel 3a XL has produced an image that's evenly exposed, with no extremes, but detail is soft in some areas of the shot. For example, the leaves on the trees are a bit paint-like and there's not much definition in the clouds. 

The image captured with the Samsung S10 + has excellent levels of detail but it's overexposed and the image taken with the Huawei P30 Pro is a little underexposed. However, detail is excellent, the best out of the 3, with much more definition in the road, trees and shot overall. 

Winner: Google Pixel 3a XL

 

2X Zoom

2x | 1/5882 sec | f/1.8 | 4.4 mm | ISO 62
Google Pixel 3a XL 
2x | 1/734 sec | f/2.4 | 6.0 mm | ISO 50
Samsung S10 + 

 

Here, we're comparing the 2x ''Super Res Zoom" on the Google Pixel 3a XL with the 2x optical zoom found on the Samsung S10 +. The Huawei P30 Pro jumps straight to 3x optical zoom so that's why it's left out of this comparison. 

The Google Pixel 3a XL almost matches the detail in the 2x telephoto lens on the Samsung Galaxy S10+ which is an impressive feat. But, the image captured with the Google Pixel 3a XL is a little on the dark side while, again, the image captured with the Samsung S10 + is a little on the bright side. Also, when you look closer, the Samsung detail is just that little bit sharper, something that's particularly noticeable around the edges of lettering and the leaves on the trees. 

Winner: Samsung S10 +

 

3X Zoom 

3x | 1/4695 sec | f/1.8 | 4.4 mm | ISO 58

Google Pixel 3a XL

1/2899 sec | f/2.4 | 7.5 mm | ISO 50

Huawei P30

 

The Google Pixel 3a XL doesn't really match the detail and clarity possible with a true 3x telephoto lens in the Huawei P30. Even before you zoom in to look at detail, the image captured with the Google Pixel 3a XL looks like it's had a filter applied to it to make it look like a painting/drawing. The image captured with the Huawei P30 does look underexposed but you can fix this.

Winner: Huawei P30

 

5X Zoom 

5x | 1/5882 sec | f/1.8 | 4.4 mm | ISO 60

Google Pixel 3a XL

5x - 1/962 sec | f/3.4 | 14.5 mm | ISO 50

Huawei P30 Pro

 

Again, the Google Pixel 3a XL doesn't really match the optical quality of the true 5x telephoto lens of the Huawei P30 Pro. Detail is really lacking in the image captured with the Pizel, with the painted look appearing again. Colour and exposure levels are good in the image captured with the Huawei P30 Pro and detail in the leaves is excellent. 

Winner: Huawei P30 Pro

 

More Comparisons:

To see the full zoom range of each of the smartphones, have a look at the images below which demonstrate how much reach each of the devices have. The Huawei P30 Pro does have a zoom that reaches 50x but it's purely digital so don't be fooled by the numbers!

Google Pixel 3a XL

Samsung Galaxy S10 + 

 

Huawei P30 Pro

1/799 sec | f/2.2 | 2.4 mm | ISO 50
 

Final Thoughts 

To say Google uses clever technology and algorithms for its camera's zoom, it doesn't do a bad job. Plus, when you compare the price of the Google Pixel 3a XL (£569) with the two other smartphones (£899), the camera technology it has to offer looks even more impressive. However, if you want a true optical zoom and more detail, parting with a bit extra cash for the Samsung and Huawei flagships is worth it. 

 

Buy Google Pixel 3a XL  Buy Samsung Galaxy S10 +  Buy Huawei P30 Pro 

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