Google Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 Pro: Camera Quality Shoot-out

midrange google pixel 6a ($449) earned our Editor’s Choice award in no small part due to its imaging prowess. Simply put, this is one of the best midrange camera phone on the market.

at $899, Pixel 6 Pro It costs twice as much as the Pixel 6a, and includes higher-end camera components as part of the upgrade. But if image quality is your main concern, is the Pixel 6 Pro really worth twice the price of the Pixel 6a?

To help you decide, we pit their cameras against each other in several common photography situations so you can see the difference and determine which model is better for your needs.


How are the Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 Pro cameras different?

Before you look at our real-world photo samples from the Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 Pro, here’s a quick rundown of the camera specs and features you get with each phone.

To start with, the main camera of the high-end Pixel 6 Pro makes use of a 50MP Octa PD Quad Bayer sensor, while the Pixel 6a primarily relies on a 12.2MP dual-pixel sensor. The Pro offers four times the resolution of the 6a, but the image output sizes are very similar as the former oversampled images; Both phones save photos at around 12MP (4,080-by-3,027-pixel) resolution. If you’re interested in how oversampling works and why it matters for detail capture, check out our article CMOS, BSI CMOS, and Stacked CMOS Sensors And pay attention to the section on Quad Bayer Techniques.

Outside of resolution, the Pixel 6 Pro’s 26mm lens has an f/1.85 aperture. The lens of Pixel 6a offers f/1.7 aperture and captures pictures at 27mm focal length. The difference between the 26mm and 27mm isn’t huge, but the 6 Pro’s wider field of view gives a bit more of a look.

google pixel 6a


Image Review

Both phones use the same wide-angle hardware: a 12 MP, f/2.2 camera with a 17mm focal length. Images from these lenses look almost identical, and the only difference is in how the two devices process photos.

The Pixel 6 Pro has an additional lens that the Pixel 6a doesn’t—a 48MP telephoto camera with a 104mm focal length (4x optical zoom ratio compared to the standard lens). If you want to capture tight frames without compromising on quality, the Pixel 6 Pro is the clear winner on paper. We find out how zooming in on both subjects in the tests below.

In terms of software, Google covers almost everything in the more expensive Pixel 6 and 6A in 6 Pro. This means you get Real Tone, Magic Eraser, Night Shot, Top Shot and all other software-based goodies.


Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 Pro: Main Rear Cameras

We took several pairs of photos with each phone’s primary camera in different lighting environments. In theory, the Pixel 6 Pro’s images should look sharp by virtue of its high-resolution sensor, but checking real-world results is more important than just looking at the numbers.


outdoor in the sun

a play area

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

a play area

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

It’s hard to differentiate between the Google Pixel 6a and 6 Pro in a well-lit environment. Even though the 6 Pro initially captures more detail, its final output doesn’t look much different (especially on the web). The pricey Pixel Pro still has the edge in detail—it’s not as dramatic an advantage as the raw numbers indicate.

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro (Barely)


indoors in low light

a dog on his bed

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

a dog on his bed

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

Both the Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 Pro offer Google’s great Night Sight feature on the main lens, which works well in dim-light settings. In the above photos of my dog, the Pixel 6a’s image looks a bit brighter, but I prefer a slightly wider field of view on the 6 Pro. It makes for a tie.

Winner: Tie


indoors in low light

Closet

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

Closet

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

I took the above photos inside my closet in almost complete darkness. Here, the Pixel 6 Pro captures a bit more detail than the Pixel 6a, though neither photo is very useful. Still, it’s a good way to stress-test the Night Sight feature. We’re impressed that the shirt is also visible in these photos.

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro


portrait fashion

A selfie of Dave LeClaire

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

A selfie of Dave LeClaire

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

When you use portrait mode in the sun, you should get similar results from both cameras. They seem to apply roughly the same amount of bokeh to the background as in the above tests. That said, the Pro’s slightly wider view gives it the edge.

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro


close-up outdoors in the sun

word garbage only on a sign

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

word garbage only on a sign

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

It’s hard to differentiate the macro performance between the two phones; Both show the same amount of detail at different angles. If you want to get close to your subject, you should be able to take great pictures with any camera.

Winner: Tie


Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6 Pro: Wide-angle camera

Even though both phones use the same wide lens, it is still important to see if there are any differences in the way they process images.


outdoor in the sun

an apartment complex

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

an apartment complex

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

It should come as no surprise that these photos look identical, considering the similar hardware. We can’t pick a winner here.

Winner: Tie


indoors in low light

a picture of the hallway

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

a picture of the hallway

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

We also tested the wide-angle lens in low-light settings to see if the devices process images differently. Here too, the photos look essentially the same.

Winner: Tie


Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6 Pro: Zoom

Pixel 6 Pro has a dedicated zoom lens with 4x optical zoom. The Pixel 6a does not. We zoomed in on images taken in sunlight to see if we could figure out how much benefit the extra lens provides.


2x zoom

a bridge with frescoes

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

a bridge with frescoes

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

When you zoom in, you can see some additional detail in the Pixel 6 Pro’s shot. However, both pictures look great.

Recommended by our editors

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro (Barely)


4x zoom

a bridge with frescoes

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

a bridge with frescoes

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

The Pixel 6 Pro’s telephoto lens shines at 4x zoom, while the Pixel 6a seems to struggle. You can clearly see the improvement in detail over the 6 Pro; The image in 6a looks washed out by comparison.

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro


Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 Pro: Selfie Camera

Pixel 6 Pro has an 11.1MP front-facing camera with f/2.2 aperture. Pixel 6a has an 8MP lens with f/2.0 aperture. Clearly, the former’s hardware is better, but the practical difference isn’t that significant.


outdoor in the sun

A selfie of Dave LeClaire

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

A selfie of Dave LeClaire

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

As mentioned, the Pixel 6 Pro’s front-facing camera offers a slightly higher resolution. But, in practice, both cameras produce very similar images in this scenario. I prefer the Pixel 6 Pro’s image because the colors in the Pixel 6a’s image look a bit brighter. Nevertheless, the differences are quite minor.

Winner: Tie


indoors in good light

A selfie of Dave LeClaire

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

A selfie of Dave LeClaire

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

In a slightly dim indoor space, pictures look even more similar. You really They have to be studied to see any difference.

Winner: Tie


indoors in low light

A Dark Self by Dave LeClaire

Pixel 6a(Credit: Dave LeClaire)

A dark selfie of Dave LeClaire

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClaire)

I took the above selfie in almost complete darkness, with little light coming from the screen. Neither image looks good (despite Google Night Sight’s best efforts), but neither is dramatically worse than the other.

Winner: Tie


And the winner is… you

The Pixel 6 Pro’s camera stack is better than that of the Pixel 6a, but this isn’t surprising considering the price difference between the two handsets. Notably, the more valuable Pixel 6 Pro shows more fine detail in complex scenes, with more accurate colors. If you’re just looking for the best Pixel camera quality, no matter the price, the Pixel 6 Pro is the phone to get. However, these differences alone aren’t enough to justify the Pixel 6 Pro’s $450 premium. Of course, the Pixel 6 Pro also brings a number of other improvements compared to the Pixel 6a that justify its higher price tag, including a bigger, sharper display and class-leading battery life.

But, in terms of camera performance, the Pixel 6a delivers really impressive performance for the price, almost on par with the Pixel 6 Pro. That means the winner is you, buyer, as both of these phones earned our Editors’ Choice awards. They represent some of the best midrange and high-end phones currently available.

For more information on mobile photography, visit our 10 easy tips and tricks for better smartphone photos,

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