Google Employee Explains Why Pixel Phones Have EIS & Not OIS

Google Pixel XL Hands On AH 24

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL have all the makings of great smartphones. They’re packing powerful internal hardware, offer several different storage options, and come with unlimited cloud storage for full-resolution photos and videos. In addition to that, any photos and videos taken with the Pixel or Pixel XL, will be taken with what DxOMark and Google claim is the best smartphone camera ever created. The upcoming flagships boast a 12.3-megapixel rear camera featuring Sony’s IMX378 sensor with an aperture of f/2.0. The sensor is 1.55-micron pixels large which means it’s at least 10% bigger than most of its competitors. Simply speaking, a larger sensor can capture more light in a specific time frame or in other words, it takes less time to capture a specific amount of light than its smaller counterpart. In practical terms, a larger sensor primarily performs better in low-light conditions.

However, certain consumers were a bit puzzled by the fact that the Google Pixel and Pixel XL don’t feature optical image stabilization (OIS) technology, something that’s expected from pretty much every modern flagship. So much so that one interested party recently took to the Google Product Forums to ask why is it the case and whether electronic image stabilization (EIS) is “just better” than OIS. Fortunately, a Google employee nicknamed “IsaacOnCamera” soon explained the company’s decision to pick EIS over OIS. For starters, the employee asserted that neither of the two is better than the other, because they’re both used for different goals. IsaacOnCamera stated that OIS is mostly used for improving performance in low-light conditions by mechanically compensating for the inevitable shaking of the user’s hand within each frame. This means that longer exposures in badly lit areas are still possible as long as users are willing to accept the existence of motion blur in their photographs. On the other hand, EIS is used to compensate for shaky hands during video recording as it’s designed to electronically maintain framing.

Besides OIS being primarily used for photography and EIS having most uses for video, Isaac also noted that EIS is easier to fit into smaller cameras, which makes sense given how it doesn’t require any particular optical components like the optical image stabilization does. Given how both the Pixel and Pixel XL are only 8.6 mm thick, opting for OIS within their cases without ending up with a bulge would have been difficult. In addition to that, the aforementioned sensor size means that both Pixel flagships are already quite capable of performing in low-light conditions, and IsaacOnCamera argues that performance is the only thing that matters, not the way it’s achieved.