Every year it seems that the best smartphone camera tends to flip between a small handful of phones. For the most part though, the best camera generally reverts to the Pixel series devices.
It's been this way for every iteration since the original Google Pixel launched, and it's no different this year.
The Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL come with a stellar camera with the same lovable features of the last model, only improved, as well as some new features and better software to make for all-around amazing photo capabilities.
The Pixel 4 is our pick for best smartphone camera of 2019. And for good reason.
From new photo management controls to the improved portrait mode that better captures pets, the Pixel 4 camera is Google's best camera offering yet. As mentioned a lot of what makes the Pixel 4 camera so great is the software.
The lens itself is a 12-megapixel Dual-Pixel lens with a 16-megapixel telephoto lens for the portrait shots. These are not bad, but again, the real bread and butter is in the software. For instance, the exposure controls.
New exposure controls in the camera app
It might seem funny to praise exposure controls. Simply because exposure management in smartphone cameras is really nothing new.
For the Pixel camera though, readily available exposure controls have never really been there. Not front and center. Now, with the Pixel 4 you can adjust exposure on the fly. The zoom is there too.
Both of those options can be adjusted to your liking via slider bars. These aren't immediately visible the moment you open the camera. However once you tap on the screen to pinpoint the part you want to focus on, the slider bars for both appear.
The zoom sits along the side and the exposure bar sits along the top. Once you find your focus, if the lighting isn't quite what you want it to be you can adjust the exposure to brighten or darken it up a bit.
Because the Pixel cameras are already good, this made them even better.
Add portrait blur to photos after the snap
A newly launched feature on the Pixel 4 (and some older Pixel phones) is the ability to add the Portrait mode blur to older pictures.
After you've snapped a regular photo, you can now add the blur to it from Google Photos. Maybe you forgot to open Portrait mode in the first place. Or maybe you decided later on it would have been a good idea to take one in addition to a normal photo.
Now you don't have to worry about it as you can just go back and add it later. Although this didn't launch with the Pixel 4 back in October, it's available now and another great reason why the Pixel 4 has the best smartphone camera of 2019.
It offers astrophotography capabilities
Technically there's no official astrophotography mode that you can select. It is there though, and you can activate it through the Night Sight mode.
There are also some steps to take before the camera will tell you that astrophotography is on and ready to use. First, you have to enter Night Sight mode. Once that's done, simply frame what you're taking a picture of and then stabilize the phone.
If everything is steady like it needs to be, you should see a prompt on the phone screen that says "astrophotography on." These are some of the coolest shots you'll ever get, especially from a phone. And the Pixel 4 can help you do it all.
Granted you'll want to make sure you can keep the phone camera steady if you're using the astrophotography mode for things like long exposures. And you may need a tripod for that. Still, this plus the camera's sheer photo quality as well as excellent features in the camera app make it our pick for best smartphone camera of 2019.