Google announced the mid-range Pixel 8a last week and just yesterday our reviews went live.  Dan covered the entire smartphone giving his thoughts on it so I thought I’d give my quick thoughts and a few extra thoughts on the camera.

My 2 cents

For $849 the Google Pixel 8a brings a lot in terms of software but its hardware and design leave a bit to be desired.  Luckily for them the software is so exceptional that it makes up for what I consider a lacklustre effort in the design and hardware of the phone.

The positives

A lot of the new fancy AI features that arrived with the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro have come along with the 8a.  These features such as Best Take, Audio Magic Eraser, Magic Editor, Magic Eraser, Photo Unblur, Super Res Zoom and Real Tone on video.  

Gemini is also along for the ride – all onboard.  While Dan and I are yet to find too many actual uses for Gemini that Google Assistant could not already do, it does have some uses and you can be sure Google will improve on that in the future.

Circle to Search is one of my most used Pixel features that I use multiple times a day.  It’s great for shopping, copying text etc.

I love that Google has brought face unlock for biometric unlocking to the Pixel 8a.  Hopefully more manufacturers follow.

My most used Pixel feature though is Assistant Voice Typing.  I am driving a lot in my job so I need to reply to my office messages etc without using and touching my phone.  No other voice to text on a smartphone comes even close – not Siri, not the default Android/Google voice typing on is anywhere near as good.

These last two features make the Pixel pretty much the only phone I want to use everyday.  The Pixel 8a is no different.  Even with my heavy workload on it it had no issue keeping with the demand I placed on it, although it did at times seem to refresh a Chrome page when going back to Chrome when it doesn’t on the Pixel 8 Pro.  That’s the only issue I noticed in my super multi-tasking day.

The negatives

While there are some negatives I still feel the positives outweigh the negatives and think the Pixel 8a is a compelling purchase.

The bezels on the 8a are noticeably bigger than on the 8, the Gorilla Glass is better on the 8, and both the wired and wireless charging on the 8 are much faster which is something I just don’t understand – looks like they have deliberately gimped the charging speeds, simply to differentiate between Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a, when surely the cost to include faster charging would be negligible.

The lenses in the rear camera setup are a step down from what is in the Pixel 8 which does not sit well with me but does signal a change in plans from last year where the Pixel 7 was effectively replaced by the 7a.

The only other negative is the price.  It is $100 more than the 7a last year and at $849 is it really mid-range?  When OPPO make a good smartphone $250 cheaper the Pixel 8a is not a “no-brainer” this year but instead a “maybe consider.”

The Pixel 8a camera

The rear camera setup on the Pixel 8a is exactly the same as that on the Pixel 7a last year but not as good as the sensors on the Pixel 8.  This lends itself to the thinking discussed above, that all three Pixel 8 devices will continue to be available for purchase

Pixel 8aPixel 8Pixel 7a
Rear camera64 MP, f/1.9, 26mm (wide), 1/1.73″, 0.8µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
13 MP, f/2.2, 120˚ (ultrawide), 1.12µm
Auto-HDR
50 MP, f/1.7, 25mm (wide), 1/1.31″, 1.2µm, dual pixel PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
12 MP, f/2.2, 126˚ (ultrawide), 1/2.9″, 1.25µm, AF
 gyro-EIS, Ultra-HDR
64 MP, f/1.9, 26mm (wide), 1/1.73″, 0.8µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
13 MP, f/2.2, 120˚ (ultrawide), 1.12µm
Auto-HDR
Selfie Camera13 MP, f/2.2, 20mm (ultrawide), 1.12µm10.5 MP, f/2.2, 20mm (ultrawide), 1/3.1″, 1.22µm13 MP, f/2.2, 20mm (ultrawide), 1.12µm

Do not be fooled by megapixels.  Google has admitted that the sensors in the Pixel 8 are better than those in the 8a.  Different size sensors make up a lot of the difference between the two camera setups.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Pixel 8a camera is still a great camera that produces great images but it is not perfect – but you shouldn’t expect that this year when the Pixel 8 will likely still be available at the same time and will cost a few hundred dollars more.

I noticed that while the images are great in most circumstances, there is no macro mode on the Pixel 8a which was disappointing and at the same time the depth of field looks to be very narrow and things slightly further back from the focused image are blurred, even if only a few centimetres.  I found this most evident when using the Pixel 8a to take images of a mouse I was reviewing.

Daytime imaging was great with Super Res Zoom working as described creating decent images even when zoomed in from a long way away.  Night Mode is once again magical from Google with all of this happening thanks to on-device AI enhancement.  

You can check out the various images I captured below.

Daytime photos:

As you can see, in decent light the Pixel 8a camera shines with great resolution and colour duplication. Google has always produced true colour images which may not be as pleasing to the eye as some manufacturer’s post-processing to saturate the colours but it represents a true indication of the colours captured.

Dusk and dawn photos:

These lower light images are great with decent colours and are accurate in displaying the scene.

Selfie:

Night time photos:

I did not call this Night Mode photos because not all photos were taken with Night Mode. For these I gave the phone to my wife and tasked her with taking a night mode photo and a normal photo of the same image. The results were virtually identical. The colours/shades are slightly different between the two and the shadows and detail slightly better on the Night Mode photos but in all reality and effectiveness they are the same.

For some comparison photos check back in here in a couple of weeks where I put the Pixel 8a up against the Pixel 8, the OPPO Reno 11F, the Moto edge 50 fusion and the Samsung Galaxy A55 in a mid-range smartphone camera shootout — just as I did for the ultra-premium smartphones last year.