Pixel 4A vs. iPhone SE: battle of the budget cameras

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I get asked almost weekly what the best budget camera system is for someone who doesn’t know much about photography, and my answer is almost always the same: what phone do you have? Thanks to smartphones, taking great photos no longer requires learning a camera system, image editing, and the ins and outs of photography.

In the latest episode of our YouTube series Full Frame, I put the top two cameras you can buy for under $400 to the test. It’s an all-out camera battle between the $350 Pixel 4A and the $400 iPhone SE in NYC.

The iPhone SE’s 12MP single rear camera is the same single camera found on the iPhone 8, while the Pixel 4A’s 12.2MP single rear camera is the same system Google has used since the Pixel 2. Although these cameras have very different processors, both are extremely capable in perfect lighting conditions, and differentiating them feels nitpicky.

One noticeable difference, though, is where the Pixel evens out the exposure, the iPhone is not afraid to hold on to the shadows and create more contrast. You can see it in the black lines of the mural and the shadows of the trees on the concrete most clearly. I like this level of contrast, especially if it means I won’t have to apply and mess with an Instagram filter when I go to post it.

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