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

The mid-range Google Pixel 6a ($ 449) earned the Editor’s Choice award in large part due to its imaging prowess. Simply put, it is one of the best mid-range camera phones on the market.

At $ 899, the Pixel 6 Pro costs twice as much as the Pixel 6a and conveniently includes high-end camera components as part of the upgrade. But if image quality is your primary 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 photo situations so you can see the difference and determine which model is the best buy for your needs.


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

Before we 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.

For starters, the main camera of the high-end Pixel 6 Pro uses a 50MP Octa PD Quad Bayer sensor, while the Pixel 6a relies mostly on a 12.2MP dual pixel sensor. The Pro offers four times the resolution of the 6th, but the image output dimensions are quite similar because the former oversamples the images; both phones save photos with a resolution of approximately 12 MP (4,080 x 3,027 pixels). If you’re interested in how oversampling works and why it makes a difference to detail capture, check out our article on stacked CMOS, BSI CMOS and CMOS sensors and pay attention to the section on Quad Bayer technology.

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

Google Pixel 6a


Review the image

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

The Pixel 6 Pro has an additional lens that the Pixel 6a does not have: a 48MP telephoto lens with a focal length of 104mm (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. Let’s explore how the two manage zooming on subjects in the tests below.

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


Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 Pro: main rear cameras

We took several pairs of photos in various lighting environments with each phone’s main camera. In theory, the Pixel 6 Pro’s images should appear sharper based on the higher resolution sensor, but it’s more important to look at real-world results than just looking at the numbers.


Outdoors in the sunlight

A play area

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A play area

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

It’s hard to tell the difference between the Google Pixel 6a and 6 Pro in environments with good sunlight. While the 6 Pro captures more detail at first, its final output doesn’t look much different (especially on the web). The more expensive Pixel Pro still has an advantage in detail – it’s not as dramatic an advantage as the raw numbers indicate.

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro (barely)


Indoors in low light conditions

A dog on his bed

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A dog on his bed

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeCLair)

The Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 Pro both offer Google’s awesome Night Sight feature on the main lens, which works well in low-light conditions. In the photos above of my dog, the Pixel 6a’s image looks a little brighter, but I prefer the 6 Pro’s slightly wider field of view. This creates a draw.

Winner: tie


Indoors in low light conditions

A closet

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A closet

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

I took the photos above in my closet in almost total darkness. Here, the Pixel 6 Pro captures a bit more detail than the Pixel 6a, although neither photo is very usable. However, it’s a good way to stress-test the Night Sight feature. We are impressed that the shirts are also visible in these photos.

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro


Portrait mode

A selfie of Dave LeClair

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A selfie of Dave LeClair

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

When using Portrait mode in sunlight, you should get similar results from both cameras. They even seem to apply roughly the same amount of bokeh to the background in previous tests. That said, the Pro’s slightly wider view gives it an edge.

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro


Close-up outdoors in the sunlight

The words junk only on a sign

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

The words junk only on a sign

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

It’s hard to tell the macro performance between the two phones; both show the same amount of detail only at slightly different viewing angles. If you want to get close to your subject, you should be able to take great photos with both cameras.

Winner: tie


Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 Pro: wide angle cameras

Although both phones use the same wide angle lens, it’s still important to see if there are any differences in how they process images.


Outdoors in the sunlight

An apartment complex

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

An apartment complex

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

Unsurprisingly, these photos look similar given the identical hardware. We can’t pick a winner here.

Winner: tie


Indoors in low light conditions

A photo of a corridor

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A photo of a corridor

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

We also tested the wide-angle lens in low light to see if the devices process images differently. Again, 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 no. We zoomed in on the images we took in sunlight to see if we can ascertain how much advantage the additional lens offers.


2x zoom

A bridge with graffiti

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A bridge with graffiti

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

When you zoom in, you can see some more detail in the Pixel 6 Pro shot. Both images look great, though.

Recommended by our editors

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro (barely)


4x zoom

A bridge with graffiti

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A bridge with graffiti

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

The Pixel 6 Pro’s telephoto lens shines with a 4x zoom, while the Pixel 6a starts to struggle. You can clearly see an improvement in detail on the 6 Pro; the image of the 6a looks relatively washed out.

Winner: Pixel 6 Pro


Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 Pro: selfie cameras

Pixel 6 Pro features an 11.1MP front camera with f / 2.2 aperture. The Pixel 6a is equipped with an 8MP lens with an f / 2.0 aperture. Clearly, the hardware of the former is better, but the practical difference isn’t that substantial.


Outdoors in the sunlight

A selfie of Dave LeClair

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A selfie from Dave LeCLair

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

As mentioned, the Pixel 6 Pro’s front camera offers a slightly higher resolution. But in practice, both cameras produce very similar images in this scenario. I prefer the Pixel 6 Pro image because the Pixel 6a image colors look a little too bright. However, the differences are quite slight.

Winner: tie


Indoors in good light

A selfie of Dave LeClair

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A selfie of Dave LeClair

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

In a slightly darker interior space, the images look even more similar. You truly you have to study them to see any differences.

Winner: tie


Indoors in low light conditions

A Dark Life of Dave LeClair

Pixel 6a (Credit: Dave LeClair)

A dark selfie of Dave LeClair

Pixel 6 Pro (Credit: Dave LeClair)

I took the aforementioned selfies in near-complete darkness, with only a small amount of light filtering through the curtain. Neither image looks great (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 the Pixel 6a’s, but that’s not surprising given the price difference between the two phones. Notably, the more expensive Pixel 6 Pro shows finer details in complex scenes, along with more accurate colors. If you are simply looking for the best Pixel camera quality, no matter the cost, the Pixel 6 Pro is the phone for you. However, these differences alone aren’t enough to justify the Pixel 6 Pro’s $ 450 premium. Of course, the Pixel 6 Pro also offers a number of other improvements over the Pixel 6a that justify its higher price, including a larger display. big and crisp and class-leading battery life.

But, in terms of camera performance, the Pixel 6a offers truly impressive performance for the price, almost on par with the Pixel 6 Pro. That means the winner is you, the buyer, as both of these phones have won our Editors’ award. Choice. They represent some of the best mid-range and high-end phones currently available.

For more information on mobile photography, check out our 10 simple tips and tricks for the best smartphone photos.

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