The big selling point for the Pixel phones has always been the camera, and Google knows it. At the unveiling of the new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL today, the search giant showed off a bunch of new photography features and one big get: a partnership with Annie Leibovitz.
Google noted during its presentation that it’s the first time Leibovitz, a legendary portrait photographer, has teamed up with any specific camera (or phone). But it isn’t the first time she’s endorsed one. Back in 2011, Leibovitz said the iPhone 4s was her “snapshot camera” of choice, praising it as “so accessible and easy.”
But while that recommendation seemed to be based on the maxim that the best camera is the one you have with you, Leibovitz’s partnership with the Pixel 3 could credibly rest on the phone’s picture quality. Leibovitz will be using the device on an unnamed project, as she “travels around the country, capturing portraits of inspiring people and places.”
It wasn’t the only serious endorsement of the Pixel 3’s photography prowess either. At the launch, Google said it had given the phone to publisher Condé Nast, and its photographers had used it shoot the covers of seven of its magazines. Those include pictures of Ryan Gosling for GQ and Cardi B for W. The magazines will be on newsstands soon.
The two partnerships represent an interesting tactic to try to raise the reputation of the Pixel’s camera (which we still judge to be the best in the business, as the Pixel 2 beat out even Apple’s most recent iPhones in our tests). However, Apple still probably has the upper hand in visibility, thanks to its long-running and recognizable “Shot on iPhone” campaign.
Are the Pixel 3’s photos good enough to help Google beat the iPhone in the mass market? Well, no. But it seems like they’re good enough to make people think twice about picking up a real camera.