Google Pixel vs. Galaxy S7 video stabilization test: Does OIS make a difference?

The Samsung Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel take radically different approaches to stabilizing your videos. On the GS7, you've got traditional optical image stabilization — a hardware feature that cushions the camera module to make video more stable, while also helping out with still shots in darker conditions. In addition, there's traditional software-based video stabilization available in the Settings menu.

On the Pixel, there's no physical stabilization — instead, Google's digital stabilization works with the phone's gyroscope to stabilize footage, with surprisingly great results.

So how do these differing approaches compare? Let's take a look.

Note: We tested both phones at Full HD (1080p) resolution at 30 frames per second, since that's the default setting for both the GS7 and Pixel.

Walking

For our first test, we took the Pixel and Galaxy S7 out for a stroll. Both phones were held one-handed at a moderate walking pace at mid-day on an overcast day.

With stabilization turned off (the default for the GS7), Samsung's phone shows the telltale "wobbling" of an OIS-equipped camera. It's actually not too nauseating, but without any software stabilization going on more susceptible to sudden movements. That said, we're getting a full 1080p image here with plenty of detail, unlike the two stabilized clips.

With stabilization enabled, the footage from the GS7 becomes smoother, but with a cropped-in frame and less fine detail. Sudden movements are still visible in places, but the footage is noticeably smoother.

The Pixel produces a less saturated video than the GS7, with dynamic range taking a small hit too (notice the washed-out sky), however footage is almost unnaturally smooth. Google's phone even handles the motion of turning around halfway through the shot relatively well.

Panning

For our next test, we moved each phone through a figure-of-eight motion to see how well they handled smooth movement.

The Galaxy S7 without stabilization captured more fine detail than the other tests, but motion is noticeably jerky throughout. It's pretty unpleasant to watch.

Bring software stabilization into the mix on the GS7 and there's some noticeable ghosting and blurring, but otherwise the movement is smooth.

In this instance, the Pixel offers the best of both worlds — a wider viewport and smooth motion throughout, and nowhere near as much ghosting as the Galaxy S7.

Faster movement

For a more challenging test, we took the phones for a faster walk with dusk approaching. This time around, the Galaxy S7 (without stabilization) probably produced the best-looking footage, although with plenty of OIS-induced wobble.

With software stabilization enabled, the GS7 admirably evens out the jarring motion you see in the first clip, but there's a ton of ghosting, which is probably even more distracting. On top of that, fine detail gets obliterated, leaving you with a very soft image.

The Pixel does slightly better, with more fine detail and less ghosting, but the overall image has a distracting shimmer to it.

Side-by-side comparison

Galaxy S7 and Pixel side-by-side, both with stabilization enabled. Check out the difference.

Low light

Here's where things get interesting. As before, the GS7 without stabilization captures way more fine detail, and in this time around it's easily the best-looking of the three videos, even with lots of motion.

Enabling stabilization on the GS7 in these conditions produces a soft, ghosty, unwatchable mess. (Notice the blurring around the streetlights and headlights.)

The video from the Pixel is still very soft, with not much fine detail at all, but it's easier on the eyes than the stabilized GS7 footage. Colors are also more accurate, a hallmark of the Pixel when shooting in low light.

Wrapping things up

The Google Pixel manages to pull off some pretty impressive stabilization tricks, thanks to its use of data from the phone's gyroscope. By contrast, the Galaxy S7's stabilization mode (disabled by default) degrades image quality much more aggressively. That said, footage from the GS7 without stabilization enabled readily captures more fine detail than the Pixel, with slightly wider dynamic range.

A few conclusions based on our testing:

  • Any kind of software stabilization, even as good as the Pixel's, comes with some trade-off in terms of image quality.
  • The Pixel's digital stabilization is generally better than the Galaxy S7's, thanks to its use of gyroscope data from the phone.
  • Even with OIS, you'll get smoother pans with some kind of software stabilization.
  • The impact of digital stabilization becomes more noticeable in lower-light conditions. At night, you'll lose a lot of fine detail.
  • If you're shooting on a Galaxy S7, you probably want to leave the "video stabilization" option turned off.
  • On the Pixel, video stabilization is enabled by default, and you should probably leave it that way.

Pixel and GS7 owners, how have you found the phones' video cameras? Let us know down in the comments!

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.

18 Comments
  • It would be nice if the next model could have OIS. Mainly for photos as it can help with stability. Might also be useful in low-light unless Google has more tricks for its gyro-based DIS, which is actually really impressive.
  • I'm not a software engineer, but I think the way the Pixel takes photos wouldn't work with OIS. The Pixel constantly takes photos the moment you open the app and when you press the shutter, it picks up the timestamp and mergers a number of photos before and after it to get HDR. If it had OIS, then that would mean the shutter would need to stay open longer for a longer exposure and would mean less shots to merge. Add to that, I don't know how they would do the video stabilising calculations with an independently moving OIS module. I don't care for OIS. After using the Pixel, it takes better photos than any smartphone camera I've used - better than the ones with OIS, so I'm not convinced OIS is better in all situations. I'd rather Google continue to focus on improving the camera processing using software than having to rely on OIS. The stabilisation of OIS isn't as good as Google's EIS and I prefer the way Google are doing their photos with HDR than cameras with OIS.
  • Good point. Maybe I've been spoiled by actual optical stabilization as the phones I've used as my daily drivers for the past 3 years have all featured OIS (HTC One M7, LG G4, Galaxy Note 7, Moto Z). But I gotta say, the Pixel is an impressive little shooter. The only real flaw is its lens flare. But damn, it's reliable and quick. Google's gyro-based software stabilization is also mighty impressive. Obviously, it could do with some more polish around the edges, but it is very impressive nonetheless.
  • I agree. If Google can improve the low light performance of the camera then it would need close to perfect.
  • OIS and EIS can totally/easily be combined, many modern interchangeable lens cameras do this and some even have a mix of OIS + EIS + IBIS (in body stabilisation that moves the sensor)... Outside of that you're right tho, OIS wouldn't work well with Google's HDR+ mode and doesn't work well in general if you're shooting people or anything that tends to move... It's great for static scenes tho, so it comes down to usage case.
  • The EIS on the Pixel seems to be set too high IMO. The jerkiness of the scene when the camera moves too much is too distracting. Looking at the "quick walk" video, it looks like it's attached to a chicken's head that quickly moves around and then abnormally stable, and then another jump in movement. If they can figure out how to smooth the transition, they might be on to something.
  • Chicken OIS is great! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UytSNlHw8J8
  • You have a very hard step in your stride Alex! Man, I would hate to be your feet at the end of the day! I use my S7 edge with HDR on and stabilization off and try to stay in one place or move like a freakin mouse.
  • What's up with that weird flashing on the road and trees on the Pixel videos? Very distracting.
  • Yeah, I noticed this also, I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned in the article. I'm assuming it's the software adjusting for the constant change in lighting.
  • So? Who won? It seems to be the pixel. It's not clear in the article.
  • Pixel and S7 with no stabilization are probably equal with the latter preferred if you need more details.
  • yes OIS is better.. Pixel's videos look like **** when panning side to side fast. total crap. C4Etech proved it on his youtube channel. only thing Pixel is good at is stabilizing while walking straight..
  • Wow...I actually expected AC to just say: OIS doesn't matter, the pixel has the best camera In all modern smartphones.
  • Strapping both phones to the same rig simultaneously is the best kinda test, but there'll always be crop factor differences... Testing at 4K too would've been interesting IMO, I'd expect EIS to suffer significantly then as processing power becomes more limited.
  • I think whoever did this didn't read the s7 manual. The stabilisation option is for digital stabilisation, optical it's on permanently. This option only helps I'd you are using digital zoom. Unfortunately using this would make this whole test null and void as the optical element is far superior to the digital option, which adversely effects performance, unless you're zoomed in. That is why it's off by default
  • What I love about this article is that it's pretty evident that the Pixel has a better camera than the SGS 7 in most regards and it's quite easy and plain to see based on how the videos are presented. But, what's even more priceless is how silent the Sammy fans are. My comment is only the 16th. Amazing silence from Sammy fans.....
  • I had to return my pixel due to lens flare. My note 5 does a better job at stabilization for video than s7.
    Ois works very well in my case. https://youtu.be/uI79_29BdSE