Pixel 2 has OIS and Google's magic EIS, and that's a huge deal

A lot has been said about the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL's cameras. You'll be hearing a lot more, too, because it really does live up to the hype. While we're talking up apertures and HDR+, we also can't forget to mention image stabilization and the fact that Google was able to add OIS (optical image stabilization) to last year's world-class EIS (electronic image stabilization).

A quick take on what those are is in order. Don't worry, it's not hard to understand and there won't be a quiz or anything at the end. OIS uses actual movement and EIS uses calculations.

Stabilization simplified

On a camera with OIS, there is a gimbal (arms that hold a thing and let it move in any direction very easily) of sorts that holds the lens. As the camera moves, even slightly, the gimbal allows the lens to move to compensate. It moves in the other direction — if your phone moves down, the lens moves up — and the end result is a lens that holds mostly still, even if the thing the lens is attached to moves around.

OIS and EIS are both great ways to take great pictures, but putting them together is even better.

This does a much better job of keeping the image in focus and cuts back on blur created by the lens moving. It's not perfect. It can't compensate for a lot of movement, and it can create black shadows at the edges of the finished photo. But generally, OIS is a very good thing to have on a camera of any kind.

EIS is different. There are no moving parts and the camera is adjusted electronically based on data from the gyroscope and other sensors. When these sensors show that the phone moved, no lens moves to compensate. Instead, the electronics that control things like focus and shutter change their settings to compensate for movement. Of course, this is far from perfect, too. Depending on anything automatic to make the right choices every time isn't ideal, and the more the camera moves the lower the chance EIS will get things right.

On Google's Pixel phones, there's also a bit of "smarts" involved and the processing engine knows what a scene looked like before the phone moved. We first saw this with 2016's Pixel phones and the results speak for themselves. We're not exactly sure how or what Google did, and Google's not telling because it's a trade secret and all that, but EIS on the Pixel is far better than EIS on any other camera. Shooting video, which is more dependent on EIS because the "shutter" is open longer and you're usually moving the camera distances too large for OIS to compensate for, was even more amazing on the Pixel with its special EIS sauce.

Putting everything together

Because of the extra smarts built in, the Pixel's electronic stabilization was unable to work with a moving lens. The data about what the lens was seeing and all the sensor data coming in would be thrown completely out of whack once you introduce a part that moves independently from the image sensor and the gyroscope, and what the camera sees would be thrown so far off it just doesn't work. But combined with camera hardware that let a lot of light in and pixels on the sensor that could capture more of it, and Google's fancy HDR+ algorithms that adjust more than the color, photos on the Pixel or Pixel XL were great almost every time.

The issue is the times they weren't great. While the Pixel's EIS is amazing, even when you're moving the camera all sorts of ways you shouldn't be when taking a photo, one place where even Google's magic didn't help was a shaky hand.

EIS just can't keep up with rapid movements, like a shaky hand.

All of us have had a shaky hand when trying to take a photo once in a while. It's a thing that happens, and the more you try to stop it the more things shake. And for some people, shaky hands, especially when trying to hold something small like a phone, are one of life's struggles. The only way to get a photo that isn't a blurry mess when your hands shake is to use OIS. Forget about trying to compensate rapid movement through settings, you simply need to have a lens that can physically move to try and stay centered.

Sometimes we forget that not everyone is able to something simple like holding a phone without shaking. Thankfully, Google has found a way to include OIS along with their fabulous EIS and HDR+ on a phone with even better camera hardware. We can enjoy the best of both worlds!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

37 Comments
  • It still has a crap screen. No thanks.
  • The regular Pixel 2 doesn't and it has the same camera. And I think not everybody is as picky about the screen as you (not that I'm trying to sound rude just saying that people have different priorities). I looked at the pixel XL in store and didn't even notice anything. I noticed it didn't look as incredible as my S8 but nothing bad. But I was also looking directly at the screen which is what people usually do. The screen burn in is a more serious issue IMO. But idk if that's enough to write off the phone completely since Google will replace your phone for that with the manufacturer warranty.
  • Nah, it just clicks, hisses went buzzes... It's weird how if another company has a screen issue (Oneplus. Samsung) or even just a 1080p resolution it's a huge deal, but a lot of people are willing claim the screen isn't even that important when it's a pixel.
  • Only some people are experiencing that and from what I've heard they can fix it with an update. And I think with anything like this there are fanboys and haters on both sides. Either totally downplaying it or overblowing it. For example, people refused to give up their note 7s even when they were spontaneously combusting. It's not like nobody is making a big deal out of it. The Pixel 2 XLs display is like the biggest story in mobile tech right now. But personally I used the phone (albeit for a short time) and didn't notice any of these issues so I'm going from personal experience.
  • Even so, the delay of having to send the phone back for repair was enough for me to cancel my preorder that was supposed to have shipped today. This would have been a primary phone for someone else, and for $1000, you'd expect minimal issues. A buddy of mine has had his for less than a week and already has burn in. it's real and enough to turn me off and wait.
  • That's fair but I thought it wasn't a blanket thing but something only some people were dealing with. I'd be pretty annoyed though to have to turn my phone though because of screen burn in for sure. And I know people keep saying "for a $1000 phone" but I could get the pixel 2 XL 64 gb at best buy for $750 less trade-in.
  • All right, all right, we got it. Pixels are the best phones we could possibly buy, they are "Magic".
  • I called their stabilization routines magic because that's a long time tradition when software does something unexpected and no details are given about why or how. Substitute Voodoo, or Special Sauce or any other of the endless list filled with anecdotes when talking about anything that's really good but not explained.
  • Wait, I thought Google said OIS wasn't necessary because their EIS was so good. Sorry, that's so last year.
  • I don't take that much video but it was really impressive to see EIS on the OG Pixel. It would look a little robotic at times to compensate for huge movements. I'm hoping that OIS smooths that out too.
  • There are plenty of forum topics and stories that address the screen issues on Pixel 2 XL and sound on Pixel 2. Including articles that Jerry has participated in! Anyway, I am happy to see even better stabilization in the 2nd generation Pixel XL. Thank you.
  • That we knew even before launch..... Anyone have good comparison with Pixel 1? Mostly interested in daylight shots (sunny, cloudy), dynamic range. Low light comes 2nd to me
  • Wow amazing something that actually works on this phone and is of good quality! No way
  • Blind squirrel.
  • Magic Pixel with magic camera and magic screen at magic price :)
  • I'll wait it out for my Nokia 9 to be released. That's going to be one phone worth waiting for to me
  • Still doesn't matter if the 2 XL has a great camera. You can't tell on your phone screen if the picture is good or not because of how cool (i.e. blue) it looks on the screen. Or if you do look at it for more than a minute, you'll get burn-in. I'm sure pictures look great on the Pixel 2 screens, though.
  • Last year: OIS isn't necessary because we have great EIS. This year: We have OIS. Two cameras aren't necessary because we have great neural-network subject recognition. Next year: We have two cameras.
  • Lol, commenting on every Pixel article to get your rocks off. Whatever floats your boat.
  • I'm having a blast. It's just so entertaining to watch Android 'zines twist and turn every which way trying to defend Google products.
  • 100% true
  • You forgot about the headphone jack. Google 2016: “Ha, Apple, you suck!” Google 2017: “Ha, Apple, we are perfectly fine swimming in your slipstream like remoras!”
  • Two cameras are only necessary when you don't have the time or talent to get a depth map with the data already provided. Like waterproofing or wireless charging, when Samsung moves back to one camera people will say it's awesome. (see how that works?)
  • I love stuff like this when taken in context with last year's statements about why OIS wasn't included.
  • And it was the best without it last year. Now the phone has it which makes it even better. What's your point?
  • The point is that they said it isn't needed with software then they backtracked and proved that it does improve cameras. Google isn't perfect and that's okay.
  • The pixel 2 is a good phone with an amazing camera. But all I see are articles calling it the best thing to ever happen to humanity and saying it's flaws are not that big of a deal. There are great phones with less flaws that have come out this year with better build and an above average camera. Is it just because Google has their name associated with this one that it gets so much more love from you guys?
  • Really? All you see is it being called "the best thing to ever happen to humanity"? You and I must be using different internets. I have read many articles regarding issues with this phone.
  • V30. Totally swallowed up by the Google machine. LG fans must be wondering what's up.
  • All these articles make my wait for my XL that much more of a drag. Wish Google could figure out how to build them faster.
  • My pixel XL 2 has the best camera I've ever seen
  • I can buy a better camera, a REAL camera, for a lot less.
  • But can it make calls, surf the web, do most things a computer can do? Nah didn't think so
  • The Pixel does have a great camera. However, it has middling battery life, the screen is just okay (The XL is trash), it’s as durable as the iPhone 6, and multimedia, especially Bluetooth, is a freaking tire fire. The Bluetooth experience is garbage you wouldn’t expect on a $200 Chinese KIRF, let alone a flagship.
  • So one can take great pics and videos with ois/eis but you can't see them well because of the garbage screen. transfer pics to a laptop to actually see them, not what I expect from a $1000 phone
  • Personally, I've found that 20 oz. of coffee, followed by a 2-liter of Mountain Dew, and a half dozen donuts really help keep the hands steady when taking photos with a cell phone.
  • Thank you Phil for highlighting a subject that few have really talked about. Lack of OIS is BY FAR my biggest complaint about the pixel, and it wasn't for video. It was for photos. The rumors that the Pixel 2 would again not have OIS scared me, but I'm glad they finally went back after two generations without. I don't consider myself to have that much hand shake, but I regularly have to re-take pictures due to blur.