What's on your list of must-have features for a smartphone? Good battery life, sure. Strong performance, of course. But I bet you won't get much further down that list before you come to the need for a great camera.

The latest phone from Google comes in two sizes, the Pixel 3 and the larger Pixel 3 XL. There are several differences in design and features but both have the same camera. And the camera is tremendous.

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Pixel 3

 
 
 
 

Pixel 3 XL

 
 
 
 

Why the Pixel cameras are so good

The flagship smartphone from Google builds on last year's success. Actually, Google's Pixel phones have had strong cameras since the first version, but last year's Pixel 2 was widely acclaimed as the best on any smartphone. Well, this one is better. The 12.2-megapixel camera is backed up by cutting-edge software to achieve clever features with one lens for which other phones need two.

It's great for special effects like bokeh, where your subject is in sharp focus and the background is elegantly blurred. Bokeh effects require precise recognition of foreground and background and the Pixel camera can achieve this perfectly, right down to details like your subject's hair. You can also adjust the level of blur after you've taken the photo.

Plenty of features

It's full of special features to make it effortless. Like Super Res Zoom which is brilliant for shots where you can't get quite as close. It means that if you zoom in before you shoot, the camera merges multiple images to deliver much better resolution than normal.

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will soon feature a mode called Night Sight. It's a feature that's coming soon, which helps you take photos in lower light without flash - suddenly your photo is bright enough to be enjoyable without unrealistic brightness or artificial effects.

Or a new motion tracking effect where you tap to focus on someone and if they move, it refocuses for you. Handy if your dog just won't keep still, say.

Smart AI to help you take better pictures

It's a very smart smartphone camera. The powerful processor on the Pixel 3 makes Artificial Intelligence (AI) possible. This means there's intelligence enough for a feature called Top Shot, which shoots multiple frames and then automatically works out which is best. AI means that it knows to ignore pictures where your subject is blinking or sneezing and can pick out the best one from the crop. Of course, you can override this if there's one you prefer, but it usually gets the very best one without your help.

Dual selfie cameras are on board. The twin 8-megapixel cameras make for better selfies. One of the two sensors is a wide-angle one so it's great for group selfies. It's good at making a group of eight people look good, easily.

There's also Photobooth, which will snap the selfie shutter when it sees you smile, so you don't need to try and think about pressing a button, just concentrate on looking your best. And if you want that delicate bokeh effect on your selfies, the front cameras on the Pixel 3 can make that happen, too.

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL cameras are truly outstanding, winning plaudits from large numbers of users. There are other features, like high-resolution video, stabilisation so your footage looks smooth and much more. Overall, they make the cameras efficient, fast and capable, so you can forget about the technicalities and just think about framing your shot.