Proof the Google Pixel 2, not a DSLR, was all the camera I needed on my honeymoon

Right before going on my honeymoon to Japan and South Korea, I made a crazy decision, a potentially stupid one that I might regret for the rest of my life: I wouldn’t bring a camera – at least, not a traditional one. I was going to take pictures solely with the Google Pixel 2.

Best case scenario, the phone will accurately capture the once-in-a-lifetime moments that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

But on the flip-side, what if it doesn’t? That was something that I considered, but not for very long. 

Having reviewed the Google Pixel 2 XL, I was astounded by the optics performance squeezed out of its cameras. Made even better by Google’s own wicked-smart image software, I wasn’t as skeptical as most would be by the prospect of forgoing a trusty DSLR on the most important vacation of my life.

And thank goodness, the big risk paid off. 

Performance: Honeymoon edition

In most situations, I actually felt at an advantage by shooting with the Pixel 2. Double-tapping the power button to get into the camera app was much simpler, faster and far less cumbersome than booting up a DSLR. 

Not to ding the tried-and-true camera type too much, but given we were usually out for 16 hours at a time each day, swapping batteries every few hours really would have been a pain. The Pixel 2 XL regularly put forward all-day battery performance as our trusty camera, along with being our guide on Google Maps.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper honeymoon without a wrench or two being thrown into the gears. For us, that wrench was Typhoon Lan, which started its strike when we were only beginning a long day of scoping out the sights in Osaka. It was rainy, to put it lightly, and I was so incredibly glad that Google opted for IP67 waterproofing with the Pixel 2. To be able to pull out the phone to capture the sights without worrying was a great relief, something I couldn’t do with last year's model.

Not to sound too gushing, but betting on the Google Pixel 2 let us focus more on the moments and less on messing with a camera. It quickly and accurately captured memorable scenes, backed them up to Google Photos at full resolution with no fuss each night while charging, and was ready to go at it again in the morning.

Here’s a catalog of my favorite images taken on our honeymoon. Starting things off are shots from the rear-facing camera. There's a mix of portrait mode captures and regular off-the-cuff photos below.

(The gallery is a bit long, but it gives a thorough look at how the Pixel 2 performs in a wide variety of settings.)

Image 1 of 61

A solid night-time capture

Full resolution

Image 2 of 61

This picture encapsulates Golden Gai: lots of sweet detail packed into a small space

Full resolution

Image 3 of 61

Capturing a good photo at 300MPH on a bullet train is no sweat

Full resolution

Image 4 of 61

The shadows don't lose much detail in this contrast-heavy night shot

Full resolution

Image 5 of 61

It fares even better up close in portrait mode.

Full resolution

Image 6 of 61

The Pixel 2 is a pro at retaining lighting detail, even at night

Full resolution

Image 7 of 61

A rainy night in Tokyo looks marvelous

Full resolution

Image 8 of 61

A well-captured crossing in Akihabara

Full resolution

Image 9 of 61

Impressed with this image captured while speeding by

Full resolution

Image 10 of 61

This still looks like a postcard

Full resolution

Image 11 of 61

Lots of detail packed in this dimly-lit photo

Full resolution

Image 12 of 61

One of my favorite portrait shots ever.

Full resolution

Image 13 of 61

The inside of a flower is usually tough to bring light to, but not this time.

Full resolution

Image 14 of 61

A stunning level of detail and color accuracy here.

Full resolution

Image 15 of 61

Full resolution

Image 16 of 61

A mind-blowingly good shot showing Kyoto from a dark room

Full resolution

Image 17 of 61

Low-light photography on the Pixel 2 doesn't slice away detail

Full resolution

Image 18 of 61

A peaceful morning in Fukuoka

Full resolution

Image 19 of 61

Harsh light only added to this nighttime photo

Full resolution

Image 20 of 61

Lots to look at in this one

Full resolution

Image 21 of 61

Nighttime portrait mode can be tricky, but the results are still good

Full resolution

Image 22 of 61

Enjoying some flamed street food in Busan

Full resolution

Image 23 of 61

An evening portrait shot that is bursting with detail

Full resolution

Image 24 of 61

Just a faucet

Full resolution

Image 25 of 61

Portrait mode showing its stuff

Full resolution

Image 26 of 61

Not creepy at all

Full resolution

Image 27 of 61

Another portrait mode winner

Full resolution

Image 28 of 61

A focused fox statue

Full resolution

Image 29 of 61

Peppermint tea that looks as good as it tasted

Full resolution

Image 30 of 61

Yes, portrait mode sometimes fails to capture the moment, but this wasn't one of those times

Full resolution

Image 31 of 61

Sake tasting glasses

Full resolution

Image 32 of 61

A good balance of color here, but readers have pointed out that the bokeh stops awkwardly on the right corner

Full resolution

Image 33 of 61

Full resolution

Image 34 of 61

Full resolution

Image 35 of 61

I was too scared to try one, but couldn't resist taking the shot

Full resolution

Image 36 of 61

The bokeh effect looks good, but doesn't carry consistently across the background

Full resolution

Image 37 of 61

Full resolution

Image 38 of 61

Not bad for a moving target

Full resolution

Image 39 of 61

Prepping for a taste of Kobe beef. I simply love how this photo turned out.

Full resolution

Image 40 of 61

Maybe I won't go down this alley.

Full resolution

Image 41 of 61

Full resolution

Image 42 of 61

A chef at work

Full resolution

Image 43 of 61

Full resolution

Image 44 of 61

A leaf caught in a web

Full resolution

Image 45 of 61

Full resolution

Image 46 of 61

Here's another example of the bokeh calling it quits on the right corner of the picture

Full resolution

Image 47 of 61

Full resolution

Image 48 of 61

Full resolution

Image 49 of 61

Probably one of the best low-light showcases of the Pixel 2 that I've taken

Full resolution

Image 50 of 61

Full resolution

Image 51 of 61

It's just my foot, but I love the detail shown in the rocks and grass

Full resolution

Image 52 of 61

Full resolution

Image 53 of 61

Immaculate grass

Full resolution

Image 54 of 61

Full resolution

Image 55 of 61

Full resolution

Image 56 of 61

Full resolution

Image 57 of 61

Full resolution

Image 58 of 61

Full resolution

Image 59 of 61

Full resolution

Image 60 of 61

Full resolution

Image 61 of 61

Full resolution

Next, let's take a look at some selfies.

Image 1 of 5

Full resolution

Image 2 of 5

Full resolution

Image 3 of 5

Full resolution

Image 4 of 5

Full resolution

Image 5 of 5

Full resolution

I'm not here to argue that the Google Pixel 2 is better than a DSLR. In fact, I'm sure those results would have been even more breathtaking. But what I am here to argue is that the Pixel 2 comes as close as I've seen to taking DSLR-quality shots, ones so good that it makes forgoing a larger camera for a vacation a somewhat reasonable thing to do.

Looks like I'll bringing the Pixel 2 on the rest of my vacations. That is, until the Google Pixel 3 comes out.