What does Google Photos mean by “essentially look the same”?

I’ve got this plan to consolidate all my random photos and videos to one of the many online photo storage options.  A little while ago, I thought Amazon Cloud Photos was the answer.  As part of my prime membership I was getting unlimited storage.  However, I have a number of videos mixed in with my photos and they quickly filled up my 5G quota.

I’ve been a long time Google Apps user.  E-mail, Drive, and Photo share a common 15G quota.  I was up to 82% this week.  I deleted over 14,000 e-mails, but barely made a dent in the storage.  (different story)

This year, Google Photos announced an option to store unlimited high resolution photos and videos.  This sounded like the solution to my never ending supply of phone generated media.  I quickly converted and started automatically backing up my phone pictures to the could.

I had 48G of storage in Dropbox thanks to a promotion with Samsung. That expired last year, but Dropbox has allowed me to keep the files there.  I just can’t update anything.  My goal has been to migrate these photos somewhere else without loosing quality.

Google Photos seemed like an option, but I had questions about the high resolution quality.  Google Photos FAQ explains:

  • If the camera takes photos with 16 megapixels (MP) resolution or lower, most stored photos will essentially look the same using either storage option.

The “essentially look the same” concerned me.  So I took some of the pictures from my Dropbox and uploaded them to Google Photos.  Then I downloaded them locally and compared the Google Photo with the original.  Looking at each photo, they look the same.  The biggest difference is the 708KB from Google versus 1.8MB original.

I pulled up Beyond Compare (an excellent tool with so many uses). It has several options to visually show differences between pictures. I used the option that “detects pixel differences greater than a configurable tolerance.”


Difference in Google Photo High Res and Original in Beyond Compare

Even in this view, I don’t see much difference between the pictures.  However, it is clear that enough of a difference exists that you can see the outline of the train and track in the difference picture.

I’ll still use Google Photos as a backup option. The quality is great and certainly worth the free price.  However, for archive purposes, I’ll find something that maintains the full original.  Actually I went back and upload the same pictures from Dropbox into Amazon Cloud Photo.  Downloading those pictures gave the exact same originals.  Looks like I will be going back to Amazon Cloud Photos at least for the pictures.


2 thoughts on “What does Google Photos mean by “essentially look the same”?

  1. Thanks for this. I just decided on “Original” based on your advice. It’s worth a couple of dollars a month.

    I use iCloud Photo Library, so this is a secondary backup. If a photo is deleted from iCloud Photo Library, though, I assume Google Photos will sync and delete that photo. So that means turning off the sync feature and uploading future photos manually. Is that how you would do it? (I want the secondary because people say iCloud is less reliable.)

    • It is an interesting question. I see that it has caused some problems for users who delete from the phone and did not expect it to also delete from the cloud.

      If you have iCloud Photo Library doing the sync and also have it on a desktop, you could just regularly upload to Google Photos. Having two applications sync the same files can be problematic.

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