How bad is Google Photos’ compression anyway?

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My cat, Pretzel. The original photo is on the left, the compressed version is on the right.

Google Photos has long offered one of the best deals in all of photo storage: it’ll back up your entire library for free, so long as it can compress the images a bit. But as of tomorrow, June 1st, that deal goes away, and you’re now eating through Google storage (which you may have to pay for) whether your images are compressed or not.

With the change looming, I’ve been wondering how bad Google’s compression actually is. Does the compression leave my photos in “High Quality,” as Google has claimed for years? Or does the compression degrade my photos enough to make it worth using more storage by switching over to “Original Quality” backups?

I ran some quick tests this morning to find out. I took some photos and videos from my Pixel 5 (one...

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