I went to the zoo with a $2,500 camera and a Pixel 7 Pro. The results surprised me

Matthew Miller / ZDNET

Last weekend, I visited the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo with two of my daughters, and Sony Alpha 7 IV With 28-75mm lens and Google Pixel 7 Pro in hand. I had no plans to write about my zoo experience, but after discovering hidden wildlife with the Pixel 7 Pro, I just had to write down my utter amazement at how far smartphone cameras have come.

In my colleague Jason Cipriani’s full review of the Pixel 7 Pro, he said, “I can’t print the first thing that came out of my mouth after taking a 30x photo…” This was my exact feeling several times while walking around the zoo.

SEE ALSO: Google’s best Pixel phones overtake Samsung in this single camera feature

Things are getting wild

While my youngest daughter was disappointed she could barely catch a glimpse of a snow leopard lying far away behind a chain-link fence, the Pixel 7 Pro, with its new 30x Super Res Zoom, was able to capture the comfort of a spotted cat.

Pixel 7 Pro Snow Leopard Super Res Zoom

The snow leopard is behind the chain link fence and can hardly be seen with the naked eye.

Matthew Miller / ZDNET

The tiger was also behind a chain link fence and more than 50 yards from us, but I was able to catch its entire body immersed in the sun. The benefit of owning a smartphone in this case is how quick and easy it is to open the camera app and just take a snapshot. With my Sony Alpha 7 IV, I’d have to mount the sensor, focus on focus (either waiting for autofocus or dialing in to the lens manually), and then hope the tiger doesn’t float away.

Sure, burst mode is useful for these scenarios, but I’d rather not have to sift through dozens of frames when I can get a clear shot in one shot.

More: What is a DSLR and what is the best?

Pixel 7 Pro tiger shot

The Pixel 7 Pro captured what we couldn’t see with our own eyes.

Matthew Miller / ZDNET

The Big Bear and Mountain Lion (shown below) were both behind thick glass and more than 100 feet away, but the Pixel 7 Pro brought them up close and personal.

Pixel 7 Pro Bear shot

With these huge claws, I didn’t want to get any closer to the bear.

Matthew Miller / ZDNET

The lynx was barely visible, hiding in a dark barrel down a hill about 50 yards away, but the pixel caught it looking at me again. It was so much fun seeing people around me wondering what I was taking pictures of.

Pixel 7 Pro Lynx

Others at the zoo couldn’t even see what I was dropping down the hill and behind the tree.

Matthew Miller / ZDNET

The wolf was actively wandering back and forth far up the hill in an enclosure and I caught him pausing to turn thanks to active targeting and zooming on the Pixel 7 Pro. I took over 150 photos of zoo wildlife with the Pixel 7 Pro and taking it out made me wonder why I was taken out of Sony.

More: Google Pixel’s Magic Eraser can eliminate the most obnoxious photo spoilers

Pixel 7 Pro lone wolf shot

Active targeting kept this lone wolf in focus.

Matthew Miller / ZDNET

Although many of the enlarged photos may not print well, they captured enough detail to show me the character of the animals and gave me a quick look that went unnoticed.

The Sony Alpha 7 IV could have taken printable photos, but that would have required a much better and more expensive zoom lens. It’s hard to beat the convenience of using a smartphone without a tripod to capture subjects on the go, especially if you’re not a professional photographer. The photos captured by the Pixel 7 Pro were perfect for sharing experiences with family and friends on social media or in a shared online photo album.

MORE: Best Action Cams You Can Buy Today

Pixel 7 Pro selfie at the zoo

The perfect end to a day at the zoo. Note how much the Pixel’s front camera darkens the background.

Matthew Miller / ZDNET

The selfie camera on the Pixel 7 Pro also reminds me of the great front camera that Google introduced on the Pixel 3 XL, with options for wide-angle shots and powerful results. I’m not a selfie guy by any means, but having a wider lens encouraged me to take more pictures with those around me.

Pixel 7 Pro Zoo Giraffe Pictures

The little giraffe spent some time in the sun with the attendants at the zoo.

Matthew Miller / ZDNET

It was a perfect day at the zoo and we even had the chance to take photos and videos of our 10 day old baby girl (shown above). I was actually able to see just about every animal in the zoo that day, which is a huge feat considering they run in and out of their territories or are often hidden away in enclosures or behind trees and rocks. Having a reliable and flexible camera on hand was crucial to the trip, and on that day, it wasn’t the more expensive camera of the two.

Leave a Comment