The Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are here, forcing fans of small phones to choose between their preferred device size and some huge differences in photography. While we love the design choices Google has made to make the smaller Pixel 7 more affordable, the Pro’s upgraded ultra-wide lens, not to mention its exclusive 5x telephoto lens, makes a huge difference.
It can be a tough choice if you are trying to choose between the two phones. Both make for two of the best Android phones on the market. But with the $300 difference between them, it’s important to understand what your extra money’s getting in the Pro, and nowhere is this more obvious than on the camera set. We tested the primary and ultra-wide lenses on these phones and put the 5x digital zoom on the regular Pixel 7 versus the 5x telephoto lens on the Pro. The results may surprise you. Let’s dive in.
Pixel 7 vs Pixel 7 Pro: Primary Cameras
The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro feature identical primary lenses: 50MP f/1.85 sensors with 82° FoV and OIS. So it should come as no surprise that the shots taken by both phones are nearly identical. Comparing these sets of pictures is like playing the Spot the Difference game. The only minor changes are where the phone was held when the photo was taken. However, for comparison, here are some examples, with the Pixel 7 image first and the Pixel 7 Pro image second.
There is not much that is really interesting here. Both cameras can take near-identical photos because the hardware and software processing are identical. Whether you buy a Pixel 7 or a Pixel 7 Pro, you get the same excellent experience.
The same goes for the portrait mode in both shots. Here are four screenshots: two from the Pixel 7 and two from the Pro, with Portrait Mode off and on, respectively.
These look almost identical, with the only major differences that come from how the picture is framed. This means that interesting comparisons come from the other two cameras: the ultra-wide and telephoto.
Pixel 7 vs Pixel 7 Pro: a very broad comparison
Unlike last year, the ultra-wide lenses on these phones are no match. The Pixel 7 uses the same 114-degree lens as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, while the 7 Pro gets a 125-degree shooter. One of our main criticisms regarding the Pixel 6 series was how little of a difference the ultra-wide lens made compared to the standard primary sensor, and that difference is notable this year. Check out this gallery featuring photos from the Pixel 7, followed by photos from the Pixel 7 Pro.
From this set of photos, two things are immediately apparent. First, the ultra-wide night mode is still somewhat unusable. Both images are blurred and unpleasant to the eye. In daytime shots, looking around, the difference that makes here is obvious. Taking a picture with the Pixel 7 Pro’s ultra-wide lens is like stepping back. More parts of the world are instantly brought into the frame without the shooter having to move an inch.
For example, Pro shots of Buffalo City Hall reveal more of the tensile sculpture next to it, while the Pixel 7 saw hardly any of it. The same is true of lake photos, as they reveal more surrounding vegetation than a regular Pixel 7 could see.
The Pixel 7 Pro’s wider angle also allows for a dedicated macro mode that appears when you’re close to an object. It can be hard to take close-ups of moving subjects, think leaves blowing in the wind. However, when picking up stationary items with a steady hand, it makes a big difference.
The first image shows the closest the Pixel 7 can get with this keyboard at any focus level, and it’s still a bit blurry. The Pixel 7 Pro manages to get as close to the keyboard while producing a clearer picture. The winner here is clear, and if you’re interested in macro photography, go with the Pixel 7 Pro.
Pixel 7 vs Pixel 7 Pro: Telephoto comparison
The best thing about the Pixel 7 Pro is the telephoto lens. Both phones can crop their main sensor by 2x for great-looking photos, but only the Pixel 7 Pro has the hardware dedicated to 5x shots. This inclusion allows for some great shooting, and not just 5x. While the Pixel 7’s Super Res Zoom mode ends at 8x, the Pro can take photos at 30x. Not all of these photos will be usable, but we found 10x shots to be a great place for the phone. For this comparison, we captured everything at 5x, which is the default focal length of the Pro’s telephoto lens.
Once again, the Pixel 7 is the first photo in the bunch, while the Pixel 7 Pro is the second.
Many of these photos speak for themselves. In each case, the Pixel 7 Pro captured more detail than the Pixel 7 could manage. Consider the details in the glass rim in the first two photos. The Pro’s telephoto lens captured reflections of light with much more texture than a Pixel 7 shot. In the second pair, the Pixel 7 appears to do well at capturing the brickwork in that building, but it’s a muddy mess compared to the Pixel 7 Pro’s work. The lines along the building, the Roman numerals on the clock, and the leaves in the lower left corner look much better with the 5x lens.
The third set of photos is the only set that is relatively unchanged between the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. Since the building was framed by a window, it is far enough away that any loss of detail is better camouflaged. For example, the building on the left side of the image looks much sharper on the 7 Pro, but it can only be selected if you want to zoom in on the image.
The other three combos—the pumpkin, the cat, and the night portrait of Darth Vader—knock the dot at home. Whether it’s the texture of a pumpkin stem, the fur of a sleeping cat, or the glow of a lightsaber meeting a fishing rod, the Pro’s telephoto lens is better at capturing it. This doesn’t mean the Pixel 7 isn’t capable of taking usable photos at 5x speed; Just anyone who might need to rely on zooming in/out on subjects might want to consider appearing in the more expensive model.
Pixel 7 vs Pixel 7 Pro: Which takes better photos?
The Pixel 7 Pro is a more flexible device for capturing the world around you. The real question is whether including a telephoto lens (and an ultra-wide lens) is worth the extra $300. For some buyers, this is a no-brainer. But, in our opinion, the smaller Pixel 7 is a more comfortable phone for everyday use. It’s easier in your hand, it’s affordable, and if you can live without the telephoto lens, it can be worth your money.
The Pixel 7’s digital zoom doesn’t hold a candle to its older brother being positioned alongside the competition. However, it’s not bad if you’re looking for something that can take reliable photos for social media. Either way, you get one main camera.
However, taking the best photo isn’t just about the camera. Up your photography game with our tips on how to take better photos with your Android phone.