Which camera wins?

The Google Pixel 7 and Google Pixel 7 Pro are here, forcing fans of small phones to choose between the size of their favorite smartphone and some huge photography differences. While we love the design choices Google made to create a more compact feel in the hand, the Pixel 7 Pro’s upgraded ultra-wide lens, not to mention the exclusive 5x telephoto lens, makes a world of difference.

If you’re planning to upgrade your phone to a Google Pixel 7 model and you’re on the fence, we totally understand. While the Pixel 7 is the perfect size and great price, the Pixel 7 Pro offers some great features. But with the $300 difference between them, it’s important to understand what your extra money gets you in the Pro, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the camera combo. We tested the primary and ultra-wide lenses on these phones, pitting the regular Pixel 7’s 5x digital zoom against the Pro’s 5x telephoto lens. The results may surprise you. Let’s dig deeper.


Google Pixel 7 vs. Google Pixel 7 Pro: Primary Cameras

The Google 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 almost identical. Comparing these groups of pictures is like playing Spot the Difference. The only minor changes are where the phone was held when the photo was taken. However, for comparison, here are a few examples, with the Pixel 7 image first and the Pixel 7 Pro image second.

There isn’t much that’s really interesting here. Both cameras can take near-identical photos because the hardware and software processing are identical. Whether you buy the Google Pixel 7 Pro or the less expensive one, you get the same excellent experience.

Same goes for portrait mode in both shots. Here are four shots: 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 coming from how the picture is framed. This means that interesting comparisons come from the other two cameras: the ultra-wide and the telephoto.

Google Pixel 7 vs Google Pixel 7 Pro: Ultra HD Camera Comparison

Unlike last year, the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 have different ultrawide sensors. The Pixel 7 uses the same 114-degree lens you’ll find on the Google 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 difference the ultra-wide lens made compared to the standard primary sensor, and that difference is notable this year. Check out this gallery featuring images from the Pixel 7, followed by images from the Pixel 7 Pro.

From this group of photos, two things stand out right away. First, the ultra-fast night mode is still somewhat unusable. Both images are blurred and unpleasant to the eye. In daytime shots, looking around, the difference that’s made here is clear. Taking a photo with the Google Pixel 7 Pro’s ultra-wide lens is like taking a huge step back. More parts of the world are instantly brought into the frame without the shooter having to move an inch.

For example, the Pro shots of Buffalo City Hall reveal more of the tensile sculpture next to it, while the Pixel 7 barely saw any. The same is true for photos of the lake, as they reveal more of the surrounding vegetation than the average Pixel 7 can see.

The wider angle on the Google Pixel 7 Pro also allows for a dedicated macro mode that appears when you’re close to an object. It can be difficult 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 huge difference.

The first image shows the closest the Pixel 7 can shoot with this keyboard at any level of focus, and it’s still a bit blurry. The Pixel 7 Pro was able to get closer to the keyboard while producing a clearer picture. The winner here is clear, and if you’re interested in macro photography, go for the Pixel 7 Pro.

Google Pixel 7 vs. Google Pixel 7 Pro: Telephoto lens comparison

The best thing about the Google 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 imaging, just not at 5x. While the Pixel 7’s Super Res Zoom mode ends at 8x, the Pro can shoot photos at 30x. Not all of these photos will be usable, but we’ve found the 10x shots to be a sweet spot for the phone. For this comparison, we shot everything at 5x, which is the default focal length for the Pro’s telephoto lens.

Again, the Pixel 7 is the first in the bunch, while the Pixel 7 Pro is the second.

A lot 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 pictures. The Google Pixel 7 Pro’s telephoto lens captured light reflections with a lot more texture than the Pixel 7’s shot. In the second pair, the Pixel 7 seems 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 stripes 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 one that’s 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 crisper on the 7 Pro, but it can only be selected if you want to zoom in on the image.

The other three combos—pumpkin, cat, and Darth Vader’s nocturnal portrait—knock the point home. Whether it’s the texture of a pumpkin’s trunk, 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 isn’t to say the Pixel 7 isn’t capable of taking usable photos at 5x speed; Just about anyone who might need to rely on zooming on subjects might want to consider popping in the more expensive model.


Google Pixel 7 vs Google Pixel 7 Pro Comparison: Which Phone Takes Better Pictures?

The Google Pixel 7 Pro is a more flexible device for capturing the world around you. The real question is whether the inclusion of 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. They’re easier in your hand, they’re more affordable, and if you can live without a telephoto lens, they might be worth your money.

The Pixel 7’s digital zoom doesn’t hold a candle to its bigger brother that it’s side-by-side in the competition. However, it’s not bad if you’re looking for something that can take reliable photos for social media. Either way, you’ll 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.

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