Google Pixel 7 vs. Pixel 7 Pro camera showdown

The Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are here, forcing small phone lovers to choose between their preferred device size and some massive photography differences. While we love the design choices Google made in making the smaller Pixel 7 feel right in the hand, the Pro’s upgraded ultra-wide lens, not to mention its exclusive 5x telephoto lens, makes a world of difference.

It can be a tough choice if you’re trying to decide between the two phones. Both make for two of the best Android phones on the market. But with a $300 difference between them, it’s important to understand what your extra cash gets you on the Pro, and there’s nowhere that it’s more evident than with the camera array. We tested the primary and ultra-wide lenses on these phones and pitted the 5x digital zoom on the regular Pixel 7 against the 5x telephoto lens on the Pro. The results might surprise you. Let’s dive in.


Pixel 7 vs. Pixel 7 Pro: Primary cameras

The Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro feature identical primary lenses: 50MP f/1.85 sensors with 82° FoV and OIS. So it should be no surprise that the shots both phones take are near-identical. Comparing these groups of photos is like playing a game of “spot the difference.” The only subtle changes are where the phone was held when the image was taken. Nevertheless, for comparison, here are some examples, with the Pixel 7’s image first and the Pixel 7 Pro’s image second.

There’s not much here that is truly interesting. Both cameras can capture near-identical photos because the hardware and software processing are identical. Whether you buy a Pixel 7 or a Pixel 7 Pro, you’re getting the same excellent experience.

The same goes for Portrait Mode on both shots. Here are four shots: two from the Pixel 7 and two from the Pro, with Portrait Mode turned off and on, respectively.

These look virtually identical, with the only major differences coming from how the photo was framed. This means the interesting comparisons come from the other two cameras: the ultra-wide and the telephoto.

Pixel 7 vs. Pixel 7 Pro: Ultra-wide comparison

Unlike last year, the ultra-wide lenses on these phones are not identical. The Pixel 7 uses the same 114° angle lens as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, while the 7 Pro gets an upgraded 125° shooter. One of our main critiques concerning the Pixel 6 series was how little of a difference the ultra-wide lens made compared to the standard primary sensor, and this year, that difference stands out. Check out this gallery showing images from the Pixel 7, followed by images from the Pixel 7 Pro.

From this group of images, two things are immediately apparent. First, ultra-wide night mode is still fairly unusable. Both sample images are blurry and unpleasant to the eye. In the daytime shots, looking around, the difference made here is apparent. Taking a photo with the Pixel 7 Pro’s ultra-wide lens is like taking a step backward. More of the world is immediately brought into the frame without the shooter having to move an inch.

For example, the Pro’s shots of Buffalo’s city hall reveal more of the tensegrity sculpture next to it, while the Pixel 7 barely saw any of it. The same is true for the photos of the lake, revealing more of the surrounding vegetation than the regular Pixel 7 could see.

The wider angle on the Pixel 7 Pro also allows it to use a dedicated macro mode that appears when you’re close to an object. It can be difficult to capture moving subjects in macro, think of leaves blowing in the wind. Still, when capturing still items with a steady hand, it makes a world of difference.

The first photo shows the closest distance the Pixel 7 could capture this keyboard with any level of focus, and it’s still a little blurry. The Pixel 7 Pro was able to get up close to the keyboard while producing a clearer photo. The winner here is obvious, and if you are 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 its telephoto lens. Both phones can crop their main sensor at 2x for excellent-looking photos, but only the Pixel 7 Pro has dedicated hardware for 5x shots. This inclusion allows for some impressive photography, and not just at 5x. While the Pixel 7’s Super Res Zoom mode ends at 8x, the Pro can capture images at 30x. Not all of these photos will be usable, but we found 10x shots to be a sweet spot for the phone. For this comparison, we captured everything at 5x, the default focal length for the telephoto lens on the Pro.

Once more, the Pixel 7 is the first photo in the group, while the Pixel 7 Pro is the second.

A lot of these photos speak for themselves. In every case, the Pixel 7 Pro captured more detail than the Pixel 7 could ever manage. Consider the detail in the glass rim in the first two photos. The Pro’s telephoto lens captured the light’s reflections with far more texture than the Pixel 7’s shot. In the second pair, the Pixel 7 seemed to perform well in 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 group that looks relatively unchanged between the Pixel 7 and the 7 Pro. Because the building was framed through a window, it’s far enough away that any loss in detail is better camouflaged. For example, the building to the left side of the image looks crisper on the 7 Pro, but it’s only identifiable if you’re willing to zoom into the shot.

The other three sets—the pumpkin, the cat, and the night shot of Darth Vader—hammer the point home. Whether it’s the texture of a pumpkin stem, the fur of a sleeping cat, or the glow of a lightsaber-meets-fishing-rod, the Pro’s telephoto lens is better at capturing it. That’s not to say that the Pixel 7 is incapable of capturing usable images at 5x; only that anyone who might need to rely on zooming onto subjects might want to consider springing for the more expensive model.


Pixel 7 vs. Pixel 7 Pro: Which takes better photos?

The Pixel 7 Pro is a more agile device for capturing the world around you. The real question is whether including a telephoto lens (and a wider ultra-wide lens) is worth an additional $300. To some buyers, this is a no-brainer. But, in our opinion, the smaller Pixel 7 is a more comfortable phone for daily use. It fits easier in your hand, it’s more affordable, and if you can get by without the telephoto lens, it might be worth saving your cash.

The Pixel 7’s digital zoom doesn’t hold a candle to its bigger brother placed side-by-side in a competition. Still, it’s not bad if you’re looking for something that can capture reliable images for social media. And either way, you’re getting one hell of a main camera.

Still, taking the best photo isn’t all about the camera. Up your photography game with our tips on how to take better photos with your Android phone.

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