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iPhone 14 Pro vs. Google Pixel 7 Pro camera battle is unbelievably close

The iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 Pro are — without a doubt — two of 2022’s most capable smartphones. Each one has a striking design, an excellent display, snappy performance, and robust software features. But it’s the cameras that make these phones really interesting.

Comparing iPhone and Pixel cameras is always fascinating, and this year, that’s more true than ever. The iPhone 14 Pro ushers in major hardware upgrades, the Pixel 7 Pro focuses on subtle refinements, and the end result is a camera comparison that’s brutal to the very end.

iPhone 14 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro: camera specs

iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 Pro.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

As with any good camera comparison, our first step is to look at the specs we’re dealing with. On the iPhone 14 Pro, Apple provides a 48-megapixel main camera with an f/1.78 aperture and its sensor-shift stabilization tech. It’s joined by a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 120-degree field-of-view, along with a 12MP telephoto camera (capable of up to 3x optical zoom). Rounding things out is a 12MP selfie camera with an f/1.9 aperture and autofocus.

Shifting to the Google Pixel 7 Pro, you’ll find a 50MP main camera with an f/1.85 aperture. There’s also a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 125.8-degree FoV, a 48MP telephoto camera with up to 5x optical zoom, and a fixed focus 10.8MP selfie camera with an f/2.2 aperture.

In addition to the camera hardware, the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro also bring different approaches to software features for their respective camera setups. The iPhone 14 Pro supports Photographic Styles, so you can easily switch up the look of your photos on the fly. It also has Apple ProRAW for anyone looking to take their shots into a photo editor and play around with them. The Pixel 7 Pro puts its emphasis on AI-powered editing features. Magic Eraser allows you to quickly hide photobombers, Camouflage removes unwanted pops of color, and the new Photo Unblur tool helps sharpen and refocus old, shaky pictures in Google Photos.

iPhone 14 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro: main camera

Of course, specs and features are just a small part of the story. What really matters is what photos from the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro actually look like. Starting with the main camera on each phone, we have a challenging view of the setting sun against the Manhattan skyline.

Looking directly at the sun, both the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro display a green orb over the water and overexpose the sunlight (as you’d expect). But the iPhone 14 Pro does a much better job with the contrast levels. The shadow from the bench is darker, the sky is bluer, and the sun has a deep orange hue to it. The Pixel 7 Pro’s photo isn’t a bad shot by any means, but it looks noticeably more washed out compared to the iPhone 14 Pro’s image.

Heading indoors, the tables turn a little bit with the photo of the cat laying on the couch. The cat’s ears and face appear washed out in the iPhone 14 Pro image, whereas the Pixel 7 Pro does a much better job of  retaining the various colors in her fur. The Pixel 7 Pro also more effectively blurs the chair in the background, while the patterns on it are more visible (and thus distracting) in the iPhone 14 Pro shot.

The next photo of the chocolate chip pancake (which was delicious) reveals an important quirk of the main camera on both phones. Because of the large image sensors each one uses, getting too close to a subject often results in fringing around the edges — something that’s present in both photos. If I had to pick a personal preference, I’d go with the iPhone 14 Pro’s image. The colors in the Pixel 7 Pro’s shot are a bit too cool for my liking, almost to the point where the powdered sugar looks slightly blue. The iPhone 14 Pro succeeds in capturing the warmth of the pancake and the yellowy, creamy nature of the whipped cream.

We’ll go back outside for this next picture to check out a downed tree resting in a calm lake. At first glance, both photos look very similar; there are good colors and sharp details across the board. But the Pixel 7 Pro handles the sunlight on the tree bark best. It looks too bright and intense in the iPhone 14 Pro’s image, while the Pixel 7 Pro handles it much more gracefully.

Looking through the dozens of photos I’ve taken with the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro, this is a theme that keeps happening. Sometimes, the iPhone 14 Pro churns out a nicer-looking shot. But other times, the Pixel 7 Pro comes out on top. I’ve been incredibly happy taking photos with both phones, and there’s not one that clearly stands out as an overwhelming winner over the other.

Call it a cop-out if you want, but I have to call this one a draw.

Winner: Tie

iPhone 14 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro: ultrawide camera

We have the ultrawide cameras next, and for the first shot, we have a gorgeous view of the Williamsburg Bridge. These photos were taken at around 6:20 p.m. — just minutes before sunset.

It’s immediately apparent that both phones took very different approaches to this scene. The iPhone 14 Pro retains many of the shadows underneath the bridge and around its brick base in the water. Comparatively, the Pixel 7 Pro’s HDR processing removed these shadows so you can more easily see the details in the bridge’s framework.

It also makes the sky bluer than it appeared in person while the iPhone 14 Pro gives it a more accurate, darker tone. I fully expect a lot of people will be more drawn to the Pixel 7 Pro’s photo, but personally, I prefer the depth and drama the shadows and contrast add to the iPhone 14 Pro image.

Our next ultrawide photo shows us a building near the North 5th Street Pier. The Pixel 7 Pro does a better job handling the sunlight on the concrete of the walkway, but its wider field of view gives the building a slightly wrapped appearance. I also don’t think it captured the sky as well. The iPhone 14 Pro captured the varying shades of blue in between the two buildings, while the Pixel 7 Pro gave it the same, muted tone.

Ultimately, I’m calling another draw with this one. I think the iPhone 14 Pro’s ultrawide camera produces better colors with more contrast. However, this is really a matter of personal taste — and the versatility of the Pixel 7 Pro’s slightly wider FoV shouldn’t be ignored.

Winner: Tie

iPhone 14 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro: zoom cameras

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro may have tied for the first two rounds, but the Pixel 7 Pro easily dominates when we shift to the phones’ zooming capabilities. The iPhone 14 Pro has dedicated zoom buttons for 2x and 3x, with a maximum zoom range of 15x. The Pixel 7 Pro has zoom shortcuts for 2x and 5x, plus it can go all the way to 30x.

We’ll start with the iPhone 14 Pro’s zoom. The 2x shot looks very good, with crisp details in the water and a beautiful representation of the Manhattan skyline. The 3x image gets us closer to the buildings in the distance, and the details in them are much better than in the 2x photo. At 15x, however, the iPhone 14 Pro drops the ball. While convenient to have the option, the Empire State Building ends up looking like it was stripped from a watercolor painting — displaying soft, mushy details that just aren’t pleasant to look at.

By comparison, the Google Pixel 7 Pro is a totally different beast. I actually think the iPhone 14 Pro produced a better photo at the 2x level. The buildings in the Pixel 7 Pro’s photos aren’t nearly as sharp, and the Empire State Building has an unnatural, pink hue to it.

But move beyond the 2x zoom, and the Google Pixel 7 Pro wins every single time. The 5x optical zoom makes a noticeable difference compared to the iPhone 14 Pro’s 3x zoom. Not only do you get much closer to your subject, but the buildings appear quite a bit sharper in the Pixel’s photo. The difference is even starker at 15x. The Google Pixel 7 Pro actually produces a sharable photo at this distance — retaining good colors and a surprising amount of detail. Going up to 30x puts you in watercolor territory, but you’re also going far beyond what the iPhone 14 Pro is capable of.

Winner: Google Pixel 7 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro: night mode

Night mode is a hallmark feature for both the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro, though in our testing, there’s a clearly defined winner.

Starting with the picture of the tree, the iPhone 14 Pro’s image stands out more with a brighter tree trunk and much greener leaves. Dig a bit deeper into the photo, though, and you’ll find that those leaves are blurry, soft, and lacking clearly defined details. The Pixel 7 Pro does a much better job here, keeping the leaves surprisingly sharp, even with the lack of surrounding light.

The next photo of the pond shows us the same thing. The grass in front of the pond is brighter in the Pixel 7 Pro’s image, there’s far less noise in the water, and you get significantly more detail in the trees in the background.

I certainly wouldn’t call the iPhone 14 Pro a bad performer in lowlight scenarios, but compared to the Pixel 7 Pro, it just can’t hang.

Winner: Google Pixel 7 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro: portrait mode

Moving over to portrait mode, we see the expected same differences in color and contrast that we saw with the main camera comparison. But taking a closer look at how both phones handled edge detection for the portrait shots, we find a clear winner.

This photo of a scarecrow is incredibly tough — flaunting tiny strands of fabric and straw all over its body. Both phones struggle with the hat, but the iPhone 14 Pro does a slightly better job. The Pixel 7 Pro also incorrectly blurs the right arm, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro keeps it more in focus.

Looking beyond edge detection, the scarecrow looks much better in the iPhone 14 Pro photo, showing much better details than the somewhat blotchy, soft details produced by the Pixel 7 Pro.

The portrait photo of my dog Damon isn’t quite as challenging, though there are still some discrepancies between each shot. Both phones do a good job of blurring the background here, though the Pixel 7 Pro keeps more of Damon’s back and rear legs in focus. The iPhone 14 Pro decides to blur them more, and while the blurring effect is clear and done well, I prefer how the Pixel 7 Pro handled itself.

However, things take a sharp turn in regard to the colors and detail of the photos. In the iPhone 14 Pro’s picture, Damon looks like he does in real life. His fur has a light tan color with a slightly darker face, and he’s being lit up by the afternoon sun. In the Pixel 7 Pro’s photo, he looks totally different. All of his fur is darker than it should be (especially by his face), you can’t see the brightness of the sun on his chest, and all of his fur looks artificially sharpened. Again, I think this is where we see a stark difference between how Google and Apple handle image processing and HDR. The Pixel 7 Pro’s image may appeal to the eye more and be more visually striking, but it’s not representative of real life — and not the photo I prefer.

Combine the color and detail differences with the better edge detection in the first photo, and the iPhone 14 Pro gets its first win.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro: macro photos

Both the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro support a macro mode using their ultrawide cameras. Get either phone close enough to a subject, and it uses the ultrawide sensor to produce an up-close macro image.

Our first macro photo shows us individual grains of sand on a Brooklyn beach. As has become expected, the colors between the phones are a bit different; the iPhone 14 Pro prefers a cooler image here, while the Pixel 7 Pro warms things up. Both shots look really good, but if you zoom in closely, you’ll see slightly more sharpness in the sand with the iPhone 14 Pro photo.

It’s a similar result in the second macro photo of the green plant. At a glance, it’s difficult to be disappointed with either image. Zoom in, however, and you’ll find a bit more detail is captured by the iPhone 14 Pro.

This is another close one, but in the end, the iPhone 14 Pro gets the win.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro: selfie camera

To wrap things up, we have a quick selfie to look at the front-facing camera on both phones. In short, this is yet another area where the iPhone 14 Pro shows its superiority.

The biggest thing that jumps out to me is the lack of sharpness in the Pixel 7 Pro’s image. The details in my skin are much too soft, and the fabric of my shirt looks almost pixelated (especially on the collar). You get much better details in the iPhone 14 Pro’s selfie, and I prefer how it handled the color of my skin. I don’t often take selfies, but when I do find myself in the mood for one, I’ll gladly reach for the iPhone 14 Pro over the Pixel 7 Pro.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro

You can’t go wrong with either phone

iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 Pro.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

After seven rounds, the iPhone 14 Pro won three, the Google Pixel 7 Pro won two, and the phones tied in the remaining two rounds. While that technically gives a win to the iPhone 14 Pro, this comparison comes down to small details and personal preference.

With the main and ultrawide cameras, it’s a toss-up between which phone you’ll like more. I personally prefer the colors that I get out of the iPhone 14 Pro, as they’re more true to life and aren’t afraid to show shadows and contrast where necessary. The Pixel 7 Pro regularly delivers brighter shots with heavy HDR processing. You may prefer that style of photo over the iPhone 14 Pro — and that’s absolutely fine. Technically, both phones are excellent.

Beyond your own taste in photos, you should also think about what you want to use your smartphone camera for. If you’re an avid selfie taker, love portrait mode, and want the best macro images possible, the iPhone 14 Pro is better suited for you. But if you want an incredible camera for zooming and taking photos in the dark, the Pixel 7 Pro has an unmistakable dominance in those areas.

This isn’t a comparison in which one smartphone is overwhelmingly better than the other — the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro are both too good for that. We’ve reached a point where flagship camera systems are as good as they’ve ever been — whether that phone is from Apple, Google, Samsung, or someone else. Call it boring if you want, but I think it’s pretty incredible.

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