There's no way around it: the Pixel 7 Pro's camera is the real deal. I've never had more fun with a smartphone camera than I do right now.
Whether your subject is so far away that it's on a different continent or so close that you can taste it, Google's Pixel 7 Pro can capture it beautifully and easily thanks to its unique telephoto lens and macro focus feature. Both the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro are powered by the new Tensor G2 chip. This chip is smart and uses software to do things that the tiny lenses in smartphones usually can't do.
Both phones come out on Oct. 13, with the Pixel 7 starting at US$599 and the Pixel 7 Pro starting at US$899.
But these Android phones are more than just mobile cameras, which is where the two Pixel 7s could be seen as minor disappointments. Outside, the Pixel 7 line looks a lot like the Pixel 6 line. The color schemes have changed, and the camera bar has a new texture.
On the inside, too, this is true. The Tensor G2 chip adds a few useful AI features to calls and voice messages, but the new Google flagships aren't much different to use every day. And the regular Pixel 7 doesn't have the best new camera features, which is a shame.
Its camera isn't as good as the 7 Pro's, but it sure is pretty.
This approach of making small changes over time isn't the worst thing in the world because the Pixel 6s were great phones. If you bought a Pixel phone last year or earlier this year with the Pixel 6a, the Pixel 7 line is probably not enough of an improvement to make you want to switch. But if you've been holding on to an older Pixel or even want to switch from iPhone to Android (even though your friends with blue bubbles would hate that), now might be the time to make the switch, preferably to the Pixel 7 Pro.
At the very least, your Instagram feed will look a lot more fresh.
Goodbye, two-tone colors
We are now living in the time of metal camera bars.
Ever seen a Pixel 6? Then you've seen a Pixel 7, but the older model was a bit more fun.
There aren't any new ideas here like there were on Dynamic Island. Instead, Google mostly stuck with what worked on the Pixels 6 last time. It kept the signature horizontal camera bar that sits near the top of the back of the phone. This bar now has a newer, more metallic texture. The two Pixel 7 phones are almost the same size as the Pixel 6 phones they replace. The Pixel 7 has a screen size of 6.3 inches, which is a tenth of an inch smaller than the Pixel 6, and the Pixel 7 Pro has a screen size of 6.7 inches. Refresh rates are also the same, with the Pixel 7 having a smooth 90Hz and the Pixel 7 Pro having an even smoother 120Hz.
Still, after using both phones a lot for a few days, I can't say I really noticed the difference in refresh rate, and I have pretty good eyes for this kind of thing. If you can help it, don't use that feature of the 7 Pro to sell it.
The front and back of each phone are made of glass, so I would recommend getting a case to protect it. On soft surfaces, both of my Pixel 7s have slipped and slid, which isn't fun.
Every part of the Pixel 7 line feels shiny and smooth, like glass.
Google's only big change to the Pixel 6 line this year is that it no longer has the two-tone color scheme that made it so easy to spot in public. Last year, each Pixel 6 had a slightly different color above and below the camera bar. This made each phone look different and naturally drew attention to the lens array. This time, the colors are all the same all over the phone.
Both the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro come in obsidian and snow colors. The Pixel 7 also has a special lemongrass colorway, while the Pixel 7 Pro has a hazel one.
I like how the camera bar on this year's phones feels like shiny metal, but I really don't like how the two-tone colors have been taken away. Last year's Pixels were fun and unique, but this year's phones just look like, well, phones.
The things the Pixel phones can do are much more important than how they look.
Professional zoom of 30x is as easy as pressing a button.
The rear camera array is by far the biggest difference between the two new Pixel 7 phones. Both phones have a 50MP wide-angle camera and a 12MP ultra-wide lens on the back, as well as a 10.8MP front-facing camera. On the back of the Pixel 7 Pro, however, there is a 48MP telephoto lens, just like last year. But unlike with last year's Pixel 6 Pro, zooming in on things far away has never looked this good.
This time, Google used Tensor magic to boost the Pixel 7 Pro's maximum zoom length to a huge 30x. The iPhone 14 can only go up to 5x, but the iPhone 14 Pro can go up to 30x. This last number doesn't tell us anything new by itself, since other new Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold 4 can also zoom that far. The real magic of this phone comes from the computer upgrades that happen in the background when you zoom in very close on a subject. These make pictures that are much clearer than anything the Galaxy Fold 4 could do.
To test this, I went to Domino Park in Brooklyn, which is on the East River and has a beautiful view of the skyline of Manhattan. From the pier, One World Trade Center is very, very far away. Google Maps says it's about six miles away by road. With the Pixel 7 Pro's 30x telephoto zoom, you can see the top of 1WTC clearly from a completely different land mass. It's hard to believe.
I was standing on an island that was not the same as the one where this building is. Wild.
Let's look at something else. At the very top of the tall building in the middle of the picture on the left, there is writing that is hard to read unless you press your eyes against the screen. By the way, don't do it.
But if we use the Pixel 7 Pro's telephoto lens to zoom in, we can read the writing (which is sadly just the address of the building) as if we were right next to it. This is one of the most impressive smartphone camera features I've seen in a long time. With the Pixel 7 Pro, you can take photos from miles away that are clear as glass.
Close up. Close up.
Macro Focus is another feature that can only be found on the Pixel 7 Pro. This isn't very new for smartphones. Even cheap phones like the Moto G Stylus 5G from last year had macro lenses. The idea is that you can put your phone very close (like a few centimeters) to a small object like a flower bud and still get a clear, focused shot. Other phones, like that Moto one, had a separate option in the camera app for taking macro shots, but the Pixel 7 Pro does it in a much more stylish way. Just use the camera's default view with a 1x zoom and move the phone close to the thing you want to focus on. Macro focus will start up automatically.
That's how I got this picture of these berries on a plant near my house. Looks wonderful, doesn't it?
From a few centimeters away, it was as clear as it could be.
The camera on the Pixel 7 is nice as well.
The Pixel 7 Pro’s camera array is really one of the best I’ve ever seen in a smartphone and is worth the US$300 price hike if you can afford that. Fortunately, it’s not like the regular Pixel 7 is some mediocre camera in its own right. The cheaper Pixel can still hold its own against other great smartphone cameras.
Portrait mode is obviously back and still wonderful. Both Pixel 7 phones can quickly snap great-looking portrait shots while letting you adjust the depth of field effects with some simple sliders in the editing menu. However, I never really felt the need to do that. The shots I took looked excellent right from the jump.