The arrival of new Google Pixel phones is always a big moment for point-and-shoot snaps – and it’s proven that again with the launch of the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.
While the new flagships don’t have quite as big of a headline moment as the Pixel 3’s “Night Sight” introduction, they do bring a combination of exciting hardware and software upgrades that would put them in the higher echelons of our top camera directory. can shoot.
The basic hardware recipes of both the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are not radically different from their predecessors. Both have the same 50MP main cameras and 12MP ultra-wide angle lens, with the Pixel 7 Pro offering an additional 48MP telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom.
But under the hood, Google’s new Tensor G2 processor provides some neat computational photography features, including Photo Unblur and a new Cinematic Blur mode that looks suspiciously like Apple’s Cinematic Mode.
So what are the most exciting photographic features of the two phones? We’ve ranked the ones we’re most looking forward to testing here — starting with that cheat mode for all our snaps, Photo Unblur…
1. Photo Unblur (Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro)
Fortunately, all of our photos are perfectly sharp and never contain errors (okay, that’s a lie), but if your library is littered with blurry sounds, Google’s Photo Unblur trick can be a welcome solution.
Initially only available in the Google Photos app on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro (although we suspect it will come to other phones soon), Photo Unblur is a development of Google’s existing de-noise and sharpening tools and could be a should be a nice addition to the Face Unblur trick that appeared on the Pixel 6 series last year.
Unlike Face Unblur, Photo Unblur is designed to be used retroactively on existing photos rather than at the time of capture. While it can’t work miracles in disastrous snap incidents, the early demos show an impressive ability to salvage shots tainted by slow shutter speeds, focus problems, or mild hand movement. And it also works on photos taken with any camera.
2. Macro Focus (Pixel 7 Pro)
It’s far from the first phone to feature a dedicated macro mode, but the addition of autofocus to the Pixel 7 Pro’s improved ultra-wide lens is a big deal for fans of Google smartphones.
Our US mobile editor Philip Berne explained why macro was the Pixel 7 Pro feature he was most excited about before the phone’s launch. And Google granted its wish with a mode that should match the close-up shots possible on rivals like the iPhone 14 Pro.
(Image credit: Google)
It’s not clear yet what software tricks Google has brought to this mode, but it promises to let you focus on objects as close as 3cm away. Macro focus also activates automatically when you get close to a subject, switching from the main camera to the ultra-wide angle lens.
It’s a mode we’re really looking forward to going for a spin (watch out, spiders). In the meantime, you can check out some sample shots in this Google Photos gallery. (opens in new tab)
3. Improved Super-Res Zoom (Pixel 7 Pro)
Zoom promises to be one of the biggest improvements on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. The Pro model now has 5x optical zoom (instead of the Pixel 6 Pro’s 4x zoom), but the more interesting improvement is the software trick available on both models.
Like the iPhone 14 Pro, with some extra noise processing, both phones can crop to their 50MP resolution for an effective 2x zoom at 12.5MP resolution. But a more useful improvement is probably the processing that happens between the Pixel 7 Pro’s original focal lengths.
(Image credit: Google)
Previously, these 3x or 4x optical zoom spots were covered by fairly rudimentary digital zoom. But Google claims the Pixel 7 Pro can fill in some extra detail with its 5x telephoto camera, which should yield much more consistent results across that zoom range (in theory at least). That’s definitely something we’re looking forward to trying out.
4. Cinematic Blur Mode (Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro)
Apple’s Cinematic mode last year brought a simulated background blur, such as found in portrait photos, to video on the iPhone 13 Pro. It’s still early days for the technology, but Google has now jumped into the computational pool party with its take on fake video bokeh.
The problem these modes are trying to solve is that smartphone cameras have too great a depth of field to deliver the kind of blur that makes videos shot with dedicated cameras look, well, cinematic.
It’s a tough nut to crack, as every single frame has to be processed to look like it was shot with a clear prime – and based on Google’s demo above, the Pixel 7 series hasn’t made any major leaps forward. created.
The subject-to-background fall-off still looks a bit artificial and heavy-handed, but it could certainly be a useful mode for the odd cutscenes. We’ll stick with the best vlogging cameras for a while, though.
5. Enhanced Night Vision (Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro)
Google’s ‘Night Sight’ mode was a revelation when it arrived on the Pixel 3 in 2018. Instead of using the traditional long exposure method to expose dark scenes, you can shoot them handheld thanks to its amazing ability to instantly reassemble the best bits from a series of frames.
The mode has steadily improved over the years, but the problem has always been the motion blur that happens when something in your scene dares to move an inch during the burst sequence. Well, Google promises that if this issue isn’t fixed, it will at least improve on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.
(Image credit: Google)
This is because the machine learning techniques allow for a reduction in noise, which in turn means that each frame can use a shutter speed half as long as before. The result? In theory, there are far fewer issues with motion blur ruining your cityscapes and nighttime portraits.
6. Guided Frame (Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro)
An impressive example of an AI accessibility feature, Guided Frame is designed to help the blind or partially sighted take selfies more easily on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.
When you open the front camera and hold it to your face, the feature’s voice tells you where to place the phone to take the shot, pushing you in the right direction before you know when you’ll have the cash withdrawal.
Google’s Real Tone feature (above) promises to deliver even more accurate skin tones in your photos. (Image credit: Google)
You’ll get prompts like “move your phone a little to the right and up,” while a countdown lets you know when the shot is about to be taken. Hopefully it will encourage other manufacturers to make equivalent modes.
Google has also beefed up its Real Tone feature on the new Pixels to ensure that the skin tone of each subject is accurate and well-exposed in your photos. With the feature tested on over 10,000 portraits and refined in conjunction with Diversify Photo, it should now be much improved.
7. Improved Selfie Camera (Pixel 7)
Photographers may scoff at the selfie camera, but it is one of the most widely used lenses on smartphones. The Pixel 7 now has an upgraded version that should be quite a step up from its predecessor.
(Image credit: Google)
The Pixel 7 now has the same 10.8MP sensor (with f/2.2 aperture) that you’ll find on the Pixel 7 Pro and 6 Pro. This means it has an ultra-wide focal length of 20mm, which is useful for squeezing several people into the frame. You can also use it to record 4K/60p video.
It still only has a fixed focus, but should be a more useful tool for when you need a social media mugshot or a quick video for your YouTube channel.