The arrival of new Google Pixel phones is always a great time for point-and-shoot – and so it’s proven again with the launch of the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.
While the new flagships don’t have such a big moment as Pixel 3’s introduction of “Night Sight,” they do bring a combination of exciting hardware and software upgrades that could propel them into the upper echelons of our best camera phones guide.
The basic hardware recipes of the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are not drastically different from their predecessors. Both have the same 50MP primary and 12MP ultra-wide cameras, with the Pixel 7 Pro bringing an additional 48MP telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom powers.
But under the hood, Google’s new Tensor G2 processor powers some sophisticated computational photography features, including Unblur photos and a new Cinematic Blur mode that looks suspiciously like Apple’s Cinematic mode.
So what are the most exciting photography features of the two phones? We’ve ranked the ones we’re most looking forward to testing here – starting with this cheat mode for all our capture mistakes, Photo Unblur…
1. Deblur photos (Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro)
Luckily, each of our photos is crystal clear and never contains errors (okay, that’s a lie), but if your library is littered with blurry noise, Google’s Photo Unblur trick could be a welcome boon. .
Originally only available in the Google Photos app on Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro (though we suspect it’s coming to other phones soon), Photo Unblur is an expansion of Google’s existing noise reduction and sharpening tools. and should complement the Face Unblur trick that arrived last year on the Pixel 6 series.
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 on disastrous shooting incidents, early demos show an impressive ability to salvage shots that were marred by slow shutter speeds, focus issues or a light handshake. And it will also work on photos taken with any camera.
2. Macro focus (Pixel 7 Pro)
It’s far from the first phone with a dedicated macro mode, but the addition of autofocus to the Pixel 7 Pro’s improved ultra-wide lens is a big deal for Google smartphone fans.
Our US Mobiles Editor, Philip Berne, explained why macro was the Pixel 7 Pro feature he was most interested in before the launch of the phone. And Google granted his wish with a mode that should match the close-ups possible on rivals like the iPhone 14 Pro.
It’s not yet clear what software trick Google has brought to this mode, but it promises to let you focus on objects as close as 3cm away. Macro focus will also automatically kick in when you get close to a subject, switching from the main camera to ultra-wide.
It’s a mode we can’t wait to test (watch out for spiders). In the meantime, you can check out some sample shots in this Google Photos gallery. (opens in a new tab)
3. Improved Super-Res Zoom (Pixel 7 Pro)
Zoom promises to be one of the biggest improvements to 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 most interesting improvement is the software trickery available on both models.
Much like the iPhone 14 Pro, both phones can crop into their 50MP resolution for an effective 2x zoom at 12.5MP resolution, thanks to additional noise processing. But a more useful improvement is likely to be the processing that takes place between the Pixel 7 Pro’s native focal lengths.
Previously, these 3x or 4x optical zoom spots were covered by a fairly rudimentary digital zoom. But Google says the Pixel 7 Pro can fill in some extra detail using its 5x telephoto lens, which should create much more consistent results across that zoom range (in theory at least). It’s definitely something we can’t wait to try.
4. Cinematic Blur Mode (Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro)
Apples Cinematic mode brought simulated background blur, like the one you’ll find in portrait mode photos, to video last year on the iPhone 13 Pro. The technology is still in its infancy, but Google has now gotten into the computing pool party with its approach to fake video bokeh.
The problem these modes try to solve is that smartphone cameras have too much depth of field to deliver the kind of blur that makes videos shot with dedicated cameras look cinematic.
It’s a tough nut to crack because each image has to be processed to look like it was shot with a bright lens – and according to the Google demo above, the Pixel 7 series hasn’t made tremendous progress.
The background subject drop still feels a bit contrived and heavy, but it could definitely be a handy mode for the odd cut scene. We will stick to best vlogging cameras for a while longer, however.
5. Improved 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. Rather than using the traditional long exposure method to expose dark scenes, it lets you shoot them handheld lifted thanks to its amazing ability to instantly reassemble. the best bits of a burst of images.
The mode has steadily improved over the years, but its problem has always been the motion blur created if something in your scene dares to move an inch during the burst sequence. Well, Google promises that this issue has, if not been fixed, at least improved on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.
This is because its machine learning techniques enable noise reduction, meaning each frame can use half the shutter speed as before. The result? In theory, far fewer motion blur issues ruining your cityscapes and nighttime portraits.
6. Guided Frame (Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro)
An impressive example of an AI accessibility feature, the Guided Frame is designed to help people who are blind or visually impaired take selfies more easily on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.
When you open the front camera and hold it in front of your face, the feature’s voice will tell you where to position the phone to compose the shot, nudging you in the right direction before letting you know when you’ve got the money drawn .
You’ll get prompts such as “move your phone slightly right and up”, while a countdown timer lets you know when the photo is about to be taken. Hopefully this will inspire other manufacturers to create equivalent modes.
Google has also beefed up its Real Tone feature on the new Pixels to ensure that every subject’s skin tone 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 laugh at the selfie camera, but it’s one of the most frequently used lenses on smartphones. The Pixel 7 now has an upgraded version which should be a decent step up from its predecessor.
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. That means it has an ultra-wide 20mm focal length, which is handy for squeezing multiple people into the frame. You can also use it to shoot 4K/60p videos.
It still only has one fixed purpose, but should be a more useful tool when you need a photo ID on social media or a quick video for your YouTube channel.