The Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are both at the top of our best camera phone list, but which handset works best at night? To find out, we put the two flagships through their paces in a wide range of indoor and outdoor scenarios.
As you will see in our Pixel 7 Pro review, Google’s latest device is a terrific camera phone. It includes a 50MP (f/1.85) main lens, a 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2) and a 48MP (f/3.5) 5x telephoto lens. Google has made a number of improvements to its Night Sight Photos, including new ML techniques to reduce noise and less blur as exposures are now up to twice as fast.
But our iPhone 14 Pro Max review shows that Apple is no slouch when it comes to its own Night mode. This phone packs a 48MP (f/1.78) main lens, a 12MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide lens, and a 12MP (f/2.8) 3x telephoto zoom lens. There’s a new Photonic Engine designed to deliver brighter images through every camera, thanks to the A16 Bionic chip.
So which of these camera phones wins the night? Let’s find out.
For this first comparison, I photographed this fountain in Bryant Park with the New York skyline in the background. The iPhone 14 Pro Max and Pixel 7 Pro produced excellent photos.
However, I’d give the iPhone the edge here because its image is brighter, especially when looking at the water just below the top of the trickling fountain. Water droplets also look a little sharper.
The Pixel 7 Pro does a better job with the left side of the frame, as it doesn’t turn off lights coming from the nearby store.
Talk about a challenge. This room was completely dark with only a little ambient light coming from the hall. And I think the iPhone 14 Pro Max wins this round. You get a much brighter image, even if there’s a lot of noise in the shot.
The Pixel 7 Pro’s image is definitely on the dark side, but if you look closer, this photo is sharper in the dog’s paws and in the blanket.
In this night portrait shot, the Pixel 7 Pro struggled to capture a clear image of my face. Meanwhile, the iPhone 14 Pro Max photo makes my face look brighter, and you can make out more details in both my shirt and jacket. We actually took two photos with the Pixel because the first image was also blurry.
Glass Christmas tree
Here’s a case where I think the Pixel 7 Pro is getting ahead. In this photo of a glass Christmas tree, Google’s photo better captures the glitter swirling in the glass. Yes, the iPhone photo is brighter – and the fur in the background looks sharper – but you lose some of that great detail inside the tree.
How about some Christmas decorations? The iPhone 14 Pro Max once again offers a brighter image and there is more contrast between the transparent glass ball and the second ball inside. The Pixel 7 Pro’s shot looks a little flat in comparison.
On the plus side, decorations on the right side of the image look sharper through the Pixel, and tree branches look sharper around lights. The iPhone explodes this area a bit.
This trick is a bit difficult to call. For one, the Pixel 7 Pro captures a brighter image of Times Square. You can more easily distinguish the people in the photo and also check the right side of the frame above the ESPN sign. These slanted windows are not even visible in the photo of the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max photo is closer to what I’ve seen with the naked eye, and there’s a blue cast in the Pixel 7 Pro photo that’s not there with Apple’s . Still, I’d give the Pixel the edge here.
Empire State Building
This 3x zoom photo of the Empire State Building is another close-up tour. I like the moodiness of the Pixel 7 Pro photo and the fact that the area around the arrow is sharper where the light is coming from. But again, there is a blue cast in the image, and the sky is darker in the photo than in real life, as it was just after sunset.
The sky in the iPhone 14 Pro Max image is warmer and more realistic, and the blue lights towards the top of the building are more subtle. Still, I might be more likely to share the Pixel 7 Pro image given the choice between the two. The buildings around the Empire State Building also show up more in the Pixel photo.
bar at home
There was just a little light to the right in this Night Mode shot of a home bar, and the iPhone 14 Pro Max comes out swinging with a brighter image of the bottles. You can make out more bottles in the second row because it’s a brighter display.
However, the Pixel 7 Pro’s camera captures sharper text in the Don Julio tequila and 1800 Coconut label. The tequila bottle ridges are also more defined.
Which phone wins?
Overall, I’d give the iPhone 14 Pro Max a slight edge because it just offers brighter photos in most conditions. But brighter isn’t always better, and the Pixel 7 Pro does a better job dealing with bright lights in an otherwise dark scene.
The good news is that none of these phones will let you down when the lights go down. Which phone do you think will win? Let us know in the comments.