A Popular Smartphone Can Take Better Pictures Than A $10,000 Camera?

Upon the release of the Pixel 7 Pro, Google made a claim that the smartphone has "pro level" capabilities, but when put to the test it could not equal the performance of a $10,000 DSLR camera.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

Smartphone cameras grow more impressive every year. The significant advancements allow users to take high-quality photos without lugging around traditional camera equipment. And thanks to Google’s Pixel 7 Pro, news got even better for smartphone photographers.

The tech giant held a launch event this month, during which they unveiled the highly touted Pixel 7 Pro smartphone. According to Google, the phone’s camera rivals traditional DSLR cameras. They went so far as to say it has “pro-level zoom” capabilities. 

Additional features include Tensor G2-powered AI processing, improved Night Sight, telephoto zoom, and new closeup abilities. The camera hardware chief for Pixel, Alexander Schiffhauer, praised news of the new zoom technology at Google’s launch. He said, “It cleverly combines state-of-the-art hardware, software and machine learning to create amazing zoom photos across any magnification.” 

So, CNET writer Stephen Shankland decided to test out the claims about the Pixel 7 Pro. Shankland has a nice DSLR setup of his own. He said that all his equipment would run roughly $10,000 at the current retail price.

He compared the different features and capabilities of the Pixel 7 Pro side by side with his Canon 5D Mark IV. And he discovered some interesting results. The first test he ran was on the performance of the main cameras.

The Pixel 7 Pro has a 50-megapixel sensor but uses a process to snap photos at 12 megapixels. According to the company, this improves color and enhances performance in low-light environments. It shoots in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

pixel 7 pro
Pixel 7 Pro
Source: Google

Shankland said the phone’s camera performed well overall. But there was no comparison when it came to shooting finer details. The 30-megapixels of his Canon far outperformed the Pixel 7 Pro.

Next up, he tested the telephoto lens capabilities. Telephoto lenses for DSLR cameras are big, bulk, and heavy. They can also be a pricey add-on.

So the possibility of taking some great, distance shots with something that fits in a pocket intrigued him. The Pixel 7 Pro can zoom to the standard 2x, 5x, and 10x with minimal processing and does so well. But at 10x, the enhanced zoom features kick in. 

A 10x zoom is the equivalent of 120mm. Then, the phone’s camera does something pretty amazing. It taps into Google’s AI technology, Super Res Zoom.

That allows the Pixel 7 Pro to achieve 20x and 30x zoom, or the equivalent of 480mm and 720mm. He said that his DSLR can only reach 560mm. And that is with a 1.4x telephoto extender.

According to Shankland, the enhanced zoom captured shots well, but they were still blurry. After all, that is a tremendous distance for a clear shot with top-of-the-line equipment. But that wasn’t the feature that most impressed him.

He did a couple of night shoots with the Pixel 7 Pro and his Canon. He discovered that, overall, night shooting on the phone produced far superior results, which is fantastic news for stargazers. The Night Sight feature works in tandem with AI technology to ensure each photo gets taken when the phone is at its most stable position.