Joshua Waller reviews the new Google Pixel 7 Pro to find out if it can deliver when it comes to image quality and photographic features. For the tempting price of £849, does this flagship smartphone offer enough to tempt you away from the likes of Samsung and Apple?
Google Pixel 7 Pro Features
Google caused quite a stir last year when it introduced the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6, not only for the controversial (or marmite like) camera bar, but also for introducing a number of rather impressive computational photography features, that left us impressed.
This year, Google has introduced updated versions, the Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel 7, and with the Pixel 7 Pro, there are several improvements. This includes an updated ultra-wide camera with AF that enables a new macro mode, as well as a longer telephoto camera offering 5x telephoto zoom, and up to 30x Super Res Zoom.
The Pixel 7 Pro is priced at £849 (RRP, for the 128GB storage option) which is noticeably less than other premium / flagship smartphones which often hit the £1000+ price point. For that reason, the Pixel 7 Pro offers great value for money, considering what is on offer.
You get a premium ultra-wide camera, now with AF and macro mode, a premium wide camera with OIS, and a 5x telephoto camera also with OIS.
The selfie camera is a 10.8MP f/2.2 wide-angle (21mm equivalent) camera, which is fixed focus, and therefore doesn’t match the auto-focus selfie cameras on some other premium smartphones.
But does this all come together to give us high quality images, or is there something missing from the Pixel 7 Pro? Let’s find out.
Google Pixel 7 Pro Key Features
- 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, with AF, 0.5x 14mm equivalent
- 50MP f/1.85 wide-angle camera with OIS, PDAF, 1x, 24mm equivalent
- 48MP f/3.5, 5x telephoto with OIS, PDAF, 117mm equivalent (4.8x actual)
- Upto 30x “Super Res Zoom” (stills, 20x video)
- Display: 6.7inch LPTO OLED, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1440×3120 pixels
- Operating system: Android 13, 12GB RAM
- Dimensions: 162.9 x 76.6 x 8.9mm, 212g
- £849 sim-free (12GB/128GB)
Google Pixel 7 Pro Handling
The 6.7inch curved screen looks great, with a QHD+ resolution, and an LPTO OLED always-on display, as well as a refresh rate up to 120Hz – this is adjusted as needed to give smoother performance when needed or reduced to save battery life. Colours look fantastic on the screen, and it offers a very good level of brightness.
Gorilla Glass Victus can be found at the front and back, and this is Gorilla Glass’ toughest protection currently available. An IP68 rating gives you a waterproof rating down to 1.5m for 30mins, although there is an exposed USB port, so this isn’t really recommended for regular use, without added protection.
In terms of the software, the phone comes with Android 13, and you get (at least) five years of updates. Google often release both feature updates, as well as security updates, so you can expect both camera improvements as well as bug fixes to come in future.
Stereo speakers are included, as well as multiple microphones to ensure high audio quality both for playback and calls.
In terms of handling, you get an extremely pleasing feel, and thanks to the glossy silver sides, it looks very much like a premium flagship smartphone. However, as with almost every other smartphone out there, I’d definitely recommend the use of a case, as this will help with the slippery nature of the phone.
The camera bar also benefits from this same glossy silver finish, and this is something you’re going to love or loath. If you get a Google case, this detail is carried over to the side buttons and ‘G’ Google logo.
This silver detailing makes the smartphone feel more “special” than the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro (particularly ones with non-silver sides).
A 5000mAh battery is built-in, and offers fast wireless charging, as well as support for 30W fast charging. I had no worries about battery life when using the smartphone, and in general it feels extremely rapid, snappy, and responsive.
The camera app…
Using the camera app you get a row of camera modes along the bottom, with a shutter button above this. There’s a row of lens options, which include .5, 1x, 2 and 5, which are short for the main cameras including 0.5x (for the ultra-wide), 1x (for the main wide angle camera), 2x using the Super Res Zoom, and 5x for the telephoto camera.
The different shooting modes available include:
- Night sight – which includes Astrophotography
- Motion – with options for Long exposure or action pan
- Portrait – with options for face retouching, and a 1x or 2x zoom
- Video – slow-motion, normal and time-lapse
- Cinematic – video with background blur
With more you can find ‘Panorama’, ‘Photo Sphere’ and Lens.
Beyond these you get additional photo features and options in playback, including the Magic eraser, and photo/face unblur (often these are automatically applied).
Night Sight – the night mode has been improved and is said to be three times faster than the previous Pixel. This can be used handheld, but when you use the camera on a solid surface or tripod, it will enable the astrophotography mode which can take much longer shots, as well as generate a timelapse video for you.
The Motion mode can be used to long exposure photography, such as a blurred waterfall or river, as well as light trails. How effective this is can depend on the subject, and there is limited control over settings, but when it works it can be very impressive, especially as there is no need for a tripod or other stabilisation that you would traditionally need with cameras.
The portrait mode gives you editing options that let you adjust the background blur (or bokeh), as well as add “Portrait Light” for more flattering lighting. Using the rear camera you can shoot at 1x or 2x zoom, and when using the selfie camera you have the option of a 0.7x wide-angle view, or 1x.
Cinematic video is new with the Pixel 7 Pro, and offers a “cinematic blur” to your videos, promising to keep your subject in focus, and the background blurred “for dramatic effect”. This appears to be in response to the feature that was introduced with the iPhone 13 Pro last year, but can only be recorded at a resolution of FullHD.
In comparison, standard video modes from the front and rear cameras can be recorded at up to 4K 60fps, with up to 1080p 240fps slow-motion available from the rear.
Raw shooting is available, with the camera giving DNG images. These match the JPEG output in framing, except the ultra-wide raw image gives a view that is ever so slightly wider. Really, it’s so minimal as to be almost entirely pointless even mentioning this. If you want take images without strong HDR, then the raw files give you this option.
Google Pixel 7 Pro Image quality and performance
The camera interface gives an easy-to-use system, with the majority of settings automatically controlled. If the camera detects low-light, it will automatically switch to Night sight, and similarly if the camera detects a close-up subject, it will automatically switch to the macro mode. For those that want to take control, there are some settings you can change, as well as the previously mentioned raw option, but there are no manual controls available.
The ultra-wide-angle camera gives good results although there is noticeable distortion, as with most ultra-wide-angle cameras on smartphones. The corners can also appear to show noise, particularly when shooting in darker conditions. Colour reproduction is very good, and detail is respectable, although does drop off into the corners.
The wide-angle or standard camera uses an f/1.85 aperture, with PDAF (phase-detection AF), as well as Laser AF, and combined with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) can be used for low-light shooting. Image quality from this camera is very good, with detailed and sharp images, and excellent colour reproduction.
A macro mode has been introduced with the Pixel 7 Pro, and this automatically switches to the ultra-wide-angle camera. This gives a reasonable result, but detail doesn’t appear as good as I would have hoped for, as the phone crops into the ultra-wide-angle image to match the framing of the standard camera. Still, it’s better than having no macro mode at all, like the Pixel 6/6 Pro, and Pixel 7.
Use the telephoto options, and you can select 2x zoom, and this uses the main camera, with a crop, and Google’s “Super Res zoom” technology that takes a number of shots to improve the detail captured.
Use the 5x telephoto camera, and you get a 117mm equivalent photo (which is actually 4.8x the focal length of the main camera). You get detailed photos, and optical image stabilisation helps ensure your shots stay sharp with good colour and detail.
You can also zoom to 30x zoom, and this uses the Super Res Zoom technology to take a number of shots, combining them to produce an image with (in theory) additional detail, and reduced noise. Whilst the images we took definitely didn’t have the jagged edges that you’d normally see with digital zoom, we didn’t see much additional detail, so it’s likely this is best avoided.
Low-light performance – When shooting low-light images using Night sight, it’s impressive how quickly the camera takes the photo – in comparison to the Pixel 6/Pro shots are much quicker to take, and this helps reduce blur and movement.
The selfie camera does a good job of producing a nice-looking image, even in less-than-ideal light. You can adjust the level of background blur and the processing does a good job of dealing with hair the majority of the time.
Value for money
The Google Pixel 7 Pro is great value for money and is nicely priced to allow it to be cheaper than flagship smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (now £997), OPPO Find X5 Pro (£1049), and the iPhone 14 Pro (£1099, 6.1inch, 128GB), or iPhone 14 Pro Max (£1199, 6.7inch).
If you don’t mind losing the telephoto camera, macro mode, and AF ultra-wide camera, then the Pixel 7 is exceptional value for money, at £599. It’s also worth noting that the Pixel 6 Pro and 6 were both discounted quite noticeably as time went on, so if you’re happy to wait then you should be able to get the Pixel 7 / 7 Pro for even less.
But that doesn’t help you right now, and as far as I’m concerned, the Pixel 7 Pro is well worth the £849 asking price, being especially good value for money if you’re lucky enough to bag a free Google Pixel Watch with it!
Nb. The Google Pixel Watch is being given away with the Pixel 7 Pro with orders placed before the 17/10/22.
Google Pixel 7 Pro Verdict
The Google Pixel 7 Pro has answered a lot of the complaints made about the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, including an improved finger-print reader, face-detection unlock, and more importantly for photographers, it’s introduced a macro mode, quicker night mode, and additional telephoto reach. There’s also improved video recording performance for videographers.
The lack of a Pro or Manual mode could be a deal breaker for some, as for some people this can be genuinely useful.
For the price, this smartphone is worth serious consideration, it gives you a complete triple camera setup, without any weak performers, which is often an issue at lower price points. I won’t name names, but you’ll often find a weak ultra-wide camera, or a weak telephoto camera on some cameras, or even cameras that don’t match each other for colour reproduction. On the Pixel 7 Pro, you’ve got the full package.
The computational photography on offer is amongst the best, with some really useful photographic features, including motion blur, astrophotography, and for portraits real tone. There is of course the issue of some images looking like they’ve had the HDR settings turned up to the max, and there is no way to avoid this without shooting raw, but if you can get used to this, then you’ll be very pleased with the images this smartphone produces.
For more options have a look at the best smartphones for photography.