On paper, the iPhone 14 Pro represents the largest photography leap in the product’s recent history. After years of using a 12-megapixel primary lens, Apple’s next flagship iPhone quadruples its megapixel count to 48.
Some of the advantages of the 48-megapixel camera are difficult to illustrate here. The amount of information retained when zooming up close after shooting in ProRaw, Apple’s 48-megapixel format, is a significant advantage. It’s something that hobbyists and creatives will enjoy. These photographs may also be printed considerably larger due to the greater image size.
Aside from ProRaw, we can observe that the 14 Pro outperforms the 13 Pro in low light, captures greater detail, and takes broader photos. How does the new camera configuration stack up against the Google Pixel 6 Pro, a favourite among Android photographers? (The Pixel 7 will be introduced in early October, so we’ll compare it to the iPhone 14 Pro as well.)
To some extent, it is a question of personal preference. When it comes to photography, Apple and Google plainly have opposing viewpoints. Apple prefers to take photos that are as near to what the human eye perceives as possible, whereas Google prefers to capture as much information as possible using software. However, there are some situations where one phone clearly outperforms the other.
The iPhone offers far more dynamic range, thanks in part to the Pixel’s propensity of attempting to brighten each shade it detects. Its lowlight photography is less lighted than that of the Pixel, but it also has less noise and seems more realistic. The iPhone’s zoom was superior than the Pixel’s zoom up to 3x, but the Pixel with its 4x optical zoom lens showed a distinct edge at higher magnifications.
In the light of day, iPhone vs. Pixel
Daylight circumstances are practically easy mode for these cameras, thus images taken with both phones look fantastic. However, the differences in how these phones handle daylight images expose the approaches to photography discussed above.
These are Exhibit A. The iPhone version has stronger contrast, with more vivid highlights on the foliage. The Pixel is more subdued, but if you look closely, you can see more of the texture of the leaves.
The first thing you notice about these statue images is how blue the sky is in the iPhone 14 Pro shot. Notice the light emanating from the structure on the lower right, as well as the brighter beige hue of the building itself, in the Pixel 6 Pro capture.
The photographs below of mossy rocks during a nice Sydney bush walk were more difficult to capture than they appear. Harsh sunshine was blazing down, as shown by the yellowish tone of the Pixel’s shot. This startled me because, as previously said, iPhone photos tend to be a more accurate portrayal of what my eyes view. In this scenario, it was Apple’s software that was able to remove the harsh sunlight filter.
Look at the backside of the rocks on the left side to notice how the iPhone captured shadows and light better in the same shot. It’s a fantastic illustration of the Pixel’s inclination to soften shadows rather than embrace them for contrast, like the iPhone does.
OK, zoomer, says the iPhone 6 Pro.
There are two important things to understand about zoom. To begin, the Pixel 6 Pro features a 4x optical zoom, but the iPhone 14 Pro only has a 3x zoom. Second, the iPhone’s Ultrawide has a magnification of “0.5x,” but the Pixel’s is narrower at 0.7x. The implications are that the iPhone’s zoom performs better up to 3x, but the Pixel outperforms at further distances.
Furthermore, as shown in the sample below, the iPhone’s Ultrawide option is far broader than the Pixel’s. (Notice how much more of the two buildings on the right were squeezed into the photo by the iPhone.)
The image below was captured at 3x zoom. There’s not much to say about image quality being harmed by zoom because both perform equally well. However, as seen in earlier images, the iPhone captured more blue in the gloomy sky, and the Pixel made the clocktower’s beige stand out a little more.
There’s a bigger contrast below, where there’s more activity in the shape of running water. The iPhone ultimately outperformed. Take note of the increased picture noise in Pixel’s shot. The water is more shimmering and sparkly than the crisp aqua recorded on the iPhone, making me want to go snorkeling.
When you zoom in closer, the Pixel takes the lead. The 5x enlarged photographs below show that the iPhone depends more on software for zoom, which makes sense given its shorter optical zoom, and that the colors and contrast are less balanced. The iPhone photograph has an unnatural warmth about it, and it also appears flatter.
The image of the small soldier below was captured at 15x magnification on both phones. The Pixel comes out on top, with significantly sharper textures on both the statue and the wall. It’s also worth noting that the Pixel has a maximum magnification of 20x, whilst the iPhone 14 Pro has a maximum zoom of 15x.
Apple may argue that having a greater zoom quality for realistic magnifications of 2x-3x is more significant, but hobbyist photographers who frequently find themselves photographing more distant subjects would benefit from the Pixel’s capabilities here.
The Pixel 6 Pro captures crisp portrait photos.
Portrait photographs, which imitate the depth-of-field effect produced by a DSLR camera, are essential components of any phone’s photography toolset. Unfortunately, comparing the Portrait photographs of the iPhone 14 Pro to those of the Pixel 6 Pro is tough. When you switch to Portrait Mode on the Pixel, it automatically zooms in, making it nearly impossible to snap the identical shot on the two phones. I’ve done my best in the photos below, but please keep in mind that this is an imperfect exercise.
What I can tell for certain is that the iPhone takes softer portraits. Photos taken with the Pixel are clearer and reveal more face features. The Pixel pulls out some of the wrinkles on my buddy Dan’s forehead, as well as the texture of his skin, as you can see in this shot of him below. In theory, I enjoy that the Pixel exposes more detail, but I imagine most people like the iPhone’s skin smoothening effect. (I honestly think that’s Google’s software sharpening the skin rather than the iPhone smoothing it, but unfortunately.)
It’s also worth noticing that the Pixel does a better job of emphasising Dan’s hair. However, the depth-of-field effect was also applied to the wooden beam on the bottom right but not on the bottom left. I noticed this in other photographs as well: the Pixel would do an excellent job of foregrounding the subject, but random bits of the background would appear as well.
However, not all portrait pictures looked the same, as these lowlight photographs of Sharon demonstrate. Far from being significant changes, these highlight how the iPhone frequently shoots warmer than the Pixel, which is noticeable in most image categories. The Pixel also tries harder to brighten up the background, hinting at something we’ll see more of later. The shot is definitely better lighted, however some may enjoy the ambience that heavier shadows may give.
On the selfie front, the Pixel made me appear a touch more tanned than I actually am (thanks, Google! ), but the photo is a little oversaturated. The iPhone Portrait selfie appears less fake, but it also has overdone highlights.
As harsh as iPhone selfie highlights may be (on bright days, at least), I found the Pixel’s texture sharpening to be more of an issue in extreme circumstances. Both problems are visible below, but notice how much less attractive (artificially, I think) the Pixel makes my brow: Similar to a filthy brown bowling ball.
After dark, the iPhone 14 Pro vs. Pixel 6 Pro
I noted at the start of this piece that it’s clear during daylight that the iPhone prioritises dynamic range while the Pixel strives to cram in as much detail as possible. When the sun goes down, the difference becomes much more noticeable. The Pixel’s proclivity towards computational photography is most noticeable in low-light situations. The Pixel has detail where the iPhone has shadow. It’s blurry detail, but it’s detail nevertheless.
Look at this Vespa-themed bench. The Pixel 6 Pro captured far more detail in the foliage, both in the tree directly behind the Vespa’s and in the taller tree towering to the right at the top. That comes at the expense of some visual noise and ungainly highlights. In comparison to the iPhone photo, which also has more realistic shadows, the lights beneath the bench appear unnaturally fluorescent. What you like in terms of realism versus intricacy is a personal preference.
When it comes to Night Mode photos, I much like the iPhone’s. Apple’s phone magnifies light sources rather than brightening the entire image, resulting in more natural-looking photographs.
See how the iPhone magnifies the moonlight behind the structure as well as the lights from inside the theatre in these shots of a movie complex. The Pixel’s significantly brighter shot, on the other hand, attempts to brighten the entire image.
This dichotomy is highlighted further below. The Pixel’s Night Sight photo appears to be more stunning at first sight due to its strong lighting. But the more I look at the photographs, the more I like the delicate approach of the iPhone. The (nearly literal) midnight blue sky behind this school building appears more natural than the navy sky on the Pixel, while it is worth mentioning that the Pixel does catch more details, as seen on the tree on the left.
Takeaways from the iPhone 14 Pro compared. the Pixel 6 Pro
Because the iPhone and Pixel’s nighttime performance captures each phone’s approach to photography, it’s a fair proxy for which phone’s camera you prefer. Because, with the phone industry as established as it is, a lot is up to personal preference. Do you like your images to seem natural and realistic, or do you prefer to capture as much information as possible? How you answer that question will most likely influence whether you prefer the iPhone 14 Pro or the Pixel 6 Pro.
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