The Pixel 6 brought the major camera upgrades, the 7 builds on them. For starters, the main camera is unchanged from last year's model. And even though the Pixel 7 seems to be running the exact same camera setup as its predecessor on paper, there should be a handful of improvements in overall photo quality and processing.
The primary camera's sensor is most likely the Samsung GN1, and it has a 1/1.31" optical format and uses 4-to-1 to get from its nominal 50MP resolution to 12.5MP resulting images. Google specifies an 82-degree field of view for the lens, which more or less corresponds to a 25mm equivalent focal length, though the EXIF data reports 24mm and that's what the sensor's crop factor points to as well. The lens is stabilized.
The ultrawide camera maintains the sensor numbers of its predecessor - 12MP, 1.25µm pixel pitch (so 1/2.9" optical format), and it still produces 12.5MP images because numbers don't matter anymore. And opposed to the Pro, the vanilla 7 doesn't have autofocus and retains the 114-degree field of view. The 7 Pro offers a 126-degree FoV. So no changes in the ultrawide department coming from the standard Pixel 6.
The selfie camera is now specified at 10.8MP with a 92.8° field of view, which sounds an awful lot like the old 11.1MP 94° field of view unit cropped in slightly. But since we've already established that numbers are all made up, you'd be getting 10MP selfies. The f/2.2 aperture lens lacks autofocus, and we'd say that's inexcusable anymore.
Completely overhauled for the previous generation, the camera app is now more or less the same as last year. In the main viewfinder, you'll see a Settings cog in the upper left corner, while the location option that lets you decide whether to save photos or videos to the Photo Gallery or the Locked Folder has been assigned to a long press on the gallery shortcut next to the shutter release.
The camera app will always default to the 'Camera' photo mode. From left to right, the shooting modes are: Night Sight, Motion, Portrait, Camera, Video, and Modes which lets you access the Panorama, Photo Sphere, and Google Lens modes. Lens has modes for Translate, Text, Search, Homework, Shopping, Places, and Dining.
Tapping somewhere in the viewfinder will make a bunch of sliders show up - for white balance, shadow, and light. You can disable the lot of them, if you prefer. An option to shoot RAW images is provided, but you need to specifically enable this one in settings first. Similarly to last year, there's no setting or mode to make the Pixel 7 shoot at the sensor's native 50MP resolution.
The Motion camera mode introduced in the last generation is here as well, with the same shooting options, still in Beta. Action Pan is used for capturing a fast-moving subject by following its path with the phone and blurring the background in the process. Long exposure is the opposite: you press the shutter button to capture something like a train, car trail lights, or something that's moving quickly, and the background stays clear.
As one would expect, the Pixel 7's main camera performance during the day is excellent. It's consistent and predictable. And by predictable, we mean that it serves that typical Pixel preocessing in photos. The post-processing of the stills focuses on exposing even the tiniest details in the scene and provide extra clarity to textures. The tone curve can leave some of the shadows a bit darker than we would expect, but that's part of the whole "Pixel look," and we are fine with that.
Colors are juicy and presentable, ready for Instagram without having to touch them. Still, we can't say the saturation is too much. It reminds us of the Samsung Galaxy way of processing colors. Dynamic range is also on point, except for the shadows we pointed out earlier. Those can be a bit dark, although not enough to ruin the scene overall.
Even though the Pixel 7 lacks a proper telephoto camera, the 2x crop zoom samples from the main camera during the day are solid. Google is particularly proud of its updated Super Res algorithm that improves the quality of digital zoom photos. The Pixel 7 Pro has a further reach while the standard 7 settles for Super Res in 2x mode. We didn't see any upscaling artifacts or a big loss in sharpness due to the crop.
That's not to say other alternatives on the market are not as good. The point we are trying to make is that the Pixel 7 fares pretty well without a 2x optical zoom camera.
Still, the Super Res functionality on the vanilla 7 is limited due to hardware constraints. The 7 Pro, for example, uses the center of the telephoto and information from the main sensor to stack together anything between 2x and 5x zoom. And Pixel 7 doesn't have a telephoto unit.
The ultrawide camera offers good overall quality without extreme edge softness, color fringing and noise. The images are sufficiently sharp for an ultrawide camera and have a good amount of fine detail. We didn't find any significant difference between the ultrawide and main camera's processing - we are talking exposure, dynamic range, color reproduction, white balance, etc. We like the consistency the two cameras offer across the board.
Sadly, since there's no autofocus on the ultrawide, some close-up shots will leave the subject a bit blurry at times, and there's no macro mode either.
With the advancement of the Night mode and the ever-growing popularity of its auto application in the default photo mode, we're somewhat at odds with how to proceed with our low-light testing methodology. On the Pixel 7 Pro, we observed that the Auto Night Sight produced largely identical results to those obtained in the dedicated Night Sight mode. As a rule of thumb, those are better results than what the Camera mode can deliver in all but the best-lit of scenes in which Auto Night Sight doesn't kick in (explicitly - we can never be too sure what's going on). Consequently, we'll be treating the Night Sight photos as the 'default', though we will provide samples with it turned off.
With that out of the way, we can confidently say that the low-light samples are great, no matter the mode. Once again, shadows are a bit darker than some would like, and the highlights need slightly better processing, suggesting that the dynamic range could have been wider. Still, colors, contrast and noise are on point. The white balance tends to go for a warmer hue, while overall sharpness, clarity and detail are flagship-worthy.
While the competition often goes for brighter overall images during the night, the Pixel 7 tries to retain a more natural look with darker shadows. That way, the images don't look overprocessed and as if they are rendered in a computer game. Then again, some will argue that brighter low-light images are more pleasing.
Even though there's a barely noticeable difference between the Night Sight and the standard Camera mode, you may benefit from the Night Sight in extremely dark scenarios. The Night Sight mode brightens up the shadows in those instances, adds a touch of sharpness and doesn't take much time to stack all the frames. It's pretty fast.
Additionally, you can use the maximum exposure time using the toggle on the viewfinder in Night Sight mode, but we barely find any difference between the standard exposure time and the maximum one. Unless, of course, the scene is extremely dark.
The 2x zoom during the night is surprisingly decent, aside from a couple of samples in which we observed quite a bit of noise. Overall rendition remains identical to the main camera's 1x mode, and we found it extremely hard to find any difference between the standard Camera mode and Night Sight. It requires a lot of pixel-peeping to see the difference.
The Pixel 7's ultrawide camera is decent enough after dusk - it's not particularly impressive, but it gets the job done. It's able to resolve a good amount of detail, sharpness is okay as far as ultrawides go, the dynamic range is wide enough, and noise is taken care of in most cases. Unless, of course, the scene is really dark.
That's why we suggest leaving the Night Sight on for low-light ultrawide shots, as it clears the noise, and boosts colors in certain scenarios.
Once you're done with the real-world samples, head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the Google Pixel 7 stacks up against the competition.