The Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max both sit at the top of our best camera phone list, but which handset performs best at night? To find out we put both flagships to the test in a wide range of scenarios both indoors and outdoors.
As you'll see in our Pixel 7 Pro review, Google's latest device is a formidable camera phone. It features a 50MP (f/1.85) main lens, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide and 48MP (f/3.5) 5x telephoto lens. Google made a number of improvements to its Night Sight photos, including new ML techniques to reduce noise and less blur because the 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, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide and 12MP (f/2.8) 3x telephoto zoom lens. There's a new Photonic Engine that's 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. And be sure to see our larger iPhone 14 Pro Max vs Pixel 7 Pro camera shootout to see which phone wins overall.
For this first comparison I shot this fountain at Bryant Park with the New York City skyline in the background. Both the iPhone 14 Pro Max and Pixel 7 Pro produced excellent photos.
However, I'd give the edge to the iPhone here because its image is brighter, especially when you look at the water right underneath the top of the fountain that's dripping down. The water droplets look a bit sharper, too.
The Pixel 7 Pro does a better job with the left side of the frame, though, as it doesn't blow out the lights coming from the nearby shop.
Talk about a challenge. This room was completely dark with only a bit of ambient light coming from the foyer. And I think the iPhone 14 Pro Max wins this round. You get a much brighter image, even though there's plenty of noise in the shot.
The Pixel 7 Pro's image is definitely on the dark side, but if you look closely, this photo is sharper in the dog's paws and in the blanket.
In this portrait photo at night the Pixel 7 Pro struggles to capture a sharp image of my face. Meanwhile, the iPhone 14 Pro Max's shot makes my face brighter, and you can make out more detail both in my shirt and jacket. We actually took two shots with the Pixel because the first image came out blurry, too.
Glass Christmas tree
Here's a case where I think the Pixel 7 Pro pulls ahead. In this photo of a glass Christmas tree, Google's shot does a better job capturing the glitter swirling around in the glass. Yes, the iPhone's pic is brighter — and the fur in the background looks crisper — but you lose some of that great detail inside the tree.
How about some Christmas ornaments? The iPhone 14 Pro Max once again delivers a brighter image, and there's more contrast between the transparent glass ball and the second ball inside. The Pixel 7 Pro's shot looks a bit flat by comparison.
On the plus side, the decorations on the right side of the image look sharper through the Pixel, and the tree branches look crisper around the lights. The iPhone blows this area out a bit.
This round is a bit tough to call. On the one hand, the Pixel 7 Pro captures a brighter shot of Times Square. You can make out the people in the photo more easily and also check out the right side of the frame above the ESPN sign. Those angled glass panes aren't even visible in the iPhone 14 Pro Max's photo.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max's photo is closer to what I saw with the naked eye, and there's a blue cast over the Pixel 7 Pro's photo that's not there with Apple's. Still, I'd give the edge to the Pixel here.
Empire State Building
This photo of the Empire State building at 3x zoom is another close round. I like the moodiness of the Pixel 7 Pro's photo, and the fact that the area around the spire is sharper where the light is emanating. But once again there's a blue cast to the image, and the sky is darker in the photo than in real life, as this was just after sunset.
The sky in the iPhone 14 Pro Max's image is warmer and more realistic, and the blue lights toward the top of the building are more subtle. Still, I might be more likely to share the Pixel 7 Pro's image given the choice between the two. The buildings around the Empire State Building also pop more in the Pixel shot.
There was just a bit of light off to the right in this Night mode photo 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 of the bottles in the second row because it's a brighter exposure.
However, the Pixel 7 Pro's camera captures sharper text in the Don Julio tequila and in the 1800 Coconut label. The ridges in the tequila bottle are more defined, too.
Which phone wins?
Overall, I'd give a slight edge to the iPhone 14 Pro Max because it simply delivers 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 neither of these phones will let you down when lights go low. Which phone do you think wins? Let us know in the comments.
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Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.