7 ways Pixel 8 Pro camera beats iPhone 15 Pro Max

Google Pixel 8 Pro hands-on.
(Image credit: Future)

Historically speaking, Google has frequently put a lot of investment into the cameras of its Pixel phones and its latest premium flagship phone is no exception. Armed with a triple camera system, complete with a 5x zoom lens, the most surprising part about the Google Pixel 8 Pro isn’t the hardware — but rather — the Google AI powered experiences that come along with it.

We’ve gone into great detail about everything new in our Pixel 8 Pro hands-on, but we paid extra attention to what exactly the phone's cameras are capable of doing. There’s added pressure knowing that the iPhone 15 Pro Max is one of the best camera phones around right now.

Just like Google, Apple made sure to add an arsenal of new features to the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s camera, like a new telephoto lens that supports 5x optical zoom, focus and depth controls, log encoding, and 10 Gbps transfer speeds with USB-C. In our testing against other flagships, like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, we saw how the iPhone 15 Pro Max delivered pro-looking portrait shots and brighter images under low light.

Even though there’s no definitive answer yet about which phone has the better camera — that's coming as we work on our full Pixel 8 Pro review — we already know several ways how the Pixel 8 Pro’s camera beats the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Audio Magic Eraser

The power of the Tensor G3 inside the Pixel 8 Pro is on display in the phone's new Audio Magic Eraser feature with video recording. Background noise can often be overpowering and drown out the audio you’re actually trying to capture with your video, which is why this feature impresses: now those distractions can be eliminated altogether. 

After recording a video, you have the option to use Audio Magic Eraser to analyze the sounds in the video — and then choose what you want and don’t, leaving you with perfect sounding audio. Google's example involves footage of a baby cooing while a dog barks in the background, at least until Audio Magic Eraser silences that interrupting pup. It's quite something to see — and hear.

Magic Editor

GIF animation of Magic Editor.

(Image credit: Google)

Another showcase of the Tensor G3 is the new Magic Editor with the Pixel 8 Pro, as the feature effectively turns your phone into a versatile photo editor that could do a number of things not possible on other handhelds. For example, Magic Eraser could be used to isolate an unwanted object in the background of your selfie, and then move it to another part of the photo. Alternatively, it can resize objects you select and then have them blend into the photo seamlessly.

Best Take

GIF animation of Best Take.

(Image credit: Google)

Family photos can be a struggle, with some people awkwardly looking away from the camera. That’s why Best Take on the Pixel 8 Pro is a blessing in disguise because now you won’t ever have to settle. Instead, you can always have the perfect family photo because Google AI allows you to choose what faces you want for the best take. 

As a result, instead of those odd faces and misguided looks, you can have everyone looking squarely at the camera with smiles. Compare that to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, where getting a great group shot boils down to blind luck that the first take is flawless.

Pro Controls

Google Pixel 8 Pro hands-on.

(Image credit: Future)

Even as Apple introduced a slew of new camera features to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it continues to neglect offering the one thing that professionals crave — manual controls. Lucky for the Pixel 8 Pro, it gains this feature with its exclusive Pro Controls, which interestingly enough, is also available on the standard Pixel 8.

This new mode gives creators greater control over the camera, with options to adjust parameters such as the camera’s shutter speed, ISO, white balance, focus, and much more. Professional photographers come to rely on these manual controls for better creative compositions you just can’t get with automatic mode. 

True, you can get manual controls on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but the native integration with the Pixel 8 Pro’s camera app lessens the burden of those extra steps.

Lens Selection

Google Pixel 8 Pro hands-on.

(Image credit: Future)

Automatic mode on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is great, but sometimes it can be frustrating when you want to use a specific camera for a certain shot. For example, we’ve seen it using the main 48MP camera for a 5x zoom of a close-by object instead of using the 12MP telephoto camera — which we can visibly see in the Camera app because of the animation that happens when the iPhone switches between lenses.

Well, you can actually force the Pixel 8 Pro to stop this with Len Selection. Once initiated, it will stick to using a specific camera no matter what you’re shooting or the condition. Again, this gives users control of the shot, rather than letting the phone dictate which lens is best for the situation. 

30x max zoom

While both the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Pixel 8 Pro have dedicated 5x optical lenses, it turns out that the Pixel 8 Pro has a little more reach thanks to its 30x maximum zoom when taking photos — the iPhone 15 Pro Max tops out at 25x zoom. Sure, it’s effectively a digital zoom, but having the option to get in closer through the native app is helpful.

Auto-tracking focus lock

This one’s an interesting feature because the Pixel 8 Pro’s camera can lock its focus onto a person or object, even when they move around in the frame. For photographers, this auto-tracking focus lock ensures that the focus remains locked onto their subject even if they move closer or farther away from the camera. The same applies to videographers who intend to keep the focus lock onto an individual or object in the frame while they’re actively moving.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.