The macro modes on the Google Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro are, ironically, a big deal. But the gap between each phone's strengths and weaknesses here is just as large.
Taking photos of tiny things used to be tricky to accomplish on a smartphone, but advances in camera hardware and software are making it much easier these days. While some cheaper phones use dedicated macro cameras (sometimes more for the sake of the spec sheet than the user), the top phones on the market have instead moved toward using their existing ultrawide cameras.
That includes Apple, whose introduced a macro feature on the iPhone 13 Pro, and Google, with the new Macro Focus feature on the Pixel 7 Pro.
As a fan of macro photos and making smartphones fight for dominance, I picked up the iPhone 14 Pro Max and Google Pixel 7 Pro to see who did best. To spoil the ending a little, I don't think I found an overall winner — rather, these are two phones with very different strengths when it comes to shooting tiny and close-up subjects. Read on to see the shots I took and how they compare.
Google Pixel 7 Pro vs . iPhone 14 Pro Max macro mode: The photos
First, a word on the cameras. Take a macro shot with the Pixel 7 Pro, and you're using the phone's 12MP ultrawide camera with an aperture of f/2.2. Likewise, the iPhone 14 Pro Max also uses a 12MP (f/2.2.) lens for macro shots captured by the ultrawide camera.
While trying to see what tiny secrets lurked in a patch of asphalt outside the TG U.K. office, I found that the iPhone can get much closer to its subject than the Pixel can, which is visible in the photo above. In fact, the only thing stopping me from getting an even closer shot was that my hand holding the phone was already pressed to the floor.
You can see this too in this shot of the center of a purple flower. The Pixel's shot is blurry but the iPhone does a much better job of showing off the stamen at the heart of the flower's head. That said, Google's processing software captures colors in a more appealing and accurate way, while the iPhone's produced an over-saturated image, plus it's a touch noisy.
Both phones have the option to use night mode at the same time as macro mode, but that didn't seem to make a difference for the phones' color abilities when I tried this close-up shot of a bright yellow fabric bag inside a cupboard with the door partly shut. While the Pixel doesn't have quite as much definition between the woven fibers, I'd still pick its shot instead of the iPhone's every time, even knowing this.
The definition and color difference can be seen in this image of a leaf, too. This was as close as I could get with either phone while keeping the leaf in focus; just as before, the color in the Pixel image is closer to reality, but you can really see the details and the contrast between the green and red portions of the surface on the iPhone shot.
Lastly, I captured an image of the scuffed-up corner of my leather wallet. Once more, the Pixel wasn't able to get as close to the surface as the iPhone,
One other potential advantage with the Pixel is obvious in this shot too — depth of field. A lot more of the wallet seems to be in focus in the Pixel shot than the iPhone. That may be because I captured the iPhone's shot from closer in, but as I took multiple shots for the rest of the photos in this article, I did notice the Pixel was able to keep more of the subjects in focus more consistently.
Google Pixel 7 Pro vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max macro mode: Verdict
Both the iPhone 14 Pro Max (and the iPhone 14 Pro by extension) and the Google Pixel 7 Pro satisfy with their macro photo modes. Using their ultrawide lenses, they're able to take quality close-ups, although Apple's leaned more into definition at the expense of color, while Google has focused more on keeping colors realistic.
I don't think the presence of macro mode on these phones should cement your buying decision one way or the other, even with the respective strengths and weaknesses shown by the iPhone 14 Pro Max and Pixel 7 Pro. But if you're stuck between a few of the best phones or best camera phones when trying to pick a phone to buy, knowing that either the latest iPhone or Pixel have this extra handy tool in their belts could sway you away from other options, such as Samsung's camera phones.