Pixel 4 XL Superzoom is for real: test shows it beats iPhone 11 Pro Max zooming system

Pixel 4 XL Superzoom is for real: test shows it beats iPhone 11 Pro Max zooming system
The Pixel 4 series come with a dual camera system this year: a main camera and a telephoto one that Google says comes in handy for zoomed in shots.

But unlike other phones, you don't have a button to switch to that second camera: instead, Google says you are supposed to zoom gradually to whatever level you like and you will get a shot with a good amount of detail at all levels, not just when strictly using the telephoto camera.

This technology is called Superzoom and it uses complicated algorithms to enhance your zoomed in photos.

But does it really work in real life and how much of a gamechanger is it?

Super zoom tested


To understand that, we first start by comparing superzoom to an image captured with the main camera and then cropped to match the zoom level on the superzoom photo. We have used 4X zoom level for this example and we have cropped in the same part from the picture shot on the regular camera:


As you can see, the difference is quite noticeable: you have a lot more noise on the cropped image. Superzoom does indeed make a difference.

We also compare Superzoom at various levels against the popular iPhone 11 Pro Max (which has a 2X telephoto camera, but no "superzoom" alternative).

Let's start with the main image, shot on the regular camera:

1X



At this point, you can just see the difference in general, we start looking at the zoom levels from the next photo.

2X



At 2X zoom, the iPhone actually uses its secondary camera, so it should capture a superb image. We do, however, see that the two are pretty close in terms of resolved detail and the Pixel even outdoes the iPhone a bit.


3X



At 3X zoom, the advantages of the Superzoom system start to show as you get far less noise and a better resolved detail on the Pixel.

4X



Those differences only amp up at 4X zoom level. The iPhone looks grainy, while the Pixel still captures a very sharp and more pleasing photo.

The Pixel can zoom all the way up to 8X zoom and you will see the benefits from Superzoom all across the zoom range, at any level. It is not something that counts as a camera revolution, but it's definitely an improvement that we appreciate seeing.

So yes, next time when you take a picture with your Pixel don't hesitate about using the digital zoom at any level: you will capture the shot you want and chances are that it will look quite good.

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21 Comments

1. DolmioMan

Posts: 345; Member since: Jan 08, 2018

So... what you’ve concluded here is superzoom=noise reduction.

6. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1459; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

It captures more detail and has less noise, in other words it's better than what the iPhone captures. Nice work Google.

8. mackan84

Posts: 609; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Actually less detail, stains on the white wall disappears on Pixel. Huawei should have something to say in this.

9. Papa_Ji

Posts: 873; Member since: Jun 27, 2016

19. Vokilam

Posts: 1343; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Even though some details are blurred in in pixel photos - I still prefer the pixel photos. But I’m curious how pixel phone zoom would look with faces, animals, and nature. At this distance it may not matter anymore, but the results are night and day and I wonder if that carries onto natural object rather than architecture and mechanical objects.

21. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1459; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

You're basing that on the iPhone pictures that are filled with noise and artifacting.

15. Subie

Posts: 2414; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

With regards to the photos above, Dolmio and mackan are correct. It is definitely post processing noise reduction I'm seeing on the Pixel shots. The wood paneling on the Pixel photos look smoother but show less detail and texture than the iPhone photos. When it comes to which is better, well, that's a matter of personal preference.

17. DolmioMan

Posts: 345; Member since: Jan 08, 2018

Of course this got upvoted a bunch... but you are completely wrong. It is not sharper at all. Look at the clouds on the iPhone shot, what does become sharper are straight lines because of the noise reduction, anything with texture gets smoothed over and IMO does not look as good.

20. DBozz

Posts: 102; Member since: Sep 19, 2019

Not a deal breaking difference

2. User123456789

Posts: 1084; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

How far from the building were photos taken?

4. ph00ny

Posts: 2065; Member since: May 26, 2011

Color science aside, there doesn't seem to be a huge gap as the article indicates. I don't know if i'm blind but your cropped images show just that. Iphone while slightly noisier seem to contain slightly higher detail You guys should really include a DSLR shot as part of the comparison to use as a reference

5. Mrmark

Posts: 407; Member since: Jan 26, 2013

I like Googles approach to just Zoom in for a better shot ... More natural IMO! No need for an extra tab for 2X telephoto

7. LordDavon

Posts: 168; Member since: Sep 19, 2011

I'd have the Pixel 4XL right now if it weren't for the battery life. I've had Samsung phones for the past 4 years and all had to be replaced due to defect (swelling battery on the S7 Edge, bad sensor on the S8 Plus and screen issues on the Note 9). I was at the T-mobile store deciding between the 4XL and iPhone, when a customer came in to complain about battery life in his Pixel 4XL. I ended up going with the iPhone 11 Pro Max. While the iPhone is doing everything I need, I can't use Project xCloud or any of the Xbox streaming on it as well as Google Stadia (which I preordered). Battery life is amazing though and well outlasts what my Note 9 got.

13. Mrmark

Posts: 407; Member since: Jan 26, 2013

Don't listen to what reviews say about battery life I'm sure it is good enough for 95% people

16. LordDavon

Posts: 168; Member since: Sep 19, 2011

When I was looking at it, a customer came in and said that he was only going a half day with the phone. I'm not sure his usage, but that was a red flag to me. I asked T-Mobile when the OnePlus 7T Pro was coming and they didn't have a clue, or opted not to tell me. Either way, battery is important to me. I run a small business, so I need the phone to last all day -- it's also a business tool I need when I'm out. My Note 9 could make the day, but was hurting by the end. The iPhone is still about 50% so far, which is amazing to me. I'm considering getting a second phone, so I'm still considering the Pixel. I purchased my wife's Note 9, since the screen and back were cracked, but the cost is so high to replace both that I might as well get another phone. Just waiting for the Black Friday sales. If the 7T Pro is at T-Mobile by then, I may get that one.

10. CEDEOTB

Posts: 452; Member since: Nov 21, 2016

Google would rather creep on people from far than let us get more from a picture from an Ultrawide

14. TBomb

Posts: 1632; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Creep on 1 specific person from afar is less effective for google than to capture a whole bunch of people from an ultrawide. Google is big data, not focused data.

11. Saioofi

Posts: 347; Member since: May 23, 2014

What.. There's way too much softening on that Pixel crop to call it "superzoom"

12. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1157; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

Great article, Victor. Unfortunately Google screwed up Pixel in more ways than one could expect. I was looking forward to switch from my OnePlus.

18. NBAJ2K

Posts: 6; Member since: Nov 27, 2011

Is superzoom this part of the phone itself, or will you see similar effects if the Google Camera app is sideloaded on a non Pixel phone?

22. Budhainthemood

Posts: 100; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

Nice try from Google with good results. The two cameras are quite different. On some occasions the iPhone is better, on other the Pixel.

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