Vivo X90 Pro Plus vs iPhone 14 Pro Max vs Pixel 7 Pro Camera Comparison: is the new 1-inch camera sensor that revolutionary?
There is a new contender for the title of the best smartphone camera and it comes with an impressive resumé: four cameras on the back, a massive 1-inch type main camera, two zoom lenses and some portrait mode superpowers.
This phone is the new Vivo X90 Pro Plus. Vivo is a brand you may not know if you live in the Western world, but it is one of the biggest phone makers and belongs to the same parent company that owns OnePlus and Oppo.
Vivo makes a few different phones, but this is the flagship and it focuses on getting one thing right: the camera quality. So let's see how it fares in a direct battle with some of the best mainstream camera phones around, the iPhone 14 Pro Max and the Google Pixel 7 Pro.
The defining feature of the Vivo is its larger than usual main camera sensor, and the larger the sensor, the better it gets at gathering light which helps it capture cleaner photos and videos at night.
The presence of a dedicated 2X zoom camera means that Vivo is serious about portrait mode shots of people as 2X is the perfect focal distance for such portraits.
Vivo Color Profiles
< Default Zeiss Natural >
Before we kick off this camera comparison, you should know that you have two different color modes in the Vivo camera app, the default one with slightly more saturated and punchy colors and a "Zeiss natural" look with more toned down and realistic colors. We stick with the default mode further on, but we really appreciate having the option to go with more neutral colors and we think other phones should also consider adding such an option.
The Vivo goes with extremely vivid colors if you opt for the default settings
You can immediately tell that Vivo goes for these extremely vibrant and saturated colors compared to the much less aggressive colors out of the iPhone and the Google Pixel. The exposure is bright and cheerful, shadows are lifted and it's a very jubilant look, but not quite realistic. Of course, switching to the Zeiss neutral color mode will help with that.
We see something similar in this second shot where the photo from the Vivo stands out with its saturated colors. This look reminds us of the way Samsung Galaxy phones process images as they also go for this punchy color style.
This next picture shows the preference for warmer colors and a brighter exposure on the Vivo compared to the colder greens and slightly darker pictures on the iPhone and the Pixel.
Finally, we have one more day time shot which is interesting because it illustrates well the trends for each of these phones.
The iPhone goes with a slightly brighter exposure and a distinct look with colder green tonalities, but overall, this is quite close to reality.
The Vivo has an almost cartoonish look with strongly exaggerated colors and lifted shadows.
The Pixel, on the other hand, has a dark, slightly underexposed shot with muted colors.
The iPhone has some problems with halo artifacts
The Vivo preserves an excellent amount of detail and you can make out small bits of text when you crop in a picture. The Pixel is close, but usually not quite as good, and the iPhone is a distant third as its pictures have the least amount of detail.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max also has excessive over-sharpening that you cannot disable. This results in some nasty "halo" or "glow" artifacts that are particularly noticeable around edges of contrasting elements like individual tree branches on the background of the sky and others. The Vivo and the Pixel do not suffer from this issue.
The large sensor of the Vivo makes a difference
Low light is where this larger sensor on the Vivo X90 Pro Plus really shines and if you look at this picture on a larger screen you can really see the advantages: less noise, cleaner detail, an overall better shot.
There is also a difference in the processing of pictures on the three phones. The iPhone 14 Pro Max goes with this more genuine night time look with deeper shadows and a darker sky, but it might be a bit too dark as you cannot even notice there are trees behind the building. The Vivo, on the other hand, gives you a more eye-catchy photo, but also one that looks brighter than it is in real life and not as realistic. The Pixel strikes the middle ground here.
In this indoor shot, the Vivo was tripped by the illuminated Christmas tree and captured an overly exposed photo, while the Pixel seemed to do the best job balancing the dynamic range and preserving detail.
In this final low-light shot, we can see the snowman overexposed on the iPhone, while the Pixel is just a bit too dark, which leaves the Vivo as the one with the best photo capture here.
Close call and the winner depends on your personal preference
All three phones have this extreme ultra-wide look: the iPhone has a 13mm field of view equivalent, while the Vivo and Pixel are just a bit tighter at around 14mm.
The image processing with the ultra-wide camera is similar to the main camera on each phone, which means the following:
- the iPhone has more natural looking colors with colder greens and a more contrasty look, with less resolved detail
- the Pixel goes for a flatter, softer, more HDR-y look with lifted shadows
- the Vivo goes for extremely saturated warm colors
Overall, the extreme colors from the Vivo are a bit of a turn-off for this reviewer, but again, the Zeiss natural mode is something you may want to try to fix that. Detail is usually more plentiful on the Vivo and the Pixel compared to the iPhone.
The Pixel seems to be doing the best job when zooming
The Vivo X90 Pro Plus features two zoom cameras: a 2X one and a 3.5X zoom one.
Comparing the 3.5X zoom shots to native 3X zoom lens on the iPhone and the 3X digital zoom on the Pixel, the Vivo comes on top with less noise and more resolved detail, but colors get even more extreme when you zoom in and this becomes overbearing.
Unsurprisingly, at 5X zoom the Pixel takes the lead as it has a dedicated 5X zoom lens, which the other two phones lack, but the difference is not all that huge.
We also took photos at 10X where all phones use digital zoom, and we found the Pixel had the most natural and cleaner look, followed closely by the Vivo which had some artifacts and while more contrasty, did not look as clean, and the iPhone was a distant third with far less detail than the other two.
Google better do something about the Pixel 7 Pro portrait mode mess
Using the 2X zoom mode feels like the most versatile way to capture a portrait mode shot, but interestingly the Pixel has a 1X and 2X mode that are actually more like 1.7X and 2.5X so the label in the Pixel camera UI is a bit misleading.
The iPhone captures a balanced photo with a pleasing natural look, the Vivo looks a bit overprocessed as it exposes me way too bright, while the Pixel just lacks details and looks so crunchy.
Switching to face shots, the Pixel just falls apart completely, while the iPhone makes good use of the 3X zoom lens. The 3.5X zoom lens on the Vivo might be just a bit too tight for face shots in close spaces, but we imagine it would work great for portrait mode shots of pets.
Finally, here is one more portrait mode shot.
The Pixel has the widest selfie camera
The selfie camera follows the trends we saw earlier: vivid colors on the Vivo, more balanced look out of the iPhone and a darker exposure out of the Pixel. The iPhone seems to strike the best balance in this first shot.
You have a wide and close-up selfie mode on all three phones. The wide is one is widest on the Pixel, so it's easier to capture a larger group of people on it.
So at the end of the day, is the Vivo X90 Pro Plus the new camera king that we've all been waiting for?
After using it for a while, we think it's a great well-rounded camera which does particularly well in low light. During the day, it captures pleasing photos with a good amount of detail and no glaring issues, except for one, which is the extreme color processing in the default setting, but that is no small thing.
The iPhone and Pixel have a more toned-down look that just doesn't scream at you so much, and might be a better choice for those who just want to take a picture and not worry about editing. But if you want the ultimate night-time camera, the Vivo should definitely be on your list.