Zoom camera comparison: Pixel 7 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro vs Galaxy S22 Ultra

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Which smartphone has the best zoom quality?

If you have ever wondered whether it’s worth getting the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra for its incredible zoom cameras or whether this one feature is a bit overly advertized, well, read on as we pit this zoom heavy-weight against the Pixel 7 Pro with its versatile 5X zoom lens and the iPhone 14 Pro which only has a regular 3X zoom camera.

And let’s see if the Pixel can get similar results with one zoom camera, and whether the iPhone can even keep up with those two. And also, finally answer once and for all, whether the Galaxy S22 Ultra zoom is indeed the ultimate camera experience.

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3X zoom

At 3X zoom, it's noticeable how the iPhone punches in closer than the other two. However, just looking at the level of detail, dynamic range and colors, it is actually the Galaxy that stands out. It has cleaner detail, and notice how in the photo of the sign, you can still see the blue skies in the background, which you cannot do on the other two phones. 

We also like the white balance setting on the Galaxy and the Pixel, which is closer to what you see in real life, while the iPhone often gives you slightly yellow-ish colors.

The excessive sharpening on the iPhone is another thing that can look particularly bad in some shots.

On the other hand, it’s actually surprising to see how much detail the Pixel pulls at 3X by just using a crop from the main sensor and digitally zooming in. The photo of the monument at 3X is one good illustration of the Pixel's capabilities.

Summing it up, if we had to just talk about 3X photos, the Galaxy usually has the most appealing look to our eye, followed by the Pixel and we would score the iPhone third. What is your ranking?

5X zoom

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Next up, we zoom in further to 5X, and this is where the Pixel has the advantage of its dedicated 5X camera that the other two phones do not have. 5X is an interesting zoom level. It gets just close enough for shots of pets and/or toddlers, and if you have one, you would appreciate having this camera.

This first picture of the building at 5X shows that the Pixel indeed takes the lead, and you can notice how the iPhone starts struggling even more with details at this zoom level.

In the rest of the 5X photos, again the Pixel pulled ahead, with cleaner detail and pleasing quality, but often the difference was actually not that huge.

For some reason, the difference in quality is actually most noticeable to use with shots of people or pets, like in this photo of me on the bench, where the Pixel clearly comes out on top.

10X zoom

Finally, we have the ultimate test with 10X zoom pictures. The Galaxy is the only one in this bunch with a native 10X zoom lens, and this is the reason many people actually buy the phone, so let’s see how the other two can compare at this zoom level without a dedicated zoom lens.

This gives the Galaxy an easy win in most of the pictures in this round. In the first photo of the beach, you not only get far cleaner detail, but also colors look more impressive on the Galaxy and bleaker on the other two.

The second photo of the ladies in the park with the ship in the background turned out particularly well on the Galaxy, and it shows how you can capture some truly artistic photographs with this 10X zoom lens.

Another thing about the 10X zoom lens is that you can actually shoot completely unnoticed, which opens up a ton of possibilities.

But on a few occasions, the Pixel was also able to keep up very well at this zoom level. With the photo of myself on the bench, I was surprised to see how the Pixel did a better job than the Galaxy with the processing.

In the next photo of the statue of the kids, you can see the more abundant detail on the Galaxy, but it is also a very soft image, while the Pixel has just a bit less detail, but a sharper look, and both are surprisingly close.

Overall, the Galaxy takes this round, but the Pixel also deserves a few good words for its surprisingly solid at this zoom level. It’s the iPhone that is lagging behind these two.


So… let’s sum it all up and draw some conclusions.

First, the Galaxy. With two zoom cameras at 3X and 10X it is the most versatile of the bunch, and definitely has the cleanest zoom of them all, but we found detail to be just a bit on the soft side, and that is one area that Samsung could improve in the future.

The big surprise for us was the Pixel as it did great at 2X, 3X, 5X and even 10X. It is a really competitive camera system using the main camera sensor and the 5X zoom one.

Finally, the iPhone. With a 3X zoom lens and excessive sharpening, it was behind the pack in zoom quality. The image in the viewfinder also gets very shaky, even if the actual photo actually turns out good.

So these are our thoughts on these flagship phones and specifically, on their zoom camera capabilities. Do you agree with our observations? And what do you think about each of the phones in this comparison? Which one won and do you have your favorite?

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