Andrew Hoyle / CNET

the new from google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro We’ve both already impressed us with their sleek designs and solid camera performance. I even found the Pixel 6 Pro to be a true rival for photography in the iPhone 13 Pro when I put the two phones side by side, capable of taking beautiful images well exposed in all conditions.

The Pixel 6 is the smaller of the two phones and is priced at a very reasonable $ 599, which is a huge saving from the Pixel 6 Pro’s $ 899. But does that lower price mean you’ll have to seriously compromise on camera performance? Both phones are equipped with 50-megapixel main camera sensors, supported by 12-megapixel ultra-wide lenses. The Pixel 6 Pro takes it a step further with the addition of a 48-megapixel telephoto zoom, which results in an impressive 4x zoom.

To find out if this zoom is the only difference between the two camera systems, I took the two phones around Edinburgh to see what they can do.

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Pixel 6’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Starting with this view of Princes Street Gardens, both phones captured a beautiful image with rich colors and a wealth of detail thanks to this high-resolution sensor. There is basically no difference to be said between the photos – they could easily have been taken with the same phone.

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Pixel 6, 2x digital zoom.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro, 4x optical zoom.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

The big difference comes when you zoom in. The Pixel 6 doesn’t have an optical zoom lens, but it does offer 2x digital zoom. This zoom basically just crops the image, so it loses a lot of detail.

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Pixel 6, 2x digital zoom with 100% crop.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro, 4x optical zoom with 100% cropping.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Crop 100% on zoomed images and the difference is clear: the Pixel 6 Pro’s zoom brings you closer and keeps much more detail.

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Pixel 6’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Back on the main camera, both phones produced nearly identical shots in this bright and vibrant scene. The sky is perfectly controlled and the shadows on the boat on the right are full of detail. There is almost no noticeable difference in detail, contrast, or white balance.

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Pixel 6, wide lens.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro, wide lens.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

And the same goes with the wide-angle lens, with both phones producing stunning images thanks to the identical 48-megapixel sensors.

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iPhone 13 Pro, comparison of wide lenses.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

The Pixels offer the exact same field of view, which is good, but I’ve found the iPhone 13 Pro’s super-wide lens to provide an even wider scene, which will appeal to fans of wide-angle photography.

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Pixel 6’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro’s main camera.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

All of these tests show that the phones are capable of producing roughly identical images when using their main camera, with no difference in visible level of detail or color balance. That’s a relief if you’re looking for excellent image quality overall, but are hoping to save some money with the Pixel 6.

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Pixel 6, main camera, night mode.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro, main camera, night mode.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

And they both work well at night. This test photo is bright and crisp, although it is hand-held. I love all the light that has been captured in the clouds and the detail of the silky reflection on the water.

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Pixel 6, wide angle, night mode.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro, wide angle, night mode.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

With the wide-angle lens, both phones dive into quality. Images are bright and there is almost no noticeable color change compared to the main camera, but details are more blurry, almost as if it isn’t in focus.

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Pixel 6, main camera, 100% crop.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6, wide camera, 100% crop.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Cropping 100% on the Pixel 6’s normal and wide-angle night mode shots, the difference in detail is evident. The same goes for the Pixel 6 Pro.

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Pixel 6, night mode, long exposure.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Pixel 6 Pro, night mode, long exposure.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Both phones also have a neat long exposure mode, which I was able to use here to capture the lights of cars winding through dark city streets. It’s impressive how phones can keep everything else in focus – a long handheld exposure of several seconds on a regular camera would require a tripod.

Overall, it’s clear that the shared hardware of the two phones means they’re both capable of taking pictures of almost identical quality. This might be an obvious conclusion, but it often happens that manufacturers do not use such high quality glass for the lens on cheaper models. Often times they use less advanced software which results in lower performance and hence gives more reason to pay extra for the high end model.

But, given that Google put equal effort into the camera systems of both phones, it would only make sense from a photography standpoint to spend more if you want the telephoto zoom. It’s up to you to decide if this money is worth spending. If you’re really into your photos, I would strongly consider saving a bit more for the Pro: this 4x zoom can take stunning images with a field of view that opens up a multitude of compositions.

If, however, you’re looking for a camera that’s generally great for travel and want to save some money, the Pixel 6 is a great and affordable option to consider.


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