Camera Head to Head: iPhone 12 Pro Max vs Google Pixel 5

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Both are the 2022 ‘flagships’ for their respective companies. Apple is pushing alee in hardware with larger sensors, longer zoom, meliorate OIS, while Google just keeps tweaking its multi-frame algorithms and leaving the hardware much the same. Simply, away from the factories and studios, how do the 12 Pro Max and Pixel five compare in real-earth test shots? Run into below for an Autumnal verdict from the UK.

iPhone 12 Pro Max vs. Google Pixel 5 Camera Comparison

In terms of specifications, nosotros have:

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max:

    12 MP,f/, one/1.ix″ (estimated),dual pixel PDAF,sensor-shift OIS
    12 MP,f/2.2,1/three.4″,
    OIS,two.5x telephoto
    12 MP,

    TOF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth)
  • Google Pixel five
    12.2 MP, f/1.7, one/2.55″, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
    xvi MP, f/2.ii, 107˚ (ultrawide)

Then the Pixel is clearly massively outgunned in terms of physics. Just the proof is in the shooting, as they say, so let’s go started.

Test ane: Church building tower, daylight (clouded)

Here’southward the overall scene, shot in vertical format for obvious reasons:


And here are i:1 crops from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (top) and then Pixel five (lesser):

1:1 crop

1:1 crop

Although the iPhone brightened the scene a picayune too much for my liking, its epitome processing works wonders here with all that stonework and texture. Plus look how crisp and detailed those clocks are. In contrast, the Pixel 5’southward consequence is disappointing here, with uncertain item. It got the exposure correct, but everything else wrong, and I’yard genuinely puzzled as to what happened – this should have been a dead piece of cake snap to accept.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: 9 pts; Pixel 5: 7 pts

Examination 2: Lake side in the lord’s day

Here’south the overall scene, shot into the sun to claiming the HDR and to get the dominicus shining through the leaves:


And here are 1:1 crops from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (meridian) and then Pixel five (bottom):

1:1 crop

1:1 crop

As with the church building shot, the iPhone’southward image is perhaps a little besides sharp, just that’s a lot better than as well vague. The Pixel’due south photograph looks fine taken as a whole, but await closely and information technology’s all a scrap of a mess. Why is information technology so far behind? My guess is a cheaper lens and smaller sensor. Google, you’ve relied on your algorithms for as well long now, information technology’southward time to human being upwardly the physics too.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: 9 pts; Pixel 5: vii pts

Test 3: Lake side, zoomed

The same scene, but using two.5 zoom on both phones. The Pixel doesn’t have a telephoto lens, but information technology does have a good software zoom, combining multiple exposures again and allowing for paw wobble past the user to shift the framing of each exposure, etc.
And here are one:ane crops from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (superlative) and then Pixel 5 (bottom):

1:1 crop

1:1 crop

The iPhone is using its 2.5x telephoto, of course, and its result is suitably crisp. Again, it’s perhaps as well well-baked, with the edge enhancement a fiddling out of control. But – again – its better than the comparative mush that the Pixel produces at the ‘pixel’ level.

Am I exaggerating the qualities of the two phone cameras too much by looking at one:one in a 12MP photo? Afterward all, I’m only looking at 1/25th the surface expanse of each photograph. I’ll switch to scaled ‘whole photos’ for the adjacent two tests, so that I’m not weighting things too strongly in favour of one device or the other.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: viii pts; Pixel 5: half dozen pts

Examination 4: Portrait time

The author, snapped in Portrait mode on the two phones on a sunny twenty-four hour period, with the lord’s day behind me. Hither are scaled crops (not one:i) from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (superlative) and then Pixel 5 (lesser):

Scaled crop

Scaled crop

The iPhone has an easier chore of portraits, since it has a telephoto lens to get closer with, the principal lens (and LiDAR here) adding in depth information. While the Pixel five has to brand practise with a main lens and an ultra-wide. And so, to get the same caput and shoulders framing, the shooter either has to pace in closer or (as hither) crop slightly. As a result, even at web resolution hither, you lot tin see that the iPhone’s portrait is slightly more than detailed, plus it uses software to ‘fill in’ effulgence on the face, while the Pixel’s shot is ultra-realistic.

Despite the slight artificiality of the iPhone’s portrait, it’s artier and more bonny, so gets a small win here for me.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: 9 pts; Pixel 5: 8 pts

Test five: Close-upwards texture

A toy dog nether fluorescent lighting (hey, it was raining outside!) Here are scaled photos from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (top) so Pixel 5 (lesser):

Scaled image

Scaled image

Both shots are pretty good, though the iPhone manages to get most of the dog’s face in focus – the LiDAR means that focus on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is substantially infallible. Fifty-fifty in the dark. Only proverb. The Pixel 5 nails focus on the nose and so things fall away behind. If I’chiliad being picky. Which I am. In addition, the iPhone’due south image looks richer and plusher and closer to what my eyes saw.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: 10 pts; Pixel 5: eight pts

Test 6: Depression low-cal scene

Back to 1:1 crops then that we tin can see what’s going on, though. Here’due south the overall scene in a lockdown (closed) cafe, with most lights off, creating a nicely detailed depression light mural:


And hither are one:i crops from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (top) and so Pixel 5 (bottom):

1:1 crop

1:1 crop

This is really interesting – considering the photos are almost identical! Almost, but not quite – the iPhone applies an extra level of edge enhancement and racket reduction. And I can’t make upward my mind whether this is good or bad. I’d rather both phone cameras didn’t endeavor so hard in the outset place, to be honest. I take a examination shot from a 2022 Microsoft Lumia taken at the same fourth dimension which is worlds more natural and equally a result you can start to read text on labels and jars. Allow’s phone call this one a score draw!

iPhone 12 Pro Max: 8 pts; Pixel 5: 8 pts

Test 7: Ultra-broad time

Here’s the overall scene of an Alpine scene/model in a garden centre. It was quite big and in that location was a barrier around it, so the only style to get nigh of information technology in was to shoot with the ultra-wide lens on both phones:


And here are 1:1 crops from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (top) and then Pixel 5 (bottom), looking deliberately at a section away from the heart of the frame:

1:1 crop

1:1 crop

At last the Pixel scores a win here, albeit past a slender margin – I prefer its colours and there’s more than detail in the off-centre crop above.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: 9 pts; Pixel 5: 10 pts

Examination eight: Ultra-zoom

Changing tack on the same fluorescent-lit Tall scene, I tried zooming to 5x on both phones. The iPhone is then applying an extra ii.5x digital zoom, while the Pixel is going for full-on 5x multi-exposure ‘Super-Res zoom’. So here are ane:1 crops from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (summit) and and so Pixel five (bottom):

1:1 crop

1:1 crop

The telephoto lens gives the iPhone 12 Pro Max a decent head kickoff and the Pixel’s clever zoom system tin’t claw dorsum the pb. As yous can run into for yourself above. In fairness, the Google’s consequence isn’t terrible for pure software 5x zoom from a unmarried lens, but it’south non in the same league here equally dedicated glass.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: nine pts; Pixel five: 7 pts

Test 9: Dark fourth dimension

My standard suburban nighttime test. Here’s the overall scene:


And here are one:1 crops from the iPhone 12 Pro Max (superlative) and then Pixel 5 (bottom):

1:1 crop

1:1 crop

Despite the heavy processing on the iPhone, its effect is clearer than the Pixels. I’d happily have given the nod to the Google phone if its ingather had been whatever more natural, but they’re both the consequence of combining many short exposures and – unsurprisingly – they come up out pretty similar. But the iPhone fares slightly better, perhaps thanks to its larger sensor and better stabilisation arrangement.

iPhone 12 Pro Max: viii pts; Pixel 5: 7 pts


If you’ve been following along and so you won’t be surprised to realise that the iPhone 12 Pro Max won this comfortably:

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: 80 pts
  • Google Pixel 5*: 68 pts

Run into my full iPhone 12 Pro Max review for more details on the phone’s specs and imaging prowess. It’s by no means perfect, but information technology’southward still adept plenty to see off the latest incarnation of Google’s Pixels.

In fairness, the Pixel v is £600 (Uk prices, the Pixel 4a 5G is £500), while the iPhone here is
this. But if Google is listening, for the Pixel 6 and then I’d suggest using higher quality lenses, including an actress telephoto, and non relying so much on software. After all, the latter can be mimicked, which is what Samsung, Huawei, Apple, and many others have done. So then it becomes all about physics and what can exist physically captured.

PS. If yous’d like to examine my original images, knock yourself out, I’ve put them all up in a binder for you here.

* PPS. Equally a production note, the examination Pixel 5 images were actually taken on the sister device, the Pixel 4a 5G,
has an identical camera and chipset to the ‘5’
. Then I’m non trying to pull a fast one here, the two devices are
interchangeable in terms of imaging. I had the ‘v’ hither a few days ago and I reviewed it, merely it’south now with a colleague.


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