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Pixel 7 Pro Cameras' AI and Zoom Could Make You Rethink That iPhone – CNET

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With new hardware, software and artificial intelligence technology, Google expects significant photography improvements to its Pixel 7 Pro. And CNET has the exclusive deep dive into exactly what the company has done with its smartphone camera.

In part because of Google’s photography technology, Google positions its $899 flagship Android phone as a direct competitor to Apple’s $1,099 iPhone 14 Pro Max, though the smaller $999 iPhone 14 Pro has the same camera hardware.

Google’s Pixel phones haven’t sold well compared with models from Samsung and Apple. But they’ve earned high marks for photography year after year. And if anything is going to win customers over, it’ll be camera technology.

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Last year’s Pixel 6 Pro introduced a “camera bar” housing three rear cameras — its 50-megapixel main camera, a 0.7x ultrawide angle and a 4x telephoto. The Pixel 7 models’ keeps the same 50-megapixel camera and f1.85 aperture but houses it in a restyled camera bar. On the Pixel 7 Pro, the ultrawide has the same sensor as last year but gets a macro mode, f2.2 aperture, autofocus and a wider 0.5x zoom. The 7 Pro’s telephoto’s zoom magnification extends to 5x with an f3.5 aperture, and a new 48-megapixel telephoto sensor enables a 10x zoom mode without using any digital magnification tricks. Both phones get a new front-facing selfie camera.

But the Pixel 7 Pro’s improved hardware foundation is only part of the story. New computational photography technology enabled by new AI algorithms and Google’s new Tensor G2 processor speeds up Night Sight, unblurs faces, stabilizes video better and merges data from multiple cameras to improve image quality for intermediate zoom levels like 3x. That’s more like how a traditional camera behaves.

“What we really tried to do is give you a 12mm-240mm camera,” said Pixel camera hardware leader Alexander Schiffhauer, translating the Pixel 7 Pro’s 0.5x to 10x magnification range into traditional 35mm camera terms. “That’s like the Holy Grail travel lens,” an all-purpose setup that photo enthusiasts have long enjoyed for portability and flexibility.

Here’s a deeper look into what Google is up to.

Virtual 2x and 10x cameras on the Pixel 7 Pro

High-end smartphones now come with at least three rear-facing cameras so you can capture a wider range of shots. Ultrawide angle cameras are good for photographing people crammed into a room and interesting buildings. Telephoto cameras are better for portraits and more distant subjects.

But having a big gap between zoom levels can be a problem. The Pixel 7 Pro’s 50-megapixel main camera and 48-megapixel telephoto cameras offer something of a fix.

Ordinarily, those cameras use a technique called pixel binning to turn a 2×2 grid of pixels into a single larger pixel. That makes 12-megapixel shots with better color and a wider dynamic range of dark and light tones.

But by skipping pixel binning and using only the central 12 megapixels, the 1x main camera can take a 2x shot, and the 5x telephoto can take a 10x shot. The smaller pixels mean image quality isn’t as high, but it’s still useful, and Google applies its Super Res Zoom technology to improve color and sharpness, too. (The 2x mode works on Google’s Pixel 7, too.) 

Apple took the exact same approach with its iPhone 14 Pro phones, but only with the main 1x camera.

Three photos of distant tennis players show how Google's Pixel 7 Pro can zoom with 2x, 5x, and 10x magnification factors.Three photos of distant tennis players show how Google's Pixel 7 Pro can zoom with 2x, 5x, and 10x magnification factors.

The Pixel 7 Pro’s 1x camera can take photos zoomed to 2x with its central pixels, and its 5x camera can take 10x photos.


Google; Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Where Apple went farther is letting you shoot full 48-megapixel photos with the iPhone 14 Pro‘s 1x camera. At 1x, Google always uses pixel binning and thus captures only 12 megapixels.

Read more: Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel Watch: Everything Google Just Announced

‘Zoom fusion’ for more photo flexibility

When shooting between 2.5x and 5x zoom, the Pixel 7 Pro blends image data from the wide and telephoto cameras to improve image quality. That improves photos compared with just digitally upscaling a photo from the main camera, Schiffhauer said.

But it’s difficult. The phone has to reconcile the two cameras’ perspectives, which means foreground objects block ones in the background differently. You can see this for yourself by covering first one eye and then the other to see how a scene changes. The two cameras also focus differently because of their different focal lengths.

To avoid discontinuities, Google uses artificial intelligence, also called machine learning, and other processing techniques to figure out which portions of each image to include or reject.

Zoom fusion takes place after other processing methods. Those include HDR+, which merges several frames into one image for better dynamic range, and an AI algorithm that monitors hand shake to take photos when the camera is most stable.

An illustration shows how a photo taken with 5x telephoto can improve the quality of a wider angle shotAn illustration shows how a photo taken with 5x telephoto can improve the quality of a wider angle shot

Technology called zoom fusion improves the quality of photos taken between 2.5x and 5x zoom by adding pixels from the 5x camera to the central portion of the image. AI helps align the two views and reconcile differences.


Google; Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Unfortunately for those who like to shoot raw photos, an image format that offers higher quality and more editing flexibility, zoom fusion isn’t an option there. You’ll get full 12-megapixel raw images only at the Pixel 7 Pro’s fixed zoom levels of 0.5x, 1x, 2x, 5x and 10x.

The Pixel 7 Pro’s new unblurring technology

Google introduced technology in 2021 to marry data from the main and ultrawide cameras to cope with motion blur in faces that can spoil photos. This face unblur technology now kicks in three times more often, said Pixel camera software leader Isaac Reynolds.

Specifically, it’ll work more often in ordinary light, activate more when it’s dim, and function even on faces that aren’t in focus.

For processing photos after the fact, the Google Photos app gets a new tool to unblur shots. It works even with digitized film photos from the bygone age of analog photography.

By the way, if you want to hear more from Reynolds himself, you can listen to Google’s podcast about the Pixel 7 camera technology.

Eye detection and other autofocus upgrades

The Pixel 7 Pro has several autofocus improvements, starting with the addition of autofocus hardware on the ultrawide camera. For all the cameras, though, Google now uses an AI algorithm to process focusing data from the image sensor.

The camera also will be able to spot eyes, not just faces, for autofocus that works more like that found in high-end cameras from companies like Sony, Nikon and Canon.

New AI technology also can focus better as people move in a scene. “If someone turns their head away from the camera or walks away, we can maintain focus on their head,” Reynolds said.

The Pixel 7 phones also do better when faces are hard to recognize, like with big hats or really large dark sunglasses.

And new AI-based autofocus technology makes it much faster to switch to telephoto shooting. The Pixel 6 Pro often pauses when activating its telephoto camera. 

Read more: Pixel 7 vs. Pixel 6: Comparing Google’s Flagship Phones

Better photo upscaling

From 5x to 10x zoom, the Pixel 7 Pro uses the central pixels of the 5x camera to take a 12-megapixel photo.

With digital magnification methods, though, the camera can reach up to 30x zoom, up from 20x in the Pixel 6 Pro. Google developed a method called Super Res Zoom that takes advantage of hand shake to gather more detailed data about the subject and zoom better.

An illustration shows the Pixel 7 Pro's three cameras and an exploded view of their lens elementsAn illustration shows the Pixel 7 Pro's three cameras and an exploded view of their lens elements

The Pixel 7 Pro has three rear-facing cameras: the main 1x camera with a 50-megapixel sensor, a 0.5x ultrawide camera that now also can take close-up macro photos, and a “periscope” style 5x telephoto camera that reflects light inside the phone body to accommodate the longer optics required.


Google; Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google’s digital zoom also can use AI techniques to magnify images. This year, Google trained its AI to predict new pixels better. The phone also calculates a scene attribute called an anisotropic kernel to better predict the subtle changes from one pixel to neighbors to better fill in new data while magnifying.

“Obviously, the quality of 30x isn’t going to be quite what it is at 10x,” Schiffhauer said. “But you still get these really beautiful photos that you can share.”

Faster Night Sight photos

Night Sight, the pioneering and now widely copied technology to take better shots when it’s dim or dark, is now twice as fast. That’s because Google uses image frames it collects from before you tap the shutter release button. (That’s possible because the camera continuously collects imagery, stashing it in memory but only keeping it if you actually take a photo.)

“Users are waiting half as much time to capture a Night Sight photo,” Reynolds said. “They’re getting sharper results, and they’re paying no penalty on noise.”

An illustration shows a shadowy Night Sight photo emerging faster with Google's Tensor G2 processorAn illustration shows a shadowy Night Sight photo emerging faster with Google's Tensor G2 processor

Google’s Tensor G2 processor doubles Night Sight photo speeds on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, capturing some frames for the photo earlier and reducing noise with more effective AI processing.


Google; Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

For the Pixel line’s astrophotography mode — the extreme version of Night Sight — new AI technology for removing noise speckles now preserves stars better.

Better stabilization and other video improvements

Google also overhauled the Pixel 7 cameras’ video, a weak point compared with iPhones in many reviewers’ eyes. For starters, all Pixel 7 Pro cameras shoot up to 60 frames per second at 4K resolution now, but there’s a lot more:

  • The cameras can shoot in a 10-bit HDR (high dynamic range) mode for better high contrast scenes, like those with bright skies or dark shadows.
  • Google is now on its eighth generation of video stabilization technology. It helps particularly when tracking moving subjects with heavy zoom magnification. 
  • Speech enhancement technology better captures subjects’ voices when you’re shooting with the rear-facing cameras.
  • More serious videographers can lock white balance, exposure and focus — something possible before only with photos.
  • Cinematic blur lets you artificially blur backgrounds in video, a feature previously available only for photos.
  • Copying the iPhone’s approach, time lapse videos are now always 15 to 30 seconds long. Previously, you’d have to calculate the best settings yourself.
  • And with a technology called blur injection, the Pixel 7 Pro can ease the sometimes jittery video that you get when it’s bright out and shutter speeds are extremely fast.

Together, the improvements show Google is fighting hard to maintain its leading smartphone camera technology. “We’re pushing hardware, software and machine learning as far as you can go,” Schiffhauer said.

Correction, Oct. 7: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro phones’ main 50-megapixel camera. The camera is the same as the one used in the Pixel 6 models.

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Fido, Virgin add $45/50GB plan for Black Friday – MobileSyrup

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Fido and Virgin Plus have joined Koodo in offering a $45/mo 50GB Black Friday plan.

Like Koodo, both Fido and Virgin offer a $65/mo plan with 50GB of data plus a $20/mo bill credit for 24 months. That means customers pay $45/mo for two years with the plan.

The plans are only available for new activations and hardware upgrades, which means if you’re with one of these providers, you’ll need to swap to another one.

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You can check out the Fido offer here and the Virgin offer here.

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Hilarious Video Shows Psyduck Startling A Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Player While Taking A Photograph

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One Pokemon Scarlet and Violet fan has shared a funny video that shows a Psyduck appearing out of nowhere to startle a player who was snapping a photo. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are among the best selling titles of the year, despite the mixed reviews from fans and critics globally. The gameplay and multiplayer mode of the latest Pokemon games receive praise and backlash for the myriad performance issues.


Because of these technical problems, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are getting review bombed, but some fans are embracing them. Glitches are common in the latest titles, and players have reported seeing some truly bizarre things in their playthroughs. Some gamers have seen a grotesque glitch in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, whereas a random Psyduck bug is also common. Psyduck makes the headlines again after a player spotted it in rather unusual circumstances.

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Reddit user metronn uploaded a video that shows their funny encounter with the duck Pokemon. The user intended to photograph a scenic view of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet‘s region of Paldea. Paldea is a brand-new area introduced in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, which is based on the Iberian peninsula and has diverse geographic features like mountains, forests, and several lakes. In the video, the player attempts to take a picture of a serene place on the shoreside of a water body, with mountains in the background and water flowing peacefully.

After successfully capturing one side of the scenery, the player slowly moves the camera to show the surrounding areas and a few fish pocket monsters in the body of water. As the camera moves, something unusual is seen in the bottom right corner of the screen, which appears to be another Pokemon. This turns out to be a Psyduck, who appears out of nowhere and is standing right next to the user, who was seemingly unaware of its presence. The original poster is understandably startled by seeing the Psyduck, who apparently photobombed their efforts to take a beautiful picture in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet.

Since its introduction in the first generation, Psyduck has established itself as one of the most famous Pokemon of all time. It has featured in almost every Pokemon game from each generation until the current ninth-gen games, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. Psyduck is not the strongest or the fastest pocket monster, but still, it has millions of fans around the world who are excited to see it in unusual circumstances.

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M2 iPad Pro vs M1 iPad Pro: What’s changed?

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The new iPad Pro with M2 chip takes performance another step forward, but what all has changed from the previous-gen iPad Pro? Follow along for an in-depth look at what’s the same and what’s new when comparing the M2 iPad Pro vs M1 iPad Pro to help you decide what’s the best choice.

In 2021, the 11 and 12.9″ iPad Pro arrived with the powerful M1 chip, Thunderbolt connectivity, 5G for cellular models, new camera features like Center Stage, and more.

Now the 2022 M2 iPad Pro lineup brings a number of tweaks and changes, but many of them are quite minor which could push customers toward the M1 iPad Pro or even iPad Air.

Below we’ll break down all the fine details of the M2 iPad Pro vs M1 iPad Pro. We’ve also got a full comparison of the new entry-level iPad and more:

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Table of contents

M2 iPad Pro vs M1 iPad Pro

Performance

The main difference between the new and old iPad Pro is the upgrade from an M1 to M2 chip.

That delivers up to an 18% faster CPU, 35% faster GPU (10-core vs 8-core), and a 2x boost in memory bandwidth from 50GB/s to 100GB/s.

Note: 128, 256 and 512GB models have 8GB RAM, 1TB and 2TB models have 16GB RAM.

11″ M2 iPad Pro 11″ M1 iPad Pro 12.9″ M2 iPad Pro 12.9″ M1 iPad Pro
Chip M2 M1 M2 M1
CPU cores 8 8 8 8
GPU cores 10 8 10 8
Neural cores 16 16 16 16
Storage 128GB – 2TB 128GB – 2TB 128GB – 2TB 128GB – 2TB
RAM 8 or 16GB 8 or 16GB 8 or 16GB 8 or 16GB
Memory bandwidth 100GB/s 50GB/s 100GB/s 50GB/s
Thunderbolt/USB 4
Cellular 5G 5G 5G 5G

Outside of the slight boost in CPU and GPU performance, all the other specs like storage, RAM, Thunderbolt connectivity, and 5G remain the same between the new and old iPad Pro models.

Display

M2 iPad Pro vs M1 iPad Pro Display

Just like the M1 12.9″ iPad Pro, the M2 12.9″ iPad Pro is the only one that features the Liquid Retina XDR display with miniLED backlighting.

Shared display features across all pro models include up to 120Hz ProMotion, P3 wide color, full laminated displays, anti-reflective coating, and True Tone.

There appears to be just one difference between the new M2 11 and 12.9″ iPad Pro display and the M1 versions – the new Apple Pencil Hover feature.

11″ M2 iPad Pro 11″ M1 iPad Pro 12.9″ M2 iPad Pro 12.9″ M1 iPad Pro
Display 11″ 11″ 12.9″ with miniLED 12.9″ with miniLED
Resolution 2388 x 1668 2388 x 1668 2732 x 2048 2732 x 2048
PPI (pixels per inch) 264 264 264 264
Display brightness 600 nits 600 nits 600 nits SDR, up to 1600 HDR 600 nits SDR, up to 1600 HDR
True Tone
P3 wide color
ProMotion (120Hz)
Anti-reflective coating
Fully laminated display
Liquid Retina Display
Liquid Retina XDR Display
Apple Pencil Hover

Connectivity and accessories

The new iPad Pro models work with the same Apple accessories as the previous-gen iPad Pro. That includes the second-gen Apple Pencil, Magic Keyboard, and Smart Keyboard Folio.

Some small upgrades with the M2 iPad Pro include Bluetooth 5.3 and WiFi 6E.

11 and 12.9″ M2 iPad Pro 11 and 12.9″ M1 iPad Pro
Apple Pencil gen 2 support
Magic Keyboard support
5G
WiFi 6
WiFi 6E
Bluetooth 5.3 5.0
USB-C ✅ USB 4 ✅ USB 4
Thunderbolt
Face ID

Interestingly, the new iPad Pro models didn’t get a Magic Keyboard Folio as the iPad 10.

Battery life

The 2022 iPad Pro models with M2 chip feature the same battery life as their predecessors:

  • 10 hours of web or video use on WiFi
  • 9 hours of web use with cellular

Storage and price

Storage remains the same between the old and new iPad Pro models. And pricing – original MSRP pricing – is also unchanged. However, keep an eye out for M1 iPad Pro discounts with the new models now available.

11″ M2 iPad Pro 11″ M1 iPad Pro 12.9″ M2 iPad Pro 12.9″ M1 iPad Pro
128GB WiFi $799 $799 $1,099 $1,099
128GB + cell $999 $999 $1,299 $1,299
256GB WiFi $899 $899 $1,199 $1,199
256GB + cell $1,099 $1,099 $1,399 $1,399
512GB WiFi $1,099 $1,099 $1,399 $1,399
512GB + cell $1,299 $1,299 $1,599 $1,599
1TB WiFi $1,499 $1,499 $1,799 $1,799
1TB + cell $1,699 $1,699 $1,999 $1,999
2TB WiFi $1,899 $1,899 $2,199 $2,199
2TB + cell $2,099 $2,099 $2,399 $2,399

Cameras, video, and audio

M2 iPad Pro vs M1 iPad Pro cameras
2021 iPad Pro rear-facing cameras

With the iPad Pro rear camera system, you’ve got a 12MP wide lens, 10MP ultra wide lens, LiDAR Scanner, and the True Tone flash.

On the back, you get a 12MP ultra wide lens with Center Stage support.

The only changes between the M2 and M1 iPad Pro, for now, is Smart HDR 4 vs Smart HDR 3 photos and the ability to shoot ProRes video at up to 4K at 30 fps (1080p at 30 fps for 128GB models).

11 and 12.9″ M2 iPad Pro 11 and 12.9″ M1 iPad Pro
12MP wide lens
10MP ultra wide lens
LiDAR
4K video
ProRes video up to 4K 30 fps
Extended dynamic range
Slo-mo video
Rear camera flash
TrueDepth camera with Face ID
Ultra wide 12MP front camera
2x optical zoom out
Smart HDR 3 photos
Smart HDR 4 photos
Center Stage auto-tracking
4-speaker audio
Stereo recording
5 studio-quality mics

The iPad Pro front camera also features support for Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting, and Animoji/Memoji.

Strangely, while the iPad 10 got a handy Landscape ultra wide front camera, the iPad Pro retains the front camera on the top (short side) bezel.

Dimensions, weight, colors

Size and weight are identical between the M2 iPad Pro and M1 iPad Pro according to Apple:

  • M2 and M1 11-inch iPad Pro: 1.03 pounds, 9.74 inches (247.6 mm) high, 7.02 inches (178.5 mm) wide, 0.23 inches (5.9 mm) thick
  • M2 and M1 12.9-inch iPad Pro: 1.5 pounds, 11.04 inches (280.6 mm) high, 8.46 inches (214.9 mm) wide, 0.25 inches (6.4 mm) thick

Color choices remain the same with silver and space gray.

Other small differences

Two more little differences you’ll see with the M2 iPad Pro:

  • Braided USB-C cable in the box instead of a plastic cable
  • “iPad Pro” wordmark on the back instead of “iPad” on previous iPad Pro models
  • M2 iPad Pro space gray may be slightly lighter than the M1 iPad Pro space gray finish with the antenna line for cellular models being more muted
Apple’s space gray finishes as shown on its website. M2 on left, M1 on right

M2 iPad Pro vs M1 iPad Pro conclusion

Why buy M2 iPad Pro?

When considering all the similarities between the M2 iPad Pro and M1, you’ll probably only want to pick up the new model if you’re a pro with workflows that will benefit from the M2 chip/ProRes support or you’re just okay with spending the money on the latest and greatest from Apple.

The M2 iPad Pro is available at Apple, Amazon, Best BuyBH Photo, and more with stock looking good across the board.

Why buy M1 iPad Pro?

When you can get the vast majority of the M2 iPad Pro feature set with the M1 iPad Pro and the processor difference not being an issue for most users, picking one up at a discount will probably be a popular move.

Also, don’t forget the iPad Air offers a compelling package at an even cheaper price than the last-gen iPad Pro. That is if you’re okay with the 11-inch size.

Read more 9to5Mac in-depth comparisons:

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