Ryan Haines/Android Authority
One of the defining characteristics of large lenses in traditional cameras is the stunning bokeh effect they produce. The stylistic choice creates segmentation between subject and background and adds to the overall cinematic appeal of video footage.
Now that some of the best camera-focused phones can achieve DSLR-like portrait levels, it’s no surprise that the next big challenge is to bring the same shallow depth of field to video. similar to that of a DSLR. This year’s Pixel 7 series joins a relatively short list of phones, including the iPhone 14 Pro, to support a cinematic video feature. In fact, Google says the Tensor G2’s machine learning intelligence is key to enabling compelling bokeh blurring. However, the proof is in the pudding.
Related: Google Pixel 7 Pro vs Apple iPhone 14 Pro
Android Authority Pit the Cinematic Blur of the Pixel 7 Pro against the Cinematic Mode of the iPhone 14 Pro for a quick shootout. Here are the results.
How does cinematic mode work?
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
While you can refer to our in-depth dive for all the details on how Google Pixel’s Cinematic Blur effect works, the premise is quite simple. Similar to portrait mode photographs, cinematic video modes apply machine learning algorithms to each frame of video content to give it an artificial bokeh effect.
Cinematic mode applies portrait mode-like algorithms to video content.
As you might expect, the real-time processing requirement to enable it is significantly higher than for taking portrait shots. Traditionally, the results haven’t been as convincing as what you’d get with standard portrait photography. But with more powerful processors and ML-focused chipsets like the Tensor G2 SoC, there is scope for vastly improved functionality.
Can the best of Google and Apple do a convincing job? Head over to our Google Drive link for a closer look at the full resolution video clips.
In the language of videography, a tracking shot is one where you follow a moving subject. It also tends to be one of the most popular snaps in smartphone photography. Have you ever filmed a video of you walking around with a Starbucks drink in your hand? It’s a tracking shot.
I had a cup of tea to fake this stylistic shot and walked down my front balcony. The Pixel 7 Pro’s video blur implementation looks pretty natural at first glance, but closer inspection tells a different story.
The Pixel 7 Pro struggles to maintain the illusion of bokeh segmentation with moving objects.
You will observe very visible artifacts and a halo around my thumb as well as the outer wall of the cup. Notably, these are the areas where the phone is constantly trying to draw the bokeh drop. The halo is an artifact of the phone that struggles to blur the constant movement around the edge of the focus area.
Overall results are presentable, but between the brightened exposure levels and less-than-perfect bokeh separation, it’s not a flawless start for the Pixel 7 Pro.
The move to iPhone 14 Pro shows a few key differences. For one thing, Apple’s color treatment is radically different. Compared to the Pixel 7 Pro, the images here look almost muted in comparison. However, what the footage loses in pop, it makes up for in detail and color accuracy.
The iPhone 14 Pro has issues in the gap between the cup handle, but generally does a much better job of creating a convincing depth of field effect.
Going back to bokeh separation, the difference is day and night. There’s no halo and the iPhone never loses focus on the subject. The fall of the bokeh is also perfectly marked around the limits of my hand and the cup. Compared to the Pixel, the iPhone 14 Pro’s bokeh rendering tends to slip between the cup handle. Overall, however, the iPhone wins this round.
For this second shot, it was time to turn the camera around. The combination of a tracking shot and a human subject is one of the most difficult scenarios to pull off, but it’s one of the most common use cases for cinematic videography.
Blowing up footage from the Pixel 7 Pro shot on a large screen displays the same issues as in our first test. The camera struggles to trace the bokeh boundary along the far edge of my face and sunglasses. Not only that, the camera can’t measure the gaps between my hair and opts for a much wider line around my head. The Pixel 7 Pro’s flickering focus takes cinematic immersion further away.
The iPhone 14 Pro offers a cinematic mode on both standard and telephoto lenses, and for this shot we went with the standard lens. It’s a much wider look compared to the cropped image of the Pixel 7 Pro. Like the first test, the iPhone 14 Pro opts for a more natural color rendering with much more detail in all areas. This is most evident in my five o’clock shadow, which is much more pronounced in the images.
The iPhone 14 Pro’s natural color processing and solid focus make it a better bet despite bokeh separation issues.
On closer inspection, it’s obvious that the iPhone 14 Pro’s artificial bokeh isn’t strong either. It is also possible to observe some reflections on the far edge of the face. That said, it does a slightly better job with my hair. Plus, it doesn’t have any of the focus issues we saw with the Pixel, making it a clear winner.
For our next test, we simply panned a few garden accessories hanging from plants. The intent here was to test the camera’s ability to focus among a complex array of leaves and floating objects placed at varying distances.
No two ways about it, the Pixel 7 Pro fails miserably at this one. The camera constantly swings in and out of focus throughout the panning sequence. Edge detection is surprisingly poor even when it manages to lock focus on the main object.
The Pixel 7 Pro struggles to lock focus and bokeh separation with layered objects.
You’ll also see significant sections of foliage where the Pixel completely disables depth estimation. Not very good looking for the Pixel 7 Pro.
The iPhone 14 Pro results aren’t perfect either. In particular, the camera tends to blur the edges of the corners of the garden accessory. However, this can be corrected to some degree by going for a narrower f-stop before or even after the shot is finished, which you can’t do on the Pixel. Elsewhere, the iPhone 14 Pro did a much better job of blurring leaves in the background. Another victory for the iPhone.
Focus on multiple objects
For our final test, we laid out an array of objects on a table to gauge how close the two phones can get to focus in motion.
There’s a place for dramatic transitions between subjects in a high-action shot, but the Pixel 7 Pro’s flickering focus clearly distracts from slow-moving footage. Reiterating our observations from the previous test, the phone struggles to separate bokeh when dealing with layered objects. The phone also failed to detect the candlestick accurately and bypassed it completely in its artificial bokeh generation.
The iPhone 14 Pro generally does better in its ability to generate bokeh drop as we move along the table. Unlike the Pixel 7 Pro’s sharp jumps in and out of focus, the shift in focus is much more gradual here, simulating cinematic-style focusing in the real world. While even the iPhone focuses on the glass sconce and misses the thin plant edges, results are generally better all around.
Pixel 7 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro, which cinematic video implementation do you prefer?
Few successes, many more failures
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
While the Pixel 7 Pro’s cinematic blur mode is a welcome addition to the phone’s imaging suite, our testing indicates we’re still at least a generation or two of the Pixel away from catching up with the competition, let alone beating it. . And it’s not just because of the dodgy bokeh effect.
The Pixel 7 Pro’s bokeh decrease isn’t quite as compelling, and it lacks basics like a 4K mode, as well as front-facing camera support.
For starters, the iPhone 14 Pro’s Cinematic mode implementation can record up to 4K/30fps. That’s a marked improvement over the Full HD/24fps that the Pixel maxes out. I’m not overly concerned with 24fps as a stylistic choice, but the resolution gap is certainly noticeable. Likewise, the iPhone gives you the ability to shoot cinematic videos with both the regular lens and the telephoto lens. The Cinematic option on the Pixel only works with the primary lens.
Finally, unlike the iPhone, the Pixel doesn’t support portrait-style video on the front camera at all – a situation that’s likely to be a popular use case among social media and vlogging enthusiasts. .
Cinematic mode Google Pixel 7 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro: the verdict
Ryan Haines/Android Authority
There’s no competition between the Pixel 7 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro for capturing cinematic video. The iPhone outperforms the Pixel in every test scenario, to varying degrees. Despite its computational photography and ML-infused implementation, the Pixel 7 Pro’s cinematic blur doesn’t go much further than the very basic video bokeh implementations we’ve seen on Samsung and Huawei phones.
The Pixel 7 Pro’s cinematic video is a first-gen product and it is.
Constantly wobbly focus puts the Pixel behind the iPhone’s rock-solid focus, and its questionable edge detection is often worse than Apple’s. Add to that missing features like a 4K mode and cinematic blur on the front camera, and the Pixel 7 Pro falls even further behind.
While adding the feature is a great start for the Pixel 7 series, it will take a lot more for the phone’s Cinematic Mode implementation to catch up with the competition.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro
Powerful A16 SoC
Interesting features of Dynamic Island
Improved main camera
Google Pixel 7 Pro
Best Google Camera
High quality display
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