Google Pixel 7 Camera Off-Axis Blur in Closeups

Thanks to Black Friday sales, I have upgraded my phone to a Google Pixel 7. My primary motivation was its camera, because most of the photographs posted to this blog were taken with my cell phone (Pixel 5a) camera. Even though I have a good Canon camera, I’ve rarely pulled it out because the cell phone photos have been good enough for use here. By upgrading to the Pixel 7, I hope to narrow the gap between the phone camera and a real Canon. So far it has been a great advancement on many fronts. There are other phone camera review sites out there for all the details, but I wanted to point out one trait worse than my Pixel 5a. It is specific to the kind of photos I take for this blog and not usually covered by photography reviews: with close-up shots, the image quality quickly degrades as we move off-axis.

I took this picture of an Adafruit Circuit Playground Express with the Pixel 7 roughly fifteen centimeters (~6 inches) away. This was about as close as the Pixel 7 camera was willing to focus.

The detail captured in the center of the image is amazing!

But as we get to the edges, clarity drops off a cliff. My Pixel 5a camera’s quality also dropped off as we moved off-axis, but not this quickly and not this badly.

For comparison, I took another picture with the same parameters. But this time, that GND pad is the center of the image.

Everything is sharp and crisp. We can even see the circuit board texture inside the metal plated hole.

Here are the two examples side by side. I hypothesize this behavior is a consequence of design tradeoffs for a camera lens small enough to fit within a cell phone. This particular usage scenario is not common, so I’m not surprised if it was de-emphasized in favor of other camera improvements. For my purposes I would love to have a macro lens on my phone, but I know I’m in the minority so I’m not holding my breath for that to happen.

In the meantime, I could mitigate this effect by taking the picture from further away. This keeps more of the subject in a narrow angle from the main axis, reducing the off-axis blur. I would sacrifice some detail, but I still expect the quality to be good enough for this blog. And if I need to capture close-up detail, I will have to keep this off-axis blur in mind when I compose the photo. I would love a sharp close-up photo from frame to frame, but I think I can work with this. And everything else about this Pixel 7 camera is better than the Pixel 5a camera, so it’s all good!

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