To the Moon?

Can the Pixel 6 Pro take a good photo of the Moon?

We had to find out if the Pixel 6 Pro’s maximum 20x zoom was up to the job.

Pixel 6 Pro camera Moon photography comparison with iPhone 13 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra cameras
Evan Rodgers / Input

Ever since I found out the 100x zoom on Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra could take crisp pictures of the Moon, I have been obsessed with taking pictures of Earth’s natural satellite with new phones.

Just for fun, I wanted to see if the Pixel 6 Pro’s 20x digital zoom, using Google’s software enhancing “Super Res Zoom,” could produce a Moon photo comparable to one from the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Google’s specialty is computational photography — the science of applying machine learning to pictures to create even better images beyond what hardware can capture — after all.

So how well does Google’s $900 Pixel 6 Pro compare to Samsung’s $1,200 S21 Ultra when it comes to photographing the bright rock orbiting our planet?

To put it bluntly: It fails miserably.

Here’s a photo of the Moon taken with the Pixel 6 Pro’s 20x digital zoom:

Photo of the Moon taken with Google Pixel 6 Pro using 20x zoom.

I honestly don’t think Super Res Zoom did anything. There’s no way to be certain how much processing — if any — was applied to this image of the Moon. I saw the “processing” circle loading for a few seconds after the shot so I assume the Pixel 6 was enhancing the image in some way, but the final image looked no better than the one I clicked.

Even with a 20x zoom and Super Res Zoom magic, the Pixel 6 Pro is incapable of capturing any details on the Moon’s surface. Google’s phone also is not alone in sucking at Moon photos. The iPhone 13 Pro/13 Pro Max, which has an even worse 15x digital zoom, takes an absolute potato of a photo of the Moon. See for yourself:

Photo of the Moon taken with iPhone 13 Pro using 15x zoom.

There are rumors Apple is working on incorporating a periscope zoom lens in future iPhones to improve zoom. If that ever happens, I hope it can take a proper photo of the Moon.

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra remains the champ for capturing the Moon. At 100x, and with help from the phone’s “Super Resolution AI” processing, the S21 Ultra captures real detail on the Moon. You can make out the craters and the terrain — it’s just incredible. It keeps blowing my mind that a phone camera is capable of this kind of photography. The below picture would have been even sharper if I had the phone on a tripod.

Photo of the Moon taken with Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra using 100x zoom.Raymond Wong / Input

Even at 30x zoom, the S21 Ultra takes a damn good Moon photo. You don’t see the same amount of details as in the 100x photo, but at least you can tell it’s the Moon. The Pixel 6 Pro (and iPhone 13 Pro) pics could be any overexposed round object.

Photo of the Moon taken with Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra using 30x zoom.Raymond Wong / Input

In conclusion, if you are really into taking photos of the Moon, and want to do so with your phone, do not buy a Pixel 6 Pro. Or an iPhone 13 Pro. Neither phone’s telephoto lens can take a picture of the Moon. The phone you want is the S21 Ultra. The rest of the phone is pretty damn great, too.

We’ll have a proper, comprehensive review of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro cameras soon. Stay tuned for that.