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The Pixel 7 Pro is my ultimate phone camera for concerts
Lights on, amp unplugged, stage empty. I get up with a wide grin on my face, still euphoric from the concert I just attended and the music I listened to. I start putting on my jacket when a hand taps me on the shoulder. I turn around; the person apologizes and asks me about my phone because they were impressed by the photos and videos I was able to capture. So we launch into a lengthy conversation about my Google Pixel 7 Pro and how excellent it is for concert photography and videography.
This hasn’t just happened once or twice, but at least a dozen times if we count both the Pixel 6 Pro and 7 Pro — though the latter has gotten more attention. And the reasons are many, including the Pixel 7 Pro’s high-quality zoom, night performance, and ability to freeze a moment in time. But let’s back up a bit.
I’m pretty sure any modern smartphone can take decent pics if you’re in the first rows of a concert. The general rule is if the lead singer’s droplets of sweat and spit can reach you, any good camera phone will do. But that’s not where I sit or stand. I have a full-time job, so I can’t queue for three hours before every concert, and I have a short stature, so I prefer seated places, just so I don’t end up standing behind tall people. I’ve been there before — there’s nothing enjoyable about seeing someone’s trapezius or curly hair more than the artist I paid to see.
Any modern smartphone can take decent pics if you're in the first rows of a concert, but that's not where I sit or stand.
That’s why I often end up at a seat quite far from the stage, sometimes at an odd angle, behind a column, or blocked by some rails, trying to catch a piece of the action. Hey, I pick my battles, and the seated ticket often trumps the other ones.
In these situations, not every phone can be a winner. I’ve seen the poor souls around me, with a similar crappy view, trying to capture some of the on-scene action with anything from a 2010-era point-and-shoot camera (Tarja Turunen’s fans are old school!) to a modern flagship. Some do a decent job while others barely manage to capture some lights and the artist’s face as a half-discernable dot. None, though, have ever come close to what I could grab on my Pixel 7 Pro. (This statement comes with the disclaimer that I don’t own a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra or S22 Ultra and don’t know if anyone in the public around me has ever used one of these.)
Do you take photos or videos with your phone during concerts?
The Pixel 7 Pro captures great still photos at concerts
Concert photography is one of the biggest challenges a smartphone’s camera can face. You’re moving and bopping, your subject is moving, it’s dark, harsh lights are strobing at a frenetic pace, and on top of all of that, there’s often smoke and haze. You might be seated a little far and there may be hands and heads moving and blocking part of your shot.
But the Pixel 7 Pro has everything I need to grab great photos despite this hostile setting. It can freeze the action even in the middle of rapid, strobing lights. It can balance between dark spots and well-lit ones in regular shots. The Night Sight feature is faster than ever, so I can expose the image a little longer and capture more light and detail. And the 5x telescopic lens allows for excellent zoomed shots all the way to 15x or even 20x in some situations.
The Pixel 7 Pro has everything I need to grab great photos despite a concert's hostile setting.
Here are some side-by-side samples from a few concerts I attended recently, showing the (very crappy) 1x view from my seat and the zoomed images I was able to capture. The photos have been compressed, but you can see the full-resolution snaps in this Google Drive folder.
During the above concerts, I made the effort to note down which zoom level and camera mode I was using for each photo. But there are other concerts I attended where I snapped some pics and enjoyed the moment, leaving my nerdy, tech reviewer persona aside. I present to you a smorgasbord of shots from those concerts, ranging from what I vaguely recall is 1x to 15x.
Stable, zoomed-in videos from the Pixel 7 Pro
While the Pixel 6 Pro didn’t trigger its 4x tele lens for zoomed video for some reason, the Pixel 7 Pro does, and what a difference that makes! Add in excellent stabilization, and the results are impressive. Yes, there is some blurriness when the subject moves or the lighting/haze is too problematic, but in general, I can’t complain. I’ve captured videos on my Pixel 7 Pro that I wouldn’t have dreamed to get on any other phone I had before.
You should, however, watch out for two settings when taking videos with a Pixel phone at a concert. First, the Speech enhancement setting: If you keep it on, the phone will capture everything it hears for the first few seconds, then it will drown out the live music and enhance the vocals, leading to some awkward-sounding videos. In retrospect, I didn’t use this setting well. I forgot it was on during Three Days Grace’s concert, which resulted in some vocal-heavy videos. But then I disabled it for The Script’s concert when I should’ve kept it on — Danny’s live voice is relatively weak.
Second is the 10-bit HDR setting. It’s better to turn it off in dark environments, i.e. concerts, but I always forget to do that. So all of the samples here are taken with HDR enabled. I think some of the artifacts would disappear if I had disabled it.
I've captured concert videos on my Pixel 7 Pro that I wouldn't have dreamed to get on any other phone I had before.
Below are four samples from different concerts: Epica at 5x, Subwoolfer at 15x then zooming out to 1x, The Script at 5x then zooming in to 10x, and Three Days Grace at 5x. All of these have been compressed before being uploaded, but I have the original samples, along with a few others, in this Google Drive folder.
In the end, it all comes down to reliability. When I pay a handsome sum of money to see my favorite artists and bands live, I want to keep a few photos and videos for the memories, but I don’t want to spend the entire concert trying to get a decent shot. This is why I value the reliability of the Pixel 7 Pro’s camera. I grab my phone, snap a moment or capture a 20-second video knowing it will turn out great regardless, then I put it down and go back to enjoying the moment.
I’ll take questions about the Subwoolfer video and my confusing musical tastes in the comments 😉.