Camera comparison: Google Pixel Fold and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

The new Google Pixel Fold costs $1,799 and has five cameras, just like the 11-month-old Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. As you can tell from their names, the main feature of any phone is a foldable screen, which is largely the reason for the high prices. But a close second would be the cameras.

Neither the Pixel Fold nor the Galaxy Z Fold 4 scored highly for camera performance. The already tiny image sensors and lenses on regular phones are even smaller here, because the ultra-thin bodies of these foldable phones take up less space.

But with prices this steep, you’d be right to still expect these phones to be capable of taking decent photos on your travels, so I was curious to see how they compare. And after a week of shooting photos and videos on the Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 4, the results haven’t been as close as I expected.


Watch this: We pit the cameras of the Google Pixel Fold against those of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

I should note that later in July, Samsung will hold an Unpacked event where we expect the company to announce the next generation Galaxy Z Fold. Once that’s done, we’ll happily pit the new Z Fold against the Pixel Fold.

In the meantime, let’s get into the details.

To know more: Best camera phone of 2023

Pixel Fold camera specifications compared to Galaxy Z Fold 4

Both the Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 4 have triple rear cameras, a cover screen camera and an internal screen camera. Resolution-wise it’s pretty close between what Google and Samsung offer. I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that comparing image sensor resolution is like trying to compare calories in food; 100 calories of broccoli has different benefits than 100 calories of ice cream. So yeah, more megapixels aren’t always better. The biggest differences are actually in the software processing, where Google seems to be better.

The hardware is nearly identical in terms of specs, with the Pixel Fold having a 48-megapixel sensor, while the Z Fold 4 has a 50-megapixel sensor.

Google Pixel Fold camera specifications compared to Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

Google Pixel Fold Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
Main camera f1.7 aperture, 48 MP sensor f1.8 aperture, 50MP sensor
Ultra wide angle camera f2.2 aperture, 10.8 MP sensor f2.2 aperture, 12MP sensor
Telephoto f3.05 aperture, 10.8MP sensor f2.4 aperture, 10MP sensor
Cover the screen camera f2.2 aperture, 9.5 MP sensor f2.2 aperture, 10MP sensor
Internal screen camera f2 aperture, 8MP sensor f1.8 aperture, 4 MP sensor

The internal screen cameras are also different, with the Pixel sporting an 8-megapixel sensor and the Galaxy only having a 4-megapixel one. However, Samsung’s camera is buried under the display, which is great. It’s the camera you use the least, and I think Samsung has been wise to enhance the internal display experience by “hiding” the camera, even if it comes with the trade-off of a lower resolution sensor.

The last major hardware difference is the telephoto lens, which on the Pixel Fold has 5x optical zoom, while the Z Fold 4 has 3x optical zoom.

Google's Pixel Fold phone

The Pixel Fold has a horizontal camera bar on the back of the phone that mimics the one found on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series.

James Martin/CNET

Photo Pixel Fold vs. Galaxy Z Fold 4

Before we get into some head-to-head comparisons, check out some of my favorite photos of the Pixel Fold and Z Fold 4.

A photo of a man sitting on a bench

Google Pixel Fold.

Patrick Holland/CNET

A photo of the Moulin Rouge curtain on Broadway

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Patrick Holland/CNET

A photo of flowers

Google Pixel Fold.

Patrick Holland/CNET

A photo of clouds and land taken from an airplane window

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Patrick Holland/CNET

A photo of a woman pointing at what's written on her hoodie

Google Pixel Fold.

Patrick Holland/CNET

A photo of a cat sitting in a window

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Patrick Holland/CNET

A photo of a flower

Google Pixel Fold.

Patrick Holland/CNET

A photo of a person standing in front of a building

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Overall, Pixel Fold photos have better detail, a wider dynamic range, and are more color accurate. And that’s even on a perfect blue-sky summer day, which is one of the most forgiving environments for any phone camera.

Check out the images below, each taken with the main camera, of a dining area in San Francisco’s Salesforce Park. The Pixel Fold’s shot balances exposure better and has more detail in the grass and tree leaves. And, yes, things really were that green. But Samsung’s photo is messy. It’s overly bright, details are fuzzy and the color temperature is off – note the green of the trees in the background and the sky.

Below are two more images from the main cameras. This time the differences are not so drastic. Both phones did a good job of capturing the texture of the cappuccino in the froth. But note around the rim of the cup. The Pixel Fold photo looks more natural, with the rim of the cup in focus along with the top of the drink. The image of Z Fold 4 is strange. I know Samsung has a food optimization setting, but I don’t recall it being active; It could have been. The edge of the cup is soft.

So, check out the photos below, which were taken indoors with a mix of window light and low light. Here’s where the differences between Google and Samsung are huge. In the Google photo of Peebles the cat, he handles mixed light well, but captures some texture in his fur and whiskers. The photo is soft, but not in a bad way. Samsung’s photo looks ugly. It suffers from excessive brightness and is marred by a ton of image noise and heavy noise reduction, making the Peebles photo look like a Peebles painting.

Zoom Pixel Fold compared to Galaxy Z Fold 4

Based solely on the specs, the Pixel Fold has the edge when it comes to zoom, as it has a 5x optical telephoto lens compared to the Z Fold 4’s 3x. That 5x is the sweet spot, helping you get close to your subject without being in someone’s face. .

Take a look at the zoom range on each phone.

A photo of a building

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 at 3x.

Patrick Holland/CNET

At 5x it’s hard to see any real difference between the two, other than some loss of resolution on the Galaxy Z Fold due to the digital zoom.

Below are 10x digital zoom photos of both phones. Neither of them look good.

And finally there are photos taken at maximum digital zoom magnification on each phone: 20x on the Pixel and 30x on the Samsung. Despite the different magnifications, both have roughly the same amount of zoom/crop.

Samsung’s image has completely fallen apart and looks super soft and processed. The Pixel Fold’s photo isn’t great, but it looks better thanks to Google’s Super Res Zoom, which uses a combination of hardware, software and artificial intelligence to make it look better.

Pixel Fold night mode compared to Galaxy Z Fold 4

By switching to night mode, things are starting to go back in Samsung’s favor. Below are images of some condominiums taken an hour after sunset with night mode. Both look good, but the one in the Z Fold 4 looks better overall. The Galaxy phone better protects the highlights in the moon and light sources such as the entrance to the apartment building in the middle.

Below are two more Night Mode shots. Again, both are good, although I like the one on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 better. The white balance is more true to the scene.

Pixel Fold Selfies vs. Galaxy Z Fold 4

On both phones you have the option to take selfies in different ways. The first is to use the cover screen camera on each phone. In the photos below, I think Samsung’s cover screen camera takes better selfies than the Pixel Fold’s cover screen camera. It does a better job of nailing focus, and I like the brighter exposure.

Since these are foldable phones, you can also take a selfie with the main rear camera using the cover screen as a preview. I like being able to use the rear camera to take selfies, but it feels more like a chore. Of the two images below, I like the Z Fold 4’s rear camera selfie the most, as the brightness is more flattering.

There is a third way to take a selfie and that is to use the internal display camera. Both the Pixel Fold and Z Fold 4’s internal screen camera are meant for video calling, so I tested them out in the video that accompanies this article. Neither look good for a Zoom call, but the higher resolution on the Pixel Fold’s internal screen camera gives it a slight edge.

A photo from a video call

For video calling, the internal screen camera on both phones looked bad. Pixel Fold video calling looked slightly better thanks to double the resolution.

John Kim/CNET

Video Pixel Fold vs. Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Final Thoughts

Overall, videos aren’t great from either phone. Video recordings suffer from image noise and have a lower dynamic range than photos from any phone. Most of the machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence that Google and Samsung use in their photos are absent for videos. If you want to see sample video clips from each phone, check out the video attached to this story.

So which phone has the best cameras? Neither the Pixel Fold nor the Z Fold 4 offer high-end phone cameras. But as far as these two phones go, I’m getting closer to Google’s device than Samsung’s (purely in terms of cameras). The Z Fold 4, however, has an edge in other ways like the stunning internal screen, the premium fit and finish of the hardware, and software that felt less fussy than the Pixel Fold.

Remember that each of these phones is $200 less than two thousand dollars. For that price you get a phone that folds in half, that has two screens and five cameras. While the large internal screens of these foldouts are great for editing your photos, few foldouts offer the pristine image quality you’d find on their non-folding counterparts. You should still turn to Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra or Google’s Pixel 7 Pro if you want incredible imaging capabilities, but you’ll need to decide which is your priority: beautiful photos or an exciting foldable screen? Right now, you can’t have both.

Just know that in a month that could change with the launch of the rumored Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.

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