Camera feature removed from Pixel phones in 2020 returns on the Pixel 8 Pro

Camera feature removed from Pixel phones in 2020 returns on the Pixel 8 Pro
Back in 2020, Google removed from the Pixel 4a (5G) and the Pixel 5 the ability to shoot astrophotography photographs using the phones' ultra-wide camera. Google didn't explain the rationale behind this decision but there were some complaints from Pixel users about the quality of these shots. For those unfamiliar with astrophotography, compatible Pixel users point their phone's rear camera array at the sky and keep it completely steady by using a tripod or through any other method. That turns on the feature allowing users to take stunning photographs of the night sky.

When done correctly, the resulting photographs could be quite exquisite. And now the ability to snap ultra-wide astrophotography photos has returned to the Pixel 8 Pro. Now if you're curious as to why Google would bring the feature back to the Pixel 8 Pro and not the Pixel 8, it could have something to do with the pixel-binning 48MP ultra-wide image sensor on the former and the 12MP ultra-image sensor employed on the Pixel 8.

With the 4:1 pixel binning on the Pixel 8 Pro's ultra-wide camera, information from four adjacent pixels is combined into one larger pixel improving the quality of an image shot in low-light while also reducing noise. That's not to say that Google might not have been thinking about money when it decided to bring the feature back since it could draw those sitting on the fence between the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro over to the side of the more expensive Pro model.


When aimed at the night sky and held steady, the Pixel 8 Pro will have the option of shooting at 1x (standard), 2x, and .5x (ultra-wideband). With that in mind, Google has updated its Google Camera support page to say, "Important: On Pixel 4a (5G) and later, astrophotography only works on zoom settings equal to or greater than 1x." And since ultra-wide shoots at .5x which is lower than 1x, it would appear that ultra-wide astrophotography is limited to the Pixel 8 Pro.

Since the ultra-wide sensor on both the the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro ultra-wide cameras weighs in at 12MP, you shouldn't expect ultra-wide astrophotography to become backward compatible. Consider it a feature that we might see available on the new Pro model each year from now on.

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