An ultra-wide lens is the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G’s prominent addition to camera hardware, and at launch it can be used to take wide astrophotographic photos. With Google Camera 8.1 in November, that possibility was quietly removed.
Astrophotography allows you to take pictures of the night sky and can be activated by going to the Night Sight tab in Google Camera and setting Pixel (3+). This can be done with a stand, resting against a rock or support on any other smooth surface. When there is no movement, a message at the top of the screen will mark “Astrophotography on” when the shutter button changes from a moon icon to stars.
There is the option to zoom in beforehand, while Pixel 4a 5G and 5 ̵
Google Camera 8.1, which rolled out in mid-November, removed the ability to switch to ultrawide for astrophotography. The wider lens is available in standard Night Sight images, but not for capturing in the dark. A message tells you to “Zoom to 1x for astrophotography” before it is possible to enter mode, while .6x disappears and cannot be selected again when you are in.
A Google support document was updated in early November to include the following note:
Important: On Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5, astrophotography only works on zoom settings equal to or greater than 1x.
There were people who used this feature when it was available, but it was certainly now known. Given page load changes, it’s difficult to install older / different versions of Google’s Pixel apps without using the Play Store update method. As such, we could not screen wide. 6x astro photography in Google Camera 8.0 on Pixel 5.
However, you can uninstall updates to Google Camera and return to version 7.6 (from the App Info screen) to see ultra-wide astro photography in action – first screenshot above. The release was what Pixel 5 sent and ran out of the box. It has a slightly different user interface than the 8.0 update which was meant to be installed immediately after setup.
Google never explained why the option was removed, but it’s probably because of the overall quality.
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