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Google Camera Update removes wide-angle astrophotography from Pixels



Google Pixel 4a 5G macro macro 2

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

  • Google has quietly phased out astrophotography support for wide-angle shooters on Pixel phones.
  • Version 8.1 of the Google Camera app now only allows night sky photography with 1x zoom or tighter.
  • It is unclear whether the possibility of switching between the two cameras will return to these phones at a later date.

Google initially allowed users to take astrophotos with Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5s primary or ultra-wide cameras. It now appears that the company has calmly removed this option in the latest Google Camera app.

Version 8.1 of the app, as discovered by 9to5Google, does not allow users to select 16MP 107-degree wide-angle camera when shooting in special mode. Instead, the app now limits users to 12MP primary shooters with 1x zoom or greater.

It is unclear why Google dropped the ultra-wide shooter from Stargazer, but it may be down to the overall quality of the snapper in this regard. Posts on Google’s Pixel Help forums provide confidence in this. One user explains that while 1x shooting stars are “amazing”, shots from the wide-angle lens are “awful, green, speckled and full of noise.” Several users on this thread also reflect this feeling.

The above snapshots were captured on Pixel 5 by forum goer Harvey Etheridge. You can see the discrepancies in hue and noise from the wide-angle image (right) in relation to the product from the primary camera.

Trading lights for a wider view

Google Pixel 5 sea camera 1

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

This may be due to the design of the ultra-wide shooters themselves, which sacrifice light and overall quality for a more expansive field of view. This is even clearer when there is a lack of light – especially when you capture the night sky.

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While Google’s move may be an attempt to improve the overall quality of astrophotography on Pixels, it unfortunately gets rid of the phones for a mode that will make it a more enjoyable experience. In our Pixel 4 XL review, we regretted the lack of a wide-angle lens for astrophotography on that phone. Shooting with the main camera just does not do the scale – and breadth – of the night’s sky justice.

It’s unclear if Google can work on a more refined rework for the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5’s wide-angle astrophotography smarts, but for now you have to do without it.

Next: The best phones with ultra-wide rear cameras


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