Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G owners have lost the ability to use the phone’s astrophotography feature with their ultra-wide lens, following a software update that disabled the combination.
Although ultrawide star-snapping was billed as an important feature at launch, the Google Camera 8.1 update actually removed the feature in November, and users have only recently noticed it. Google kept quiet about the change, save to update a single support page.
Even then, this page does not explicitly spell out that the option was removed, only that “On Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5, astrophotography only works on zoom settings equal to or greater than 1
In other words, you can still use astrophotography on Pixel 5 or Pixel 4a 5G, and you can still use the ultra-wide lens – just not together. This is a surprising move considering that Google hyped up the addition of ultra-wide lenses when the two phones were unveiled, including their application for astrophotography.
That said, some users had complained – including on Google’s support forums – that an ugly green tint appeared when they shot the stars with the ultra-wide lens. It is possible that Google only disabled the combination due to this lack of quality, either temporarily until a solution can be found or permanently, if the error is inherent in the hardware.
Anyway, it’s a shame, not only because the Google Camera 8.1 update also brought a lot of useful features to older Pixel phones, but because Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a owners now have a less capable smartphone than the one they originally bought.
Still, if the removal only became known more than a month after it happened, it’s probably one of the less commonly used features on these two handsets – so Google could have seen ultrawid astrophotography as an acceptable loss.