Pixel 8 Pro Brings Back Camera Feature Removed from 2020 Pixel Phones

What you should know

  • In 2020, Google removed the ability to shoot astrophotography photographs using the ultra-wide camera from the Pixel 4a (5G) and the Pixel 5 due to quality complaints.
  • The ability to take ultra-wide astrophotography photos has now returned to the Pixel 8 Pro, possibly due to the pixel-binning 48MP ultra-wide image sensor on the Pixel 8 Pro which improves image quality in low-light and reduces noise.
  • Google’s decision to bring back the feature could also be financially motivated, potentially attracting customers to the more expensive Pro model.
  • Ultra-wide astrophotography is currently limited to the Pixel 8 Pro and is not expected to become backward compatible due to the 12MP ultra-wide sensor on both the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro.

Full Story

2020 saw Google yanking the astrophotography feature from the Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5. The ultra-wide camera of these phones could no longer capture the stars. Google didn’t really spill the beans on why they did it, though there was some chatter among Pixel users about the quality of these shots.

Astrophotography, for those scratching their heads, is pretty simple. Pixel users just have to point their phone’s rear camera at the sky. Keep it steady, maybe with a tripod or something. Voila, you’ve got the feature turned on and can take some breathtaking snaps of the night sky.

Done right, the photos could be pretty darn amazing. And guess what? The ultra-wide astrophotography feature is back, but only on the Pixel 8 Pro. You might be wondering, why just the Pixel 8 Pro and not the Pixel 8? Well, it might have something to do with the pixel-binning 48MP ultra-wide image sensor on the Pro and the 12MP ultra-image sensor on the Pixel 8.

The Pixel 8 Pro’s ultra-wide camera does this 4:1 pixel binning thing. Four adjacent pixels get combined into one big pixel. This improves the quality of low-light shots and reduces noise. Not saying Google didn’t have dollar signs in their eyes when they decided to bring the feature back. It could lure those undecided between the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro to splurge on the pricier Pro model.

Now, the Pixel 8 Pro can do ultra-wide astrophotography. Point it at the night sky, keep it steady, and you can shoot at 1x (standard), 2x, and .5x (ultra-wideband). Google’s updated its Camera support page to say, “Important: On Pixel 4a (5G) and later, astrophotography only works on zoom settings equal to or greater than 1x.” Ultra-wide shoots at .5x, lower than 1x, so it looks like ultra-wide astrophotography is a Pixel 8 Pro exclusive.

The ultra-wide sensor on the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro cameras is only 12MP. So, don’t hold your breath for ultra-wide astrophotography to become backward compatible. It might just be a shiny new feature we see on the Pro model every year from now on.

Derrick Flynn
Derrick Flynnhttps://www.phonesinsights.com
With over four years of experience in tech journalism, Derrick has honed his skills and knowledge to become a vital part of the PhonesInsights team. His intuitive reviews and insightful commentary on the latest smartphones and wearable technology consistently provide our readers with valuable information.


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