With the Google Camera software update to version 8.1 released last month, Pixel 5 and 4a 5G smartphones are no longer able to take photos in astrophotography mode with the ultra-wide-angle camera. The developers removed this feature, drew attention to the resource Android Police.
Astrophotography, which is part of the Google Camera app’s night mode and designed to capture the night sky, debuted with the Google Pixel 4 in 2019. The release of the current Pixel 5 and 4a 5G models has also worked on ultra-wide-angle cameras, including smartphones. Third-party vendors thanks to the appropriate GCam ports. However, in the latest GCam update, Google took and, without further explanation, removed support for ultra-wide-angle astrophotography. Google has updated the corresponding page on the official support site to reflect the changes in Google Camera. There appeared clarification that on Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 phones, astrophotography only works at 1x or greater.
There is speculation that Google turned off the astrophotography mode on ultra-wide-angle cameras due to the inferior quality of the resulting images. There are plenty of confirmations of this on the network. There are clear comparisons of the quality of pictures taken in astrophotography mode with the main and wide-angle Pixel 5 cameras. And on the official Google support forum (example below). It’s no secret that such cameras are mostly built on far from the best sensors, so nothing is surprising in these disappointing results. But this does not make the situation less funny.
Here we can recall the recent departure of digital and computational photography guru Mark Levoy – along with others, he advocated using a telephoto lens in the Pixel 4 instead of an ultra-wide-angle and left Google six months before the Pixel 5 was released.
Hopefully, sometime in the future, Google will bring back support for ultra-wide-angle astrophotography by tweaking the hardware and refining the algorithms.