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Google kills Astrophotography mode for wide-angle camera on Pixel smartphones


So, after years of complaints and feverish requests from Pixel owners, Google finally added an ultra-wide camera to its phones – starting with the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. Both the phones have since received a warm reception for their camera prowess. However, it appears that one feature that wasn’t so stellar was astrophotography mode when used with the ultra-wide camera, which is apparently why Google has decided to disable it. 

Quality issues appears to be the culprit here

Yes, if you own a Pixel 5 or a Pixel 4a 5G, you can no longer click long-exposure shots of the night sky with the astrophotography mode using the ultra-wide angle camera. “On Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5, astrophotography only works on zoom settings equal to or greater than 1x,” Google mentions on an official support page

As per a 9to5Google report, the change was made back in November with the rollout of Google Camera v8.1 update. Earlier, it was possible to switch to a 0.6x zoom level for astrophotography mode, which handed over the imaging responsibility from the main sensor to the ultrawide camera. Now, users see a warning at the top which says “Zoom to 1x for astrophotography” at the top and the option to switch to the wide-angle lens has been removing entirely.

Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G owners are now left with two options only – click an astrophotography mode shot of the night sky using the main camera without any magnification, or get a slightly magnified shot with a 2x zoom output that is digitally cropped. The reason for killing the astrophotography mode for the wide-angle camera on Pixel smartphones appears to have been linked to poor quality.

As per a user complaint on the official forums, the astrophotography mode results achieved by the wide-angle camera are far worse compared to those captured by the main snapper. Have a look at this thread to see for yourself. However, it is unclear if Google will fix the quality issues and bring back the capability on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4a 5G anytime soon.

Nadeem Sarwar

I’ve been writing about consumer technology for over three years now, having worked with names such as NDTV and Beebom in the past. Aside from covering the latest news, I’ve reviewed my fair share of devices ranging from smartphones and laptops to smart home devices. I also have interviewed tech execs and appeared as a host in YouTube videos talking about the latest and greatest gadgets out there.

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