Google Quietly Cripples Some Astrophotography Functionality in Pixel Phones

The “Google Camera 8.1” update arrived back in November, and it’s taken a few months for users to notice that Google has quietly taken away functionality for certain models of phone: the ultra-wide lens no longer takes astrophotography images.

The Verge reports that Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 owners no longer have the option of using the phone’s Night Sight mode in conjunction with the rear-facing ultra-wide angle lens. Instead, users are told to “Zoom to 1x for astrophotography.”

Google’s low-light photography support document makes note of the update but offers no explanation as to why this change has been made. However, Pixel users were discussing the ultra-wide astro capabilities back in November, and the poor quality of the images suggest that Google might have been embarrassed into taking action. As one owner notes: “the quality is awful, green, blotchy, and full of noise.” Confirming the issue, a second user optimistically offers his thoughts: “Hopefully, this can be fixed with an update rather than the wide-angle hardware not being up to the job.”

Another comments that Google seems to have quietly switched off the astro-functionality rather than addressing the problem. Users might have expected an apology and an acknowledgment that the issue cannot be fixed.

Are you a Google Pixel owner? Do you now own a phone that has been quietly downgraded by Google? Let us know in the comments below.

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