What you need to know
- With the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G, Google is bringing new camera features to the Pixel line both in terms of hardware and software.
- The company is also shipping new video-focused features with the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G to bolster its previously weak video performance.
- Some of these features will make their way down to older Pixels over the coming months.
One thing you can say always count on with the annual Pixel launch is the addition of new camera features. From portrait mode to night sight, Google's constantly been excelling in the still imaging field, and the Pixel 5 is no exception.
This year around, Google brought a highly-requested hardware change to the Pixel line, but we also got many software updates coming to the camera app. With Pixel 5 (and the 4a 5G), the Pixel line is getting several new tools into its imaging toolbox.
First, the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G are the first Pixels to ship with an ultra-wide camera lens as a secondary. Yes, Google is skipping out on the telephoto lens, but it has super-res zoom to compensate for that in software. You can't compensate for not having an ultra-wide lens because there's simply nothing being captured. Aside from messy photospheres and stitching, this is the one feature Google couldn't software magic its way out of.
Remember the iPhone's portrait lighting features that were well received? That's coming to Pixels from the Pixel 5 and later. You'll be able to alter the light source on portrait photos after you capture them with the magic of machine learning. Google has also updated the Photos app with support for retroactive portrait lighting. Say you've taken a portrait photo in the past few years (or one that's been updated with a Google Photos portrait tool), you'll be able to use portrait lighting on that. Google is also adding Night Sight into portrait mode, so you can take the portrait photos in the dark.
Google is finally getting serious with video this go around. It's launching three new video shooting modes for Pixels, first to the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G, and then later on older devices. The three new modes are active, locked, and cinema pan mode. Google says these are prompted by consumer demand, noting that it checked what people really wanted to do with video on a phone. Cinema pan for instance is highlighted as a feature that'll help make your ordinary videos look like they belong in the movies with "smooth, panning shots." Active is useful for capturing heavy movement, perhaps in a sports game or something, while "locked" is for faraway still shots. These will come to older Pixels in the future.
Time-lapse and slow-mo capture on the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G are getting an update that's making them more useful compared to what you get on older models. Yes, you could already capture still images from them — but they've been quite low-res so far. Now, with the Pixel 5, Google says you can capture high-res shots. We don't really know how well that'll compare to regular shots until we actually have a unit in hand. A final small feature is the inclusion of an automatic notification silencing feature when shooting video. It's a small addition, but it's useful in keeping you focused on your shot without you having to think about it.
Google's always been good with cameras, even its reticence to upgrade its camera hardware to newer lenses is backed up by its continued good performance compared to current phones which sport those modern lenses. Pixel 5 is expected to continue that tradition, but a full review is the only way we can know for sure.
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