The Pixel 8 Pro quietly brings back ultrawide astrophotography

Google Pixel 8 Pro hands-on camera bar with temperature sensor
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • It looks like Google quietly revived the ability to take ultrawide shots in astrophotography mode.
  • The feature — which made its debut on the Pixel 4 in 2019 and was subsequently removed the following year — is back, but it's limited to the Pixel 8 Pro.
  • However, with the Pixel 8a likely on its way in 2024, we might see ultrawide astrophotography on future Pixel devices.

It looks like a valuable Pixel Camera feature that was silently removed back in 2020 is making a comeback, but the capability is resurfacing in limited capacity.

As noted by the folks at Android Authority, the tech giant is reviving Google Camera’s astrophotography mode with ultrawide shots. This means that when you activate astrophotography on your device, as long as your phone remains steady in dark settings, the updated Pixel Camera app will offer shooting options at the standard 1x, 2x, and, notably, 0.5x (ultrawide) magnifications. 

But there’s a catch. Right now, the capability is only available on the Pixel 8 Pro, as it’s been confirmed that the vanilla Pixel 8 and the Pixel Fold don’t offer the option of 0.5x magnification in astrophotography mode. 

Google first debuted the astrophotography mode on the Pixel 4 in 2019 — and since then, the camera feature has received several upgrades. The following year, the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G both added ultrawide support. However, later that same year, the tech giant removed the feature on the devices. 

Although no official explanation was provided by Google for this reversal, it’s been speculated that it was due to user complaints about the image quality in the wide perspective.

In any case, ultrawide astrophotography is back now, albeit it’s limited to the Pixel 8 Pro. Presumably, the feature’s comeback can be attributed to the Pixel 8 Pro packing an updated sensor for ultrawide shooting. The Pro has a 48MP sensor with a wider f/2.0 aperture, which can capture more detail and light than its vanilla counterpart, which uses a lower resolution 12MP sensor at a smaller f/2.2 aperture. 

Still, Google’s gesture of reviving the camera feature is quite welcome. Further, with the Pixel 8a on its way sometime in 2024, we can hopefully expect that ultrawide astrophotography will reach more Pixel devices.