Google Sneakily Removed Support for Astrophotography Mode from Ultra-Wide Cams on the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G

Google Sneakily Removed Support for Astrophotography Mode from Ultra-Wide Cams on the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G
Photo: Sam Rutherford

Typically the holidays are a time of giving, however following a camera update earlier this fall, users recently discovered that Google has removed the ability to use Astrophotography mode with the ultra-wide cameras on the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G.

When the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G were first released, Google’s Astrophotography mode (which was introduced last year alongside the Pixel 4) was available for use on both of the phones’ primary and ultra-wide cameras. Unfortunately, it seems that after pushing out the version 8.1 of the Google Camera app which added a handful of features to older Pixel phones, the newer Pixel 5 and 4a 5G also lost the ability to use Astrophotography mode with their ultra-wide angle lenses.

While Google hasn’t provided an official explanation for this change, Google has since updated its support page to note that “On Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5, astrophotography only works on zoom settings equal to or greater than 1x.”

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Currently, it’s unclear what caused Google to disable Astrophotography mode from working with ultra-wide cams. If you look at some sample shots posted on the Pixel support community, one possible explanation may be some lacklustre results.

In a thread on the Pixel support page, a number of users posted side-by-side comparisons taken prior to the update showing Astrophotography photos shot by a Pixel ultra-wide lens that appear noticeably grainier or lower quality (often with a heavy green tint) than shots taken by the phone’s primary cam.

Because it was possible to take Astrophotography shots with a Pixel’s ultra-wide lens prior to the update, following reports of less than stellar results, Google may have decided to temporarily disable the feature while it investigates the issue and potentially work on a fix. Gizmodo has reached out to Google for more info and we will provide an update if we hear back.

Given the time it took for this change to be noticed, the loss of support for Astrophotography mode on the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G’s ultra-wide cams probably isn’t a huge deal for most people, but it’s a somewhat disappointing change nonetheless, so here’s hoping Google can push out a fix sometime soon.