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Google removes a neat camera feature from Pixel phones, but why?

Google has removed the option for Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G owners to use the astrophotography feature with the phones’ ultra-wide camera.

The feature, which is an advanced night mode offering designed to help users capture images of the stars, first debuted on the Pixel 4. When the late 2020 devices were announced their ultra-wide camera also gained the capability.

It’s still possible to use the astrophotography mode on the regular lens, but users are reporting the option has gone away on the wider-angle lens. The idea behind the feature is to enable users to capture images of the night sky by setting up their phone on a tripod over night, with some users showcasing some excellent results.

However, The Verge reports that if you enter Night Sight before switching to the ultra-wide camera the phone displays a message stating: “Zoom to 1x for astrophotography.” Previously, the site says, users were simply told “Astrophotography on.”

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While Google hasn’t commented on the removal of the feature, it recently updated a support document pertaining to the matter. The company writes: “Important: On Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5, astrophotography only works on zoom settings equal to or greater than 1x.”

It’s unclear why Google has chosen to get rid of the feature, but forum posts from users seem to show improved quality when using the standard camera to shoot in astrophotography mode, so perhaps the company just wants to put its best foot forward.

The software features on the Google Pixel phones remains a strong point for the homegrown phones. In his review, our own Max Parker said the Pixel 5 had a “typically fantastic Pixel camera” and praised the improved video recording features.

He concluded: “Of course, the Pixel’s star quality has always been in its camera. And yes, photos taken with the Pixel 5 are great. It remains the dynamic range champ, with excellent night shooting and the HDR improvements give more realism to faces. But the lack of a zoomed lens does offset it’s versatility somewhat.”

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