When the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G launched, they supported astrophotography with the ultra wide lens. Following a Google Camera update, however, that feature is no longer supported.
According to 9to5Google, the Google Camera 8.1 update that rolled out in mid-November removed the ability to use the ultra wide lens for astrophotography. Before, when switching to the astrophotography feature, users could switch between .6x, 1x, and 2x. Since the update, the .6x option is no longer available, and a Google support document says astrophotography only works on zoom settings equal to or greater than 1x.
It’s unclear why the option was removed, but it’s disappointing regardless of the reason. It’s possible the feature is no longer available because the quality isn’t up to Google’s standards, but that’s simply speculation; Google could easily clear things up by releasing an explanation.
Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G owners can still use the ultra wide lens for Night Sight, but not for capturing the stars. Using an ultra wide lens for astrophotography makes a lot of sense because it allows users to capture more of the scene. But users will have to make do with the normal lens, which still offers a relatively wide field of view.
As 9to5Google notes, you can uninstall updates to Google Camera and revert to version 7.6, which allows Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G owners to use the ultra wide lens for astrophotography. That’s the version that actually launched with the Pixel 5.
With winter storms rolling out across the U.S., now may not be the greatest time for astrophotography. But it’s a little frustrating to see features being stripped away from Google flagships for seemingly no reason. Users on Reddit have certainly noticed.
Perhaps Google Camera will be updated in the near future and bring the feature back. For now, astrophotographers can use zoom settings equal to or greater than 1x.