Google gives the Pixel camera (all three generations) superhuman night vision
The mighty Night Sight mode is being released to Pixel phones today. Night Sight is momentous because it’s a software change that delivers a leap in performance that previously only new hardware could bring.
At the outset, Night Sight is not merely a long-exposure mode for your phone. What Google has built is a vastly more intelligent sibling to the brutish long exposure. In the past, you’d have needed a tripod to stabilize your camera to obtain multiple seconds’ worth of light information and thus get a brighter image at night than the human eye can see. Google is achieving similar results with a handheld Pixel by segmenting the exposure into a burst of consecutively taken frames, which are then reassembled into a single image using the company’s algorithmic magic. It’s an evolution of the HDR+ processing pipeline that’s used in the main Pixel camera, with some unique upgrades added in.
Before a shot is even taken, Google’s Night Sight camera does a ton of multifactorial calculations. Using what the company calls motion metering, the Pixel takes into account its own movement (or lack thereof), the movement of objects in the scene, and the amount of light available to decide how many exposures to take and how long they should be. At most, Night Sight photos will take up to six seconds and up to 15 frames to capture one image. Google has placed a limit of one second per exposure if the phone is perfectly still, or a third of a second if it’s handheld. So that means you can get six one-second exposures with a Pixel on a tripod or up to 15 briefer exposures when holding the phone, all of them feeding into one final photo.
Every aspect of Google’s Night Sight is dynamic and automatic. If the phone detects that a scene is dark enough, it’ll surface a suggestion to try night mode, you tap on that, and then it mostly takes over from there. The only controls offered to the user are tap-to-focus and the usual exposure slider. You can’t tell the camera how many frames you want it to capture or set your own shutter speed.
Night Sight is a poor fit for trying to capture anything in motion. It accounts for small movements of objects in the frame, but it will blur things like cars driving by. It also doesn’t deal especially well with bright lights in the frame.
|Google gives the Pixel camera superhuman night vision
The mighty Night Sight mode is being released to Pixel phones today.