Technology: Exclusive: Here are the new and upcoming camera features of the Google Pixel 6 Pro

M. Brandon Lee | THIS IS TECH TODAY
thisistechtoday

Technology: Exclusive: Here are the new and upcoming camera features of the Google Pixel 6 Pro

Matt Swider (tracking PS5 / Xbox / GPU restock)
mattswider

🤯This is the Google Pixel 6 & Pixel 6 Pro, Google’s chief rivals to Apple’s iPhone 13 series. They’re *just sitting in a display* at the Google Store in NYC 🗽

🤔Camera bar close-up: Yay or Nay?

📸My photos in the thread🧵
📰Story on TechRadar⬇️⬇️⬇️ www.techradar.com/news/google-pixel-6-and-pixel-6-pro-photos pic.twitter.com/B1JKfnLhhs
16:20 10/02/53678
Twitter

Technology: Exclusive: Here are the new and upcoming camera features of the Google Pixel 6 Pro

Andy Ihnatko
Ihnatko

A day later, I’m still thinking that I’m going to wait for the Pixel 6 intro and choose between it and an iPhone 13 Pro. But if the decision is even vaguely close, I’ll likely buy the Pixel, because it has a USB-C port. I do NOT want to invite Lightning cables into my life again.
23:56 11/20/53676
Twitter

Technology: Exclusive: Here are the new and upcoming camera features of the Google Pixel 6 Pro

🎃Shadow🎃 Morse
Snubs

Well that was fun but now I want a @madebygoogle pixel 6 pro. 😆
05:33 09/25/53674
Twitter

Technology: Exclusive: Here are the new and upcoming camera features of the Google Pixel 6 Pro

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For many consumers, the camera is the most important piece of hardware in a smartphone. It’s no surprise, then, that Google made the camera the marquee feature of the Pixel. While Pixel phones have never featured top-of-the-line camera hardware, Google’s image processing pipeline and Google Camera app have consistently elevated the Pixel to a spot at the top of smartphone camera rankings. With this year’s Pixel 6 series, Google is improving the camera hardware in ways never before seen in a Pixel phone, and with a new, custom-made chip, the company has even more control over image processing. Now, thanks to an unreleased, internal version of the Google Camera app provided by our source, as well as further insight from our source, XDA can shed some light on the possible camera features that will make use of this upgraded hardware.

For background, here’s what we know so far about the Pixel 6 cameras:

Without knowing the field-of-view, we don’t know exactly how wide the Pixel 6 Pro’s front camera actually is. However, our source confirms that the selfie camera on the Pixel 6 Pro offers two predefined zoom levels: 0.7X and 1.0X.

Like the Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5, and Pixel 5a with 5G, the Pixel 6 Pro (and presumably the Pixel 6) supports 4K60 video recording. However, our source tells us that their Pixel 6 Pro only supports 4K60 video from the main and not the ultra-wide or telephoto cameras. Video recording is apparently limited to 4K30 through the ultra-wide, telephoto, and selfie cameras.

The maximum zoom level when recording at 4K60 or 1080p60 is set at 7X, according to the code and our source. This is a definite improvement over the maximum 5X zoom level when recording 4K60 videos from the Pixel 5. Recording at 4K30 or 1080p30 enables zoom levels up to 20X, according to our source. 20X zoom is also the maximum for photos.

When recording a video at 4K30, our source tells us that you can seamlessly switch between the main, ultra wide-angle, and telephoto lenses without stopping the recording. Since the Pixel 6 Pro doesn’t support 4K60 through the telephoto or ultra wide-angle cameras, it obviously can’t seamlessly switch to those lenses when recording at that quality.

Both phones in the Pixel 6 series are expected to support audio zoom, a feature that was also present in the Pixel 4 series and Pixel 5. Using the microphones, the camera focuses on recording audio in the direction that the user is currently zoomed in on.

When looking through the other features defined for the Pixel 6 series in the Google Camera app, we made a few interesting discoveries. Sadly, some of the features we discovered are obscured by code-names, with much of the logic and processing hidden in closed-source libraries, making it difficult to determine what they do. Still, the code-names we did discover raise a lot of exciting questions about possible Pixel 6 camera features.

For the past few months, Google has been working on adding a manual white balance UI to the Google Camera app. We first spotted this back in July when a layout called “chameleon_ui” was added, but it seems the feature still isn’t ready.

The Pixel 6 will be able to accurately capture more diverse skin tones. Source: Google.

This feature may be tied to Google’s efforts to improve the ability of its phones to capture diverse skin tones. Google said that it is training its computational photography models to better understand different skin tones and adjust the white balance accordingly. It’s possible this manual white balance adjustment feature is only a developer feature, but we’re hoping the company will expose the feature to users looking for a more pro camera experience.

One of the most interesting code-names we discovered in the new Google Camera app is “swiss”, which is tied to a feature called “magic eraser.” This feature is enabled on the Pixel 6 series, at least according to the Pixel 2021 configuration file, and it’s also seemingly accelerated by the TPU in the Google Tensor chip. “Magic eraser” seems to be a post-processing effect, though we’re not sure exactly what it does. Based on the name, we think this feature will let you remove objects or people from a photo you’ve just taken. Perhaps the long-abandoned object removal feature in Google Photos is making a comeback in the Pixel 6?

Google was working on an object removal feature for Photos, but they abandoned the idea. The feature would have been able to remove objects like fences.

One of the few Pixel 6 camera features that Google publicly confirmed is face deblur. The company showed a demo of the feature to publications like The Verge, which described how the feature works at a high level. Basically, the Pixel 6, like previous Pixel devices, snaps multiple photos from the main sensor and combines them into a single HDR image. At the same time, however, the phone will also use the ultra wide-angle camera to quickly capture sharper images. The TPU then uses facial details from the ultra wide-angle images to deblur the face in the HDR image.

Google Camera 7.5 included a mysterious “naruto” code-name which left us with many questions, since at the time, the app’s code didn’t provide any clues about what it does. Thankfully, we’ve now learned that the “naruto” code-name belongs to a feature called “scene lock.” We’re not sure how this “scene lock” feature differs from the AF/AE lock already present in the Google Camera app, however.

Another close-up of the cameras on the Pixel 6 Pro.

Located within the app — but currently unavailable to our source — is support for using a Bluetooth microphone during video recording. The Google Camera app added support for external (wired) microphones back in 2018, but it seems the app is preparing to add support for Bluetooth mics as well. The feature is code-named “sapphire” and doesn’t seem to be limited to specific Bluetooth audio products, like Google’s own Pixel Buds A.

What’s clear, though, is that next year’s Pixel 7 will also have a Google-made SoC and many, if not all, of the same camera software features as the Pixel 6 series. Based on our reading of the code, the Pixel 7 may have an ultra wide-angle camera, like the Pixel 6 series and Pixel 4a 5G/5/5a before it, but there’s no mention of a telephoto lens. Again, it’s too early to say if this version of the Google Camera app accurately lists the camera features of the Pixel 7 since we’re so far out from its release.

That’s everything we’ve learned about the cameras on the Pixel 6 series. Given how much new code is in the new version of the Google Camera app, we may have missed a few new features. We’ll continue digging into the app to see if we can learn more, so be sure to follow this page for all the latest details.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my