Because to early investments in computational photography, Google Pixels have earned a reputation for being top-notch camera phones. The hardware of subsequent Pixel generations plateaued after Google continued to use the same primary camera sensor for four years in a row, but this was a great decision that kept them competitive. Even the Pixel 6a from a year ago, which used the same Sony IMX363 image sensor, was praised by us and other experts in the field of cameras.

After the Pixel 3, Google’s first significant camera hardware advancements debuted in the Pixel 6 series. The entire camera system was improved, but most notably the old primary sensor was changed for a Samsung ISOCELL GN1. The Google Pixel 7 series added a few more small upgrades to this setup, such as a new selfie camera, an improved telephoto lens, and macro capability on the Pro model. We have a lot of information on the camera specifications and features of the upcoming Google Pixel 8 series thanks to a source inside Google. So let’s get into the specifics.

Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro camera specs – a big upgrade

Both Pixel 8 versions will receive the ISOCELL GN2 sensor as the primary update to the camera hardware this year, replacing the Samsung ISOCELL GN1 sensor. The sensor is bigger and should capture roughly 35% more light than its predecessor for brighter low-light shots and faster shutter speeds to lessen blur. These are the first enhancements.

The Tensor G3 CPU and the sensor both support the capture of 8K/30fps video. This might not reach users, though, as the Pixel 8’s GCam does not presently enable it, and older Pixel models already run quite warm at 4K/60 frames per second. The final improvement is the previously revealed Staggered HDR support. This shortens the time between HDR capture frames, which lessens ghosting and expedites the capture process. The innovation might enable quicker, more dependable photos by enhancing Google’s HDR+ capabilities.

The ultrawide camera on the Google Pixel 8 Pro is also getting a much-needed boost. The 64MP Sony IMX787, which is the same sensor as the main camera featured on the Pixel 7a, has replaced the outdated 12MP Sony IMX386. The sensor is almost two times larger, which is a significant improvement for the ultrawide camera. The lens has also been slightly widened by Google. The field of vision (FoV) has been increased from a 0.56x zoom ratio to 0.49x, but I am unsure of the precise value. Unexpectedly, there’s a possibility that the macro mode introduced with the Pixel 7 series won’t be present this year. At now, the Pixel 8 Pro doesn’t have the capability enabled. Afterwards, the feature might be activated again.

The vanilla Google Pixel 8’s ultrawide camera is also upgraded, although more modestly. While the camera sensor is the same Sony IMX386 found in the Pixel 6 series, Google has made it slightly wider this year. Pixel 7 had a 0.67x zoom ratio, which is now 0.55x in the Pixel 8.

The telephoto camera on Pixel 8 Pro appears to remain the same 5x module as the Pixel 7 Pro. The same goes for the 11MP selfie camera from the Pixel 7 series. Here’s the full rundown:

Pixel 7Pixel 8Pixel 7 ProPixel 8 Pro
WideSamsung GN1 (50 MP)Samsung GN2 (50 MP)Samsung GN2 (50 MP)Samsung GN1 (50 MP)
UltrawideSony IMX386 (12MP) – 0.67x zoom ratioSony IMX386 (12MP) – 0.55x zoom ratioSony IMX787 (64 MP) – 0.49x zoom ratioSony IMX386 (12MP) – 0.56x zoom ratio
TelephotoSamsung GM5 (48 MP) – 5x zoom ratioSamsung GM5 (48 MP) – 5x zoom ratio
SelfieSamsung 3J1 (11 MP)Samsung 3J1 (11 MP)Samsung 3J1 (11 MP)Samsung 3J1 (11 MP)

It’s intriguing to see Google further distinguish between the normal Pixels and their Pro counterparts. Although each generation’s previous Pixels had distinct distinctions (such as the addition of telephoto cameras on the Pro versions), it never felt as though the standard devices were a significant downgrade; rather, they just featured less features. This is altering with this generation. Now, purchasing the normal Pixel 8 over the Pixel 8 Pro will result in a lower-quality ultrawide experience and a lesser zoom.

Improved time-of-flight is coming to the Pixel 8

The STMicroelectronics VL53L1 single-point time-of-flight (ToF) sensor has been used in all Pixel phones since the Pixel 6 (apart from the Pixel A series), which is a little-known fact. This sensor helps the autofocus. It is depicted in the picture up top.

Finally, the Pixel 8 Pro get something more practical. It has a brand-new 88 ToF VL53L8 sensor. The new sensor in the Pixel 8 Pro is still a huge improvement, and it should, at the very least, make the autofocus much more dependable. Having a true LiDAR camera sensor, like the 0.3MP IMX590 in the iPhone 14 Pro, is obviously far more adaptable.

The ToF sensor upgrade isn’t coming to the regular Pixel 8; it retains the old VL53L1.

The Pixel 8 thermometer is just a thermometer

An FIR temperature sensor is yet another Pixel 8 Pro feature that has already surfaced online. Let me set the record straight: it is not a full thermal camera that can also be used for photography as some have suggested.

It is a Melexis MLX90632 sensor, which is primarily suggested for highly accurate non-contact temperature measurements, such as measuring body temperature. It is just capable of sensing temperature; it is neither a camera nor anything else. Simply said, and not for the first time, Google decided to incorporate a very pricey gimmick in its product (hello, Motion Sense).

google pixel camera

Software updates for the Pixel 8 camera are coming

While the camera software on Pixel 8 is obviously in fairly early stages of development and mainly focuses on making the new hardware work, we have spotted some new low-level feature enhancements.

“Adaptive torch” is a new feature that dynamically adjusts the flash intensity based on the scene and other inputs (e.g. which capture mode is used). This should prevent overexposed shots and make low-light photography even better if you use the flash.

“Segmentation AWB” is another new feature. As the name implies, the scene will be divided into many segments using AI, and then certain portions of the image will be processed differently. This idea is not new; Qualcomm previously unveiled a feature of a similar nature for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. How Google integrates this into its current processing processes will be interesting to observe.

Google might also add a video bokeh blur level selection for the phone’s cinematic mode, which was first introduced on the Google Pixel 7 series.

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