Astrophotographer Ian Norman of Lonely Speck recently got his hands on a Google Pixel 4 XL for testing, so he took it out to Joshua Tree National Park to see how well the “Astrophotography Mode” on this smartphone compares to shooting with a “real” camera.
Right off the bat, it’s important to note that Ian successfully shot some impressive smartphone astrophotography long before Google baked this feature into a flagship phone. Still, the improvements that Google has made in this area are significant, and at first glance, the resulting images are staggeringly clear.
Upon closer inspection, Ian did find that the images are definitely not as sharp as what he was capturing with his 12MP Sony a7S—perhaps due to missed focus, perhaps due to the optics in the phone—but when you down-res for Web comparison the results Ian shares in the video are still strikingly similar:
Ultimately, while the lack of creative control in Astro mode can be a bother—no control over things like white balance or shutter time, and limited control of focus—the Pixel 4’s fully-automatic Astro mode achieves something really cool: it makes astrophotography significantly more accessible. A “gateway drug” most astrophotographers can probably get behind.
Check out the full video up top for a full evaluation of the Google Pixel 4’s Astrophotography mode, complete with multiple sample images, workflow footage, and lots of 100% crops so you can see where the smartphone camera fails to keep up with its full-sized rivals.
And if you’re an astrophotography buff, definitely check out Lonely Speck. Ian’s educational content is second to none in that space.