A Comparison of Google Pixel 4 Astrophotography Mode to the Sony a7s

Google Pixel 4's astrophotography mode made a bit of a stir when it was announced and I followed Google's blog about the production of that software. But can it really compare to a dedicated camera?

My love for astrophotography predates me life as a photographer. Unfortunately for me, I'm blighted by light pollution in all direction for hours and hours. The more I travel, the more I am able to capture the night sky but it's not nearly often enough. There's a lot of nuance involved in photographing the night sky and if you want the best images, you're going to need to know not only how to shoot and possible track the stars, but also how to process the image; it can take a lot of processing.

This is something Google have aimed to overcome altogether with their new software on their phones and they promotional imagery looked promising. Now, one of my favorite YouTube channels, Lonely Speck, has had a chance to test it thoroughly. You can get their opinion of how it works in the video, so I'll give you my reaction. It can't hold up to a dedicated camera, nor should it be expected to. However, it can create decent astrophotography images in a way that's accessible for pretty much anyone. The results, when examined closely, have that automated, overcooked look. But when the file is viewed in totality on a phone screen it's native too, it's damn impressive.

I will hopefully get to test this feature at some point and do an in depth review. What do you think of this astrophotography mode from Google? Would you use it?

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8 Comments

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Another example of how phones don't cut it technically but make great pretend cameras for ultimate sales and marketing splash.

Depends what you're end game is. For high end prints, yeah go for a mirrorless our DSLR. For online galleries or blogs, nothing wrong with the pixel 4. Looks fantastic.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Correct regarding the low res viewing. Resolution really was just part of my point. Now how many pixel4 owners are really going to go out take astrophotography with their phone on regular basis if ever once?

Jerome Brill's picture

Let's remember a phone is a phone. In reality it's a tiny computer that does a bunch of things.

You can't deny it does what it does. It doesn't matter if it's really good at it or not. It also doesn't cost as much a high end DSLR and lens. I mean that's what you want to compare it too right? What would happen if we had the phone on a tracker, shot Raw DNG through the lightroom app that allowed setting the iso and focal point, throw that file in Topaz and finish it off in lightroom? I'm guessing it wouldn't turn out to bad. Besides artsy composites, astrophotography is one of the more difficult and time consuming things to photograph even with the best cameras and lenses.

In the end it's possible to see things for what they are and not be so negative about it. The night sky is a beautiful thing, let people enjoy it.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

All I am saying is phone vs results = overrated photo results for marketing purpose.
If you get rid of all your photography equipment in favor of a phone, it won't hurt me in any way, rest assured of that. I also know that you won't.

Tony Wu's picture

No quite there, but the technology is impressive. It would be interesting to see camera makers starting to incorporate more computational algorithm into image making. There's already pretty good progress with high res multi shots and HDR type of photos, but a high burst multishot noise reduction would be very cool to have as well.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

as long as you can retrieve the untouched files, why not.

Alec Kinnear's picture

Pretty soon phones will allow us to take perfect virtual pictures, without even going out in the field or being there. Google projects the image onto your screen, the photographer chooses his or her angle in ream time through the screen image and presses click.

Absolutely perfect medium format 12000 x 15000 pixel images on the other end. Indistinguishable from "real" pictures. True Lies 1986.