Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G users can no longer use the ultra-wide camera to take photos of the stars, as Google appears to have removed the astrophotography feature of the lens with the Google Camera 8.1 update released in mid-November.
Astrophotography was a major selling point of the Pixel 4, and it was available on both regular and telephoto cameras.
When the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G were announced with the new wide-angle lenses, the star photography feature was added to those lenses as well.
The astrophotography feature allows users to capture images of the night sky by pointing the phone up and keeping it still, either by balancing it across a nearby object or placing it on a tripod.
The feature is still available on other cameras for phones, but if you switch to Night Sight mode and switch to the ultra-wide angle camera, you now receive a warning that says: 1x astrophotography zoom, while the message was saying before the update: Astrophotography on.
Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G owners can still use the ultra-wide lens in Night Sight mode, but not to capture stars.
The use of the ultra-wide lens for astrophotography makes sense because it allows users to capture more of the scene, but users should now make do with the regular lens, which still provides a relatively wide field of view.
Google has updated its technical support document for low-light photography to add the following caveat: The astrophotography feature of Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G works with zoom settings equal to or greater than 1x only.
This change in the technical support document for low-light photography appears to have occurred sometime between November 1st and November 7th.
Given that the update had been around for a month and a half before most people started noticing that the feature had been removed, it might be clear why Google thought it might not have to mention it in the changelog.
Removing this feature is a reminder that software features used to advertise a phone may be subject to change, as happened with Pixel’s native-quality unlimited storage in Google Photos.