Hey, hey, hey everyone! Today, I am going to talk about something SUPER cool; Astrovideo on a phone! I am also going to show off some Astrophotography shots as well and compare the phone to my dslr.
If you have been following the blog for a while, you almost certainly know. It is the Google Pixel phones. The feature came in the June feature drop after rumours began circling just a few days prior. Now, it is now the end of June, and I am only just making a post about these features. Sadly, the rollout for the update was a bit slower than usual, and I only got it at the end of last week. I have spent the past week testing the features as much as I could to bring you today’s post! Okay, let’s get into it!
Okay, I am going to start out with a brief overview of the feature. Basically, it uses the regular astrophotography mode and, if you have the feature enabled, you will end up with a photo and a short timelapse of the stars. One thing to be noted, is that it requires at least a 2-minute exposure to work. In the settings/advanced, you will see this toggle:
Google implemented the feature in with the astrophoto feature. I do understand why for functionality reasons, I just can’t help but wish that it was a feature that could be enabled all the time in the video settings…
Testing it out!
Okay, now it is time for me to show you just how cool this feature is! Now, I can’t upload any videos directly to the blog, so I did have to put the timelapses on Rumble. You can view that here, but I want to go more in depth with the photos, compare it to my dslr, and also see what under-the-hood changes Google has made.
Above, you can see a photo that I took using the astro mode. Now, I didn’t edit this to bring out those stars or anything, but I think that it looks decent! (please excuse the light on the bush 😂). If you really look close at the tree, you will see imperfections, but Google remains to be the only company with a dedicated astrophotography mode and algorithm to control it! I am definitely not saying that other phones can’t do it, they just don’t have a dedicated mode and use manual settings to achieve it. I actually wan’t to talk more on the algorithm.
The Algorithm (how it all works):
Using 15-16 second exposures across 1-4 minutes, the algorithm combines them using the powerful processing to get a photo. That isn’t all though, the photos also go through a denoise algorithm and more processing to eliminate light pollution that might affect the photo. Google’s blog says that when creating the astro photography feature, they experimented with a solid two-minute exposure. Even on a tripod, it would become too blurry. That is why Google settled with 16 second exposures. Small bits of light will destroy the photo, making it look like this:
I had some photos like this, but I sadly didn’t keep them. If you want to see this, you have to capture in raw & jpeg. Google calls these hot pixels and eliminates them using AI to analyse the pixels around these hot pixels to make them disappear. Google has been able to make the phone capture 250x more light than a dslr can in 16 seconds! Another process that Google uses is the sky algorithm to depict the difference between the sky and the ground and expose each correctly. It uses an algorithm based off of more than 100,000 test images to analyse the pixels. Using all of this, the Google Pixel will capture the stars, but according to Google it does need a small amount of moonlight.
Astrovideo (how it works):
Now that we know how the photo algorithm works, how does the video work? Google didn’t release any research notes on this, but I think that it works based off of the same algorithms. It looks almost like the photos, but the stars just move across the different shots… I have to assume that the mechanism is slightly different to get the smooth video. I sadly have no official documents to explain this.
This photo below was one of the first of this evening. There aren’t too many stars out.
This photo has so many more stars in it!
Here is another photo from a different night, just at a similar angle.
All of these photos are okay, and you can see some stars. I am curious if a dslr could capture more.
Below is a photo from my EOS 250d. I did the max, which is at a 30-second exposure. Now I made the mistake of using my telephoto lens which can’t capture as much light. As you can see in the photo, I didn’t do well without the algorithms from Google making up for any instability. I was using a tripod, but wasn’t on solid ground.
This second photo has also fallen victim to the lack of software interference.
I did figure out that my 50mm fixed lens would be better for low light and I could take photos without the risk of blur.
Here is another example from my 50mm.
As you can see from the photos, I struggled a lot more to take photos with my dslr. I do think that there was more detail from the dslr with the extra megapixels.
I also saw that Google improved its regular night mode with a 3 second exposure. Now this is still grainy, but you can see stars…
If I did a similar 3 second exposure on the dslr, I got would get something like this. The angle and lighting is different, so comparing these would be difficult.
Astrophotography on phones is really intriguing, and I enjoy doing it. The dedicated mode on the Google Pixel is super nice, but I am sure if a professional astrophotographer saw it, they wouldn’t be too impressed. 😂
I have a compilation of the videos linking to these photos that you can see using this link:
It is incredible that a tiny sensor on a phone like the Google Pixel can capture shots like these. I am interested what you think of this improvement in mobile photography? Astrovideo is pretty cool on a phone! Don’t forget to leave a like and comment, it helps out a ton and I love hearing from you! Next week I have an exciting post planned so be sure to follow so that you don’t miss it!
Thank you so much for reading! I apologize for the short post this week, I have been working on blog maintenance and the post coming next week. If you want to see something a bit different, I have a video on Rumble showing the most important parts of the Windows 11 launch event that happened yesterday! Check that out at the link below:
Thank you again! Have a fabulous week!
-Digital Wonders & Smiles