There figures to be plenty to talk about with the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro when they debut this week at the Made by Google event. But for all the discussion about the new Tensor G3 silicon powering the two phones or the brighter displays Google's expected to unveil, most of the attention will likely fall on the Pixel 8 cameras.
And that's perfectly understandable. For all their other strengths, Google's Pixel phones have built their reputation on how well they take photos. You'll frequently find Pixels mentioned among the best camera phones, and you could argue that Google's work with computational photography has pressured Apple and Samsung to up their own camera game.
So what can Google do to follow up on past camera phone successes when it's time to release the Pixel 8 models. Based on rumors building up to this week's announcement, we've heard many rumors about Google's plans, with much of the focus landing on smart camera capabilities powered by AI. But a few hardware changes could also be in the works for both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Plus.
Here's what we've heard about potential camera changes to this year's version of Google's flagship phones.
Pixel 8 cameras: Rumored hardware changes
The basic camera setup for both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro isn't going to change. That means a main camera and an ultrawide camera on the less expensive Pixel 8 while the Pixel 8 Pro adds a telephoto lens to the mix. Leaked images of the Pixel 8 Pro show a second sensor beneath the camera flash, but that sensor has nothing to do with photos — instead it's a new temperature sensor you'll use to see how hot or cold something is.
As for the hardware that's actually related to cameras, the Pixel 8 is expected to feature the same setup as the Pixel 7 — a 50MP main camera and a 12MP ultrawide shooter. The ultrawide camera adds autofocus with the Pixel 8, according to Pixel 8 specs leaks.
Likewise, the Pixel 8 Pro should also sport a 50MP main camera and a 48MP telephoto lens capable of a 5x zoom, just like the Pixel 7 Pro. The ultrawide lens could be do for a change, though — while the Pixel 7 Pro featured a 12MP sensor, that's due for an upgrade with the Pixel 8 Pro. The consensus seems to be a 48MP ultrawide lens, though one rumor hinted at a 64MP sensor for that camera.
pic.twitter.com/Ujq0PGht08September 27, 2023
The megapixel rating on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro main camera may not be increasing, but there's talk of Google using a larger sensor. Specifically, Google might turn to the Samsung ISOCell GN2 — a bigger sensor than the one in last year's Pixel 7, in order to let in 35% more light before.
The front camera on both new phones looks like it's getting a minor downgrade from the Pixel 7 models. Last year, Google's phone offered a 10.8MP selfie camera, but that's now supposed to be a 10.5MP lens on the Pixel 8.
Pixel 8 cameras: Rumored software changes
Computational photography has always been Google's calling card, and it sounds like that's continuing with the Pixel 8. Recent flagship releases have been accompanied by AI-driven photo processing — think the Magic Eraser tool with the Pixel 6 and Photo Unblur with the Pixel 7 — and rumors suggest several possible additions to the Pixel 8's photo toolkit.
Early reports claimed the Pixel 8 would turn to staggered HDR, in which long and short exposures are taken at the same time instead of a camera capturing exposure in rapid succession. This approach would reduce the chance of strobing and other artifacts that can crop up when combining different exposures.
In the spirit of the photo processing tools added to recent Pixels that fine tune your photos, rumored AI additions this time around, Google could add a tool that lets you edit in faces from other shots for those times when not everyone's looking at the camera. A camera spec sheet posted by leaker Evan Blass refers to this feature as Best Take. (That same sheet also shows a feature called Macro Focus coming to both Pixel 8 models, though we haven't heard many additional rumors about that capability.)
As for other photo editing tools, you'll also be able to adjust lighting and even where the subject is located in a photo — a feature that sounds an awful lot like the Magic Editor tool Google showed off at its developer conference earlier this year.
A number of rumored improvements are supposedly coming to video capture including a version of Magic Eraser that can do away with unwanted background noise in the footage you capture. We've also heard talk of a Video Unblur feature that cleans up blurry subjects in captured video as well as the addition of a Night Sight mode for shooting videos in low light.
A report from August claimed the Camera app on the Pixel phones was going to get an overhaul, led by a streamlined menu carousel for toggling between photo and video modes. Once you pick a mode, the usual array of different camera modes appears. A dedicated video stabilization menu will apparently let you choose between Standard, Locked, and Active via a pop-up menu.
Pixel 8 cameras: Outlook
The cameras on the Pixel 8 may not be getting the kind of overhaul we saw when the main camera on the Pixel 6 upgraded from a 12.2MP sensor toa 50MP one. But the minor tweaks could lead to better overall photos, particularly in low-light settings.
It's on the software side of things that Google's camera phones figure to see substantial improvements, though we'll have to wait until the Made by Google event to confirm which rumored feeatures are in fact coming to the Pixel 8.
Whatever boost those software changes provide will certainly be welcome, as the iPhone 15 introduced some welcome improvements to Apple's camera phones and Samsung continues to provide the best zoom shots in the business. To put it another way, other camera phone makers are ramping up their game, so now it's Google's turn to follow suit.