Google adds (finally) an ultra wide-angle to its smartphone


The Pixel 5 is there and with it, its share of expectations in photographic matters, Google being, thanks to its software geniuses, the master of color on Android and one of the precursors in terms of visual computing and stabilization of picture.
After a Pixel 4 rather disappointing, Google returns with a cheaper, less powerful terminal and in the same philosophical vein in terms of its relationship to the image. Namely a single classic wide-angle camera module on the front and only two camera modules on the back.

It is also on the back that we must look for the only transformation, namely the elimination of the telephoto module that was present on the Pixel 4 in favor of an ultra wide-angle module.
A good choice in our opinion, who had criticized the Pixel 4 on this subject. A disappointment, however, that Google continues in its desire to limit hardware investments as much as possible for the benefit of software.

The main rear camera module is known: it is the same module as that of the Pixel 4a. A module incorporating a 12 Mpix Sony IMX363 sensor that Google has mastered perfectly in terms of color rendering – but logically less efficient in low light than the giant sensors from Huawei and Samsung.
On the zoom side, the loss of the telephoto lens should cause the software zoom to lose power. It will remain to be determined whether Google’s algorithms have nevertheless progressed in this direction or if we return to the Pixel 3 box.

As for the ultra-wide-angle module, the angular coverage of 107 ° with a definition of 16 Mpix and 1 micron photodiodes takes us back … to 2018. Since this is the same kind of module that equipped the LG G7 ThinQ. You have to understand that the sensor here is undoubtedly a 1 / 3.1 ’’, that is to say a small sensor that is not very sensitive in low light. Fortunately, Google’s algorithms should help him when photons are scarce.

Google has precisely worked its copy on this side by coupling Portrait mode to Night mode (Night Sight) with “Night Sight in Portrait Mode”. Enough to shoot flattering portraits with beautiful blurred backgrounds in the evening around a campfire (if the algorithms don’t crash, see our photo test of the Pixel 4a: “The limits of software processing”).

Another algorithmic advance is a new portrait lighting feature integrated into Google Photos. It generates a directional point light source to lift the shadows on a face. Even though the function was given a maximum of 20 seconds during the conference, in our opinion it is the most interesting function of this terminal.

The video benefits from two notable improvements, namely a passage to 60 frames per second in 4K (4K60p) as well as three new stabilization modes dedicated to budding filmmakers.
The first is a locked / centered mode called “Locked”, which should correspond to this effect where the subject / object maintains its position in a sequence and all the rest of the frame moves around it.
The so-called “Active” stabilization corresponds to a stabilization capable of correcting the movements of the operator to make the sequence fluid – and viewable.
As for the “Cinematic Span” stabilization, it corresponds more or less to a steady cam which simulates flexible vertical or horizontal sweeping movements like… cinema.

A change of focal length, two new photo functions and some stabilization settings on the video side: the Pixel 5 vintage is, on paper, more than modest.
An approach that corresponds with the technical sheet of the device, which does not appeal to the flagship of Qualcomm and is satisfied with a (good) mid-range SoC, the Snapdragon 765G (we would have preferred a 768G even newer) But a shyness that inevitably disappoints from Google, as one can imagine what the American giant could do with high-end equipment like the Huawei P40 Pro +.

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