Is the new Google Pixel Astro Timelapse feature all that it’s cracked up to be? Well, after announcing the feature, the update to the camera app has yet to come to all Pixel 4 and newer devices, so who really knows. I’ve read articles and watched videos about the June feature drop from Google but my Pixel 4a with 5G isn’t doing astro timelapses yet, so what gives?
Fortunately there’s a work around to force update your Google Pixel device. We’ll go over how to force update a Google Pixel before discussing how to do astrophotography timelapses. Finally we’ll explain what we think of the results.
Astrophotography Timelapse on Google Pixel Devices
The June update from Google introduced a number of new features, but for the purposes of mobile videography the only one that’s important is the astro timelapse.
It is worth noting that this update only applies to Google Pixel 4 and newer devices which means that as soon as the update is live I’ll be able to screen record the process for you on my Google Pixel 4 with 5G. The resulting astro timelapses and screen recordings will be turned into a video explaining everything you need to know about this new Google Pixel feature.
How to Force Update a Google Pixel Camera App
If you don’t have this option in the camera settings of your Google Pixel phone, then follow these instructions to force update the camera app. You’ll need a computer and USB-C cable in addition to your Pixel because you’re going to need to sideboard the app. Don’t worry if you don’t know what this is, I didn’t either before I successfully did it.
- Download the most recent Google Camera Update (must be Google Camera 8.2.400.377695972.29) onto your computer
- Attach your Pixel device to the computer with a USB-C cable
- Drag the downloaded file from your computer onto your phone
- Download the APKMirror Installer App
- Follow the prompts and allow the update to occur
How to do Astrophotography Timelapses on Google Pixel Phones
You’ll find this feature in the Night Sight mode of the native Google camera app but you’ll need to turn it on. You can do this by going in the Camera Settings, selecting Advanced, and toggling the “enable timelapse for astrophotography” option to blue.
Once this setting is turned on and your phone is stable you don’t need to do any additional work to get astrophotography timelapses. It should be noted, though, that timelapses are only created when the astrophotography mode goes for longer than 3 minutes and every timelapse is one second long. Additionally, the Google Pixel astrophotography timelapses take up 3.5x the storage space as the traditional astrophotos.
For the best results I took three of four astrolapses per location so that I had a substantial number of clips to string together. I also found a secluded and elevated location 40 minutes away from Denver that was very dark. If I was in the city limits I don’t think the results would be as good, so be sure to go out further and earlier than you think that you need to.
Google Pixel Timelapses
Timelapses on the Google Pixel are simple to capture and offer a variety of capture modes from which to choose – 1x, 5x, 10x, 30x, and 120x.
- 1x – good for dramatic speed ups and slow downs
- 5x – good for lively groups
- 10x – good for walking
- 30x – good for busy spots
- 120x – good for sunrises and sunsets
In practice, though, these timelapse modes in the Google Camera app aren’t doing the same thing as the new astro timelapse. The fact that Google has marketed this as a timelapse feature when it’s so different from their actual timelapse mode is pretty comical. There is some control in timelapse mode but there is no control when doing Google Pixel astrophotography timelapses.
Google Pixel Night Sight and Astrophotography
This video may be about long exposure on Google Pixel smartphones but the way in which Google’s Night Sight and Astrophotography modes compute shows how the new astrophotography timelapse works. While these modes produce a photo, they aren’t doing real long-exposure to do it. In the video above, I attempted to capture light trails using the Pixel Astrophotography mode but noticed that the light trails would disappear before the photo fully rendered.
What it seemed to me was happening was that Google was recording a video and optimizing it into a photo as the clock ticked on. According to my research, this is exactly what the new astrophotography timelapse mode is doing.
The results of the Google Pixel astrophotography timelapse feature are similarly underwhelming too.
Is the Google Pixel Astrolapse Feature Good?
Good is relative. If you like easy and impressive results, then yes – the astro timelapse feature introduced to Google Pixel phones is good. If, on the other hand, you like control over your camera, then you’re going to hate astro timelapsing on your Google Pixel phone.
Comment your thoughts on the Google Pixel astrophotography timelapse feature, though, as perhaps there are ways to achieve better results. Is this feature useful? Maybe false-advertising a little bit? Let’s discuss it all below.