Google has led the way in smartphone camera software ever since their release of the first Pixel phone in 2016. But with the rollout of Night Sight in 2018, they set the bar higher than ever.
Now they’ve gone one better by adding the same camera and technology into their mid-range smartphone – the Pixel 3A.
So, what is Night Sight and how does the Pixel 3A Night Sight work?
Here’s what you need to know…
What is Google Night Sight?
The quality of image you get from a smartphone camera has improved massively over the last decade. But until recently, taking photos at night was distinctly “meh”.
If you used the flash, you would end up with glaring colours and shiny skin. If you didn’t use the flash, you wouldn’t be able to see anything.
Google Night Sight is a huge leap forward in smartphone camera tech. We’ll get geeky about how it works in a minute, but as a user, you’re probably more interested in why it’s so great.
It’s simple. Night Sight allows you to take bright, detailed photos at night without using a flash or tripod.
Essentially, it turns night into day. Pretty cool, huh?
How does Night Sight work?
If you’ve ever dabbled in night-time photography, you’ll have probably used a tripod, to keep the camera steady while the shutter stays open.
But who’s got time to set up a tripod and wait for the shutter to let light in?
With Night Sight, you can take a totally different approach. Rather than trying to improve the camera lens itself, Google has focused on developing software that automatically picks out and balances colours.
Night Sight works by capturing a burst of images which it assembles into a single picture. It detects and the amount of camera shake, motion in the frame (e.g. if you’re taking a photo of people vs a landscape) and the lighting level.
Then, using a machine learning approach, it balances the colours in the image to how they’d look in natural daylight. Which is way more flattering for portraits than the jaundiced skin tones you’re used to seeing on night-time snapshots.
Which phones have Night Sight?
As it’s a software upgrade, theoretically, you can use Night Sight on any of the Pixel phones.
In practice, if you have an original Pixel phone or a Pixel 2, you won’t get quite the same experience as you will with the latest Pixel 3 range. It’ll still be far better than what you had before – and a million times better than the phone cameras of the past – but it’s definitely a compromise.
If you want the best Night Sight experience, you’ll have to go for the Pixel 3. But if the price tag on Google’s top-of-the-line phone is a bit much for you, the good news is that you can enjoy Night Sight on the totally affordable Pixel 3A as well.
You get the same rear-facing camera, Night Sight technology and all the same software – just in a slightly less powerful phone.
If you want to learn more, check out the Pixel 3A.
How to use Night Sight on the Pixel 3A
Fortunately, using Night Sight to take great pictures is much easier than trying to understand how it works.
The latest version of Google’s camera app (version 6.3) has promoted Night Sight to the main menu. Simply open up the camera and as well as choosing between camera, video and portrait modes, you can swipe to select Night Sight.
If you’re shooting in low light, you’ll also get a discrete pop-up suggesting you use Night Sight. Simply tap this button to switch modes and press the shutter button to take your photo.
Although the technology’s designed to eliminate the need for a tripod, that doesn’t mean you can wave your phone around and expect perfect results. You’ll get the best quality images by holding your phone still, or ideally, propping it up to take your photo.
The same goes for the subject of your photo. Night Sight can compensate for some movement, but it’s worth asking your models to hold still for a couple of seconds before and after you take the photo.
You should also be aware that very bright lights can confuse the camera software, resulting in a less-than-perfect image.
Still, these limitations are a small price to pay for the quantum leap in smartphone camera technology you get with Night Sight. And with the Pixel 3A delivering it at a reasonable price, there’s no excuse not to get on board.
Find out what other surprises the Pixel 3A has in store.