My relationship with Google Pixel’s Night Sight is the same relationship that we all have with Hollywood. It’s dolled up on the outside, but hideous on the inside. Every time a Made by Google event happens — I’m like, “oh wow, that looks so useful!”
Then I turn to my Pixel phone in some of those precious moments that I want to capture, and I am utterly disappointed by the quality and speed at which the photos are delivered.
If you’re itching for a device to capture photos in the dark, wait for our Pixel 8 review before you go running out and making a purchase. Here’s why.
Beautiful moments ruined
Just this past July I went out to see the fireworks with my family, and the park was so dark that the street lamps made it look like a scene out of a horror film. The fireworks started popping off, and I really wanted to capture the moment, taking a selfie as the fireworks lit up our faces. I could not have been more disappointed.
My Google Pixel needed a few seconds to capture the image, and when it did, the image it spat out was bright — almost like the sun was setting, but in reality it was pitch black out. However, the image was blurry, distorted and a mess of pixels.
This wasn’t the first time this happened, either. When I wake up in the morning and there’s a break in the curtain letting a bit of light in, my one-year-old starts jumping on top of me. She makes the cutest faces in the morning, and I want to capture those moments. Despite the room being dimly lit, Night Sight still takes time to capture the photo and the end result is a mushy mess.
Trying to capture my daughter with Night Sight is a nightmare. If you have children, you know that getting them to stay still long enough to capture a photo is tough, and with Night Sight, you need to be perfectly still otherwise the photo is completely useless.
Get your lens together
For Night Sight to be a viable way to capture night shots in anything but ideal circumstances, the technology needs to be quick and sharp.
Right now, the biggest issue with Night Sight is that it takes way too long to process an image before it captures a shot. So unless you are taking an incredibly still shot, Night Sight is useless to you.
However, with the new Pixel 8, Night Sight is now available for videos as well. Night Sight photos cannot handle an inch of movement before breaking, so how the heck is that going to work? Well, Night Sight photos happen at the capture level while Night Sight video applies those effects after the fact. Is that better or worse? We won't know until we test it, but I know that Night Sight photos make it impossible to take active images.
Another issue with Night Sight is the quality. The darker a space is, the more pixelated the image will become, and while Night Sight can artificially make an image brighter, it does not help the quality of the photo. That’s why Night Sight photos that are taken in truly dark spaces look so grainy and blurry.
Good lighting is the solution for most photography and videography issues. Night Sight attempts to solve the issue of poor lighting, but it’s hit or miss depending on the situation. If there’s enough light in a space, Night Sight shines, but in actual night shots, the technology breaks down before it can spit out an image.
I am not expecting world-class photography from Night Sight, but I would love to see images that don't look like they were spit out by a 720p laptop webcam. I've seen enough of those to last a lifetime, thanks.
Should I get the Pixel 8 for night shoots?
I cannot speak to the Pixel 8's Night Sight for videos, but I’m not optimistic for the photos as the technology hasn't changed in a meaningful way. The upgrades to the camera hardware on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro may help, but I’ll be shocked if it’s enough to allow for active night shots that don't look like a mess of pixels.
Before you go out and buy any product, check out our upcoming reviews of the Pixel 8 phones. And if you're just looking to take better night shots, you're better off investing in one of the best cameras.
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Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.