Ever since the launch of the original Google Pixel back in 2016, Pixel phones have been some of the best camera phones on the market, producing image quality to rival any competitor. What makes this more remarkable is that the actual camera hardware in a Pixel isn't always the best available, with rival phones often packing larger, more exotic primary camera sensors. Yet thanks to the sheer might of Google's computational image processing power, the camera hardware in the Pixel becomes almost insignificant.
This may explain why Google didn't upgrade the primary camera sensor for four Pixel generations. The 12.2MP, 1/2.55" sensor in 2017's Pixel 2 was retained right through to the Pixel 5 in 2020, yet still Google managed to extract excellent image quality from the Pixel 5. Only with the Pixel 6 did Google finally switch to a larger 1/1.31" Samsung ISOCELL GN1 50MP sensor; the same sensor we find in the current Pixel 7 and 7 Pro.
But it seems we might not need to wait another two or more Pixel generations to see another camera sensor upgrade. According to a leaked report from Android Authority, it seems that for the Pixel 8, Google may be switching to Samsung's ISOCELL GN2 sensor. Though still 50 megapixels, the GN2 is physically larger than the GN1 at 1/1.12", resulting in a 1.4μm pixel size - that's up from the ISOCELL GN1's 1.2μm. The end result is the GN2 should capture up to 35% more light, theoretically meaning better low light image quality.
The new sensor can also record 8K video, though whether or not Google can turn this into reality and deal with the associated processing and cooling requirements remains to be seen. Lastly, the GN2 reportedly supports Staggered HDR, whereby the delay between successive shots taken in an HDR sequence is reduced, resulting in faster, more reliable HDR image capture.
Not only is the primary camera sensor rumored to be new in the Pixel 8, the Pixel 8 Pro is said to be getting a new ultrawide camera sensor as well. Out goes the aging 12MP Sony IMX386 in the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, reportedly to be replaced by the 64MP Sony IMX787 sensor. At 1/1.3-inch in size, the IMX787 is considerably larger than the 1/2.9" IMX386 in the Pixel 7, so ultrawide image quality should be vastly improved. Interestingly, the vanilla Pixel 8 may not receive the Sony IMX787 for its ultrawide sensor, with Google instead sticking with the old IMX386.
As for the rest of the Pixel 8 Pro's camera array: the telephoto camera will reportedly stay unchanged, carrying over the 48MP Samsung GM5 from the Pixel 7 Pro, giving 5x zoom. The 11MP Samsung 3J1 selfie camera is also said to reappear in the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro.
On the software side, the Pixel 8 camera app may be getting additional features. “Adaptive torch" should dynamically adjust flash intensity to prevent overexposure, while “Segmentation AWB” will segment a scene into multiple parts using AI, with different image processing then applied to individual segments to better optimise and target processing effects. A video bokeh blur level selection is also likely to be added to the Pixel 8's cinematic mode.
If these leaked details are indeed true, Google is doubling down on camera quality for the Pixel 8 Pro. No more recycled hardware from previous Pixel generations for the primary and ultrawide cameras - the Pixel 8 Pro would combine fresh hardware with Google's formidable image processing tech. We could have a new camera phone beast in the making.
Story credit: Android Authority