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Google Pixel 2 camera: Update to fix audio quality issue, HDR mode coming to third-party apps

Written by Shruti Dhapola
| New Delhi |

Updated: November 21, 2017 4:55 pm

Google Pixel 2 XL camera will get few updates, including a fix for audio distortion when recording videos.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL might not have had the best start thanks to all those display issues, but one area where the search giant has proved it is ahead is the camera. The camera on the Google Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 2 is being hailed as one of the best in smartphones by most who have reviewed the device. But Google plans to issue some updates to fix the nagging issues with the camera.

Google’s Product Management lead Brian Rakowski and Tim Knight who is the camera lead on the Pixel series explained in an interaction with select members of the Indian media that updates are coming for the camera. Knight confirmed Google will be issuing a software fix for the audio quality problems that users have been complaining about on the Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 2 when recording video.

“The issue here is that the noise suppressing algorithms are not functioning well with the background noise, which is causing the problem,” he explained. The Pixel 2 camera’s “flicker detection” issue around LED lights will also be fixed in a future update. Google blames this on another software bug.

The team also explained that with the Pixel 2 camera, the company pushed the HDR Plus mode seen on the original Pixel further. One of the reasons why the original Pixel’s camera performed the way it did was due to the HDR plus mode which “preserved highlights, kept shadows visible and ensured zero shutter lag,” even if the pictures took that extra few seconds to process.

In Pixel 2, Google added a newer auto-focus mechanism and the dual Pixel technology to drastically improve the quality of the pictures. The dual Pixel technology ensures the camera has a truer depth map of the actual scene.

Additionally, the Visual Core update for Pixel 2 will focus on bringing this same camera experience to third-party apps. “So the future Visual Core update in Android 8.1 is primarily meant for third-party camera apps. In our Google Pixel 2, users can capture great scenarios in the default camera app. This update will make those same high quality HDR quality processed pictures available to third-party apps as well,” confirmed Knight.

Also read: Google Pixel 2 XL review: Stands out on software, camera

Google also explained the difference between HDR+ and HDR+ extended on the Pixel 2 camera, which is another mode. According to Google HDR+ extended can have more range in some conditions and users might not always see a difference in results between the two modes. “In HDR+ users will see a slower capture and overall less seamless experience as there is additional tuning for the images,” explained Knight.

Google said 4K video and increased noise in low-light was a deliberate choice. “We would rather let user see the scene, even if there is more noise which is not avoidable. So we tend to make it brighter on the Pixel 2 XL,” explained Knight. However, Google will not add 4K video recording at 60 frames per second to the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL camera. Apple’s iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X in contrast has the option for 4K recording at 60 frames per second.

Google also explained that with Pixel 2, the rear camera’s portrait mode is driven by machine learning. With Pixel 2 XL, Google has added the portrait mode on the front as well, though this not an option on the smaller Pixel 2.

Google also confirmed they are not looking to add a slider style manual control on the Pixel 2 camera as they felt the HDR+ mode does the job well already. “We are not convinced this is a good mode on a smartphone camera. In fact, image quality would plummet if you turn off HDR+,” said Knight. Unlike some other smartphone cameras, the Pixel 2 does not have a manual mode nor does it allow for capture in RAW mode.

Finally, AR Stickers will also be a part of the Google Pixel 2 camera in the future, and according to the company the smartphone is factory calibrated for AR, which means it will provide a better AR experience as it can detect surfaces, etc more accurately.

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