Google Pixel 8 leak shows it may get a new main camera

Code snippets suggest the new series will support layered HDR


Photography has always been the Pixel phones strongest suite. Google has pioneered advanced machine learning cameras that do a lot of the heavy lifting during post-production, and that’s no less true of the Google Pixel 7 Pro and its smaller siblings, which offer a range of incredible camera features. It looks like the company isn’t ready to slow down anytime soon, as next year’s Pixel 8 could come with tiered HDR support – which would also mean a new primary camera.

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Developer and leaker Kuba Wojciechowski has obtained an unobfuscated version of Google’s camera app for budget phones, Camera Go, which shares resources with the regular camera app found on Pixel phones. In the code, he spotted references to devices named “Husky” and “Shiba,” which are most likely the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, and said those devices support staggered HDR.

Staggered HDR is a slightly different approach to HDR, in which a long and short exposure shot are taken at the same time rather than in quick succession. It’s said to further reduce capture time compared to Google’s current approach, which could reduce the likelihood of ghosting or strobing if the algorithm can’t correctly match longer and shorter exposure shots within the same photo.

The thing about tiered HDR is that the camera currently shipping on the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 6, the 50MP Samsung GN1, just doesn’t support it at the hardware level. Unless the code found by Kuba Wojciechowski is just part of an experimental assembly, it strongly suggests that Google will be upgrading the main camera with the Pixel next year. There are several options, but one camera that would be particularly similar to the GN1 would be the 50MP GN2, which supports staggered HDR.

The Pixel 7 and Pixel 6’s GN1 sensor was a significant step forward for the series, which previously relied on the same camera first introduced with the Pixel 3 in terms of hardware. Previously, Google mainly focused on improving the software and hardware around the camera with new algorithms, chips and more.

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Should Google switch to a new sensor for the Pixel 8, that would mean a change of strategy. Rather than sticking with the same camera for years and iteratively improving the surrounding architecture to get the most out of it, the company would opt for a two-pronged strategy, improving both hardware and software. Given the changes we’ve seen in the company’s camera division over the past few years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see new members trying different approaches.

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