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Pixel 6’s camera combines hardware, software and ML

Mother and daughter taking a selfie on a couch.

Last week, we announced Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and we spent some time introducing the new Pixel Camera, which gets a big boost from Google Tensor, Google’s first System on a Chip (SoC) designed specifically for Pixel. But there’s so much more to talk about — so we wanted to take some time to show you how the new camera uses the latest technology from the Pixel hardware and research teams as well as our Pixel software team.

From HDR+ to Night Sight, Pixel has a history of building state-of-the-art cameras using computational photography, and Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are no exception. Google Tensor allows us to combine new camera hardware with thoughtful software, as well as advancements in machine learning (ML).

Photo of Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro camera bar.

Videos that look as good as photos

For the first time ever, Pixel Camera has Live HDR+ enabled in all video modes – even 4K60 – and in popular social and chat apps, too. With Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, we drastically accelerated Live HDR+ by designing it directly into Google Tensor’s Image Signal Processor (ISP). Google Tensor enabled many other improvements to video, too, including real-time tone mapping of people and upgrades to stabilization.

Alt text: Frames of 4K60 Live HDR+ video at a beach during sunset and a field in the afternoon.

Google Tensor enables Live HDR+ in video.

Night Sight is better than ever

Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have a larger main rear camera that can capture 2.5x as much light as Pixel 5, so your Night Sight photos will be sharper and more detailed than ever. The larger camera works with a new laser detect auto focus system and Google Tensor’s ISP, which use new motion detection algorithms to capture shorter exposures that aren’t as blurry.

hoto of a hiker sitting in a dark ice cave and photo of a woman leaning on a pink and white car at night.

The new main sensor captures 2.5x as much light as ever before.

A more equitable camera

With Real Tone, Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are designed for people of every skin tone, so that your portraits look authentic and true to life. Google Tensor enables an advanced ML-based face detection model that more accurately auto-exposes photos of people of color. We also updated our auto-white balance algorithm to detect and correct inaccurate skin tones, and, if you enable Frequent Faces, Pixel Camera will also learn how to better auto-white balance the people you photograph most-frequently.

Alt text: Photo of a person looking toward the camera in a green shirt. Photo of a person looking toward the camera against an orange background.

Real Tone helps everyone feel seen, no matter their skin tone.

Fewer blurry photos of people

With Face Unblur, more of your photos of people will come out crisp and sharp. If Google Tensor detects someone is moving quickly, Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro simultaneously take a darker but sharper photo on the Ultra Wide camera and a brighter but blurrier photo on the main camera. Google Tensor then uses machine learning to automatically combine the two photos, giving you a well-exposed photo with a sharp face.

Alt text: Photo of a young girl playing under a colorful awning.

The upgraded Ultra Wide camera is used to take sharp photos of moving people, even when you don’t zoom out.

Easy-to-use creative effects

Sometimes, you want a bit of blur – with Motion Mode (now in Beta on Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro), you can easily capture high-quality Action Pans and Long Exposures. Instead of using a sleight of hand or tripod, you can just press the Pixel Camera shutter button and rely on Google Tensor to handle motion vector calculations, frame interpolation, subject segmentation, hand-shake rejection, and blur rendering.

Photo of a city street with streaks of light from taillights and a NYC cab zipping through Manhattan.

Action Pan and Long Exposure features in Motion Mode create artful blur of movement.

Zooming in…

Pixel 6 Pro’s new telephoto camera uses an updated version of Super Res Zoom with HDR+ Bracketing so zoomed photos look sharp, not grainy. The sensor used in the 4x optical camera is larger than Pixel 5’s main sensor and it gathers more light, so fitting it in Pixel 6 Pro is no easy feat. It’s hidden inside the camera bar and uses a prism that bends the light so the lens can be oriented sideways.

Schematic of Pixel 6 Pro telephoto camera.
Photo of person relaxing on a bench, taken from top of building.

Pixel 6 Pro has the best zoom we’ve ever put in a Pixel phone.

…and zooming out

Speaking of zoom, sometimes selfies feel too zoomed in, making it tricky to get a picture with all your friends or family. We built a new Ultra Wide selfie camera for Pixel 6 Pro that lets you ditch the selfie stick. When taking a selfie, you can zoom out by pressing the .7x button and capture photos of yourself or a group without extending your arm or fumbling around. And if you want to vlog on YouTube, Pixel 6 Pro’s selfie camera now supports 4K video recording and Speech enhancement mode, too! Pixel 6 uses Tensor’s TPU to simultaneously process audio and visual cues to isolate speech. It can reduce background noise up to 80% in noisy environments.

A group of friends posing for a selfie.

Pixel 6 Pro lets you zoom out to .7x on selfies so you can capture the entire crew.

Easier edits with Magic Eraser

Magic Eraser in Google Photos can help remove photobombers from your photos with the tap of a button. Using novel algorithms for confidence, segmentation, and inpainting, Magic Eraser can easily remove suggested distractions from your photos or let you select things you want to remove. Better yet, these machine learning models run on-device using Google Tensor, so you can even use Magic Eraser when you’re away from connectivity or when your photos haven’t backed up yet.

Photo of a person sitting in the grass with two photobombers in the background and the same photo with the photobombers removed using Magic Eraser.

Magic Eraser removes distracting people in the background.

This is Pixel Camera's biggest hardware update ever, from the new Google Tensor chip to the debut of the camera bar. It's the best Pixel Camera we've built, and we can't wait to see what you do with it. Share your photos and videos on #TeamPixel through Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.

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