It looks like Google could switch the primary camera in its next flagships, likely called the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro.
While still months away, we’ve gotten a glimpse of some camera details thanks to developer and leaker Kuba Wojciechowski. Wojciechowski claims to have obtained an “unobfuscated version” of the Google Camera Go app, which shares resources with the regular Google Camera app available on Pixel phones. In the Camera Go app’s code, Wojciechowski found references to ‘Shiba’ and ‘Husky,’ which are likely the codenames for the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, respectively (Shiba and Husky turned up in a previous leak with details about the RAM and screen resolutions of the devices).
Long story short, courtesy of Google we got a clean, unobfuscated version of Google Camera Go, that includes references that seemingly confirm that flagship Pixels in 2023 – Husky and Shiba – will support staggered HDR. pic.twitter.com/YdaWTlGznN
— Kuba Wojciechowski⚡ (@Za_Raczke) December 19, 2022
The references Wojciechowski found mention that Shiba and Husky support ‘staggered HDR,’ a different approach to HDR than what Pixel phones currently use. When you take a picture on a Pixel phone, the camera captures long and short exposures in quick succession, then stitches together the different exposures to create the final image. Staggered HDR, on the other hand, captures the long and short exposure at the same time, reducing the time taken to capture the image and, by extension, reducing the likelihood of ghosting or strobe effect caused when the phone can’t match the two exposures together.
The thing is, the camera sensor Google used in the primary camera for the Pixel 7 series and Pixel 6 series — the 50-megapixel Samsung GN1 — doesn’t support staggered HDR at a hardware level. That means if the code snippet is accurate, the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro will need a different camera sensor to support staggered HDR. Android Police points to Samsung’s GN2 sensor, noting it’s similar to the GN1 but offers staggered HDR support.
Aside from a change to the sensor, this would mark a larger shift for Google. The company previously stuck with the same camera hardware over multiple iterations of its phones, focusing on machine learning and software instead of hardware upgrades. For example, the camera sensor introduced with the Pixel 3 stuck around until Google switched to the GN1 with the Pixel 6.
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see what comes of the GN2 switch, if anything. We’re still really early in the rumour cycle for the Pixel 8 series, which likely won’t come out until the fall of 2023. A lot can change, so I wouldn’t bet on a new camera sensor just yet.