Google just announced and subsequently released the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL smartphones. During the launch event of these two smartphones, the company revealed a unique new software featured called Astrophotography Mode. This was said to be limited to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4, but I can show you how to use it on the older Pixel 1 and Pixel 2.
I was impressed with a couple of software announcements that were made at Google’s October event. One of the things that caught my eye was the new Astro Mode for the two new Pixel 4 smartphones. For the most part, Google has been great at backporting software features to older devices.
However, we were only told that Astro Mode would launch with the Pixel 4 and would then be made available to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL later on.
This bummed me out because I was looking forward to trying out this feature on the Pixel 2 XL I still use. I crossed my fingers and hoped that the developer community would come through and indeed they did. XDA Senior Member cstark27 just released their modded version of the Google Camera 7.2.
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This brings Astrophotography Mode to the Google Pixel, Google Pixel XL, Google Pixel 2, and Google Pixel 2 XL.
Time needed: 3 minutes.
Enable Astro Mode on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 1
- Download this modded GCam port APK file
- Sideload the APK file to install the application
- Open up the Camera PX app
- Swipe over to the Night Sight mode
- Then take your Astro Mode photograph
Remember to use a tripod at night to enable the feature.
As you can see, all we are doing here is installing a modified APK file (aka an Android application) that was created by cstark27. They are quite the popular GCam Mod developer and you can find their specialized list of camera mods here. We’re just focusing on the linked one in the tutorial above as it enables Astro Mode on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 1 devices.
Once you have the APK installed, you should see a new application in the App Drawer or the Home Screen. The application is labeled Camera PX and with it, we are able to use this modded version of the Google Camera app right alongside our stock, official version on the older Pixel smartphones.
How to Take an Astrophotography Mode Photo?
This is actually rather interesting because Google is advertising this feature quite a bit right now. However, it’s not like there’s a new Astro Mode option in the list of various camera modes. We actually use it by going into Night Sight camera mode, but even then it isn’t easy to see how we can take an Astro Mode photo.
So, once you open the Camera PX app, follow these steps to enable Astro Mode. . .
- Swipe over to the Night Sight Mode
- Attach your Pixel 1 or Pixel 2 to a tripod
- Point the rear camera at the dark night sky
- Tap the Moon shutter button and wait 1-4 minutes for the image to be captured
Why Isn’t Google’s Astrophotography Mode Turning On?
Once you get the hang of actually triggering the Astrophotography Mode text at the top of the screen, you start to understand why it wasn’t showing up before. It seems the smartphone is constantly monitoring the motion of the device when you are in Night Sight mode and that’s why a tripod is recommended.
So if you can’t get it to turn on then it may be the phone that’s detecting motion.
Light pollution is another key thing that will prevent the Astrophotography Mode text from appearing on the screen. If you don’t see that text on the screen then it will be a regular Night Sight photo. If you can, point it to the darkest part of the sky and think about bringing an umbrella or something that can help keep lights from shining on the phone’s camera sensors.
If everything is set up properly, you may simply need to tap the screen to get it to trigger the sensors and let it enable the Astro Mode for you.