Android is stepping up its camera game … at least for Google’s own phones.
Google talked up a big game with its Pixel Visual Core shortly after announcing the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, but didn’t even enable it for developers until late-November 2017. Now, every Pixel 2 or 2 XL owner will see their Pixel Visual Core activated in the next few days, bringing its powers to every third-party app that takes pictures.
The Pixel Visual Core is a dedicated image processing unit in the Pixel 2 and 2 XL that takes care of image processing, and up until this point was dedicated to doing neat things for HDR+ in the Pixel 2’s stock camera app. With the upcoming early-February software update, the Pixel Visual Core will work for every app that calls up the camera.
So what does that mean? Better photos, across the board. Rather than relying on a basic camera API with high-level one-size-fits-all capabilities, each time you take a photo inside of an app — like Instagram or Snapchat, for example — it will be processed with the same great qualities you see through the stock camera app on a Pixel 2. You’re essentially getting low-level access to the camera hardware.
Get that great Pixel camera quality in all of your favorite apps.
No more grainy shots with bad colors and poor low-light performance, and no more compromises between the speed of using an in-app camera and the quality of taking a photo and sharing it to the app later. Google’s also noting that moving processing to the Pixel Visual Core gives benefits like zero shutter lag and enhanced edge smoothing when digitally zooming, which were both huge pain points of using the old camera API in chat apps in particular. Here are some before and after shots Google shared to show what the Pixel Visual Core is capable of in third-party apps:
It’s one of those little things that makes the Pixels just that much more appealing than other Android phones, and shows Google’s ability to do some special things with its own hardware. Of course, true photographers will still want to use the stock camera app for more camera tweaks and saving for later use, but for spur-of-the-moment shares, in-app shots will be dramatically better than before.
Google’s calling out Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp as great examples of apps that will benefit from this, but it’s available to any third-party app that takes photos. Just take the next software update on your Pixel 2 or 2 XL and you’ll immediately notice the difference — there’s nothing to enable or change on your end.
- Pixel 2 FAQ: Everything you need to know!
- Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL review: The new standard
- Google Pixel 2 specs
- Google Pixel 2 vs. Pixel 2 XL: What’s the difference?
- Join our Pixel 2 forums
Use Pixel 2 for better photos in Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat
With Pixel 2, we wanted to build the best smartphone camera in the world. One of the ways we did that is with HDR+ technology, which helps you capture better photos in challenging lighting conditions, like scenes with both bright and shaded areas or those with dim light. This technology has always been available when you take photos from Pixel’s main camera app. Now we’re bringing it to your favorite photography, social media, and camera apps.
Today we’re turning on Pixel Visual Core for Pixel 2 users—a custom designed co-processor for Pixel 2. Using computational photography and machine learning (which powers Pixel’s HDR+ technology), Pixel Visual Core improves image quality in apps that take photos. This means it’ll be easier to shoot and share amazing photos on Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat, along with many other apps which use the Pixel 2 camera. All you need to do is take the photo and Pixel 2 will do the rest. Your photos will be bright, detailed, and clear.
Pixel Visual Core is built to do heavy-lifting image processing while using less power, which saves battery. That means we’re able to use that additional computing power to improve the quality of your pictures by running the HDR+ algorithm. Like the main Pixel camera, Pixel Visual Core also runs RAISR, which means zoomed-in shots look sharper and more detailed than ever before. Plus, it has Zero Shutter Lag to capture the frame right when you press the shutter, so you can time shots perfectly. What’s also exciting is these new features are available to any app—developers can find information here.
These updates are rolling out over the next few days, along with other Pixel software improvements, so download the February monthly update when you see the notification.
These aren’t the only updates coming to Pixel this month. As we announced last year, our goal is to build new features for Pixel over time so your phone keeps getting better. Later this week, we’re adding new Augmented Reality (AR) Stickers themed around winter sports, so you can dress up videos and photos with freestyle skiers, twirling ice skaters, hockey players, and more. Like all AR stickers, these characters interact with both the camera and each other, creating a fun-filled way to enhance the moments you capture and share.
If you post photos or videos to your favorite apps, tag your pictures with #teampixel so we can see all the great moments you’ve captured.
February 5, 2018 at 07:06AM