How we made Pixel’s Night Sight even faster

When we released Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro last year, both phones came with new photography features, including an update to Night Sight, a night photography feature we first introduced with the Pixel 3. The latest phones sped up the low-light shooting mode, cutting the exposure time in half and revealing even crisper, sharper images. And with our latest Feature Drop, faster Night Sight speeds arrived for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, too.

How Night Sight works…

Before explaining how the team sped things up, I asked Alexander Schiffhauer, Group Product Manager, for a quick review on how Night Sight works on the Pixel 7 Pro: Once you open the camera app, your Pixel will detect if it’s night and automatically enable Night Sight (and if it’s not too dark yet but you still want to use the mode, you can also manually select it). Once your Pixel is using Night Sight and you hit the shutter button, the Pixel Camera begins grabbing frames from your viewfinder (these images aren’t stored, they’re just temporarily available for this feature). “It pulls these into what’s called a ‘memory buffer’ in your Pixel,” says Alex. Google Tensor is our system on a chip that powers our latest Pixel phones and runs complex AI-based tasks that, among other things, make taking great Night Sight photos easy for everyone.

“Those initial Night Sight frames are pretty short, and usually pretty dark.” The buffer is constantly erasing old frames for new ones while the camera app is open. Once you actually hit the shutter, the camera takes a burst of longer-exposure frames — they’re brighter than the “pre-shutter” frames thanks to the longer exposure time, but because of that they’re also blurrier.