Google’s official teaser of its upcoming Pixel 4 series of phones has confirmed that it will, for the first time, have two rear-facing cameras. But the big question on everyone’s mind has been, what kind of a lens can we expect the second sensor to have? Code from the Google Camera app in the leaked Android Q beta 5 seems to suggest that it will be a telephoto lens, for optical zoom. Not only that, the code further reveals that it might also have an infrared (IR) front facing camera, most likely for face unlock.
The Mountain View giant is scheduled to release six public betas of its upcoming version of Android, simply called Android Q for now. Android Q beta 5 is yet to be released but some users have received it early, which includes the new Google Camera app v6.3 that also brought a new location for Night Sight. XDA Developers promptly got down to checking the code of the new camera APK for clues about the Pixel 4, which revealed some interesting titbits.
While scanning the code, they spotted changes to ‘sabre,’ which is Google’s internal codename for its Super Res Zoom feature. Here, two new sensor IDs immediately stood out, which weren’t present in the previous version of the APK. These IDs were “front IR” and “rear telephoto.” Assuming the ‘IR’ in the first ID refers to infrared, this could indicate that the Pixel 4 will have a third front camera, in addition to the regular and wide-angle selfie cameras. The IR camera will most likely be used for face unlock but maybe, for other AR purposes too such as new use cases for Playground in the camera app.
The other ID hints at the second rear camera having a telephoto lens, instead of a wide-angle lens. This would let the Pixel 4 capture better quality zoom shots and also, capture better depth information for portrait shots. If this indeed turns out to be true then we have to say that it is a little disappointing and here’s why. Google also ready has a pretty solid algorithm for portrait or bokeh shots. Even with a single camera, the Pixel 3 and its predecessor manages some incredible background blur, with good edge detection thanks to its computational photography, so we’re not sure how much of a difference will having a second camera for bokeh shots make. Optical zoom is one area where it would be helpful but Google’s Super Res Zoom already does a pretty fantastic job with digital zoom, so again, we’re not sure if this incremental gain in quality is worth sacrificing a wide-angle lens.
The latter is something which has gained in popularity this year, with the Galaxy S10 series sporting a wide-angle lens and even the 2019 iPhone models are rumoured to have a third, wide-angle lens. As for the resolution of the second sensor on the Pixel 4, 9to5Google dug deeper into the code to reveal this line — “Telephoto image has dimensions ( ), but should have dimensions 4656×3496, 4656×3492 or 2328×1748.” This is said to be an error message used for debugging the telephoto code but it has been deduced that this could point to the Pixel 4 having a 16-megapixel resolution. The report also states that these are all assumptions at this point, and to truly know what the real deal is, we’ll just have to wait for October.