A Google engineer at Google Daydream has shown off some of his work on improving the nighttime photography algorithms for Nexus 6P and Pixel cameras, and some of the shots are pretty amazing.
Florianz Kainz, while attempting to recreate a low-light, long exposure shot with a professional DSLR using the mobile sensors inside Google’s phones, created a basic manual exposure app which allowed him to take a series of photos at his desired exposure time, ISO, and focus distance.
Using that app, Kainz took burst shots of 32 or 64 2-second exposures with a tripod mounted smartphone. All of that was done in the DNG format, which allowed him to bring all the data back to his computer and do some pretty impressive post processing.
The result? The result is a set of pictures which are incredibly good for a smartphone camera. Don’t believe me? Take a look and decide for yourself…
The first picture is the Point Reyes lighthouse at night, captured with Google Nexus 6P.
The next picture is of The North Star above Mount Burdell, captured with Google Pixel.
This marvelous picture of starlight in the night sky was also shot with Google Pixel.
It’s amazing what Kainz was able to achieve using only his mobile camera and a little bit of ingenuity. You can read more about his whole process and view some more pictures by following this link. He notes at the end of his blog post:
“…arriving at the final images required a lot of careful post-processing on a desktop computer, and the procedure is too cumbersome for all but the most dedicated cellphone photographers. However, with the right software a phone should be able to process the images internally, and if steps such as painting layer masks by hand can be eliminated, it might be possible to do point-and-shoot photography in very low light conditions. “
This observation points to the possibility that the findings of this little experiment might be able to help improve current mobile cameras to a point where they can capture pictures about half as good as those taken by Kainz. Of course, a lot more research is still needed (and is going on) in the area of mobile photography to match the quality of above-shown pictures.