In addition to having an ultrawide lens, the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G have HDR+ with Bracketing, which improves image clarity in the shadows, among other features. Google revealed the technologies behind the latest feature today, as well as the fact that Night Sight on the Pixel 4 and 4a now uses bracketing.


In Night Sight for Pixel 4/4a, Google explains the Pixel 5's HDR+ sensor enhancement and bracketing


Exposure bracketing was described as a "major update" for HDR+ that "mix[ed] Google novel techniques with standard HDR techniques" during the company's Launch Night In keynote. It looks at how Google's original HDR+ burst photography scheme causes noisy shadows in high dynamic range scenes by "deliberately underexposing images" to prevent lack of color in highlights.

Because of the spatial limitations of image sensors and the minimal signal in the shadows, capturing HDR scenes is difficult. Either the shadows or the highlights should be properly exposed, but not both at the same time.

Taking two separate exposures and mixing them is the conventional approach, but computational imaging makes this difficult and necessitates:

  • Adding more long exposure frames while keeping the Pixel camera's smooth, predictable capture experience.
  • Long exposure frames are used while ghosting artifacts caused by motion between frames are avoided.
In Night Sight for Pixel 4/4a, Google explains the Pixel 5's HDR+ sensor enhancement and bracketing


Google revamped the "capture technique" to accomplish bracketing while keeping zero shutter lag in mind, where "the frames shown in the viewfinder before the shutter press are the frames we use for HDR+ burst combining."

  • After pressing the shutter, we take an additional long exposure frame that is not visible in the viewfinder for bracketing. Even with an average amount of handshake, keeping the camera still for half a second after the shutter press to satisfy the long exposure will help increase image quality.

This isn't an issue in Night Sight, which is one of the reasons Google was able to add exposure bracketing to the Pixel 4 and 4a. Night Sight with bracketing catches 12 short and 3 long exposures instead of just 15 short exposure frames (top row) (bottom).


In Night Sight for Pixel 4/4a, Google explains the Pixel 5's HDR+ sensor enhancement and bracketing


HDR+ with Bracketing is also present in the regular camera and Portrait Mode on the Pixel 4a 5G and 5.

  • HDR+ with Bracketing requires no user interaction; based on the scene's dynamic range and the presence of motion, HDR+ with bracketing selects the right exposures to optimize image quality (examples).
In Night Sight for Pixel 4/4a, Google explains the Pixel 5's HDR+ sensor enhancement and bracketing


In Night Sight mode, the product of combining 12 short-exposure frames is seen on the left. Right: A single frame with a 12x longer exposure period than normal short exposure. The longer exposure reduces noise in the shadows but at the expense of the highlights.

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