Early Morning Sky, 12/5/19 + Further Pixel 4 Thoughts

I woke up early this morning — thank you, cats — and figured as long as I was up I’d go use the Pixel 4’s astrophotography mode, which is somewhat more advanced than the same mode on the Pixel 3, which was already impressive enough. I was not disappointed. This is a little after 4am, looking mostly west; you can see the constellations of Orion and Taurus, along with the Pleiades, and, of course, a bunch of other stars.

The photo that came out of the camera actually had more stars, I will note; I went into Photoshop and cranked it back just a little to make it closer to what my eyes see. Nevertheless, more than enough stars for anyone. I am genuinely impressed with this particular photo mode on the Pixel 4, and suspect I will be posting rather a lot of astrophotography photos in the future, because the phone makes it so much easier to do than it is on my DSLR.

Likewise, having now lived with the Pixel 4 for a week, I can say I’m more impressed with it than I was when I did my initial write-up. For example, the battery, while still not fabulous, is holding up rather better than my initial assessment. Part of that is due to me changing how I use the phone: because the Pixel 4 can detect when I’m reaching for it or looking at it, I don’t have the ambient display on all the time, because why have the phone screen showing the time when I’m not looking at it? But I think part of it is indeed better management of power on the part of the phone. I’m still taking an external battery with me if I’ll be away from the house for a while, but my experience so far is that’s more for my own peace of mind than an actual need.

I also find the face unlock mostly a good thing. I thought I would miss the fingerprint scanner more than I have, but inasmuch as the phone opens up quickly when I grab it and look at, it’s not been an issue at all. The face unlock is still insecure (it still opens with one’s eyes closed), but again as a practical matter I don’t sleep with anyone I don’t trust with my phone, so on a day-to-day basis this isn’t a problem.

Otherwise the phone works pretty much as I want it to; it’s snappy enough for anything I throw at it and since I’m well-integrated into Google services, it’s useful to me. The new thing I do a lot off the Pixel 4: Streaming, since the Disney+ app on my LG TV sucks donkey balls, while the one on Android can show me The Mandalorian without having to buffer every ten seconds. So there it is.

Camera-wise and aside from the astrophotography mode, the Pixel 4 camera, like all the cameras in the Pixel line, continues to be very impressive and one I would very much recommend. Once again I acknowledge the complaint about not having an ultrawide lens, but, also again, I don’t exactly miss it myself. I get wide enough photos as it is.

So in all the Pixel 4 is a phone I would generally highly recommend, especially for people who take a lot of photos. If you get one, you may find yourself wandering outdoors at 4am to take photos of the night sky. This is not a bad thing.

10 Comments on “Early Morning Sky, 12/5/19 + Further Pixel 4 Thoughts”

  1. Thank you for sharing the picture.

    A regret of moving from a rural hometown to a bigger city is the abundant lack of stars. Every night I could look up and say “hello, Orion. It’s good to see you tonight.” Only after it was no longer familiar, I guess, did I realize how much I took a clear night sky for granted.

  2. Nice! That kind of sky is one thing I miss, having grown up in rural Wisconsin. The outskirts of Poughkeepsie are by no means a major metropolis, but there’s still a lot we miss even under the best viewing conditions.

    (Also, quick typo note: “piece of mind”-> “peace of mind”)

  3. Question: is the nighttime photo hand-held or on a tripod? Or a combination (bracing against something)?

    I ask because for a low-light shot, that’s pretty steady. It implies either a very high ISO/fast shutter speed combo or tripod or an amazing sensor/processor combo.

    If it can capture that hand-held, I’m impressed.

    Note: it would help (as far as reviews go) showing the original shot. If this is highly processed (something most people don’t do), other users might assume their phone camera isn’t working as well.

  4. Wow. Made out Orion’s Belt even before I read your write up, so that is a really nicely clear photo! Unfortunately I live very close to both the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean (on the Southern most end of New Jersey) and we get so much cloud cover, even if only high level overcast, even when there is no rain that being able to observe the night sky is often problematic. Lots of time the Moon and brighter stars and planets can be seen but the overcast blurs out anything less bright. I used to live in South Dakota and Wyoming, when you could drive out on the interstate and stop roadside ten or twenty miles from the city and see the Milky Way and the rest of the sky so clearly. I really miss that part of living in the northern tier states, although not the winter weather or the state birds (mosquitoes.)

  5. Great article, thanks.

    For comparison purposes, could you please post the “fresh from the phone” version of the picture? I’m curious to see how it looks.

  6. Wow! The Pleiades–very nice! I wish my iPhone 11 could do that.

    Other wide naked-eye targets to use the Pixel 4 on would be the Double Cluster in Perseus and the Andromeda Galaxy (M-31).

    I would be interested to know if the raw photo showed the Orion nebula (M-42).

  7. The face unlock is also more tolerable if you don’t have any reason for the person in your bed not to trust you… I expect that an awful lot of people will find out that their bluffs fall through in time.

  8. You just inspired me to do some early morning photography (I am always up before dawn from October to March). I wonder if my Moto G7 with the latest Android Pixel camera app can do as well?

  9. Took me a moment to stop and recognise the constellations there for a bit – one of the joys of living in the Southern Hemisphere is when I see photos like this, to me they all read as ‘upside-down’.

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