You might remember in my comprehensive review of the Pixel 3 XL how I was disappointed that the Night Sight camera mode wasn't available at time of testing. We all know that the Pixel series has among the best smartphone cameras in the business, but a huge part of that has to do with software and machine learning, and much less to do with actual hardware. Well, at long last, Google's "too good to be true" camera feature that lets you see in the dark is here. And it really is that good.

Google Pixel 3 Night Sight Camera Mode Is Really, Really Good (Sample Photos)

Late last month, some intrepid enthusiasts managed to unlock the Night Sight feature early. That was in no way sanctioned by Google of course, and you played with the modded app at your own risk. Now, the Night Sight feature is official and available for download.

All it takes is a simple update of the Google Camera app on your Pixel phone. I used it on the Pixel 3 XL, but Night Sight might also be available for Pixel 2 and the original Pixel too. Let me know via the comments if the updated app is available for you. Once you go through the update, you'll find "Night Sight" under the "More" tab in the Google Camera app. It's right there along with Photo Sphere, Photobooth, Slow Motion and so on.

(Edit: I have just confirmed with Google that Night Sight is rolling out to all three generations of Pixel.)

Even when you're in the regular Camera mode, you'll see a suggestion pop up to try Night Sight if the app detects a low light situation. Whereas regular photos are more or less instant, pictures under this mode tend to take about a couple seconds. During that time, the app will tell you to "hold still."

Google Pixel 3 Night Sight Camera Mode Is Really, Really Good (Sample Photos)

Google Pixel 3 Night Sight Camera Mode Is Really, Really Good (Sample Photos)

From what I can gather, there are at least three factors at play here. First, the longer exposure lets in more light. That's obvious enough. Second, the ISO looks to be cranked through the roof for higher light sensitivity too. This is clearly evidenced by the noise. Third, Google's secret sauce of machine learning pulls it all together for a surprisingly serviceable photo.

Above, you'll see two selfies I took in my home office. The first one is with the regular camera mode with HDR+ enabled, no flash. I'm lit only by my computer monitors. The second photo is with the exact same conditions, but using Night Sight mode. The difference is truly dramatic. This is true not only in my face (sorry I couldn't find a more attractive model), but also the background elements.

The lighting situation for my selfie was already bad, but Night Sight can "see" quite a lot even in almost pitch darkness. Check out these three examples below that I've cut in half (left is normal, right is Night Sight). The first two shots had almost no light at all; the regular camera mode practically can't see anything... and yet Night Sight can.

Google Pixel 3 Night Sight Camera Mode Is Really, Really Good (Sample Photos)

Google Pixel 3 Night Sight Camera Mode Is Really, Really Good (Sample Photos)

Google Pixel 3 Night Sight Camera Mode Is Really, Really Good (Sample Photos)

The resulting photo might look like it was taken with a mediocre webcam, but you can actually see. It's really, really remarkable and I look forward to further testing Night Sight under other situations and circumstances. Could this be the perfect mode for candlelight dinner selfies (and food pics)? Maybe!


On a tangentially related note, be sure to check out my guide with a bunch of Pixel 3 accessories while you're here. You'll need a great case to go with this great camera phone, right?

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