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Watch: Here's how Google tests Pixel cameras at its secret lab

Google's approach to camera testing is surprisingly practical.

Published onApril 22, 2024

  • Google has shown off its camera testing facility in a CNET video.
  • The video shows a more practical approach to testing smartphone cameras.

Many smartphone brands have their own camera testing setups, allowing them to fine-tune their photo and video experience. We seldom get a close look at these facilities, though, but Google has now peeled the curtain back on its lab setup.

CNET was allowed to tour Google’s camera testing facility for its Pixel phones, and the tech giant opted for a more practical approach to its camera sets. The company showed off cafe and living room sets which were used to test the Night Sight Video/Video Boost features on the Pixel 8 Pro versus the Pixel 7 Pro.

The lighting in the cafe and living room sets can be controlled down to intensity and color temperature, allowing Google to test its Pixel cameras in a wide variety of indoor scenes. In fact, the outlet specifically mentioned Google’s ability to simulate lighting situations like the late evening or sunrise.

“It turns out simple everyday scenes like mood-lit dinners or a romantic evening, those are really challenging for cameras,” said Isaac Reynolds, group product manager for the Pixel camera. He pointed to challenges like deciding which person to focus on in a scene, as well as ensuring candle flickering doesn’t affect exposure in a video.

How else does Google test its Pixel cameras?

The company showed off how it tests color reproduction for Video Boost too, as several people played Monopoly in a room with mixed lighting (complete with a color chart and other props in the scene).

Google says it also tests hardware in these situations. It gives the example of grease being used in smartphone camera components to ensure the various mechanisms are working smoothly. It notes that this grease can pool in one area of the phone camera when the device is in the same position for a while (e.g. flat on a table), resulting in focusing/shot inconsistencies at first. So these inconsistencies also need to be ironed out with testing.

Either way, this is an interesting look at Google’s Pixel camera testing setup. But we do hope the company is putting plenty of effort into testing other elements of the Pixel experience too, such as performance, battery life, and connectivity.

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