Launched with the Pixel 3, Top Shot is an AI feature that smartly recommends saving a better photo than the one you snapped. Until now, Top Shot required you to have Motion Photos enabled, to save the brief moments before and after the pic was taken and be able to get a different photo if needed. The feature will soon be enabled for short videos too and it'll be available on the Pixel 4, 3, and 3a.

We knew this feature was coming when Smart Burst was removed from the camera app on the Pixel 3. Instead of snapping a succession of full-res photos, tapping and holding the capture button now saves a 768 x 1024 video. This is what Google refers to as a "short video" in its support pages for Top Shot.

Currently, our Pixel 3 units don't show any Top Shot recommendations on these videos, but the feature should show up soon. It likely requires an update to the Camera and/or Photos apps — or a server-side switch, you never really know.

This addition should afford you a little bit more control over your time-sensitive snaps:

  • If you know you'll probably hit the exact correct timing, you should take a regular pic with Motion Sense enabled, and rely on Top Shot as a backup just in case you miss. Pics salvaged this way are 1536 x 2048.
  • If you're not confident about timing and think the shot might be off by several seconds, tap and hold on the capture button to take a "short video" and be confident that you won't miss the correct time. Top Shots saved this way are 768 x 1024. Edit: See update below.

While the logic behind this sounds sane, the resolution you get with the latter is abysmal. You're better off tapping repeatedly on the shutter button and hoping one of the full-res images is nice, or taking a proper 4K video then saving a snap from it. The former requires quick thinking though, and the latter needs you to swipe to the video mode on your phone, so the new pseudo-burst-mode slash "short video" has a small benefit of immediacy. I'd still take the regular Smart Burst over it any day.

Saving Top Shots from these burst-like short videos is available on the Pixel 4 and 4 XL. Our tests reveal an interesting quirk, though. The videos saved after tapping and holding the camera shutter have a very low-res of 768 x 1024. However, picking a Top Shot from them and exporting it as a still results in a higher-res 1536 x 2048 HDR image.

Left: Low-res pseudo-burst video. Right: Saved Top Shot from that video is surprisingly high-res.

However, if you decide to go off-script and export a frame that isn't denoted by Top Shot's signature dots on the video timeline, you get a non-HDR and low-res 768 x 1024 still.

Left: Choosing a non-Top Shot frame to export. Right: Resulting image is low-res.

That's a little better than what we expected based on our earlier speculation. It seems that Google is saving burst images together as a low-res video, but still keeping what it considers the best shots at a higher quality. This new burst mode-wannabe is still worse than the full-res stills we used to get before, but it saves space and gives you a few decent images to choose from. Thanks, Moshe!

The same functionality is now live for Pixel 3 and 3a devices with version 7.2.016 (APK Mirror) of Google Camera. Although the changelog also mentions the Pixel 2, I am able to record videos instead of bursts on my 2 XL and export frames, but I don't get Top Shot recommendations and all saved still images are low res.

WHAT'S NEW

• Added dual exposure controls to adjust brightness and HDR of your photo (Pixel 4).
• Added Astrophotography to Night Sight to allow you take a picture of the Milky Way with one tap (Pixel 3, 3a, and 4).
• Added Frequent Faces to help you capture Top Shot photos where the people you photograph most are smiling and not blinking (Pixel 4).
• Added Touch and hold on the shutter button to capture Top Shot photos in the default camera mode (Pixel 2, 3, 3a, and 4).

Google Camera
Google Camera
Developer: Google LLC
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