The new Pixel 5 and 4a 5G take pride in a long list of new and special camera capabilities, including wide-angle shots, a cinematic pan video effect, and automatic Night Sight and Portrait Light. They'll also have a few additional exclusive features that weren't mentioned in Google's announcement, though we don't know if these will make it to previous-gen Pixels through an upcoming Feature Drop or Camera app update.
Hi-res still photos in Time Lapse mode
When you're taking a timelapse video in the Google Camera app on a Pixel 4 or earlier, you have the option to tap the shutter button (lower right) to snap a still image of a particular moment without stopping your ongoing capture. However, what you get is basically a screen grab with a low resolution — in my case, on a Pixel 4 XL, it's 1440 x 2560, i.e. a 3.69 MP snap.
Snapping a still image in Time Lapse mode on a Pixel 4 XL.
With the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G, Google says you'll be able to take "a high-resolution photo while you record a time-lapse video." It doesn't specify anything beyond that, but since the function is highlighted as an exclusive for the two phones and the high-res wording is used, we can presume that you'll get a better image than a simple screenshot. Could it take full advantage of the 12 or 16MP capacities of the sensors? We'll have to wait until we have a phone in hand to check that out.
More framing hints
Camera 7.1 introduced framing hints to the Pixel line-up, but up until this day, the only hint we get is a level indicator. According to Google, the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G will have a few more exclusive indicators. There'll be two lines to indicate how far off from a straight shot you are (think math angle drawing), but also up/down indicators when you point your phone up or down at a subject. You can then rotate the phone to straighten the shot, and tilt it forward or back to fix the angle you're coming from. There's no screenshot for this, so we'll have to wait and see how things materialize later.
No notification vibrations
Camera 7.3 already introduced a DND feature on Pixels to turn off vibrations while you're taking a video. The option is enabled by default after you grant the app DND access. But for the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G, exclusively, Google makes this vague mention: "When you open the Camera app, notification vibrations will turn off to help your phone not shake."
It would seem to be the same feature, but there could be a small distinction. On our devices, now, DND isn't activated while trying to shoot photos or in any mode beside videos. The use of "when you open the Camera app" would imply that this might be active throughout the app, regardless of which mode you're in, even if you've opened the viewfinder and are just staring at it without taking any pics. This will be very welcome as none of us like when a buzz ruins a perfectly framed shot. Again, we will know more when we test it on a real device.
These three features aren't groundbreaking additions to the Pixel line-up, but they're small little quality-of-life improvements. We don't know why Google has chosen to make them Pixel 5 and 4a 5G exclusives — there's nothing here that would require special hardware that the Pixel 3 or 4, for example, don't have. It could be that the support pages have been worded like this momentarily, and would be changed once an upcoming Pixel Feature Drop or Camera update bring these options to older devices, but that's just pure speculation. We'll keep an eye on these and let you know how things shape up.