Google's March 2021 Pixel Feature Drop update delivered plenty of changes, but nestled among the list was one feature out of left-field: Underwater photography. That's right, Google has apparently and specifically improved Pixel camera performance when used with a handful of Kraken-brand underwater smartphone housings. Today we got our first glimpse of photo samples from the Pixel 5 showing off its new seaside skills, and they look pretty good.
The samples were published to Twitter, so keep in mind the platform's usual and atrocious compression. Still, taken as overall images, they look pretty fantastic.
All of the samples published were taken on the Pixel 5, though Google claims the new functionality is compatible with phones as old as the Pixel 2. We aren't sure if Google has done any specific tuning to accommodate the Pixel's machine learning-augmented camera for these underwater smartphone cases, but I wouldn't be surprised if the company did. Underwater photography surely imposes its own challenges when it comes to processing.
While a close crop does show a little distortion, and the images are a tiny bit soft (especially outside the center), detail and contrast are otherwise pretty good. In the photo of what appears to be a orbicular batfish (#3), individual scales stand out prominently, and even subtle striations on the tail of the bluecheek butterflyfish (#4) are easily visible. Color balance is also surprisingly good — that's a hard thing to hit underwater.
Now it’s even easier to use your Pixel camera underwater when paired with Kraken Sports housing!* Which sea creatures would you love to snap a pic of? 🐠 🐟 🦈 🐬
Learn more about new Pixel features https://t.co/uJbrR1C6kw
— Made By Google (@madebygoogle) March 3, 2021
The new underwater photography skills come courtesy of the Dive Case Connector for Google Camera app, which was recently published to the Play Store, touting title-implied compatibility with Pixels (via the Google Camera app) and Kranen camera housings. The listing specifically calls out the KRH03 and KRH04, but Google's camera support documents also claim it should work with the seemingly discontinued KRH02 and KRH01. And these cases aren't cheap. They start at around $300 and go up from there. But compared to some other diving accessories like mirrorless camera housings, that's down-right affordable — it's an expensive hobby.
If you own one of the supported cases, all you need to do is pair/connect it to your Pixel and secure the phone inside. Once set up, you'll enjoy both an ongoing notification stating your Dive Case's battery level and extra info like the water's temperature and your depth in a camera viewfinder overlay (visible in the image up top). Based on these examples, you'll be able to snag some great photos the next time you're down there.