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Google design director teases 20x zoom on a Pixel phone, but it’s not true

Google design director teases 20x zoom on a Pixel phone, but it’s not true


Update: The tease was just the Pixel 3A, which doesn’t have 20x zoom

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Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Were you excited about the possibility of 20x zoom on the Google Pixel 4? Sadly, it’s not true. Though Google director of design Claude Zellweger claimed he’d taken a shot on a Pixel with that level of telephoto prowess, he’s since clarified that the photo was actually taken on a current-gen Pixel 3A — and that he cropped the image rather than actually zooming with a phone.

Originally, we were pretty stoked by the report (via 9to5Google) because 20x zoom isn’t something that’s possible on current Pixel phones. The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3A top out at 10x digital zoom, and don’t have an optical telephoto lens to improve their reach. (They’ve only got one rear camera each.)

But the upcoming Pixel 4 has loads of new cameras, including at least one new lens around the rear. It’s possible that Google could pull off this feat if one of the Pixel 4’s lenses is a telephoto lens, which has been rumored.

It’s always possible that Zellweger was telling the truth to begin with, and made his clarification after getting told off by Google PR for revealing unannounced details of the new Pixel 4. It wouldn’t be a stretch to combine Google’s 10x digital zoom with a 2x telephoto lens to offer 20x zoom in total. But it seems unlikely PR would ask Zellweger to lie, since Google is happily revealing plenty of other details ahead of the phone’s launch.

If we do get 20x zoom from the Pixel 4, it certainly won’t be fully optical: 20x optical zoom seems impossible, given the clever lengths that Huawei had to go to manage an impressive 5x optical zoom in its P30 Pro. But even something like Oppo’s Reno 10X Zoom, with its 10x hybrid zoom, provides good results.

Update August 12th, 1:34PM ET: Zellweger has clarified that he wasn’t using a Pixel 4, but rather a Pixel 3A. And he admitted that he didn’t actually zoom to 20x, but rather just cropped the image. We’ve thoroughly updated this post to reflect that.