Google has disabled the Smart Burst camera mode on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. The new change is effective starting with Google Camera 6.3. The AI-powered Top Shot replaces Smart Burst on the new smartphones. Smart Burst will remain available on older devices, though.
First introduced on the Nexus 6P in 2015, Smart Burst allows users to capture up to 10 shots per second. Google Camera then automatically finds the best shot by taking factors such as sharpness and clarity into account. Top Shot is also a similar concept, but it's AI-powered and hence promises better results going forward.
Google favors Top Shot over Smart Burst
In its current state, Top Shot lacks several of Smart Burst's abilities. The Pixel 3-only feature doesn't let you manually set the burst size, and is also slightly less convenient to use for quickly creating GIFs or motion pictures. However, the AI-powered camera feature brings some added qualities to your phone.
When Motion Photos are enabled, Top Shot is activated automatically. It captures up to 90 images from 1.5 seconds before and after the shutter press. In addition to the shutter frame, you also get to select and save two alternative shots in high resolution. Other lower-resolution frames can also be reviewed. The shutter frame is processed and saved first. The best alternative shots are saved afterward.
Google uses Visual Core to process these top alternative shots as HDR+ images. Google has also trained its "best moments" algorithm to look for three key attributes on photos. Functional qualities like lighting, objective attributes such as the subject's eyes and smile, and subjective qualities like emotional expressions are considered while selecting the best shot.
According to Google, Top Shot prioritizes face analysis. However, in frames where faces are not the primary subject, Top Shot looks for some additional metrics to find the best shot. They include subject motion saliency, global motion blur, and the three A's (auto exposure, auto focus, and auto white balance). Going forward, Google wants to focus on the development of Top Shot and has therefore decided to drop Smart Burst on Pixel 3 and 3 XL. In a comment, Google added how users prefer Top Shot and that dropping Smart Burst would have minimal impact.
More camera enhancements on the roadmap
Top Shot replacing Smart Burst is not the only change Google Camera 6.3 brings. As previously reported, it also promotes the Night Sight to the main interface at the expense of Panorama, making the former more easily accessible. Google is now working on some processing changes, Android Police reports. The company is making processing changes for Top Shot, Photobooth, and HDR+ processing. The changes would let the camera skip certain processing stages or calculate fewer frames when the device is under heavy load. Such improvements should help reduce camera freezing issues on Google phones.
As for the availability of Google Camera 6.3, the update is now rolling out to Pixel phones via the Play Store. It should come pre-loaded with Android 10. While the update will be available for all Pixel phones, only the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will lose Smart Burst.