Using the Pixel Magnifier app to look at printed circuit boards

In the past when I wanted to look at details on a printed circuit board (PCB), I would pull out a Bausch & Lomb 10x loupe.

Google recently released a Pixel Magnifier app, so I decided to give that a try. First I used the regular camera app and zoomed in to 7x on a Pixel 6a:

Then I used the Magnifier app.

Seems like the zoom is a little higher on the magnifer app and a little clearer, but not a lot. The magnifier app gives you a few more controls like being able to set the flash LED to any intensity, contrast, etc. The pixel camera handles low light so well, that this does not seem to make a big difference when looking at PCBs.

Overall, this seems like a useful tool to have – for example to examine this difficult modification:

I then asked Google: “what is the difference between the magnifier and the camera app?”

The Pixel magnifier app has several advantages over the camera app, including:

  • It can “freeze” an image without taking a picture.
  • It allows you to zoom in and change the image contrast or brightness.
  • It has Google Lens built in, so you can copy, listen to, and use Google Search for the text that you highlight on the image you’ve magnified.

The Magnifier app is available on the Pixel 5 and later. It allows users to:

  • Magnify small text
  • See object details
  • Zoom in on faraway text like street signs or restaurant menus behind a service counter

The Magnifier app utilizes Pixel’s cameras to show a better look at certain text, images, and objects.

The freeze feature is indeed useful as it is hard to hold the phone steady when zoomed in, and then you can easily share a frozen image. Most times when taking photos at the bench, I don’t really want to take and save a photo in my album, I just want to share an image and then I’m done with it. The magnifer app gives us the ability to take photos to share during collaboration without cluttering up our photo albums with shapshots of PCBs.