Saturday, May 17, 2014

App introduction: Google Camera

Google Camera basically is the default camera app for all Nexus or Google Play edition devices. Since a few weeks the app is now available on the Play Store for free so everyone can use it in addition to his/her default camera app or instead of.

Google Camera at Google Play.

Google Camera - modes

As about every camera app Google Camera also offers different shooting modes.

Different shoot modes.


The Panorama mode lets you take some pictures in a horizontal order and stitches them together for a wide panorama picture. This can be done either in landscape or portrait orientation but the pictures will be taken in horizontal order always.

Initiating a panorama shot.

Progressing in panorama mode with guidance.

Also there is a very easy to understand assistance and guidance showing with a little dot on screen where to move the camera next to in order to take the next picture in line. The app will handle the overlapping needed to stitch the pictures together by guiding the user on how to do or telling, when moving to far.
After a short processing the picture can be viewed and looks quite good. Of course, a bit of practice is needed to get good results as straight lines might get a curve to it but that's part of the base mechanic everyone has to deal with by taking panorama pictures regardless of the camera used.

Panorama of my archery clubs training area taken with Google Camera.

Also I want to mention that the view mode for panorama pictures on an android smartphone is quite nice (at least with Google Photos) as there is an option to scroll through via directing the smartphone. This effect seems like looking through a window.

Photo Sphere

Photo Sphere is very similar to Panorama with the difference that the pictures are not only taken in a horizontal line but all around you in a full cube if you like to. The assistance and help is shown while taking the pictures again and afterwards the processing will take a moment.

The Photo Sphere assists for all directions.

The result of this is some kind of virtual picture where you can move around like standing in a room and moving your head in different directions. That is a great experience on a mobile device already but even more impressive when you enjoy it in a browser in full screen mode on a big screen.

Photo Sphere of our living room taken with Google Camera.

Lens Blur

Lens Blur is a new feature.
What it does is to take a picture and set foreground and background into different sharpness layers, like the background blur effects known from good photos mostly taken by a DSLR. I love this effect when I shot with my Nikon D300 and my 50mm 1,4 lens a lot.
How it works is you take the picture, then a guidance appears to move the camera (smartphone) up slowly while keeping the foreground object in it's position in the viewfinder.

After the actual shot, the guidance tells to move up slowly.

By doing so the software gets information about what is in foreground and what is in background by taking pictures from different angles.
Afterwards you can edit the picture and decide where the focus should be or how much blur effect you like in the background. You could also focus on the background and blur out the foreground, what ever resulting effect you want to get to.

Lens Blur taken with Google Camera.


Of course, the app also has a default point and shoot camera mode. This one is great for taking snapshots of things happening just now. If something interesting happens I want to take a picture off, I just pull out my phone off my pocket, activate the camera from the lockscreen (without unlocking the phone) and take a picture.
With the bigger cameras (like my DSLR) often the situation is gone before you can even get it out of it's bag.

Catching the rainbow before it vanishes again.


There is a video function as well, some basic video that now also shows a warning if you try to record in portrait mode. It still will let you do that but the warning will be shown as most people (including me) dislike videos in portrait mode.

Video-In-Portrait warning shown on the screen.


In the settings there are a few more functions available like controlling the flash, switching HDR+ on or off, showing a grid in the viewfinder to help with the picture composition or switching between front and rear camera.

A few more settings.


I know, this smartphone cameras will not reach the level of a DSLR or come even close to them in terms of picture quality and so on.
But on the other side they are very easy to use and fast available when you need them.
Also the effects available by apps like Google Camera are just astonishing and more than enough for a normal picture not meant to be printed in a high end magazine.
Google Camera is a great camera app with lots of functions. As it is now free available via the Play Store makes it accessible to basically everyone with a android smartphone, regardless of brand or what ever.
Great app for keeping some memories or even make some astonishing pictures for non professional use. The combination with Google Photos where the pictures get saved to automatically (as I have enabled the automatic backup via WiFi) and the auto enhance within Google Photo as well as the gallery to share my pictures lets it fit in perfectly in my workflow for fast and simple picture processing (take photo - save it - enhance it - share it) with basically no efforts for me.