Share this Story

New Android Camera API in the Works, Supports Camera RAW

moto x camera update

For longer than we care to admit to the outside world, the camera experience on Google’s Nexus devices has been lackluster. That’s actually a nice way to put a completely inconsistent experience that we suffer through each day with the Nexus 5 and Nexus 4 smartphones. Regardless, it appears as if those days could almost be behind us. Recently discovered in a commit through the public Android source code, Google is working on a new camera API for the OS. 

According to the commit, work started on the API in late 2012, which means the new API could have been on a roadmap to be shipped with Kit Kat. Vic Gundotra teased earlier this year that Google was working on something amazing, and instead we got the usual Android camera treatment. A comment found inside of the commit states “Do not merge: Hide new camera API – Not yet ready.”

Whether it comes sooner or later, at least we know it is in the works. As far as what changes Android users can expect, the new API is said to support Camera RAW, which allows for much more detailed photographs that are minimally compressed and touched up, meaning photography editors who love to use Photoshop are in for a treat. In addition to RAW, the new API supposedly supports Face Detection, as well as a system that auto-assigns unique IDs to recognized faces. To top it off, the API should also feature a true “Burst Mode,” the same kind we see on other Android devices that run OEM skin software like TouchWiz and Sense. Hallelujah.

Unfortunately, there are no dates or release info ever associated with these things, so Android users will have to remain patient. But there is hope, as Google mentioned to The Verge when the Nexus 5 was released, that they were already working on a massive camera software update that would soon be released. Could that be it?

Via: Arstechnica

Cheers Steve!

  • Lebowski

    slow motion video?

  • Steve

    I can’t wait to see what kind of effects this will have on the low-end market. 4 – 5 MP cameras will finally have the ability to have great picture quality. I think programmers will also be able to make all the modifications they need to their software to make a perfect camera on every device. This will be mad awesome.

  • MrWicket

    RAW support was one of the things I was hoping to see them release with KitKat/Nexus 5. looks like I may see my wish item after all even if post release.

  • Chase Chick

    I hope that RAW is not enabled by default. There will be a lot of dissapointed picture takers out there. RAW isn’t going to have noise reduction or sharpening applied. It’s meant for pros who have these capabilities. Shooting in jpeg and having those things applied in camera is going to be more beneficial for most people.

  • jmacapodi

    As a fashion photographer, I welcome anything that gives me more manual control over the image process… hopefully it will enable a few control parameters over the HDR mode (how many total images used, how many stops of light to bracket) However, that being said, I’m quite pleased with the camera from the Nexus 5… and ever since Jellybean, VERY happy with the stock photo editor due to it’s easy to use RGB curves adjustments.

    The key to getting the most out of any camera system is knowing it’s strengths and weaknesses. I’m not trying to do low-light portraits with my phones… wrong tool for the job. But knowing it’s inherent limitations and playing happily within it’s confines can yield decent results. Here’s a few shots from the past few weeks with my “old” Verizon GNEX (who’s camera is VASTLY inferior to the Nexus 5’s) just using the default jellybean editor.

    • jmacapodi


      • jmacapodi

        Sorry for the post spam… chrome had a freakout when I tried uploading multiple images! 🙁

    • teleclimber

      Nice to see I’m not the only one who thinks the stock editor is good. I’m fond of the “point” tool for selectively boosting contrast, saturation and brightness. You can do marvelous things with a lackluster original if you spend a bit of time in the editor.

      Nice shots!

    • GentlemanScholar

      Both the framing and composition of these pics are great. The camera’s quality limitations, however, are quite exposed. I had (still have actually) a GNex and the actual picture quality differences between this and my new N5 are stark. Nonetheless, good pics with the camera no matter how limited it is.

  • Dave

    Better have some fast external storage for raw photos. Our Canon Mk5 camera can fill up a 8 gigabyte card in a few minutes. One image is about 6-10mb.

  • ashclepdia

    Anyone else think google might throw camera on play store?
    “Google camera”
    Hell everything else is going on there

    • Steve B

      I think they will. They did it with the Moto camera.

  • I don’t understand zero lag shutter. What is it?

    What I see is a big problem is the fact that I take pictures and I see a ton of blur. I look into the details and see my shot was 1/10 or 1/8 exposure. I know that depends on lighting but you’re just not going to get a good shot while holding a phone in your hands and people moving…

    • It means there is no noticeable delay, or lag, between when you press the shutter button and when the photo gets captured.

      • hmm… does that include or not include auto focus or tap to focus?

        • LionStone

          Just shoot video and get your shots after! 😉

          • lol the quality is garbage then

          • LionStone

            Actually, I thought you could but you can’t. On my DNA I can view past videos and tap to get stills. With the N5, it looks like you can only tap for stills while video is running.

  • I wonder if this was expected with n5 and didn’t come out on time

    • Steve B

      This is a fair assessment. That’s what I’m thinking.

  • Daeshaun Griffiths

    I hope it positively affects (grammar) the motox.

  • Morbid138

    Pictures are good but could be better. I do feel that the camera needs better software and UI. If that gets fixed, I’ll be good!

  • turdbogls

    I am really happy to see burst mode. that probably more than anything else is what i want.
    I am in the minority that actually thinks the camer experience is above average….sure there aren’t many features, or filters or anything…but i for one, like that. and i have been able to get some seriously great pictures out of my N5.

  • BulletTooth_Tony

    Raw is so totally unnecessary for the purposes of displacing point and shoots… I can’t imagine any scenarios where the notion of spending time on post-processing raws is going to be at all beneficial… All I imagine is I get to spend time afterwards, to find out later that the shot was garbage… Instead of seeing my end-result jpeg instantly and knowing it was right away. Just license a better jpeg engine, call it a day. Whatever they use stock… Sucks. Get on the horn with Olympus. Work something out. Jpeg… Point and shoot should be jpeg….

    • gtg465x

      It could make third party camera apps a lot more powerful though if they can work with RAW rather than an image that was already destroyed by Android’s built in JPEG engine. Third party camera apps could then use their own, potentially better, JPEG engines to get significantly better pictures. Right now, third party cameras mostly produce images of the same quality as the stock camera app because they are using the same JPEG engine and have no fine grain control over it.

      • Droidzilla

        This man gets it.

      • BulletTooth_Tony

        This… Is a great reply. I hadn’t thought of 3rd party camera apps running their own jpeg engines. I was squarely focused on my own [poor, maybe] post processing abilities. As well as the sheer size differences in file type and the looming death of the SD card expansion.

      • I completely agree it’s nice to have that option, but the fact remains that camera phones just aren’t that good in comparison to a DSLR. I can only speak for myself, but when I take photos with my phone it’s usually just casual snapshots that I want to remember, and I want those snapshots to look as good as possible without having to download them to my computer and edit them in Photoshop, or even have to edit them with an app on my phone. When I want to really capture a great photo I take my DSLR. I’d rather have better JPEG conversion with the Google camera than only the option to shoot in RAW.

        • GentlemanScholar

          Agreed. A five year old DSLR takes better shots than a Lumina 1020, iPhone 5s or any other top tier android phone camera. All I want my camera phone to do is take better than decent shots for sharing via text, social networking, email, etc. Speed up the camera app on the N5 reduce any blur and it’s a good point and shoot.

    • teleclimber

      I actually post-process all the photos that I share from my Nexus 4. It’s the only way to make that camera look like it takes good pics. The noise that develops in post is frustrating so I would welcome RAW. (I do the post-process on the phone in Android’s native editor).


      • Droidzilla

        Where’d you take this? Looks just like a path in southern California I used to walk/bike when I lived out there.

        • teleclimber

          Good eye! It’s Sullivan Fire Road in the Santa Monica Mountains.

          • Droidzilla

            Different spot; the one I’m thinking of is in Orange County. However, the habitat is identical (heck, there are about four spots I can think of I used to mountain bike at which all had identical vegetation and whose photos would be all but indistinguishable). Great shot!

          • teleclimber

            Thanks! Yeah they all look the same. And they all have miles and miles of good trails.

          • Droidzilla

            I miss a few of the trails in California, but it’s mainly due to nostalgia. I’m in Colorado, now, so trails of awesome abound. Rocky Mountains and all that.

          • teleclimber

            It’s hard to beat CO when it comes to mountains! I’m sure the trails are awesome. I do like SoCal’s year-round Summer and the ocean though.

  • Ryan

    I have been happy with my Nexus 5 camera. HDR+ is amazing. Something is always going to be better and faster but as long as your happy with it thats all that matters.

  • Tyler

    Play store release please and thanks. (i know this probably won’t happen considering it’s in os code but a man can dream right?)

    • Steve B

      They did it with the Moto X, not to mention nearly every other Android core app. I think the odds are looking better than average.

  • Kofi Williams

    Better late than never…

  • I really hope they have improved the quality in their processing techniques, as that’s where the biggest difference in quality is between Google’s camera and those of Samsung, HTC, etc. Pushing people to shoot RAW and process it themselves is not a solution – it’s a nice addition for those rare ocassions, but definitely not the solution.

    • Nex

      Hopefully its and option you can turn on and off, i.e. raw vs jpeg. But for someone into photography like myself, ability to shoot raw is a pretty big deal. This + Snapseed = Outstanding. My only concern is, raw files are a lot larger then jpeg’s, so space will be a concern, this will make the need for an micro sd card slot even more glaring. F.Y.I. I know they’ll never put sd card slot on nexus device etc etc etc.

      • Chase Chick

        I’m not sure I would want RAW out of a camera sensor. If you want RAW, get a DSLR. I can’t imagine RAW on a tiny camera sensor looking any good.

  • AlphaNoble

    This is good news. When it comes to cameras, its about the only thing that I prefer an OEM skinned version to rather than stock AOSP.

  • Droidzilla

    Am I the only one that’s been pretty pleased with the camera experience on the Nexus 5? It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty dang good. The only issue I’ve had is slow to snap a shot in low light with moving subjects; other than that it’s been brilliant.

    • T S

      i agree. . but i also came from a Droid MAXX so almost anything is better than that experience pre camera update.

    • undeadwolfy

      I think you actually are the only one.

      • Steve B

        No, he’s not. This is the best camera I’ve ever had on a phone.

        With that said, the best way to summarize the camera (or software) is this: The Nexus 5 doesn’t have a great camera (as-is), BUT it is capable of taking great pictures.

        Lighting and motion play a huge factor in how this camera performs. Give this phone bright light and it’s just as good as the iPhone or SG4/Note3. Throw motion and non-ideal lighting into the mix and the pictures are complete garbage. I’ve got a plethora of great pictures with blurred faces (Ring style). If you can hold the camera still enough, it takes great pictures of still objects in low light. There’s definitely positives and negatives, but I’m mostly satisfied

        Hopefully the new camera gives us all the features we want and corrects the shutter speed on the N5.

        • jbdan

          Pretty much agree with your points. Even with bad lighting and motion I’ve been able to pull off some nice shots (I’m a photography enthusiast so maybe that has helped :))

          I have no doubt different units are reacting differently as I’m on my 2nd NX5 (1st one came with DOA vibrator).

          One thing I’d like to add is the OIS….oh my word is it good!

    • brkshr

      For me, my shots are 50/50 either great or blurry. I actually prefer the N4 camera now. The quality isn’t as good as the N5, but I got a lot less blurry shots. I’ve missed so many good shots with my N5 and its only been a couple weeks.

    • michael bourgoin

      Mine has been pretty good too. I think it’s way better than the N4 and i find it much easier to get a good shot. It does need improvement though and im happy knowing that it is just a software issue. I use the camera on third party aps like (zoom FX) and it works great. Clear shots with a fast shutter.

      • A.Miller

        Wait, how are you getting fast shutter and focus?

        • michael bourgoin

          With third party aps (I use zoom fx). My point was that the camera issues appear to be software related not hardware relates BC if it was hardware zoom fax wouldn’t help

          • A.Miller

            Just want to make sure…. you’re using Camera Zoom FX and getting faster shutter speed and focus? If that’s the case I’ll buy that app in a heartbeat.

          • michael bourgoin

            i am, yes. But remember lighting etc… all play a role. I think that ap has a free version, so maybe try that out first and see if it works for you. That or buy it when you plan to do some photography and test it out and return it if you dont like it. I’ve been getting great results with it, especially with burst mode. Trying to get a good shot of my son is hard when hes running around, but i do like a ten shot burst and usually at least 2-3 are good pics even when hes running etc..

          • A.Miller

            That’s what I’m trying to do. Have a 6month old and trying to get pics of him smiling and looking at me are hard to do. By the time the N5 focuses and actually takes the damn photo he’s turned himself all the way around.

            I said that my next phone had to have a good camera and it was my #1 thing but I bought the N5 anyway.

            So if Zoom FX will help, I may try that. I don’t know much about photography — I am merely a point and shoot guy. Wish I knew more.

          • Cory_S

            I tried Zoom FX, but it had really sckewed colors for me. It did take pictures faster though.

    • DanielMena9

      I’m with you, HDR+ has some of the most stunning pictures I’ve ever taken. People are making a big deal of nothing.

    • Tio

      I was of the same thinking until I tried a photosphere. The images show up dark for me. Give it a shot and see for yourself.

      • Droidzilla

        I did a photosphere yesterday that mostly came out; some of it didn’t, though. I was in less than ideal conditions so I’ll give it another go today and see if it’s borked or if it was just that shot. I will say the part that came out came out nicely, but that’s not meaningful if it can’t complete the ‘sphere.

      • DanielMena9

        I did a photospehere under sunlight and a van crossed my path!!!

        Photosphere corrected the images and the rendered image had NO van. AMAZIN

      • S2556

        Photospheres have actually been my best looking shots with my n5. If I take a normal pic and compare side by side with a photosphere the normal pics colours are way off and not as bright. Not including hdr+ though they are on part.

        • S2556

          Here’s one.

    • Cory_S

      I took a couple hundred photos at a festival the other day. I am overall pleased with it, however the shutter lag and the time to focus delay cost me several time sensitive photos, and trying to take a picture of anything with even minimal motion was a blurry mess.

      • GentlemanScholar

        Did you try using the scene mode at all? Particularly the scene mode for action shots?

        • Cory_S

          No, I didn’t. I’ll blame the camera UI on not knowing what that was. It looked like a globe more so than an indication for an action shot. However, these really weren’t action shots anyway…they were of taking pictures of my GF posing and people simply walking various directions behind her. But, testing that mode now it is still just as slow to focus and shutter…so it would only be a partial fix if it did help.

          • GentlemanScholar

            I think the camera UI and speed both need to be improved. You shouldn’t have to try scene modes unless you are particularly interested in those settings (i.e., taking pictures of kids while playing soccer – hence the soccer ball, I guess). I was simply inquiring to see if you experienced problems with the various modes as well.

        • Droidzilla

          I haven’t played with that, yet. I’ll have to give it a shot.

          hee hee, “give it a shot.”

        • JMonkeYJ

          Kinda defeats the purpose of capturing action shots if you have to switch scene modes to do it…

          • GentlemanScholar

            Not really. As I said below the speed of the camera and its user interface could both be improved. The hardware seems more than adequate. Nonetheless, taking action shots in auto mode, whether on a phone or a DSLR won’t yield the best results. Indeed, the N5 doesn’t give you the granularity to turn up the shutter speed for action shots, but that’s what the various scene modes are for. It appears, however, that he wasn’t even taking action shots, but instead, general shots with some minor movement. Auto mode should handle those shots and hopefully the update to the camera fixes these problems.

        • Mike

          Action mode pretty much just turns on the flash. When I used it I noticed the same amount of blur as without. Also, sometimes the flash would go off right in the middle of a bright day. Nothing feels putzier than having your camera phone flash going off like crazy outside on a bright day…

      • WK

        for action shots or shots with movement, use the Sports option. not sure if its called the same thing on the N5 but i have the G2, and if the N5 cam is the same way, this should work. its not perfect but it works a lot better than Normal.

    • Renjamin

      Been pleased with mine thus far. Granted, I’m stepping up from a GNex, but compared to a GS3 and a GS4 I played around with over the weekend, the N5 did a fantastic job. Haven’t even played around with the G+ touch ups yet.

      • Droidzilla

        You’ll love the G+ tweaks; one of the best things Google’s done in a while, and that’s saying something.

        • Renjamin

          Haha, that does certainly put it in perspective. Looking forward to some down time to check it out.

    • jbdan

      Not at all. I absolutely love the camera on the N5. Now that I’ve become more accustomed to it, it equals my GS4 which is excellent imo

    • jnt

      100% agree, your description is spot on as well

    • A.Miller

      Its slow as hell to shutter and actually take the photo. That is my only issue.

      If there is a workaround or something that I’m not doing right, I’ve love to know.

    • Carlton Crasher

      I came from an S3 and with that said I completely agree

    • Skittlez


      i took this pic the other day at the auto show, and it’s not that bad. it’s not as good as the shots i took with the G2, but for $350 or $499, you can’t really complain. i think it’s just fine for a camera phone

    • Chris

      or its just you who is obsessed with the nexus and is blinded by the light…