Google confirmed to CNet that it’s working on a new software foundation for cameras on Android devices.
Fragments of code found in the publicly available Android repository have revealed that Google tried to release a new Camera application programming interface (API) on KitKat, but called it off ahead of the release. The API supports raw formats, burst mode, face detection, and removable cameras, and offers finer control over image quality.
Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano confirmed that support for raw formats and burst mode is already baked into the Android hardware abstraction layer (HAL), which is the part of the operating system that interacts with the actual hardware of the device. Google will expose the two new functions via the Camera API “in a future release”.
Scigliano emphasized the importance of burst mode:
The core concept of the new HAL and future API is centered around burst-mode photography. The basic idea is instead of taking a single shot with a given set of parameters, you instead have the power to queue up a request to take multiple shots each with different parameter settings such as exposure gain. The camera subsystem captures a the burst of shots, which can be subsequently post-processed by the application layer
The Nexus 5 already makes use of burst mode in the HDR+ mode, which combines several images taken in quick succession into one high-quality final image. Many Android manufacturers have already built support for burst mode into their devices independently, but the inclusion of the feature in the default camera API will make it accessible to more developers.
When CNet asked about the mediocre performance of the Nexus 5 camera, Scigliano stated that “the team is aware of the issues and is working on a software update that will be available shortly”.
We can only hope that the update will make the Nexus 5 camera as good as Google’s marketing makes it to be.