New Android Camera API may bring RAW shooting, face detection, burst mode, and more

by: Bogdan PetrovanNovember 18, 2013

Rear shot Nexus 5 LG G2 Sony Xperia Z1 Galaxy Note 3

Google is working on a new camera API that will bring new features and possibly improved image quality to Android devices, including the Nexus line.

Many reviewers have panned the camera experience on the Nexus 5 as inconsistent and mediocre, with some going as far as to call the product unfinished. Google acknowledged the problems and said that a software update could alleviate some of them. Indeed, code discovered in the publicly available Android source code suggests that a new Camera API is in the works that could improve image quality and give access to new features.

Android developer Josh Brown first spotted the code, and Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica broke the news. According to the dates on the commits in the code repository, the API was in the works for about 10 months, but Google didn’t finish it in time for the KitKat release, which shipped with the old API.

Here’s a summary of what may be coming to the Android camera experience once the new API is implemented:

  • Support for Camera RAW format – RAW is a format that preserves most of the information captured by the camera sensor, allowing for more in-depth editing, either on the device (e.g. with Snapseed) or on a PC with software like Photoshop. JPEG and other similar formats, in contrast, are compressed for smaller size, and a lot of the original info is lost in the process.
  • Face detection – the API will allow camera apps to detect the faces of people in the frame, and assign each face an ID for manipulation purposes. This is a feature that many Android manufacturers have implemented on their own, but the new API will make it available in stock Android.
  • Burst mode – another feature present on popular devices from Samsung, HTC, and others is burst mode – keeping the shutter button pressed will take a series of shots in quick succession. This feature will go very well with the new photo enhancement capabilities of Google Plus.
  • Support for removable cameras – possibly something similar to Sony’s QX10 and QX100 Wi-Fi cameras.
  • General “improved capabilities” and “fine grain control” that may (we hope) bring improvements to image quality.

It seems that the new Camera API was in an advanced stage of development when Google decided to cut it out of KitKat. A last moment change of plans could explain why the Nexus 5’s camera feels a bit unfinished. When the new API lands, it will be backwards compatible, but for now we can only guess when we will see the update.

  • NeedName

    they definetly need to do something about the stock camera software. . .

    • Shark Bait

      Yeahh others have much cooler features than the nexus. I guess google thinks google plus does all the cool stuff for photos, but i think its a mess!

  • Ryster1

    Cool, this will make a good addition to the Nexus 5.

    • sourabh sekhar

      If they release a camera app that uses all the new APIs into the PLaystore, it would be a great addition to Android ;)

      • Shark Bait

        Could be made another part of play services i guess!

  • MasterMuffin

    YES! :)

  • Luka Mlinar

    What’s that second phone just under the Nexus 5?

    • Random

      LG G2

      • Luka Mlinar

        But in every other picture i seen the back buttons looked different. Is it an update?

        • Dimitar Gospodinov

          verson version I believe… if some other carrier hasn’t done the same…

          • poop

            Yeah, it’s the Verizon version. Got a little unnecessarily happy when I saw that because normally when a G2 is shown it’s, as Luka said, any other version but Verizon’s (probably because, imo, all the other versions’ rear keys are much easier to get used to and use).

  • Android 5.0 will likely have a hefty camera upgrade….They’ve been building up to it for quite some time now.

  • Bobby Wright

    I really hope they don’t wait for the next version of Android to release this update…

  • iamtravis182

    I love my Nexus 5, but I would welcome a camera upgrade. It is pretty weak compared to other android offerings.

    • Ørjan Baglo

      Indeed, but I found that using something like Smugmugs Camera Awesome really helped the image quality. So it is most defenitivly releated to the camera app.

  • razi ariff

    Good move by Google. I use both Samsung & Google camera apps. Both shows quite similar capabilities but the performance on Google camera apps drop drastically during low light shot.

    I pray hard the new camera API can brings new features and some manual like function.

  • Udit jain

    Yay !!!!!!!! Burst mode on nexus 4 !!!!!!!!!
    Fingers crossed for slow motion mode !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Russ

    The Nexus 5 already does face detection… flip the FFC on and watch a circle follow your face around.