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Nemesis revealed: Focal is the new camera app developed by CyanogenMod

The CyanogenMod team is developing a completely new camera application called Focal, that will replace the stock camera in upcoming releases of the popular custom ROM.
July 26, 2013
cyanogenmod focal camera app

The wait is over – the first stage of Nemesis, the mystery project that the CyanogenMod team has been teasing for the last days, is the launch of Focal, a brand new camera app that will replace the existing application in future CM releases.

In terms of design, Focal takes cues from the general esthetic of Android, while when it comes to functionality, we’re looking at an original, feature-rich interface that looks very intuitive to use.

The folks at got their hands on a pre-release version of Focal, giving us an early glimpse of how the app will look and work. When firing up the app, users will only see one shutter button, that they will be able to keep pressed to take shots in quick succession, a feature that will reportedly work even on older smartphones without specific hardware requirements. Clicking or swiping anywhere on the image allows for manual focus selection.

By swiping up from the shutter button, users can open a menu that lets them pick between various shooting modes. These include regular photo, video, panorama, front facing cam, and Pic Sphere. All the modes work as you’d expect from their names; Pic Sphere is CyanogenMod’s open source answer to Google’s Photo Sphere, which is available on Nexus devices, and thanks to a recently leaked APK to most Jelly Bean devices. For all purposes, Pic Sphere works precisely like Google’s app.

CyanogenMod Focal - YouTube 41 000638

Swiping from the left of the display opens a settings menu, containing all the options and tweaks you’d expect from a feature rich camera application – HDR modes, ISO, flash settings, filters, time settings, etc. Clicking on the menu buttons opens up “widgets” on the screen, and you can have several widgets open at a time, for easy access to settings. We have to say, the widget implementation looks far more ergonomic than digging through menus, like you have to do on the TouchWiz camera and other apps.

The CyanogenMod team designed Focal to be modular, meaning that device maintainers can configure the settings presented in the menu, to match hardware configuration. That also means that maintainers will be able to easily add new features to the app, to keep up with the evolution of camera hardware.

CyanogenMod Focal will become available in the nightly builds of the ROM starting next week, according to Geek’s Russell Holly. The app is only the first phase of Project Nemesis, and judging from what we’ve seen so far, a very ambitious one. Naturally, we anxiously look forward to the other niceties that the CM team will bring in the next phases of Nemesis.

Update: official launch video:

What should CM Nemesis focus on next, in your opinion?

Update 2: Click the Press Release button for the “official” rundown on Focal from CM member Guillaume Lesniak.


Project Nemesis Stage 1: Focal

The wait is over, folks! Thanks for indulging us to have a little fun with the teaser. Today, we announce the first component of CyanogenMod’s Project Nemesis: Focal.

Tired of a basic Camera app, with missing options and a PhotoSphere on select devices? We’re here to change that.

Let’s go ahead and do a quick tour of all the features:

Widgets UI and sidebar
Focal UI works with two key concepts, a side bar, and widgets through the sidebar. Each widget is a parameter for your camera, and you can open the ones you want, reorder them, and hide them off the screen with a simple swipe.

Everything stays in one place when you rotate, don’t get disturbed by the whole screen rotating, it just feels natural.

On top of that, you can double-tap on the preview zone, and turn into a Quick Capture mode (aka “Moto X mode”) where you can take pictures by tapping anywhere on the screen, and turn on some cool rule of thirds grid to help frame your shots.

Timers and Burst mode
The timer mode and burst mode we added in AOSP camera app are back in Focal. Timer mode
lets you set up a countdown timer before taking a shot, and our favorite Voice Trigger is back to take a shot as soon as you say “Cheese”, “Cid”, or “Whiskey”.

The burst mode, as its name says, makes a burst of shots. The number of shots can be 5, 10, 15, or an infinite number of shots (stops when you press the shutter button again).

Focus and measure light
Many times, when you take a picture, the focus point or the center of your screen might not be the best reference point for the light measurement. You end up with your subject either too bright or too dark, or you have to offset the center of your shot to get a proper exposure. Alongside the focus point, Focal offers you to show a second ring that lets you choose your exposure metering point.

Different modes are also available on devices that support them: frame average, spot metering, and weighted point.

The review drawer

You use the notification drawer throughout Android to review important things, so why not extend that to the camera?

Want to quickly see a shot you’ve taken? You just have to swipe down/left (portrait/landscape) anywhere on the screen to open the review drawer. When taking a burst shot, a small version of the review drawer appears, and shows you your shots as they are taken. Also, if you want to take a shot while the review drawer is open, it will gently fade out to let you see your viewfinder.

Swipe a shot left or right to delete it, or tap it to open it in the gallery and apply it further changes or share it.

Video snapshots, now for everyone

Video snapshots, the ability to take pictures while recording a video, used to be only available on higher end devices. With Focal, this feature has been made available to everyone. If your device supports video snapshots then it will work just as it used to work (or will start to work if it didn’t work but it should have), and if it used to not support it, it will now support it by taking a snapshot of the preview data.

Turn on and off what you want, when you want.

Want to refocus your video? Press the volume down key or tap the screen. Want to take a video snapshot? Double-tap the screen or press the volume up key. Want to switch the effect while recording your video? Just keep the widget open and do what you want. Want to see your video snapshots while recording a video? Pull down the review drawer at any time. Want to make a panorama with flash, or with an effect? Do it too.

Auto-enhance your pictures offline

At Google I/O, the Google+ team unveiled a new feature for pictures: auto-awesome. This feature basically takes your pictures, and enhances those using amazing algorithms. We found that cool and we decided to bring you an automatic picture enhancement system that will automatically enhance, locally, in about 5 seconds at max resolution, all the new pictures you take.

An enhanced panorama mode

The Panorama mode as you know it has been greatly enhanced. It works just as it used to work previously in the AOSP camera app, but now it works at a higher resolution to give you the best looking panoramas, and it lets you take panoramas up to 360° (where it used to be 160° in the standard camera app) for stunning pictures of your current location.

A better software HDR

Throughout the first half of this year we have been adding support for software HDR, but we warned that the best usage for this was via a stationary mount!

As soon as you’d move, your shot would look great, if you think blurry was ‘great’. We can do better, and we did! We are now providing you a real software HDR algorithm, that first matches the shots before blending them together and apply them a real tone-mapping. It takes a little bit more time to process than our previous implementation, so you might not want to use it on all your pictures, but it’s definitely worth it on your special occasions.

What about PhotoSphere?

PhotoSphere landed on Android with the 4.2 update. It’s biggest downside? Well, it only works on recent devices, with the Google official APK, so only the luckiest of you, with a camera device compatible out-of-the-box with the AOSP camera app (hello, Exynos!), and willing to lose all CyanogenMod enhancements over the app were able to experience it.

With Focal, we’re introducing a not-so-exclusive CyanogenMod branded PhotoSphere, called… PicSphere.  PicSphere is an open-source replacement for Google PhotoSphere, based on the opensource panorama tools suite Hugin. Through PicSphere, Focal offers everyone a way to do full 360° panoramas that shows both your feet and the sky.

Android 4.3 enhanced PhotoSphere for select devices? Let’s see if we can’t do better across the board!

When will I see this happen?

Soon! We’re fixing the last few derps, and the source will soon be pushed to CyanogenMod’s official repositories, and will be available in the next nightly after the push happens. The whole source code is split into two different repositories – android_packages_apps_Focal and android_external_Focal (containing the app and its native dependencies respectively), and the parts we wrote are under GPLv2 license.

I truly hope you will enjoy the app as much as we enjoyed making it. We’ve also made the app easy for maintainers to add new widgets and settings, and I strongly encourage contributions from the community (it’s GPLv2 for a reason!) to achieve the final goal of the app: have a complete Camera software, opensource, that is both powerful and compatible with every device.

I’ll keep on improving the app over the next few weeks (after a well-deserved pause, I hope), adding other new great features, and squashing the last few bugs.

And this is only stage one.