Google confirms new camera API for developers already in the works, Nexus 5 camera might soon improve with 3rd party help


Nexus 5 camera

We’ve already covered the Nexus 5’s shooting capabilities in depth, giving you guys our camera review from Google’s latest flagship. While an average shooter overall, we ultimately ruled that it was the smartphone’s camera software holding the device back from photo greatness, not necessarily the hardware. The good news? It might soon get better.

A few weeks ago, some left over code discovered in AOSP hinted that new camera APIs were in the works, but were scrapped right before the release of Android 4.4 KitKat. What happened? In an interview with CNET Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano not only confirmed the existence of these new APIs, but shed a little light on exactly how they’ll work.

According to Scigliano, Google will soon allow app developers to tap into 2 new camera features already baked deep inside Android: RAW image support and burst mode. Scigliano explains:

“Android’s latest camera HAL (hardware abstraction layer) and framework supports raw and burst-mode photography. We will expose a developer API [application programming interface] in a future release to expose more of the HAL functionality.”

Android camera HAL

You can see in the above diagram developers can skip stock Android’s image processing, instead using with their own software to communicate directly with a device’s camera hardware. With support for RAW images, developers (or users) could take uncompressed images and tweak them using their own apps and editors.

Burst mode? Well, it’s used for more than capturing action shots. For those unaware, it’s actually Android’s new burst mode makes KitKat’s new HDR+ shooting mode possible, taking a quick succession of images captured at varying exposures and combining them into one. This makes for an image that’s sharper and has greater dynamic range than a single shot.

So, exactly when can we expect Google to open up these new camera features to Android developers? Just like on XDA, an ETA wasn’t given. Google said only to expect the APIs to open up in a future software update. While it’s little consolation, at least now we know they’re coming, right?

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. Now the fix for the speaker sound

  2. Less focus on camera, more focus on the battery life please. Then we can go to camera and speaker volume.

    1. Google doesn’t make batteries, so you won’t see anything about a breakthrough in batteries. Also, batteries haven’t changed in quite some time. LoL!!

      What you’re looking for is better hardware to not be so battery costly. Then again, Google doesn’t make hardware. Hmm…

      1. Really? You might want to ask the good folks at Motorola about that. I think that good old Moto will be a front so that Google can experiment with some hardware ideas.

      2. So much wrong with what you said.

  3. None of these features actually will improve the issue with the camera taking bad pictures because of poor focusing, etc.

    1. absolutely true. nothing here indicates improved focus accuracy or speed. what it will give us is slow, poorly focused raw images

  4. I get great photos on my Nexus 5 as it is. (As well as great battery life)

    1. No you dont.

    2. Me too! But I take everything in hdr+ mode. Not the quickest pics but definitely nice in low light.

      1. Yup. It’s HDR+ or nothing for me.

        1. Same.

      2. Even when I went on a cave tour with my N4, HDR (on jellybean) magically made pretty good pics. Gotta love that HDR+ on the N5 though.

  5. Want Google supposed to be working with Nikon?

  6. I know each person’s experience is different, but I have not had many problems with focus. I did come from a One X that had absolutely horrendous focus problems. You’d be in focus and when you took the picture autofocus would put the camera back out of focus.

    1. Yeah, same here. It needs awesome lighting otherwise it hunts around, failing most of the time :/

      1. When the phone first came out you could turn autofocus off in the settings and just use tap to focus, which worked pretty well. Then they pushed an update that ripped that right out and it was just awful.

        So compared to that, the N5 is heaven :p

    2. Exactly. The N5 takes way better shots and maybe that’s why I don’t mind the camera the way it is. Quicker access and faster shots would be nice as long as quality doesn’t go down.

      1. Yeah. My only real complaint of the N5 camera is that it’s slow, especially with HDR+ on. Speed it up a bit and I’d have no real complaints.

  7. The Nikon D7100 is the best camera out there( consumers report say), those that want it can get one. But for a smartphone(which is phone before anything) the N5 takes great pictures.

  8. I can only pray to the Google Gods that we don’t have the retarded slide UI. I HATE THAT CRAP.

    “Google Gods, no slide UI please”
    … searching…
    Result: “impossible”

  9. Not sure if any of the other guys commenting are *actually* using an N5 or not, but I returned mine and bought a used HTC One. I have owned many Android devices over the years and, so far, I have been supremely impressed with the abilities of the HTC One. I was at a dimly lit indoor holiday party this weekend and took all of my pictures with no flash and most all came out really great. I could have never done that without serious frustration with the N5. The One is so fast! It’s fantastic. People would ask me “There was no flash…..” and then I’d show them the picture. I don’t think I had a defective N5 either. It just can’t do the same thing – in its current iteration – as the One. Not for me. I need my PHONE camera to be fast and immediate. I need to be able to shoot from the hip and not have to wait or delay for anything. Its purpose is for the “life” shots and if you want better quality then of course carry around your big boy camera.

  10. So are they not going to touch their own out of date stock camera app?

  11. Gosh! Why do Nexus smartpho always get bad reviews for the camera? Sheez!

    1. Not all of us even care that much about the camera. It takes snapshots. They’re often better than my old 35mm fully manual camera, which often wasn’t set to the right light settings or f-stops or whatever… Or it had the wrong film making it grainy or washed out. Or some pictures just didn’t “take”… and you know what? I’m fine. I’m not a professional photographer.

  12. Camera, Battery and speakers….those are the things that are lacking most in the Nex5
    The first 2 can be improved by software…not sure about the speakers, but I can;t wait till the first two are fixed!

  13. The worst part of n5 is the ringer (speaker).

  14. google should have worked out the camera before this, no reason to have to depend on a 3rd party for decent camera software. So glad I passed up on the N5

    1. Yup yup if that makes you feel a little better (pat pat)

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