Apr, 01 2014

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?

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