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Android L to feature Raw shooting and added manual camera controls

57

Details from Google I/O last week about Android's plans for a camera app update in its next OS release were thin. Now with a developer preview of the new OS available, more information has emerged about what we can expect from Android's camera capabilities.

Android 'L' as it is called at the moment is available as a developer preview.

Android Police has taken a look at the developer documentation and found that Android L will allow for Raw DNG image capture. Other new features include performance updates that will make faster burst shooting possible at full resolution and a host of other controls such as:

  • Exposure time
  • ISO sensitivity
  • JPEG metadata
  • AE/AWB lock
  • Exposure compensation

Read more about the updates at Android Police. Android L is expected to make its full public debut in late 2014, in the meantime the developer preview is available for download

Source: Google | Via Imaging Resource

Comments

Total comments: 57
HowaboutRAW

Azurael:

That's a bit harder battery swapping than say a Samsung Galaxy S4, or a Blackberry Z30. But good to know it can be done with screw driver.

Perhaps Android has improved a bit in handling background processes since 4.1.

The thing about rooting is that I'm always concerned that it will kill some necessary phone software feature, this doesn't concern me with wifi tablets too much, though I'm never clear if there's some Cyanogenmod variation for Android 4.4 or 4.3.

Right, I want a removable mSD card, and a hand swappable battery, a camera with an optically good lens that shoots raw, and easy access to features for killing background processes.

0 upvotes
Martin Crombie Photography

Shutter speed control asap

0 upvotes
bloodycape

So does this mean the Samsung Galaxy camera line will get RAW?

1 upvote
Lars Rehm

It could mean that if Samsung decided to make Android L available for the Galaxy Cameras but there is no guarantee.

0 upvotes
sdh

Does RAW actually offer benefit in smartphone-size sensors?
RAW has real benefit with DSLRs and regular point-and-shoot type cameras because the image sensor can capture a larger range of information than the jpg format can store.
But the margin decreases as sensor size decreases (decreasing dynamic range).
Do smartphone sensors actually have headroom beyond what jpg can store?

And separately I can't help thinking that if you're fussy enough about your images to manually post-process RAWs (because there's no point shooting RAW if you don't) then you probably should be doing photography on a device with a proper handgrip and shutter button (ie a real camera even if only a compact and not a smartphone).

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Lars Rehm

it's not all about recovering highlight or shadow detail. The ability to change white balance, contrast and other color settings in a non-destructive way are useful, no matter the sensor size.

6 upvotes
Entropius

Yes.

Noise reduction is crucial on data coming from a tiny sensor, and that can be better done by a 35-watt Core i5 in a few seconds than by a smartphone CPU running on a few hundred milliwatts in a few tens of milliseconds.

1 upvote
HowaboutRAW

sdh:

If you have the opportunity, try shooting raw and then jpeg with say the Olympus XZ10 or perhaps one of the MicrosoftNokia phones which also shoot DNG. Then note what you can do with the raws that you can't do with the jpegs.

0 upvotes
Juandante

RAW have a big advantage on small sensors, just to start, it is having far better possibilities in throwing away some troublesome habits of the manufacturers like for example aggressive sharpening and over saturated colors.

After the real advantage with RAW comes with the fact that there is an infinite quantity of applications that can access RAW data on the sensor, so almost infinite competition and so infinite new possibilities to ameliorate the image quality, and far better lifetime for the current cellphones.

Imagine an old SonyEricsson K750i had RAW and Java apps accessing the RAW. I'm sure people would keep it up to today to make experiments and do HDR shoots (impossible at the time).

You can do it with JPEG but now creativity will be even higher.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Emacs23

I would like to apply DxO PRIME on some of my phone pics.

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

Emacs23:

Some of the newer Windows MS/Nokia phones shoot DNGs.

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

Let's hope Google unhides the "limit background/crapware" feature that Google hid with the move from Android 4.1 to 4.2 and higher.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady

If 10 seconds of effort to unhide developer options is too much work....

And for recent phones high on (free) RAM, there are more downsides to limiting the standard amount of cached programs (such as much longer load times of frequently used apps and higher battery drain as a result) than benefits.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
HowaboutRAW

Troj:

And I disagree. Also the programs one is stopping from loading with start, or later when not really in use, need to be labeled clearly like Windows Task Manager.

If I use some application regularly, I'm fine with it loading, but it's the creeping crapware that makes the phone/tablet slower and slower over hours of use without any obvious reason for the crapware being open--even in the background.

There's also a difference between crapware (say an ad for a Samsung or Google service you'd never uses) and programs you use, say maps, or photo viewers.

Unnecessary crapware on computers sold to home users did Dell Computer no favors.

1 upvote
Azurael

You could always buy Nexus/GPE devices if you don't like crapware... Nobody forced you to buy a Samsung with Touchwiz and all the junk that entails. You could even flash an AOSP/CM-based ROM if you don't mind unlocking the bootloader. Or even just root the stock ROM and install something like Titanium Backup that allows you to remove system apps.

Can you not disable the applications that you perceive to be 'crapware' anyway? Most non-essential system apps can be disabled on the Android 4.x-based devices.

I vehemently refuse to use Android devices with their shipped, crapware infested firmware anyway. At least I have that choice - with an iOS device, I have to take what Apple give me - for example back in the days before iOS 6, you got Carrier IQ spying on you - and before iOS 7.1 all apps had unrestricted access to your phonebook data. Since I own the device and had to pay for it with my own money, that's not good enough.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady

Plenty of free apps out there to tell you what's running in the background and what's loaded at startup. Including control over those apps. The feature you were referring to is for cached programs anyway, which has little relationship to CPU power being used. My cached apps rarely use more than 5% CPU, mostly well below 2%.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
HowaboutRAW

Azurael:

Is the battery easy to swap on any Nexus?

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

TrojMacReady:

Over a few days of use I've noted Android tablets slowing remarkably, until such time as one limits background processes.

Right, I'm sure there's software that will let you see what crapware is running.

Comment edited 13 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Azurael

HowaboutRAW:

Well, actually, the battery on my 2012 Nexus 7 is no more difficult to change than any device with an 'officially' removable battery. Just pop the back off. The Nexus 4 is just the two screws in the bottom then the retainers on the battery connector. I don't own a 2013 Nexus 7 or a Nexus 5 and I haven't yet had cause to disassemble my partner's Nexus 10, so I can't comment on those. But if you must have crapware-free Android, don't want to root/install a custom ROM AND MUST have a removable battery or a MicroSD slot, there are always the GPE devices. Although those of us outside the US would have to import them :(

And as for slowdowns over time... The uptime figure on my Nexus 7 is currently at about a month and a half, and it's not feeling any slower than when it was first booted. I don't kill background apps, Android can be trusted to do that itself where necessary these days.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

Azurael:

That's a bit harder battery swapping than say a Samsung Galaxy S4. But good to know it can be done with screw driver.

Perhaps Android has improved a bit in handling background processes since 4.1.

The thing about rooting is that I'm always concerned that it will kill some necessary phone software feature, this doesn't concern me with wifi tablets too much, though I'm never clear if there's some Cyanogenmod variation for Android 4.4 or 4.3.

Right, I want a removable mSD card, and a hand swappable battery, a camera that shoots raw, and easy access to features for killing background processes.

0 upvotes
jtan163

Do people really think these changes are aimed primarily at camera phones?

I more wonder if Google is aiming for more "real" cameras in the medium (or perhaps even short term).

Using cheaper opensourced OS might be a really easy way to reduce costs.
Yeah your OS looks like everyone else's but you can still add extra features, either in the OS itself or as apps.

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

Have you used a camera running Android?

They're a real pain.

So unless Android offers some specific feature you want in a camera, avoid Android cameras.

0 upvotes
Juandante

@HowaboutRAW maybe because the cameras are not mature ? Remember smartphones before the iPhone ?

I agree with jtan163, and if cameras now run on Android, we will not loose anything (except to win, Photoshop directly on a Sony A7s).

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

Juandante:

The problem is all the non-camera functions, and the slow start time. And many of theses functions aren't going to be sought in future cameras.

So MRAM could help with the start time.

The iPhone also released at a time when processors and touch screens had improved. And like Android, the iPhone's OS has many features that don't have much to do with taking pictures.

Everybody understood that small fast, cell networked, computers were coming 20 years ago. And that's about when Apple was selling the respected Newton, but back then even wifi didn't exist, let alone a 3G network--and the first iPhone was not 3G.

No body is saying, "But I want to send emails from my camera", or "play Candy Crush on my camera", or "video chat".

There's nothing particularly wrong with using some part of Android to sort photos on a camera and push them out to a network, so Android can be so part of a camera's OS, but only a limited part and not now while startup is so slow.

0 upvotes
jtan163

You know you (you personally or the manufacturers) don't have to install all the apps?
They can just use the kernel. libraries and a shim layers as required.
They get a kernel, wireless, 3/4G , an imagine pipeline, a GUI toolkit, all of which they can customise.
You realise that margins and sales are dropping?
Easy way to reduce cost of producting a camera - an increase the feature set.

Whats more if you want to break Adobe's image processing strangelhold, what better way to do it then get your OS into cameras, still, video, lightray or otherwise?

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

jtan163:

Then I have to go through the head ache of rooting the machine and rebuilding the features. When I buy a Mac or a highend Windows computer, they're simply not loaded with crapware.

Same is true of an iPhone.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Juandante

I seriously don't know what you are talking about, you don't have to use none of the other special features of an Android camera if they have them and second of all the current cameras are IMMATURE, got it ?

It is certain that if Sony, Nikon, Canon, Fuji start to make cameras with Android they will not be as slow and you will find exactly what you find on current cameras in the same exact way (beauty of using a non-proprietary OS).

I don't tell you to put a phone in a camera I told you to put Android in a camera which is completely two different things.

For the moment there is no blocking part (you could tweak Android can go in stand-by to increase boot time with a good battery drain to 0% would take weeks), except the will of the manufacturers and for some people *cough* to be more intelligent.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

Juandante:

Android in a camera remains a bad idea. See the various Samsung Galaxy camera examples as to why.

Re: Android phones and tablets, today in 2014, one can not always remove crapware--so one is forced to root the system--a process which raises all sorts of other potential problems.

I suggest you look into Android systems further before making "easy" suggestions about solutions that mostly won't work.

I stand by what I wrote a week ago, above.

0 upvotes
jtan163

Howaboutraw - I think you think that the thing you see on a phone or tablet is the OS.
It's not.
It's a GUI.
The OS is underneath.
I'm not trying to be rude, but it sounds like you are not familiar enough with OS principals to be having this conversation with.
Sorry I'm really not trying to be an ass, but you need to understand the different layers of abstraction e.g. , kernel, libraries, shell GUI, Apps before we can discuss this.

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

jtan163:

Duh, Android is a GUI on top of a scaled down Linux.

And Mac is a GUI on top of a Unix.

However the way you consistently access functions in Android is thru the GUI--and there ARE NOT radical variations in that system.

If you think that some party, say Samsung, should develop a Linux based OS for its cameras, feel free to advocate for such a system.

You're not being an "ass", just ignorant, which I guess you could see as coming off as an ass.

In slightly different terms, yes Linux/Unix could run a camera as long as it started very quickly and had dedicated physical buttons on the camera. But that's not what you advocated.

Hope this clarifies your apprehension of computer OSes, well some non-Windows varieties.

0 upvotes
jtan163

AH OK then Android it is Linux.
But it is also a whole pile of libraries and APIs, including the imaging libraries.
You don't have to access or include the underlying functions via the GUI as I assume you know.

The GUIs nearly always mucked up by OEM's who just can't resist messing with it.

But the OEMs could choose to not mess with it and replace the GUI layer - and still get all the other benefits of Android.
I don't think Samsung should develop a Linux environment for camera and I am not sugesting they should use Galaxy.

What I am suggesting is that to avoid the expense of developing any OS for a camera they could use Android, stripped down or fattened up and reduce the cost of development.

And that if you were google and wanted to take that market having your own OS in cameras would be an advantage.

In the same way having DNG as a camera RAW format is an advantage for Adobe (they don't have to develop a new raw converter for your camera - less dev cost).

0 upvotes
jtan163

BTW my day job is a unix sys admin, I'm an RHCE. I used to be a programmer and was writing C, C++ (which I no longer do) for embedded Linux systems before Linux had any real facilities for embedded software (distro was about redhat 3 or 4 redhat, not RHEL) for realtime software in the mid/late 90s including a touch screen interface in GTK+.
As such I rather immodestly reckon my grasp of non windows OS's is pretty decent.
I'm not an OS developer but I have a pretty decent grasp of where the various layers of functionality come from and how tightly coupled a GUI is.

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

jtan163:

Okay, but as I said you're free to advocate for Unix/Linux as a camera OS, but that's good bit different than Android. Unix would still need to start really fast--so the camera would need to use MRAM.

DNG: It is somewhat camera specific. Also Adobe keeps changing the format a bit. Try opening new, say Leica T DNGs, with some variety of PhotoShop from 5 years ago.

0 upvotes
dzukela

copy, steal, copy, pilfer, copy, filch, purloin, stealing...
That's google android.

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Azurael

Android "copy, steal, copy, pilfer, copy, filch, purloin, steal" what exactly?

The pulldown notification bar?
Multitasking?
Quick settings bar?

Basically everything that made iOS a 'full featured' OS and pleasant to use on a day-to-day basis is ripped off from Android and Windows Phone. They stole the ugly flat, textual in-app UI in iOS 7 from Windows Phone and now Android is going the same way. Get used to it, companies copy eachother because all three vendors seem to think that the consumer will only buy whatever looks the same as everything else.

Thankfully, L, from what I've seen of the UI so far, is not as much of a shock to the system as I was. The only thing I really dislike about the UI in L is those fugly nav bar buttons stolen from a Playstation controller, I don't quite understand what's wrong with the Android H - K versions which are attractive and evident in function.

4 upvotes
Entropius

Android and OSX both "copied" a real operating system to get their start: Unix.

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW

Entropius:

Um, that's an odd definition of "copy". OSX is Unix based with a graphical user interface--GUI.

Android is Google's adverts and GUI on top of Linux, which is a slimmed down Unix.

So Unix was a starting point for both, but how OSX and Android are used is significantly different, so not really copying.

It's more that Android and OSX are extensions of the Unix family.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
James Booba

Wonder if this will effect Sony´s QX10&100 addon cams.

Comment edited 23 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
grafli

I guess they won't get an Update to Android 5.0...

0 upvotes
Jostian

Now we just need a decent camera module (Android version of the Lumia 1020), and not this tiny sensor, high MP aggressive processing junk we have at present in all the Android phones!

1 upvote
morepix

If they'd just make the thing a bit bigger, they could drive out that upstart Sony RX100 III.

More seriously, this feature escalation threatens to shoot smartphone cameras in the foot. When the next phonecam is as complex as a D4s, the convenience, spontaniety, and creative potential are gone. So where will it stop?

1 upvote
Lars Rehm

well, the beauty about smartphones is that you can always just install a very simple point-and-shoot camera app and you got all the convenience and creative potential you could ever want.

9 upvotes
zodiacfml

I need that better efficiency, my new Nexus 5 doesn't feel new due to its poor battery life.

Comment edited 15 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Richard Shih

Read up on Project Volta. Apparently Google is making a concerted effort to improve battery life in the next version.

0 upvotes
Tonkotsu Ramen

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/07/examining-project-volta-we-put-android-l-through-our-battery-test/

Android L has project volta, some sites claim it provides an additional 30% of battery life.

This won't save the Nexus 5 though, the battery is simply too small for that screen size.

0 upvotes
Tonkotsu Ramen

ahh richard beat me to it

@richard - this is why I'm going to sit out buying phones for awhile. I was almost ready to trade my note 2 in for an xperia z2 or galaxy s5..... then android L came out. To me, it is one of the biggest revamps of android yet. There's no telling how the manufacturers will handle such a change.

1 upvote
Azurael

My Nexus 4 always had good battery life, my G2 running AOSP probably doubles it but that's no surprise with a more efficient SoC and 3000mAh battery. I can't really see that the N5 could be bad unless there's something drastically wrong with it. I shouldn't be getting more than a third extra with the rest of the hardware being pretty much identical.

Comment edited 13 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Richard Shih

@Tonkotsu Ramen: Reports are that the Nexus 5 got 60-90 minutes more use with Project Volta. Time will tell though.

0 upvotes
nhaxuonghcm

how does software make generic hardware faster?

Comment edited 18 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Jen Yates

Because software is just a very long list of calculations that generic hardware has to perform. If you reduce the number of calculations needed to complete the same task you speed up the overall task. Most software isn't as optimised as it could be, so careful refactoring of code can often provide significant improvements.

2 upvotes
Andy Crowe

It can't make the hardware faster, but the software can use less hardware resources and so run faster.

If the software spends less time processing pictures between shots then it can take shots faster.

Comment edited 56 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
larrytusaz

That's like giving Kool-Aid the option to come already poured into crystal champagne glasses.

0 upvotes
dpmaxwell

"Oh, how ordinary." - Lily Von Shtupp

1 upvote
raincoat

"make faster burst shooting possible at full resolution "

how does software make generic hardware faster?

0 upvotes
joe6pack

by designing more efficient API. Making use of hardware acceleration (on new platforms). Making use of more memory for buffering. To name a few.

Comment edited 8 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
raincoat

On existing generic hardware.
Buffering doesn't increase shooting speed. It and more efficient API may increase the burst size available but does NOT increase how fast the bits can be read off the sensor.

Would you believe me if I said a firmware upgrade would turbocharge your car?

0 upvotes
joe6pack

"Would you believe me if I said a firmware upgrade would turbocharge your car?"

Absolutely! Welcome to the 21st century!

0 upvotes
Total comments: 57
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