Google’s stock camera app used to be rather unimpressive, but that all changed with Android 4.0. Over the past two or so years Google worked to add a number of interesting features, ranging from relatively good panorama modes and Photosphere to a fancy, Windows Phone inspired review roll.
Sadly most vendors chose to use their own camera apps which used to be better to what Google had back in 2011. However, this is no longer the case and Google is now hoping to bring its camera features to users of non-Nexus devices.
Google Camera brings lens blur, Photosphere to the masses
Photosphere was a nice show-off feature for Nexus users when it was first introduced. It can be pretty good, but it’s not for everyone. To get the best results you need to take dozens of photos and try to keep the camera lens at the same position for every shot. You basically need to pivot around the lens, which can be tricky, especially if you’re standing in the middle of a river, not far from a mine field.
However, the Lens Blur feature is all-new.
The feature allows users to capture photos with a shallow depth of field using a standard mobile device. Since phones don’t have fancy lenses, so you really can’t play around with depth of field. Now you can, at least to some extent. We gave it a go and the results are impressive, once you get it right. In a low-light situation it might not be easy. Here’s how it works.
Easy to use, solid results
The app captures a series of images from different angles. Don’t worry, you don’t have to dance around as if you are taking a Photosphere or anything. You merely need to keep the subject centred and lift your phone vertically while keeping the subject neatly focused. The subject needs to be about five feet from the lens, or 1.5 metres in Europe. It is not as hard as it sounds and you should be able to pull it off after one or two tries. Think of it as a slow HDR shot gone wrong.
The app then plays around with the additional data it gathered in the pass. It allows you to change the focus by tapping on any part of the image, to add or reduce the amount of blur and emulate a shallow depth of field. You can also play around with bokeh effects.
Of course, this is just software doing its magic, don’t forget that you still have a terrible lens on your phone, but it helps. The results aren’t bad at all. It’s not what you’d get on an SLR with a proper lens, but it’s pretty impressive. That said, there are some problems. Unsurprisingly the software has trouble dealing with edges and straight lines. Like most image processing software it just does not like rectangular stuff, as you can see in the background.
Luckily this won’t be an issue in many situations, namely outdoors, with people instead of bourbon. In any case we suggest you try it out, provided you have Android 4.4 KitKat on your phone. Sadly most Android devices don't have 4.4, at least not yet.
If you're one of the lucky few, you can download Google Camera on the Play Store, or if simply update it if you're rocking a proper Android phone (i.e. a Nexus).