Android devotees who haven’t yet explored the photographic capabilities beyond their mobile devices’ native picture and video shooter should take note of Google Camera. The free app delivers a refreshing dose of simplicity and a smarttering of high-level functional that could might make taking phone pictures fun again.
Modes are a big thing with smartphone digital cameras and Google’s app developers know this very well, as evidenced by the presence of five different options: regular camera, regular video, Panorama, Lens Blur, and Photo Sphere. Modes are displayed briefly on the left hand side of the screen before disappearing, but can be easily accessed (and re-hidden) at any point just by dragging a finger left to right across the screen. Swiping the opposite way opens the picture and video gallery.
The camera and video modes are self-explanatory and relatively barebones, with the exception of a nifty bonus feature that reminds you to flip your camera to landscape mode when shooting video if the camera is in portrait orientation. Easily accessible camera settings let you toggle between the front-facing and rear-facing cameras, turn flash on or off from the viewfinder without having to dig into settings, or launch an onscreen grid for more accurate centering with a single tap.
Panorama and Photo Sphere modes are easy to use and produce high-quality fisheye or full 360-degree panoramic shots. Lens Blur allows users to achieve SLR-like images, adding a cool depth of field effect that can be tweaked after the fact by blurring objects around the main subject.
The big difference between Google Camera and similar apps is the former’s clean interface, which results in very limited onscreen clutter. The settings menu is similarly straightforward, giving you options to change photo and video resolution with just a couple of taps. This menu is also where you can control location settings for geo-tagging, or turn manual exposure on.
Another bonus, because this is Google’s native app, it plays very well with Google+ for photo backup and Google Hangouts for attaching quick pics to chat sessions. Proprietary camera apps often get hungup and buggy with both.
For all of its simplicity, Google Camera has some limitations you may find frustrating if you’re used to actions like applying filters or employing effects like image stabilization.
Rumor has it that there are additional features in the pipeline which may include advanced camera and Timelapse modes. Google Camera runs on Android smartphones and tablets running Android 4.4+KitKat and can be downloaded for free from Google Play.