In my brief review of my new Samsung Galaxy S4, I mentioned that I was a bit frustrated with the performance of the camera. It takes excellent pictures outdoors or in good light, but its low light performance is less than stellar. Most of the pictures I’ve taken indoors suffer from either motion blur or are a bit out of focus.
So I was excited to hear that Google was going to release the stock Android 4.4 camera app through Play Store (if you have Android 4.4 KitKat). It was released today and I downloaded and installed it as soon as I got home. My first impressions are mixed.
The interface (and the features) are decidedly minimal. There are very few settings. You can pick three sizes for pictures, while the Samsung app gives five and a choice of aspect ratios (16:9 and 4:3), while the Google app allows 4:3 only. No JPEG quality settings unfortunately; I was hoping for that because the Samsung app doesn’t have that setting. Other settings are flash on or off, grid lines on or off (but they’re almost impossible to see anyway) and that’s about it. No HDR mode, although it should be available if one of their screen shots is any indication.
There’s an exposure adjustment setting, but I can’t get it to work.
So, a very basic camera, outside of the fancy modes (Photosphere, Panorama, Lens Blur) which I don’t have much interest in.
As for picture quality, it seems to be a bit better indoors than the Samsung camera app in its default Auto mode. Pictures I took indoors were slightly sharper with little or no motion blur. Outdoors the results were mixed. The Google app seemed to overexpose slightly compared to the Samsung app, but I didn’t take enough pictures in bright light to be sure of this. The Samsung app, with it’s HDR mode, can take excellent pictures in bright sunlight – I doubt the Google app can match it.
So to sum up, I’ll continue to use the Samsung camera app as my main camera app, but will use the Google app indoors for quick grab shots. (The Samsung app has a Night mode that does equally well, but takes a little longer to set up.)
I have read that Google is making the camera API available, so you’ll probably see people releasing filters and other enhancements to it in due course.