Google has released details about the new camera software coming to the Android operating system. The changes will allow developers access to the raw data of the images, allowing a whole range of apps that can do a variety of post-processing modifications to the photos you take. There is also support now for burst shooting, in which the camera quickly takes several photos at once and the software chooses the best picture in terms of focus, color, exposure, etc.
Google’s latest Android phone, Nexus 5, already makes use of the burst mode. Besides choosing the sharpest picture from a series of photos, the Nexus 5 also features an HDR+ mode that combines photos taken with different settings to produce an image with a greater range of color and contrast. Previous Android devices that supported HDR did so through other apps, but now it will be built-in to the Android OS (iOS has had native HDR support since iOS version 4.1 released in 2010).
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To get technical, the changes are to the hardware abstraction layer (HAL), the software in the Android OS that talks directly to the physical hardware of a device, such as the camera. Improvements to this baseline code could mean improvements to Android cameras across a range of devices. And the fact that developers will be able to make apps that use the raw image data should mean more and better camera apps for Android.
Many hardcore photographers will also appreciate access to the raw image data, allowing them to choose what post-processing is done on their own photos, such as noise-reduction or color balance.