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Camera Apps - Google Camera

The Definitive List of Camera Apps for Android

The list has so far covered a plethora of photo editing apps on Android, but to date I’ve largely left camera apps untouched. I have mentioned a few here and there in each update to the list, but never devoted a post exclusively to image capture. This then is that post, and is update number four of the definitive list for Android mobile photography apps. Though I have my favorites, these apps are listed primarily in order of functionality. You can’t get everything you want in your phone’s native camera app, so I focus here on those unique features these provide that other apps don’t. Some of them I’ve touched on before, but I place them here to have them all in one place as a reference for others. I’ve divided them into camera apps (which just shoot) and effects camera apps (which apply filters in camera mode). If it is photo editing you are looking for, you can find the main list and the three previous updates below. Each update has some specific focus in mind, though I don’t hold strictly to said focus. Not all apps in update three have to do with layering, though a majority of them do:

The Definitive List (the starting place for all photo editing apps on the Android platform)

Update 01 (focusing on lossless image saves)

Update 02 (focusing on DoF, blur and out of focus mobile photography)

Update 03 (focusing on image layering)

Update 04 (you are here)

[A further update to the definitive list is in the making, and will focus on RAW image capturing, editing, and viewing. Since Android Lollipop, the camera replacement app landscape has changed some. Stay tuned.]

  • Camera Apps

Camera FV-5 proCamera Apps - Camera FV5 – This is the best there is, offering all the standard buttons and features of a DSLR camera interface. Camera FV 5 pro is, for its all around versatility, the best camera replacement app on Android. It has a quality UI, png and jpg file format, EV and white balance lock, and a great viewfinder. It shoots in color (RGB) or black and white (luminance). I’ve also noticed when the battery is running low on my Samsung Galaxy S5, and the native camera no longer opens, Camera FV 5 does. The Samsung camera needs at least 5% battery life, while Camera FV 5 needs only about 3%. The battery life with this app running is substantially longer than the native app, though I can’t speak for other phone’s.

Maximum save resolution: same as native camera app.

Camera Apps - Long Exposure 2Long Exposure 2 – makes this list for its quality long exposure features. If you want abstract, Camera FV5’s long exposure feature creates said abstraction. But if you are looking for smooth water scenes, night traffic streaks, and other DSLR like long exposure images, this is your go to app. This is the best there is on Android currently when it comes to long exposures. You can choose between light traces (which gives similar results to Camera FV5, or you can choose long exposure. In the latter case, you then have lotions for exposure times and a digitally mimicked f-stop value. It’s fairly straightforward that less of the one means less of the other. It depends of course on what you are shooting. If you are shooting a lake with its small waves and you want a soft look to the water, you’ll want a longer exposure time, but with a higher f-stop value. A shorter exposure time is needed for capturing a soft creek, and consequently a lower f-stop value.

The aperture control is not true control but a digital mimicry of real f-stop modification. What the app seems to do is modify transparency on a black background. A high f-stop value means each image taken is more towards pure black. The paid version has the same low resolution as other long exposure cameras, so it’s clear the app is tapping into the camera’s film capabilities like other apps do. It takes a rapid succession of images. I suppose each image is then layered on top of all others according to transparency.

The app settings have a timer, so that if you are using a tripod, it begins its exposure after a delay. This can eliminate shaking after pressing the shutter button.

Maximum save resolution: paid upgrade yields 2 megapixels.

Camera Apps - Google CameraGoogle Camera – Since Google launched Google Camera, I have increasingly found it useful in my daily shooting. It has become my go to app for panorama and wide angle images as well as for photospheres (as opposed to say, Focal). Focal does a good photosphere, as does Nexus Camera, but Google Camera is in reality the Nexus Camera App on any Android phone. So this is the best place to go for photospheres if you are not using a Nexus. My experience with the app’s photosphere capabilities has been a positive one, with images fairly seamlessly stitched together. The setting does fail when there are numerous angles and straight edges (such as in a kitchen), but performs satisfactorily when out in the real world of nature. With Google’s new feature Google Views, combining maps and photospheres, this only increases your reasons for taking these spheres via Google Camera.

Panorama is really what warmed me to the app. I had for a long time wanted to be able to take vertical panoramas, or panoramas that weren’t level with the horizon. Everything up until now has demanded a horizontal pano. To suddenly find both a vertical and a horizontal, as well as two wide angle composite image settings, well it was music to my ears. The Samsung Galaxy S5 panorama setting can do this, but it takes a really shoddy film-like image as you go, rather than taking quality images individually and stitching them together. I further enjoy that, in choosing a vertical panorama, I can then hold the phone physically in landscape, to get the widest possible vertical pano. I hold the phone upright (portrait) when taking a horizontal panorama. The only down side to the panorama camera is that it does fairly poorly in fog and with waves. It simply doesn’t know where to connect the dots. The pano app could use a bubble leveler to ensure that a horizon shot is level from the start. The feature image for this post used the wide angle panorama from Google Camera. The full resolution image was 8665 x 5819, though I’ve cropped and reduced its size for the web.

Here is my full review of the app.

Maximum save resolution: same as native camera app.

Pro HDR CameraCamera Apps - Pro HDR Camera – I have tried numerous HDR cameras on Android, and time and again I come back to this one. It exposes three images, one at high exposure, one at normal, and one at low exposure, and combines these into a real HDR image. After it has done so, you have a number of adjustment controls available, such as contrast, brightness, saturation, etc, to play around with. You can save each of these adjustments before closing the app. A tripod or stand (or a real steady hand) are recommended with this one.

Maximum save resolution: 12 megapixels.

Motion CameraCamera Apps - Motion Camera – This is another app that should be taken with a grain of salt. It is what I call a gimmick app; not a heavy weight for serious photography, and promises a big piece of pie in the blurry sky. For capturing blur though, this may be what you are looking for. Below are a couple images taken with this app. The low resolution saves indicate that this camera app, like others, taps into your cameras video capabilities, to  graab multiple shots. This isn’t true blur, but it produces something similar. The UI is fairly simple.

Maximum save resolution: 2 megapixels.

Camera Apps - Motion Camera Blur
Camera Apps - Motion Camera Blur

Camera Apps - FocalFocal – This camera application promises to provide in one app every feature that your particular phone camera is able to achieve. Whether you are on an HTC, Samsung, Nexus, etc, this camera has at its disposal those features of your camera that maybe even your native camera app doesn’t have, but which your camera is capable of. The app provides photosphere for my old Samsung galaxy S3 camera, for instance, while the native camera app does not make these tools available. It doesn’t have the lock exposure or lock white balance that Shot Control or Camera FV 5 have, but not a surprise as that is a specialty function of those apps. There is a paid version. It does the same as the free version, but is for donating to the developer. Always a kind gesture to those who work hard on providing such quality apps.

Maximum save resolution: same as native camera app.

Shot ControlCamera Apps - Shot Control – Shot Control is one of the few camera apps on the Android market that provides exposure lock and white balance lock. The view finder is, unfortunately a bit small, but the app’s other features make up for this. The focus feature on this camera are also unique. One can highlight a “focus box” or region on the view finder, though it isn’t clear to me how much control this feature really has over the results of one’s images. There are various filters, such as sepia, black and white, etc that can be used while shooting. Add in a slew customization options makes this a good camera app.

Maximum save resolution: same as native camera app.

Camera Zoom FxCamera Apps - Camera ZOOM FX – Camera Zoom FX has your standard editing and crop tools and a number of filters. It has a number of additional goodies and, similar to Vignette for Android, comes with a camera that allows for shooting with all of its available effects. The difference here is the ability to see these effects in action when looking through the camera viewfinder. It has a number of mirror effects as well as the ability to make collages. The app is free, but add a little bit of cash and you can purchase numerous filter packs, some of which have great scratch effects.

Max save resolution: Camera saves at native camera resolution, image edits at 8 megapixels.

Camera Apps - Vignette For AndroidVignette for Android – Vignette is quite the interesting app. It’s strengths are is wide variety of filters and borders, all of which have numerous variable settings. The app has almost all effects available in camera mode, and the camera sports a double exposure feature which allows for direct editing after grabbing both shots. Vignette is highly customizable. It’s greatest weakness is the difficult user interface. It is tough to get used to, navigate around, and you are not able to view all settings as they happen when applied to an image. A stronger, more refined UI would make this app soar. Taking the good with the bad, it remains a quality app with a unique set of features and filters that are not replicated anywhere else on Android. For that reason it is a must have. As the app image shows, it’s on sale as of this post.

Maximum save resolution: same as native camera app.

PicsArtCamera Apps - PicsArt – PicsArt has a whole slew of effects that can be applied after shooting, or while in camera mode. The effects available are quite unique, and of a wide variety. The camera app has its own social network which is quite popular despite the apps low resolution saves.

Max save resolution: 10 megapixel when shooting and editing.

  • Other Camera Apps Of Note

I’ve limited this list to ten apps, but there are many others that can be mentioned, though they do roughly the same as some of the apps mentioned above. Among these could be mentioned: Camera Awesome, which has an easy to use UI, and some unique guide lines in the view finder; A Better Camera, for its HDR and Panorama features; Paper Camera for its obvious in camera effects, unique to this app.

  • Camera Apps For iPhone

If you are on an iPhone, Paul “Skip” Brown has a list of must have iPhone apps, the first few of which are alternative camera apps.

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