Any smartphone you buy today be it Android, iOS or Windows Phone, will come with a camera app for the built-in camera of the device. Some of these are appallingly bad while others are fantastic. Fortunately, regardless of the platform you chose, you have a lot of camera apps available in respective app stores to help fit your needs a bit better. In the case of Android, one of the simplest yet easiest to use camera apps is Google Camera. Yes it is made by Google and it is a robust camera app alternative. It doesn’t have the huge number of filters or other special tricks but it does do one thing really, really well: Take photos. With its simple user experience and focus on the taking of the photo itself, Google Camera gives you all you need to take a great picture with your Android phone, leaving it to other apps for post processing. Personally, I’m good with this approach and having used this app for a week or so now, I’m pretty pleased with it. I think you would be too.
Let’s first set the path straight on what Google Camera is not. It is not really going to give you a lot of filters or post editing functionality. In fact, it doesn’t really do any of that. The goal of the app is hinted at in the name. It’s a camera app. Nothing more. But Google has done a really good job of keeping the app focused on that with a simple but intuitive interface and results from the camera that are outstanding.
The user interface of Google Camera is simple but effective. You have the viewing area of what you want to photography and a camera icon on the bottom (portrait) or left (landscape) of the
viewing area. To focus on a particular part of what you are viewing, tap it on your screen and Google Camera will focus on that area. To snap the photo just press the camera button or you can press the volume button to take the photo (if your phone supports it). On the right hand side of the display you have quick controls to change the camera (front facing or rear facing), flash control (on/off/automatic), HDR support, Grid view and a self timer which can be set for 3 or 10 seconds. Again, that’s it. Nice, clean and simple.
In all there are five camera modes that are supported by Google Camera.
- Photosphere: This allows you to quickly and easily stitch together photos to form a near 360-degree “sphere” photograph
- Panorama: Allows you to take panoramic photos by stitching them together
- Blur Lens: Manipulate the camera’s depth of field using Lens Blur to focus on the subject in the foreground and blur the background; great for portraits and selfies
- Standard: The normal camera mode
- Video: Self explanatory – allows you to shoot videos
To access the different camera modes, swipe from the left edge of the screen to expose them then tap the one you want to use.
A couple of things to consider when using the Google Camera app in its different modes. First, the app supports Android wear devices so you can control the app from afar. This is great for self timer shots of you or your friend and family together. Second, the video mode shoots at 480p which is a trade-off for many of us. My BLU VIVO IV shoots at 1080p. But the trade-off is that you gain the ability to capture individual images while shooting the video just by tapping the screen. Ultimately you have to make the decision on which is more important to you for your video shooting needs.
Once you have shot a photo or video using the Google Camera app, you can right swipe from the edge of the screen to go into the Google Photos app to view them. From there you can share photos, edit them (using an external editor app like Google Photos or the like) or delete them.
Like the rest of the app, the settings in Google Camera are straightforward and simple. You access the settings by tapping the gear icon in the upper right corner of the display when you are viewing the different camera options in the app. Once there, you can adjust the image sizes for the front and rear cameras, the video resolutions, the panoramic photo resolutions and if you want to geo-tag your photos automatically. You can also enable or disable manual control settings for the app so they will appear as an option if you want them to in the UI.
I fully appreciate there are more powerful camera apps out there for Android over Google Camera. And if you need an app with a lot of filters and manual controls, this app is certainly not for you. But if you are like most who just need a good, simple and easy-to-use camera app for your phone, give this one a look. Its beauty is in its simplicity but it doesn’t compromise on key photo features.
Google Camera requires 22MB of storage on your device and is a free app in the Play Store.