The rumours have been swirling for months, but Google has finally released its new camera app for Android devices. The app is in the Play Store and can be installed on any phone or tablet running Android 4.4. KitKat. Not only does this app rethink the interface Google has been using for the last few years, it introduces some unexpected new features.
The interface has a large capture button on the right (in landscape), but it's semi-transparent on devices that take 16:9 images. A 4:3 sensor frame fits in the rest of the screen nicely. This is a solid improvement in Google's camera app, which was previously set to show a 16:9 frame even if the phone was taking 4:3 images (it cut off the top and bottom in the viewfinder).
The most commonly accessed settings for HDR, flash, and so on are in a small popup menu near the capture button, but a swipe in from the left brings up all the shooting modes and additional settings. The new Google Camera app comes with still, panorama, Photospheres, video, and a new effect called Lens Blur. This feature basically fakes a shallow depth of field like the HTC One M8 does with its second camera.
With lens blur, you take the image by slowly raising the device so the app can figure out what's foreground and what's background. The app lets you tap on the resulting image to change the focus point and adjust the strength of the blur effect. The results are reasonably good, but it downsamples the image to about 2000 pixels tall.
One additional change that we will all thank Google for is found when switching to video mode. If the device is being held in portrait mode, an icon pops up in the middle of the screen telling you to rotate to landscape. If this cuts down on the scourge of vertical videos, Google has done its job today.
The Google Camera app is going to be awesome for anyone with a Nexus or GPE device, but it still doesn't have as many features as you get with the stock apps on flagship phones like the Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8.